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Gainesville Grown, Learn Local
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Gainesville farmers circa 1925 harvesting lettuce
Our first written record of Florida "maize" or corn was noted by the Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto in the mid-sixteenth century (Cresap, 1982, p. 3). Native Floridians grew corn, squash, pumpkins, melons, beans, pears and many other fruits and vegetables and herded deer as well as turkey. Spanish settlers in turn introduced cattle, hogs, and citrus to the state. When the English overtook Spanish settlements, they established rice and cotton plantations, similar to those "The South" is known for (Cresap, 1982).

Florida's climate and agricultural history began with the native indians who grew produce in community gardens and divided it among the group's individuals (Cresap, 1982). A long period of U.S. history followed a similar agricultural tradition where small farmers would grow produce for their family and sell to others who lived nearby.

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In the pursuit of efficiency, our nation's big corporate farms and agribusinesses are continously trying to find the cheapest way instead of the most healthful and overall beneficial way to grow produce. Today the average consumer is more likely to see a hen caged up without enough room to flap its wings, smothered in every direction by other caged hens, than seeing free range ones (Kingsolver, 2007). Similar conditions exist for cattle and hogs, and the cramped conditions contribute to unsanitary conditions which can lead to disease and an overabundance of antibiotics used to treat animals. When our food travels smaller distances and has more room to breathe, the results are fresher, more nutrient-rich and longer lasting.

"The thing about getting produce at the supermarket is it's also been sitting in the supermarket for weeks," said Kumarie Barran, a local organic farmer from Alachua. Barran and her husband own a 5-acre farm in Alachua.

A study by Gail Feenstra, the food systems analyst at the University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP), states that a lack of community food systems has played a part in disintegrating the "social and spiritual fabric" surrounding our food today (p. 100). This disconnect has led the current generation to accept food wrapped in plastic instead of remembering a time when food used to be grown right in our backyards. As these issues become more visible in the public eye, more and more Americans are returning to community farms and community supported agricultre (CSA) (Feenstra, 2002).

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Vocabulary border

A few words...

Carbon-Footprint: You'll often hear "reducing your carbon footprint" in the local food lingo. This means when you purchase food locally, you're also helping to minimize the energy used when burning fossil fuels that releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This means you're cutting down on the gas spent to deliver the produce to your local grocery store, the huge equipment used to process your your foods, and can even be present in the consumption of fertilizers.

CSA (Community Shared Agriculture): This is a practice where consumers commit to buy a season's share worth of crops from a farmer. If the farmer loses his crop, so does the consumer. This way the community helps keep local farms functioning and serving their community as best they can.

Local: Usually considered as within 100 miles of where you live.

Locavore: A person committed to eating local foods whenever possible.

Regionally sourced: When you can't get local, you try to get the next best thing. First you try to find what's in your region (north central Florida), then your state, then your region within the U.S., and so on.

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