Thursday, May 23, 2013

Urban Farming Workshops this summer in SWFL

Every summer, the Alliance for the Arts GreenMarket invites people to participate in free farming and gardening workshops conducted by local growers, master gardeners, homesteaders and educators.
Residents' support for these classes has been strong in the past, with many attending, taking notes and asking questions. The result has been an increase in local homes and communities growing food organically in Southwest Florida.
This year, in addition to a core of sound gardening practices, the GreenMarket is adding workshops on more specialized activities, like beekeeping and vermiculture.

The community is invited to visit the market at 10:30 a.m. on first and third Saturdays in June, July and August to participate in the 2013 Urban Farming Workshop Series.
Learn how to produce food in small areas around homes, businesses and community centers in cities and towns using organic, bio-intensive methods. Explore ways to contribute to your community’s sustainability and long term food security.

The complete schedule of presentations is as follows:

• June 1 – Introduction: The kitchen garden and beyond
• June 15 – Fruit year-round: The right trees for the Southwest Florida yard
• June 29 – Permaculture: Designing long-term, self-sustaining food gardens (Extra date for the 5th Saturday)
• July 6 – The urban chicken coop: How To's for fresh, organic eggs
• July 20 – An introduction to organic beekeeping in yards and on rooftops
• Aug 3 – Earthworms, the magic garden workers: vermiculture in the Urban Farm
• Aug 20 – Preparing the Fall season Urban Farm in SWFL
Pre-registration is not required and the workshops are free, but a $5 donation is appreciated and will help support the market and future educational programs.
The workshops will be conducted outside, under the shade of the trees, but in case of rain they will be moved into a classroom, so they will happen rain or shine

Friday, November 9, 2012

Civilisation & revolution

I'll take civilisation over revolution any day. Revolutionaries don't have anything to lose. If you have something to lose, a farm, children, a business, happiness in being left alone and that everybody more or less respects you and lets you do your thing, you don't want a desperado to take power and start making the decisions. And to preserve civilisation is a much higher calling than defending revolution, because revolution happens no matter what, sooner or later. Stasis doesn't exist, the world is in flux and things generally go downhill after a while. It's in the nature of the world that the barbarians always end up breaching the gates. And then forget about people stopping for schoolbuses' stop signs. Bah, forget about schoolbuses. Forget about putting something in the mail and it reaching its destination, or reaching it unopened. Forget about strolling the street without 10,000 maniacs, each trying to share his problems and views with you, expecting you do something about what they're forcing onto you.
The only revolution I want (and am pessimistic we'll achieve before civilisation passes) is in regards to how we interact with the environment. To me, doing something now about single use plastics is more important than Che, Lenin, Pol Pot and Mussolini combined...

