It’s a SNAP!

You probably already know that we accept SNAP EBT payments at our market, and maybe you know that SNAP users can double their money when they buy Florida-grown produce through a program called Fresh Access Bucks (FAB). But do you know who’s using those SNAP benefits?

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 76% of SNAP households enrolled in SNAP include a child, a senior, or someone who is disabled. 44% of SNAP recipients are 18 or younger. In 2005, SNAP boosted 2.4 million children out of severe poverty! Additionally, “each $1 billion of retail generated by SNAP creates $340 million in farm production, $110 million in farm value-added, and 3,300 farm jobs.” That’s pretty important to us farmers!

One of our goals here at Sweetwater is to make fresh, healthy food accessible to everyone! That’s why we not only offer SNAP and FAB benefits at our market, but every month, we host a free cooking demo using Sweetwater-grown produce as part of a nationwide nutrition program called SNAP-Ed. We hope that by giving attendees some quick, inexpensive meal ideas, SNAP recipients (or anyone!) will be able to go home and cook these nutritious meals for their families. Join us on the last Sunday of each month at 1pm!

Most of the statistics here came from snaptohealth.org. If you have questions about the program, call 1-800-221-5689 or visit www.fns.usda.gov/snap.

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Need a Bit of Help? Plant a Flower!

A flower might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you are looking for options to protect the end row of a vegetable garden, but maybe you should. There are many varieties of flowers that can act like a protective barrier from the elements and also bring many of the beneficial insects that would help with the crops. At the farm we use Mexican Mint Marigold, a small plant with edible yellow flowers that has been used for centuries to add to dishes and to make tea and seasoning. We plant it at the end of each row and watch them flourish and protect their vegetable neighbors!

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Worms Are An Organic Farmer’s Best Friends!

Most of us know the benefits of composting – it reduces yard and food waste as well as energy and fuel, it’s wonderful for your plants, giving them the nutrients that they need to thrive, and it could save you money! But did you know that you can use worms to do the dirty work for you? It’s called vermicomposting – the worms turn food waste into nutrient-dense compost called worm castings.

We use our vermicompost to nourish our plants in the education garden. We also turn it into “worm tea,” or vermicompost (minus the worms!) mixed with water. In diluted amounts, it acts as a natural fertilizer, while in more concentrated amounts, it acts as a natural weed killer!

If you’re ready to start vermicomposting, here’s a great guide to get you started!

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Our Babies Are Growing Up!

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This is our hardening shed, or transition area. Think of the greenhouse like nursery school. The baby plants have everything controlled for them – food, water, temperature. When they’re old and strong enough to go outside, we transfer them to the hardening shed. This is more like middle or high school – we still control their food and water, but they’re a little more free to spread their wings and grow strong and hardy. They’re teenagers (thankfully, without the usual moodiness). Finally, we send them off into the real world, or plant them in the fields, to grow big enough to harvest and bring to you at the market or in your share!

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I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends

With just a handful of full-time farm staff, apprentices, and interns, we rely heavily on our amazing volunteers. They help us with every aspect of production, from planting seeds to harvesting to washing vegetables. They help man the market booth on Sundays, set up for events, coordinate our workshops and live music series, and take fantastic pictures of our pet chickens. And some of them get REALLY into the farm spirit!

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When you volunteer with us, you’re joining a community of people who care about the earth, their neighbors, and great food! No matter who you are or what your reason for volunteering, we want you to join the farmily!

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Frost Rescue!

This week, the crops are recovering from the frost. The peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes have all been harvested. We will continue to have green tomatoes and sweet peppers in the CSA for at least this week – be sure to check out the Recipes tab on our website to find out what to do with those! Also in the CSA this week are different colored broccoli and cauliflower. Brassica species like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage love the cold! When there’s a freeze, those vegetables get sweeter and tastier!

The other upside of a freeze is that the plants that didn’t survive have now been broken down and will make beautiful soil in which new plants will grow! The farm is in a constant state of renewal!

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Baby, it’s cold outside!

