Santa Fe College Partners with Florida Organic Growers to Promote Heritage Foods

Press release from Santa Fe College

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Santa Fe College is partnering with Florida Organic Growers and Consumers in a three-year grant designed to increase access and promote consumption of Florida heritage foods in local farmers’ markets. The project, entitled “Florida Heritage Foods Initiative: Connecting Local Food with Local Culture in Florida Farmers’ Markets,” aims to highlight historical and cultural significance of 42 crops in Florida and to educate consumers and small farmers on how to cook and grow them. 

“This is a tremendous opportunity for students and faculty at Santa Fe College to not only learn about the multicultural history of Florida through food, but students will also produce educational food and culture materials that will be valuable for consumers, farmers, food entrepreneurs, and local food advocates in our community and beyond,” SF Assistant Professor of Humanities Sarah Cervone said. “We will also have the opportunity to collaborate with local farmers, market managers, and cultural associations to celebrate our state’s diverse culinary traditions at several food and culture events planned for the future.” 

Over the course of the three-year grant, the college and Florida Organic Growers and Consumers (FOG) will help farmers and farmers’ markets host eight local food and culture events. The college will also host three annual educational symposiums. This year’s symposium is scheduled for Friday, September 30, 2022, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. at SF’s Blount Hall in downtown Gainesville and can be attended virtually via Zoom. The theme is “Opportunities and Benefits of Heritage Foods” and will include a variety of free presentations and workshops. Vivian Filer, founding member and board member of Gainesville’s Cotton Club, will deliver the keynote address highlighting heritage foods and how they can be used to celebrate local culture. Additional details will be available later this summer. 

“FOG is delighted to be partnering with Santa Fe College on the Florida Heritage Foods project,” Andi Emrich, Program Manager at Florida Organic Growers said. “This initiative aligns perfectly with FOG’s vision by bringing attention and opportunities to local Florida farmers and farmers’ markets. These events will allow us to share and celebrate some of Florida’s culturally-significant crops and to make connections between our community and local farmers. We are also excited to be co-organizing the symposiums where we’ll be able to facilitate sharing new ideas, information, and skills, forming partnerships and showcasing the amazing work happening within the heritage food world, right here in Alachua County.” 

The grant the college received is part of a larger pool of more than $90 million in grants awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In a press release from the USDA, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that the funding will “help maximize opportunities for economic growth and ingenuity in local and regional food systems. (These) grants have a history of generating new income sources for small, beginning, veteran and socially disadvantaged farmers and creating new market opportunities for value-added and niche products.” 

SF’s grant funding comes specifically from the Farmers’ Market Promotion Program (FMPP) portion of the USDA grant. FMPP funds are meant to support direct producer-to-consumer marketing projects such as farmers’ markets, community-supported agriculture programs, roadside stands, and agritourism, according to the USDA press release. 

We are so excited to be a part of this project and share this amazing crop with our community,” Amy Van Scoik, co-owner of Frog Song Organics, said. “Roselle Hibiscus, also known as Sorrel, has many health benefits, is delicious and easy to grow, and we look forward to providing an opportunity for people to learn about how to cultivate and use this local food at the upcoming Roselle Festival at our farm on October 29.” 

The college recently launched the webpage FloridaHeritageFoods.com, which has a registration link for the Sept. 30 symposium. In the coming weeks, the webpage will grow to provide public education on the history, culture, nutritional value, recipes, and gardening tips for each of the 42 heritage foods included in the project. The website will also host a ‘Multicultural Event Planning Tool Kit’ that will include a growing and harvest chart, a cultural asset map, and other resources designed to assist farmers and market managers in planning food and culture events in the future.