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Lee County Dystopia

I assume I'm speaking to other grown ups. I mean I hope I'm speaking to them, if the spotty internet service we get at County Hall is working and my story is uploaded. Maybe then I'll get some answers to my post, with other pre-Troubles' folks experiences and insights. I would very much like to know how things are in other parts of the US and the world. Funny we used to call paper letters 'snail mail'... of course, there's no USPS anymore, but email, the only kind of mail available, is our snail mail now. The internet still works, kind of, thanks to a patchwork of tech hobbyists and phone connections, but the stars really need to be aligned for you to get your email, maybe once every month or two if you're lucky.
So, since I'm speaking about my place in the world here -Lee County, Florida-, let me start by a few random observations about this area. Government-provided schooling is a thing of the past, of course, but there's a number of schools run by churches and individuals. Generally, every child attends school for a few hours every day, if his or her parents can pay for tuition. Payments can be in silver coin, produce, or even work done for the school by the parents. Children acquire reading and writing skills, along with some math and science, until age 12 or so. There's no schooling beyond that available in our area, but exceptiontally bright students who have the means can move on to high school if they are willing to make the long, sometimes dangerous trip to Tampa or Miami. There's even some college available in the state: the University of Florida still offers courses in medicine, agricultural sciences, and engineering, but access is very limited. 80% go on to become farmers and farmhands, security, or skilled tradesmen (fixing bicycles and engines, scrapping for materials in the wastelands of Cape Coral and Lehigh Acres, digging wells, and so on).
What remains of the FMPD & Sheriff's office provides a modicum of protection, but much diminished if compared to the years of abundance; for the most part, all law enforcement agencies basically hire out to provide security to private landowners and corporations. Common citizens are not a priority, and in fact, rogue elements within 'security' act like mafia overlords, exerting protection taxes on the weak and generally bullying the population, especially poorer, more ethnic segments of it. And of course, this is a nation armed to the teeth, always was, so violence is prevalent in this sixth decade of the 2 thousands.
Security elements are part of the few sectors of the economy that are issued fuel quotas. The quotas are never fully met, and ration cards are only fit to start fires most months, but once in a while, the farmers' biodiesel plant on Edison St provides a few truckloads of precious diesel, or a shipment of Venezuelan oil is received in the Tampa port and with much bribing and pushing and horse-trading, some of it makes it south to Fort Myers.
The other sectors receiving a fuel subsidy are very limited electric power production by LCEC & FPL; fishing concerns; farming, including: sugarcane, potatoes and corn; cattle; fruit, especially avocado, with citrus much diminished in relation to past decades in Florida (famished populations can do without luxuries like OJ, although citrus is grown massively in private homes and vacant lots and harvested when available - in fact, oranges are the new candy. Forget about a Pay Day, with WalMart, 7-11 and all the other big box stores closed years ago. You'd be lucky to find some old, stale mints for sale at the corner mom & pop shop selling also onions and bananas - but I disgress). 
Government and Bank of America (the only remaining bank) get some. Some gated communities and walled compounds get some. Hospitals get almost nothing, and they really are only places to go die, filthy and desperate, what with opiates addicts, thieves, crazed Iranian War vets, and murderers stalking them. If you want some medical attention around here, and are not a millionaire with access to the heavily guarded few private clinics, you better do it yourself by having good reference books, or find a neighbor with some training (a former vet? a chiropractor?) and pay him in chickens and mango pickles. Getting supplies can be dicey. You may be reduced to boiling water, clean linen and high proof moonshine, manufactured by small-batch farmers in the wilds of Norht Fort Myers, Alva, and Pine Island. I talked about the school system already.
Around here, the population has atomized and rearranged itself considerably. A sort of feudalism, prevalent for most of history throughout the world (but not in the US) has appeared. Vast numbers seek protection and subsistence level rations of food (corn, potatoes, chiles, avocados, pigeon peas, chicken or bacon on Sundays) in the compounds of major landowners. The ones with no useful skills for this Brave New World chose that way: nail technicians; pet groomers; McDonalds employees; professors of humanities, librarians, and so on. They till the soil from dawn to dusk. In the heat, in the cold, in the mosquitoes, they work for the overseers, farming organically. I say organically just to make the point - that's the only kind of farming we have here. There's no chemicals available whatsoever, and seed exchanges are the only way to get seed.
It's terribly hard to feed large populations this way, with serfs suffering from malnutrition brandishing a hoe and a few horses and a monthly co-op tractor loan, but it's done somehow. Do you remember obesity? It used to be a huge problem. No one's fat these days. In fact, starvation's not that unusual on particularly bad years. Cabbage palms are a rare sight; cats are another.
I call the system we have 'green fascism', because we are ruled by the few and the strong, out of necessity. We are no longer ruled by committees, or the Constitution, or courts of law, or elected officials. We are ruled by those who can get things done in these difficult times: the chief of security, the food task force, the council of bishops, doctors & charities, the officer in charge of the self-sufficient Florida Guard compound with its huge adjacent fruit groves, the farmers' co-op, the port and rail administrators. Citizens with high stakes in the survival of the community, valuable skills, posession of at least 5 acres, and part of a trained militia to be assembled in case of emergency at local meeting places do have a say. Serfs do not. Tradesmen do not. And in any case, the suggestions of the County Principals can be ignored or overruled by the Rulers. Might is law. Might, and the will to survive these hard times, in hopes of more civilized ones coming back at some point. 
Anyway, that's that for this post about our food woes and political system. Now that former US states are independent nations, and there's even more autonomous zones within the former states, I'd like to know more about other systems of government in our formerly great country, and also about what kinds of goods they produce, whether there would be ways to trade with us, and generally how others are doing in these new, dangerous times. If the old phone lines still stand in a few weeks, I should be able to get some responses to this using my old, slow 56k modem, and a half gallon of fuel I'm owed by my cousin for my generator. Good night, and good luck!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Going native with Kara

