By Lynette Norris
Greene Publishing, Inc.
Oliver Bradley took first place in the Kiwanis Club’s recent citrus-selling fundraiser, selling over $2300 worth of fruit. Roy Ellis took second place with $1275 in sales and George Willis came in third with $1060.
For the Club’s Aug. 11 presentation, Claire Mitchell, of Green Industries in Monticello, spoke on another agricultural topic – sustainable farming and the importance of eating locally grown food.
To illustrate what happens when people buy highly processed foods like soda, Mitchell called on people one by one to come up front and play different parts of the “chain” between the farmer (Doug Freer) who grows the corn, and the customer (Willie Gamalero) who buys the highly processed, sugary soda. Once the farmer’s corn is harvested, it needs a warehouse (Jerome Wyche) and a truck to get it there; after the warehouse, it needs a factory (Kimberly Halfhill) to turn it into high fructose corn syrup, and another truck to get it there; after the factory, it needs a wholesaler (Lucille Day) and another truck; after the wholesaler, a distributor (Jo Willis) and yet another truck; finally, the product (soda) needs to be trucked to a retailer (Tara Orlowski) who sells it to Gamalero, the customer, for a sheet of green paper.
The green paper was then passed back along the chain and each person tore off what they thought their services were worth, until a very small portion reached Freer. After Mitchell tore off even more for taxes, fuel, labor, fertilizer and other expenses, Farmer Freer was left with a bit of green not much bigger than a kernel of his corn.
Mitchell then demonstrated the alternative, buying and eating locally grown produce. The middle links – warehouse (Wyche), factory (Halfhill), wholesaler (Day), distributor (Willis) and retailer (Orlowski) – were taken out of the chain to create a more direct line between the farmer and the customer, reducing the amount of fossil fuel required to transport a processed product all over the country, and putting more profit in the farmer’s hand.
It is also healthier to eat locally, said Mitchell, because even if produce isn’t turned into processed food, the more time that passes after it is harvested, the more nutrients it loses.
Direct-buy farmer’s markets are the most well known sources of fresh produce, but some areas are also taking advantage of online buying and selling. Local farmers upload what they have to offer, and customers order produce online. The farmer receives a “pick ticket” and knows exactly how much to pick to fill the orders. Less harvest goes to waste, and the farmer does not spend hours at a market hoping to sell what he has brought; instead, he drops the orders off at a pick-up center, where customers can come get their purchases.
Mitchell, a native of Tallahassee and a graduate of the University of Florida, came to Green Industries in February of 2011, and said she was “happy to be able to build a career around all these things I care about.”
She will also be conducting a series of workshops for people interested in various sustainable gardening topics, out at Green Industries on Highway 90 in Monticello, three miles west of the Courthouse.
The workshops are $25, require pre-registration, and run every third Saturday of the month from 9 a.m. to noon. The next one is August 20, and deals with cool weather crop planting. For more information or to register, call 850-973-1702 or visit the website at www.nfcc.edu/green-industries.