WUFT News

Why An Ocala Community Garden Might Help Solve Food Safety Concerns

By on September 6th, 2013
Eat Up Ocala

Contributed photo / Eat Up Ocala

Instead of candied grass, there’d be lawns lined with fresh vegetables.

In the place of chocolate fountains, ripe fruits ready to be plucked would hang from trees in the downtown square.

It was exactly that vision that inspired Kaycin Nickerson to start Eat Up Ocala, a non-profit organization that plants free community gardens with the intent to make Ocala edible.

Nickerson, president of Eat Up Ocala, said this concept could not only help people in local economies thrive and save money, but also teach people how to harvest the earth.

“So many people spend so much money on everything… we’re the only species that has to pay to live here,” she said. “If we trusted our earth and allowed it to give us what we’re supposed to take from it naturally, then we wouldn’t have to pay corporations to do that for us.”

The organization, which was created October 2012, has two participants: The Lime Cabinet, a local shop that is growing a lime tree, and Penn Flooring of Ocala, which has planted blueberries, strawberries, fig and peach trees, and herbs.

While community gardens and edible landscape projects are popping up all over the United States, Brian Stanton, director of development and community outreach for the Edible Plant Project in Gainesville, said the idea isn’t new.

“The concept has been around for years. Now it’s just more in popular mind so there’s been a progression,” he said. “There are very strong networks of this in places like Tampa, Orlando, Naples, Tallahassee – it’s all over.”

Nickerson said that because food safety has become such an issue, edible landscapes and community gardens could help put consumers’ minds at ease.

“Right now, we can’t really trust any food made by corporations,” she said. “We’re finding out that it’s a really scary system.”

Chris Brack, Eat Up Ocala’s marketing director, agreed that food safety has become compromised and said community gardens can help people regulate what they eat.

“Our main focus is to get people to start taking control of their own food supply,” he said. “The control of our food is resting in fewer and fewer hands that are way up the totem pole with different agendas than providing good, healthy meals for our families.”

Nicole Lebeau, spokeswoman for Sweetbay Supermarket, said as far as food safety goes, it all depends on the corporation. Sweetbay buys from reputable suppliers who they know will deliver and grow safe food for their consumers, she said.

“Food safety is obviously important to us since we are serving the public and the customers — it’s a huge priority with us,” she said. “For example, in our produce departments, we know where every item comes from. We can trace it back to the farm or the grove.”

Publix said it tries to operate the same way.

“Our stores are audited on a quarterly basis by an independent third party firm to review their food safety practices,” spokesman Dwaine Stevens wrote in a statement. “Any necessary retraining or education of associates is applied to maintain the safety of the products we provide.”

Marilyn Swisher, graduate coordinator for the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences at the University of Florida, said community gardens and edible landscapes might be part of the solution food safety issues.

“I think it’s worth trying in varied ways and in different places,” she said. “If anything, it is an opportunity for some good, solid, hardcore evaluation to figure out what works, what doesn’t work, and ways to make things that show promise better.”

For now, Eat Up Ocala is focusing on getting the community involved so it can spread its project to other regions.

Vice president of Eat Up Ocala Katrina Ganzler said the goal is to continue to promote forward-thinking ideas about food supply and further the concept of edible cities.

“People are catching on because it’s so innovative and different,” she said. “Soon, we hope to have chapters and expand – Eat Up Ocala, to Eat Up Florida, to Eat Up America. We want to paint the town with fruits, vegetables and earth.”


This entry was posted in Environment and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
 

More Stories in Environment

Kevlar gloves are used by Gainesville’s Northwest Seafood when filleting lionfish in order to protect against the venomous barbs.

If You Can’t Fight Them, Fry Them

Lionfish are being pushed to Florida menus following August regulation changes on the venomous invasive species’ importation. While dangerous to catch, they are easy to eat as conservation efforts try to save the reefs by increasing demand for the destructive fish.


lionfish

FWC Attempts to Reduce Lionfish Population

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is concerned with the growing population of lionfish, a destructive species of fish. The FWC hopes to start up new efforts to prevent the further spread of lionfish and work on extraction. Extraction [...]


Former governor Bob Graham (left), Jon Mills (center) and David Hart (right) from the Florida Chamber of Commerce discuss how Amendment 1 would affect Florida in front of an audience at Pugh Hall Sept. 4. Graham, a supporter of the amendment, said Florida should be viewed as a treasure to be protected instead of a “commodity,” while Hart said that passing this amendment could cause some serious implications for balancing the state budget.

Natural Resources Amendment Secures Environmental Funding But Raises Concerns

With almost one million signatures from Florida voters, Amendment 1 – also known as the Florida Land and Water Conservation Amendment – will appear on the Nov. 4 ballot, though not all parties are pleased by this development.


Signs like this one show residents of Hawthorne have serious concerns with Plum Creek Timber Company's plans for development in the area.

Hawthorne Residents Voice Concerns With Development Plans

Southeast Alachua County landowners discuss Plum Creek Timber Company’s proposal to develop parts of the city and express their concerns.


Citrus Greening

Saving Florida Orange Juice: The Search For A Cure For Citrus Greening – The Greening Series, Part 3

Nutrient supplements, root stock additives, genetic modification, heat therapies and a bacterial killer are just a few of the proposed solutions to what has been called the worst disease in history to hit Florida orange groves. Citrus greening, a bacterial [...]


Thank you for your support

WUFT depends on the support of our community — people like you — to help us continue to provide quality programming to North Central Florida.
Become a Sustainer
I want to support FM 89.1/NPR
I want to support Florida's 5/PBS
Donate a Vehicle
Day Sponsorship Payments
Underwriting Payments