The GreenMarket (Alliance for the Arts, Colonial & McGregor, Sat. mornings) has been a forum and promoter of sustainable gardening practices and local growers and artisans for over three years. Vendors, friends and visitors celebrate the gardening lifestyle every summer with a series of free workshops and classes focused around growing edible landscapes in your yard. 
This July, the focus will be on getting the younger members of the family initiated into the rythms, skills, and fun, of growing food - at the very least, the classes should make it clear that food isn't 'manufactured' and made available in styrofoam trays, but a living thing, that needs to be nurtured, needs some skills to be produced, and has a direct relationship with Nature. An optimal result would be the child taking an active interest in gardening, which provides numerous health and environmental benefits.
These Free Children's Gardening Workshops will be taught by professional, organic growers and gardeners. All kids are welcome; older ones can participate in the hands-on plantings and take notes. Younger children will have their own area to work on age-appropriate projects, like painting rainbarrels and raised beds used in the workshops. Parents and other adults are welcome to participate! All presentations start at 9:30 am. No registration is required, and all presentations take about two hours. Make sure children wear hats and comfortable clothes, have plenty of water, and sunblock.
The next free gardening presentation at the GreenMarket, on Sat 7/14 at 9:30 (Alliance for the Arts, McGregor & Colonial Blvd, Ft Myers) will be an introduction to native plants, and butterfly gardens, by Kara Alfaro, owner of Elata Natives, a native plant nursery in Buckingham.
Kara is landscape designer and plant specialist. She earned a degree in landscape architecture from Iowa State University in 1997. Kara and husband Sergio started Elata Natives in 2000, and she loves the 'hands on' with the plants and helping clients create gardens that are both graceful and sustainable. Kara will be teaching visitors about the lower requirements in nutrition, and higher resistance to our climate of native and semi-native plants. Other benefits include attracting beneficial insects to the garden, pollinators such as butterflies and bees, that will benefit our food crops as well.
The hands-on work will be creating a native and butterfly garden, but other activities will be available for the younger children, such as raised bed and rainbarrel decorating. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

La Huerta Casera

La huerta casera

Por Santiago De Choch

Nuestro columnista invitado esta semana proviene originalmente de Buenos Aires, Argentina. Antes de su graduación en la Universidad del Salvador, participó en experiencias de jardines comunitarios y granjas orgánicas en localidades tan diversas como Bolivia, México e Israel. Residente en el suroeste de la Florida por más de una década, posee actualmente una pequeña finca orgánica en Pine Island, donde produce sus propias frutas y vegetales, además de criar gallinas y abejas. Su principal fuente de ingresos es como jardinero, creando pequeñas huertas para residencias, escuelas y restaurantes. Es además organizador del GreenMarket en Alliance for the Arts (McGregor y Colonial, Fort Myers, sábados por la mañana), un mercado comunitario que agrupa a pequeños productores locales y entusiastas de la jardinería.

