Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ugly Ducklings Turn Into Beauties

Bob Vidler brought in some Orange Dogs to the office this week. If you haven't ever seen one of these unusual caterpillars it might be because they are usually well hidden with their striking "bird dropping" coloring.

These ugly things turn into the beautiful Giant Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio cresphontes). The larvae fest on citrus leaves, and a small tree can be quickly defoliated if you don't pick them off in time. They move very slowly and are easy to remove. A large citrus tree can survive a large number of the larvae.

If you have citrus trees in your yard you might take a close look to see if any of these ugly ducklings are hiding out!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Want to Start An Agribusiness? Start at Square One!

A new series starts May 21st for anyone interested in learning more about starting an agribusiness venture. Have an idea about something that you could grow and sell? We will be discussing business plans, marketing strategies, managing risk, value added product regulation and much more. The classes are designed to be guided informal discussions and exploration of resources available. The classes will be held on Thursdays form 5:30 - 7:00 PM at the West Central Florida Agricultural Education Center at the Sumter County Fairgrounds. To register contact the UF/IFAS Sumter County Extension Office at (352) 793-2728. The classes are free!

In addition, a new course will be introduced in Fall 2009 specifically for women who are working in agribusiness. Annie's Project will be a more in depth and hands-on program with similar topics and there will be a charge for the course, which is yet to be determined.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Buzz on Bees

I attended a great presentation by Dr. Jamie Ellis about African bees and thought you might be interested in some of the myths about the honey bee situation.

African bees were brought to our continent by a Brazilian scientist in the 1950's, because of their ability to thrive in a tropical environment. They have slowly moved into the US after landing in Texas. Many counties in Florida have reproducing colonies of African bees but so far none have been recorded in Sumter County. Scientists believe that 100% of the wild hives in Florida will contain African bees in the next few years.

African bees look just like our European bees but they are more prone to swarming and are superior reproductively. Increases in African bees will make it more difficult for our beekeepers and more costly due to having to requeen and a possible reduction in honey production.

It is important that people do not panic and develop a fear of all bees - i.e. the Savage Bee movies we watched in the 80's. Bees are vitally important to our agricultural industry and economy - but because of the possibility of running into more aggressive bees it would be smart to stay away from hives and swarms and eliminate possible nesting places around our homes.

And if you do happen on some bees the advice from Dr. Ellis is - RUN!

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Sumter Growers' Market - Where Did It Go?

Last year at this time I was spending every Saturday morning standing in a dusty field off of CR 48 - talking for hours. I visited with the local growers who came to sell at our trial growers market, and with all of the loyal locavores who were in search of local foods. It was a great spring and I met so many great people! We had musicians playing for free, great fresh kettle corn and a handful of skilled growers.

We closed the market and didn't open again for several reasons. First and most important, there were not enough local growers willing to sell at the market. Second, we needed funding, for a market manager (I love my job but couldn't work every Saturday at the market), insurance, etc.

I believe that we could have a viable local market in Sumter County. Many people respected that we were sticking to our local growers concept but it makes it harder to field enough vendors. Our rules were that the produce or plants had to be grown within 100 miles of Bushnell, and the grower or person who knew how the product was grown was to be the seller. Less than 10% of the vendors could be arts and crafts or products other than plants and produce. The reasons for these rules are to develop relationships between people and their food, to develop a community around those who grow our food.

Are you a person who might be interested in growing for a market? If so, we would love to help you. If there are enough of you out there, maybe the Sumter Growers' Market could come out of hiatus for a new season!