Florida House Summer Garden Success

The Florida House on Beneva in Sarasota held space this summer for demonstration gardens. Camille Vansant, along with volunteers, planted permaculture style kitchen gardens around the house as well as a larger demonstration plot canopied by shade cloth. Despite the heat, the gardens are absolutely thriving, and the Florida House plans to make its first delivery to All Faiths Food Bank next week.

I find this initiative inspiring not only because the Florida House is showing that gardens can be productive and beautiful in the summer, which is usually known as the off-season in Florida, but also because they demonstrate such abundance can be produced to be shared with the food bank as well. Camille, a chef, is teaching others how to utilize these less common crops, another opportunity for expanding our palates for seasonal flavor and increasing dietary diversity. If you’re a Floridian interested in relocalizing your diet, you can eat well in the summer on yummies such as malabar spinach, katuk, papaya (green and ripe), pumpkins, okra, melons, pigeon peas, Okinawan and Chinese longevity spinach, early avocados, late mangoes, basils, and mints.

Check out the luscious gardens below to get inspired to visit the Florida House and plant your own summer garden!

Papaya planted less than six months ago loaded with huge fruits!

Papaya planted less than six months ago loaded with huge fruits!

Squash and melons enjoy the shade.

Squash and melons enjoy the shade.

Sweet potatoes creep under okra.

Sweet potatoes creep under okra.

Kitchen garden displaying papaya, sweet potato, lemon grass, lemon basil, and more.

Kitchen garden displaying papaya, sweet potato, lemon grass, edible hibiscus, okra, and more.


Soil is Beautiful

Check out this beautiful and informative description of soil’s living web.

“If the soil is structurally and nutritionally conducive to a balanced, thriving soil fauna, bacteria tend to penetrate further; top soil becomes deeper and richer; plant growth becomes healthier and more luxuriant. When plants are abundant, wildlife is better nourished and more plentiful. If any external element disrupts this cosmos, the soil deteriorates and the living things that occupy the surface are adversely affected.”

Southern Sustainable Agriculture Conference

What an inspiring event! I highly enjoyed the conference and learning more strategies for Farm to School, policy, community building, and edible mushroom cultivation.

I was happy to present my first poster, with Zach:

"Procurement Tracking in Sarasota County Schools Farm to School Program"

“Procurement Tracking in Sarasota County Schools Farm to School Program”

The trade show was interesting, and I met a lot of great people and exceptional businesses! My favorite three trade show exhibits were:

Common Wealth Seed Growers, Virginia.

Common Wealth Seed Growers, Louisa, Virginia.

Sapphyre and Edmund and other farmers started Common Wealth Seed Growers cooperative about a year ago, and they specialize in breeding downy mildew resistant seeds. As you can see in the photo above, they grow beautiful gourds and pumpkins – that’s what attracted me to their exhibit! I brought home some of these to try:

Thai Kang Kob Pumpkin

Thai Kang Kob Pumpkin

I also had the great pleasure of meeting Tradd Cotter of Mushroom Mountain!

Mushroom Mountain

Mushroom Mountain, Easley, South Carolina

Tradd’s presentations were SO interesting and inspiring. It’s been a while since I grew my bag of oyster mushrooms, but I definitely feel empowered to give it another go after listening to his talks. I also highly recommend his new book, Organic Mushroom Farming and Micoremediation.

Finally, one of my favorite parts of the conference was the seed swap. I brought a variety things – okra, Seminole pumpkin, tulsi and some others. I met the folks from Sow True Seed there as well, and I was able to swap for some calendula, Corsican gourds and other goodies! It was a wonderful week, and I hope next time to see some new Florida seed companies!


Sow True Seed, Asheville, North Carolina

Does Dirt Make You Happy?

I loved this Modern Farmer article about not only the piece of mind that getting into a natural environment can create, but one theory on how it does so – through interactions with microbes!

The psychological benefit of nature has been well documented… Just last year Rook published an article that explored those connections, concluding that the regulation of the immune system is indeed connected to the biodiversity of the natural environment. We benefit from being outdoors and exposed to things like soil and animals, because of the fact that we’re exposed to microorganisms.”

Eating Seasonally

It’s amazing how abundant Sarasota is! There always seems to be something blooming and something fruiting! Check out this week’s local fare:


We’ve got a slice of banana boat squash, grown by a friend in Orlando; figs, bitter melon, Okinawan spinach, Roselle, jalapenos, sweet peppers, and lime basil from the Gocio school garden; starfruit, Nopal cactus, African blue basil from our neighborhood; avocado and passion fruit from Peter at the farmers’ market; eggs from local really free range chickens; Monstera deliciosa from my aunt’s house; and lemon grass from Roger’s garden. What a bountiful harvest! And they say you can’t grow food in the summer in Florida!


The red arils of the bitter melonMomordica charantia, are edible, but the white seeds inside are poisonous.


Starfruit, passion fruit, lime basil, African Blue basil, Roselle.


Ample Harvest

If you grow food in your yard – veggies, fruit, nuts – consider donating it to AmpleHarvest.org. AmpleHarvest.org connects 40+ million Americans with excess food in their garden and local food pantries. Garden by garden, home & community gardeners and other growers are fighting hunger and malnutrition in America.

What an awesome idea! Grow food, prevent food waste, feed people, share, give.

“Why Monsanto Will Never Rule the Food World”

I absolutely loved this article by John W. Roulac. After thoughtfully outlining the lay of the land, he renewed my hope in citizens’ ability to stand up for what’s right, and offers some proactive steps moving forward.

“Yet Monsanto and Big Ag are much better at crafting propaganda than were the bigots of the 1960s. The three biggest lies: that GMOs will feed the world, that organic agriculture can coexist with GMOs, and that Roundup-tainted GMO foods have been proven safe.


Although tens of millions of Americans might not understand all the complexities, they have a gut sense that something is very wrong with our food system, and little faith that Monsanto should be in charge of a baby’s nourishment. They can’t help but wonder how much Monsanto herbicide content in a mother’s breast milk is safe.”