La huerta casera provee una cantidad de beneficios de distintas índoles, desde la mejora en la alimentación de la familia con el empleo de frutas y hortalizas frescas provenientes del terreno que circunda la vivienda, hasta el ahorro al tener que comprar menos alimentos en la tienda, el ejercicio, y el aprendizaje de una útil habilidad por parte de los más pequeños, que les será provechosa en el futuro.
Un recuerdo imborrable de mis viajes por áreas rurales en Latinoamérica son estas pequeñas huertas en la mayoría de las viviendas, que permiten suplementar la dieta familiar sin tener que ir muy lejos. Vemos árboles de mango, aguacate; detrás de una cerca, vemos las puntas del maíz que florea en el terreno; vemos salir de la casa a una doña, tijeras en mano, a cortar hierbas frescas de las macetas: cilantro, romero, albahaca; oímos el zumbido de las abejas, y el cacareo de las gallinas.
En nuestra región de la Florida existen limitaciones acerca de animales que podemos críar domésticamente. Un gallinero, por ejemplo, no es aceptable en ciertas comunidades. Existe un grupo local, llamado Backyard Chickens of Lee County (gallinas domésticas del condado Lee), que promueve esta actividad, y puede ser de ayuda en determinar si está permitida en su domicilio. El grupo mantiene páginas web, y se lo encuentra también en Facebook, donde ponen noticias de próximos encuentros. Como regla general, y asumiendo que Ud. resida en un área que lo permite, 4 a 6 gallinas, en una estructura alejada de la vivienda, son generalmente suficientes para las necesidades de una familia. Por supuesto, no es necesario mantener un gallo, ya que las gallinas producirán huevos de todas maneras. Además, su canto podría irritar a los vecinos. Una gallina joven y saludable, con buena alimentación, producirá casi un huevo diario durante los meses frescos. En el verano, la producción cae considerablemente. Es posible comprar gallinas en el primer año (pullets), listas para poner, por unos $20 a $25 en el mercado de Ortiz y granjas en Buckingham, pero la opción más económica es comprar pollitos de días de edad en un country store como Futrals en Palm Beach Blvd. por $1.50, y alimentarlos nosotros mismos hasta que llegan a la madurez. 
De todos modos, el foco de este breve artículo no son los pollos caseros, sino la producción de vegetales; en caso de existir interés, con gusto presentaremos un artículo sobre animales, pero por ahora, pasemos a la huerta doméstica. ¿Qué elementos la componen?

- Una o más áreas dedicadas al cultivo de hortalizas y hierbas. Idealmente, necesitamos sol directo en el invierno, y sol matinal, o filtrado, en el verano. Fácil acceso a agua para el regado. En la mayoría de los casos, recomiendo la construcción de "raised beds", es decir, cajas sin fondo de unos 8 pies por 4, y un pie de alto. La razón está en la calidad de los suelos de nuestra zona, que son pobres, arenosos. Tras colocar la caja, trabajaremos el suelo original, aflojándolo y removiendo malezas, y luego llenaremos las cajas con tierra negra. Es posible comprarla en bolsas en tiendas como Home Depot, así como en Forestry Resources (MLK Blvd y Michigan); para proyectos más grandes, se pueden comprar camionadas de tierra suelta, incluyendo desechos cloacales compostados. También es buena idea agregar fertilizante orgánico, como estiércol de vaca o gallina, compostados, disponibles comercialmente.
- Arboles frutales: históricamente, para nuestra zona de la Florida, los frutales mejor adaptados son mango, aguacate (palta), y cítricos. También se dan bien las bananas enanas, uvas "muscadine", y muchas frutas tropicales y exóticas, como lychees, carambolas, papayas, y tamarindos. Y no olvidemos otras que, sin ser árboles, también aportan fruta a nuestra dieta, como cerezas de Suriname, frutillas (fresas), blueberries (un arbusto), o piñas (ananás, una broméliada).
- Area de compost: compostar significa permitir a la Naturaleza degradar materiales orgánicos hasta que sus nutrientes se encuentran disponibles para ser absorbidos por los cultivos. Una manera simple de realizarlo es construir una estructura con tres pallets, donde introduciremos materiales como peladuras de fruta y verdura, cáscaras de huevo, borra de café, hojas y plantas muertas del patio, alternando capas de materiales frescos y secos, mezclando con frecuencia, y permitiendo que el aire y el agua participen del proceso, manteniendo la pila húmeda y bien aireada. Pequeñas cantidades de desechos de pescado son aceptables, pero es mejor no introducir grasas ni otros productos animales. Los gusanos de tierra son muy beneficiosos en la pila de compost. Al cabo de unos 3-6 meses, dispondremos de este fertilizante orgánico producido en el jardín, para ir agregando a nuestras cajas de vegetales con cada estación.
- Area de permacultura: la permacultura significa estimular el establecimiento de plantas, la mayoría de las veces nativas, que benefician al hombre y al ecosistema, y que no requieren de cuidados especiales, como fertilizar o regar. Digamos que son plantas autosuficientes, y que proveen alimento o mejoran las condiciones para otros cultivos tradicionales. Un ejemplo serían los gandules (pigeon peas), que producen alimento, y a la vez mejoran los suelos, aportando minerales como nitrógeno. Otro ejemplo son flores nativas, que atraen insectos beneficiosos como las abejas y otros, que una vez en nuestro jardín, serán de utilidad al polinizar nuestras plantas de chiles o tomates.

