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UF/IFAS Broward Workshops On Sustainability Through Urban Food Production

Hands holding harvested strawberries. Photo taken 02-05-20.

The supply chain disruptions caused by COVID-19 awakened a volume of interests from communities seeking ways to grow their own food.

Throughout the pandemic, researchers, faculty, and extension agents at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) research centers and Cooperative Extension offices around the state reported double and triple the amount of residential requests for information on how to locally grow and expand healthy food options.

UF/IFAS Extension Broward and the Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center partner to meet the community needs that are unique to Broward’s urban environment. Beginning August 17 south Florida residents can register for the “Sustainable Urban Food Production” workshop series. This six-week program, now in its second year, has been developed combining the science-based research from the center with the outreach support and programming of Extension to promote pathways that can contribute to long-term urban sustainability.

The program features a three-hour workshop held each Monday, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., through September 28. The total cost for the program is $25 per registrant. In response to the Covid-19 social distancing requirements, the program will be conducted in a blended format complete with virtual lectures, Zoom presentations, hands-on activities, and field trips. Due to the blended format of the series, the program is open to interested participants in south Florida. Registration is required through https://browardurbanag2020.eventbrite.com .

UF/IFAS Extension Broward and Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center is committed to creating a future where the current and next generation values the skills required for developing food security and resource sustainability in an urbanizing environment. This is part of how to combat the challenges from increased urban development and resource demands in cities, which are further exacerbated by shifting land use and changing climate.

“Food insecurity is one piece of the puzzle,” said Jiangxiao Qiu, assistant professor of landscape ecology at the research center. “By adopting and scaling up research-based urban food production methods as one of the solutions, we are helping to address sustainability issues such as climate change, water conservation, water quality, and energy conservation.

The series is geared for all audiences including homeowners, school teachers, community gardeners, urban farmers, and entrepreneurs interested in this developing industry. The workshop complements a UF/IFAS initiative that started during the pandemic to promote sustainable home food production and was kicked off with a  virtual presence of a website called UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions during the lockdown.

“With increased urbanization, we see a lack of fresh produce and it is harder for people to obtain that fresh produce, which is critical to a healthy lifestyle,” said Kimberly Moore, associate director for the Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center. “This program is unique because we are empowering the community with nontraditional science-based techniques for growing fresh produce in an urban environment. It is not your everyday garden.”

The program provides theoretical background on sustainable urban food production, and includes components featuring diversified urban production methods, best management practices, water recycling, plant pest identification, basics on renewable energy, and basics on the cottage food industry.

“This series is designed to enhance the livelihood of urban residents,” said Lorna Bravo, director of UF/IFAS Extension Broward and an urban horticulture agent. “Through this COVID-19 experience, I have had the opportunity to engage with more people who live in apartment and condo settings, which is allowing us to reach a different audience in the urban environment. To me, this is exciting.”

For more information and for instructions on how to register, visit the UF/IFAS Extension Broward Sustainable Urban Food Production website. You can also call the Extension office at 954-756-8529.

The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.