En esta parte del mundo, la principal estación para la producción de vegetales es entre octubre y mayo, cuando las temperaturas bajan, el sol no castiga, y hay menos insectos perjudiciales. Durante esos meses, es posible producir una increíble variedad de cosechas, desde las más básicas como tomates y lechugas, hasta coles, espinacas, zanahorias, puerros, arvejas, pepinos, y mucho más. Con frecuencia, sin embargo, los jardineros aficionados me preguntan, ¿qué puedo crecer en el verano?
La respuesta corta es: berenjenas, chiles, frijoles (habichuelas), espinacas de Malabar, okra, melones, hierbas frescas, estropajo (luffa) y otros.
La respuesta más larga sería: el verano es un momento para preparar nuestra estrategia una vez que llegue el otoño-invierno. Construír nuestras cajas, y llenarlas con tierra. Una buena idea es plantar "cover crops", o sea especies que mejoran el suelo, como muchos tipos de legumbres, buckwheat, y otros. Estos cultivos crecen durante el verano, y luego los incorporaremos al suelo antes de plantar en octubre, ya que son un "green manure" (literalmente, "estiércol verde"), fertilizantes naturales que trocearemos con pala o azada y mezclaremos con nuestra tierra negra. El verano presenta dificultades para el jardinero, por culpa del calor, los mosquitos, los insectos dañinos que perjudican los cultivos, y la excesiva humedad. Muchas veces es mejor trabajar menos en el patio, y usar estos meses para planificar y construír. Muchas frutas tropicales se dan durante el verano, por eso es recomendable incluírlas en la huerta, justamente para disponer de comida fresca en esta época. 
Pero para aquellos determinados a producir verduras, el consejo es concentrarse en los cultivos que detallaba en la "respuesta corta". Tener en cuenta que el sol de la tarde puede ser demasiado fuerte para muchas plantas, y cuando sea posible, tratar de que dispongan del sol de la mañana, y que el de la tarde sea filtrado por hojas y ramas (o toldos de sombra, de uso en agricultura, que bloquean 60% o 80% de los rayos), no directo. Y no olvidar que los insectos que pretenden devorar y perjudicar nuestros cultivos serán un problema: áfidos, moscas blancas, orugas y caracoles, etc. Mis propias convicciones son orgánicas, por eso nunca recomiendo pesticidas químicos. Cada problema tiene su tratamiento orgánico, como un spray de agua jabonosa, vinagre, trampas llamadas "de cerveza" para ahogar orugas, y más. Este tema solamente necesitaría un artículo por sí mismo, pero diremos que para la persona interesada en aprender más sobre control orgánico de plagas, existen buenos recursos, empezando por la oficina de extensión agropecuaria en Terry Park (IFAS), con especialistas como Roy Beckford que pueden contestar preguntas o entregar materiales de estudio a los residentes. Las bibliotecas disponen de libros especializados, así como acceso gratuito al internet para buscar respuestas. Y aquellos determinados en convertirse en mejores "granjeros urbanos" deberían considerar invertir algo de tiempo y dinero en clases personalizadas por parte de jardineros expertos. Una simple búsqueda en internet nos permitirá acceder a la información para contactar a grandes jardineros que constantemente ofrecen clases y seminarios, como Ben Pino y Andrea Guerrero de Heartland Gardens, o Millisa Bell, de The Unruly Gardener.
Por último, quisiera recomendar a los lectores que visiten el GreenMarket en la esquina de McGregor y Colonial un sábado a la mañana, ya que allí podrán conseguir plantas, fertilizantes orgánicos, sistemas hidropónicos, en fin, todo lo necesario para comenzar, pero más importante, podrán hablar con jardineros y productores locales, que les serán de ayuda en determinar que cultivar, cuando, como. El mercado cuenta con tres vendedores enfocados en la jardinería (B&D Organics, Green Goose, Oliver Gardens), así como productores como Ana Escalón (brotes orgánicos), Tadeo Camacho (lechugas hidropónicas), Brittain Farms, que es una de las pocas granjas genuinamente locales (localizada en Alva), y otros. El sitio web se encuentra en y también mantiene una página en Facebook para informar sobre actividades que desarrolla, nuevos vendedores, etc. No deje de prestar atención a estos anuncios, ya que durante el verano, el GreenMarket ofrece clases de jardinería gratuitas a los visitantes, y durante el mes de julio, gracias a un apoyo económico del Rotary Club de Fort Myers, estaremos enseñando un taller de Huertas Caseras para niños y familias, mostrando como construír las cajas, que plantar, así como consejos prácticos para optimizar y aumentar la cantidad de vegetales producidos en el hogar.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Over two years of green Saturdays

We all wear different hats at different times. In my case, in addition to the 'sombreros' I get to wear as gardener and small organic grower, there's a third option in my hat rack: I manage the Alliance for the Arts' GreenMarket on Saturday mornings.

A bit of history: the GreenMarket started in 2009, with a mission to support local growers

and bring the highest quality foodstuffs to the

public. Founding members included an extraordinary Swiss lady with a passion for fine cheeses and preserves, Caroline Hostettler; the late Sally Maitland, progressive activist and part owner of Andy's Island Seafood in Matlacha; Lydia Black, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Arts; and organic farmer Ken Ryan, who briefly served as Market Master before passing the torch to me in September 2009.

The GreenMarket has been, and is, an adventure, an experiment, a way to try and put the beliefs and convictions of a bunch of people into practice: to try and do something, however insignificant, to make the place we live in more sustainable now, not in some future utopia, but right here, right now.

There's been highs and lows. At times, the

community showed amazing support, shopping for locally grown, for environmentally friendly, products and services. Other days, it seemed that everybody was at the big supermarkets and had forgotten about us. We fought like crazy to survive and to establish a green toehold in our community. We organized recycling drives and blood drives. We brought musicians and artists to perform for visitors. We put together free gardening classes, open to the public, by some brilliant growers and educators, like Andrea Guerrero and Ben Pino of Heartland Gardens, Kara Alfaro of Elata Natives, Frank Oakes of Food and Thought, Debbie Hughes and Todd Roy of the Edison Estates Gardens, Unruly Gardener Millisa Bell of the Holton Eco Preserve, and more. Above all, we had to make sure the GreenMarket would have a good selection of local food, consistently, every week. We never tried to be a big market, and are quite comfortable with our current size of about 20 to 30 vendors, but we had to make sure the quality was there.

The GreenMarket operates on a cooperative basis, and big decisions are made by all. An example: during our first year, we had to decide whether to remain open during the summer, or not. A majority voted yes. The summer season presents many challenges in our part of the world: there's much less locally grown produce, so we decided to allow our big local grower, Brittain Farms, to bring produce grown in South Carolina in addition to their Alva production. We had to reach a compromise there, because customers really, really want their tomatoes, summer and winter. Our citrus vendor, Sunrise Farms, is of course not present during summers, so we tried to focus on tropical fruit, some of it very unusual - mangoes, lychees, tamarind and such.

Another drawback of the summer season is that there's much less visitors, as a significant part of the county's population is seasonal, only here for the winter - we call them 'snowbirds', and they take their business elsewhere in the hot months. So we focused on the locals, by offering added attractions besides the shopping: music, art, kids' activities. Some wonderful chef friends started doing live 'cooking with local ingredients' demos, taking advantage of the fact that they have a bit more time to spare in the summer: Heath Higginbotham and Reiner Drygala of Bistro 41, and Eric Truglas of Lush French Bakery. When the weather became too brutally hot, we moved under the shade of the old trees in the Alliance's campus.

Now in our third year, we have reached a balance, and cater to a core group of supporters that shop with us consistently. We have become a bit of a social hub, too, where like-minded people come to meet each other, enjoy the music and the cooking, surf the free wi-fi, walk the dogs. We have a steady lineup of vendors that cover the range of locally grown food: a part-commercial, part-organic produce farm; a USDA Certified organic-only farm; a seasonal citrus farm; organic sprouts and herbs; honey; seafood; breads and other baked goods; and preserves.

This main group of vendors is complemented by a wide range of others, some of which are permanent, and some seasonal or depending on availability. Everything from soaps and essential oils to plants and gardening supplies to arts & crafts is represented, and let's not forget one of a kind items like quails and quail eggs, hydroponic lettuces, or heirloom, open-pollinated veggie seedlings.

Our friends in the media deserve a special thank you, because over the years they supported our little outfit so much, giving us a voice, allowing us to survive without a real advertising budget by informing the public of who we are and what we do, as in this, this, or this story, and many more...

To me, the GreenMarket has been, and continues to be, a wonderful experience, another environment where I can put together work and idealism, an arena to battle for a greener, more sustainable SW FL, having a lot of fun in the process, meeting old and new friends every Saturday, learning from farmers and gardeners and artisans, sampling delicious food and getting to know the history and the lore of the place.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Edison-Ford Estates horticulturalist presents free Edible Landscaping workshop at the GreenMarket

A great garden doesn’t have to be ornamental; it can be beautiful and edible too. That's the message that Master Gardener Todd Roy will bring to the Alliance for the Arts' GreenMarket next Saturday, Oct 22nd, at 10 am. His presentation is one of the FREE gardening workshops that the GreenMarket has been hosting for the community.
Mr Roy will talk about ways to get the most out of your yard. He will discuss some of the many fruit trees and shrubs available to grow here in SW Florida. He will address some varieties and options for container gardening, as well as utilizing the vertical spaces in your yard. This talk is meant to give ideas for using your yard in more productive ways.
Todd grew up in a small mid-western town in Michigan with one traffic light, a working wheat mill and a community involved in 4-H and agriculture. He remembers some of his family being involved in dairy farming and raising corn, while others in his immediate family were very much into vegetable gardening. Todd also remembers many trips with his grandparents to the fields and orchards to pick fresh peaches, cherries, pears, plums, blueberries, strawberries and apples. He also helped them tend and harvest a large vegetable garden. Todd’s grandmother would can and freeze many of the fruits and vegetables that they harvested, thus enabling them to enjoy fruits and vegetables throughout the year.Todd attributes his interest in plants and horticulture to being raised in an agricultural and self-sustaining environment. He began gardening at home, but soon became involved with the Master Gardener program. Upon completion of the program he began doing volunteer work with the horticulturist at The Frederik Meijer Gardens. From there Todd’s garden began expanding and it was soon featured on the yearly tour of gardens. Being an artist himself, he also enjoyed painting the flowers he grew and invited other artist friends to paint in the garden too. Todd relocated to Florida in 2004 and was very excited to see all of the new plant options that he could grow. He eventually found a position with The Edison & Ford Winter Estates gardens that he had frequently visited and admired. Todd is now one of the horticulturists there and has since completed the Master Gardener program here in Florida. He enjoys working with plants, talking with others in the industry, as well as, a continued desire to learn more about the plant world.
Todd has enjoyed working with all varieties and facets of horticulture, but his passion has been that of sustainability, organic gardening and the edible landscape. He hopes to teach others the knowledge he has acquired and share any new information that he continues to gain.
So if you have an interest in growing at least part of the produce your family consumes right in your backyard, don't miss this FREE gardening class on Sat, Oct 22nd, at 10 am at the GreenMarket, corner of McGregor & Colonial in Ft. Myers.