This week, the farmers prepared the crops for the bitter Florida winter. It’s expected to be in the mid to low 30s for at least a couple more nights! To prepare, we’ve buttoned up the greenhouses – this means that we’ve brought everything not yet planted in the ground inside the greenhouses and covered the houses with side panels. The panels will allow some air flow but protect the plants from frost. We’ve also covered some of the mature lettuces in the fields. Just like humans, baby lettuces are more resilient than their more mature counterparts. They’ll bounce back after the frost, but the mature lettuces either need to be covered or harvested before it freezes.

Expect to see an influx of warm weather vegetables at the market and in the CSA share. Plants like eggplant, tomatoes, peppers and lettuces can’t survive long in the cold, so we’ve harvested the majority of them and will be passing them on to you! The green tomatoes are delicious as is – or you can let them ripen on your counter.

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Farmers Market Fun!

According to a study conducted by the American Farm Bureau, 72% of consumers know “nothing” or “very little” about farming or ranching. But it doesn’t have to stay that way! A major benefit of shopping at Sweetwater Sunday Market is that we’re the only farmers market in Tampa Bay located on a working farm. That not only means that you get to shop where your produce was grown, it also allows you to meet the farmers and learn all about urban farming direct from the source. 

Join us for a free farm tour the first Sunday of every month or attend one of our workshops or cooking demos! Like us on Facebook so you never miss out on an exciting event!

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Brand new homes for our beloved animals!

As part of the ongoing beautification efforts around the farm, we’re demolishing the chicken coop and pigpen and building brand new ones! Sweetie (our pot-bellied friend) and the chickens will be much happier in their beautiful new abodes.

Thank you to our Board of Directors President Doug King and to M.E. Wilson Co. for donating their time and demolition skills to this effort!

And join us for a barn raising volunteer day – stay tuned and subscribe to our newsletter to find out when that will be!

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There’s no place like the farm for the holidays!

Kyle and Lexi are busy scuffle hoeing (or scuffling, as we usually call it)! A scuffle hoe is used in a back-and-forth “scuffling” motion to eliminate young weeds before they have a chance to grow a stronghold. The hoe is designed to keep you upright, so it’s much easier on your back, and it won’t damage the surrounding plants. It’s ideal for the loose, sandy soil we have here in Florida.

If you’re stuck for ideas on what to make with all the farm fresh greens that you can find in your CSA and at our Sunday market, try this recipe for a Greens Galette! Or fool your meat-eating friends into thinking they’re eating bacon (maybe…) with this recipe for Sneaky Collards!

And don’t miss out on our holiday events and workshops on Sundays this month! Come sing your heart out during our holiday sing-a-long and attend our Intro to Permaculture Workshop and FREE farm tour this Sunday, 12/17!

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Our Annual Fundraising Dinner

Please help support your planters at the beginning of our harvest season and purchase your tickets for the Planter’s Ball !  Saturday. November 18th is the big day. The “seed” money from this event helps keep your farm going and growing! Vegan And Gluten Free options available and as always kids 12 and under Free.

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An interview with Farmer Nick!

Nicholas MacAskill is 26 years old and originally from Michigan. He is named after Santa Claus thanks to his older sister. Nick moved down to Tampa after earning the apprenticeship position at Sweetwater. He attended Lake Superior State University and left with a Bachelor’s of Science in Conservation Biology. He loves Batman and the momentary silence that occurs when you drive under an overpass in a rainstorm.
If you were to be a fruit/veggie what would you be?
A kumquat
What are your duties at Sweetwater?
I am an apprentice but will be a part time farm hand the start of the 2017 season. I am involved in all the steps it takes for a seed to become a mature, harvestable plant. Thus, I do a WHOLE lot of weeding, feeding, treating, mowing, and harvesting.
How often do you work, and who do you work with most?
I currently work 40 hours a week basically Monday thru Friday, but I will working about 20 to 30 hours once the 2017 season begins. I work most with Farmer Jenise, the farm apprentices, and farm interns.
Who is your favorite person to work with on the farm?
Christopher
Who is your favorite animal on the farm?
 Definitely not Sweetie! The striped cat that does not have an official name, and I call it a different name ever week. I am still deciding between Albus, Gandalf, Dumbledore, Gnomey, or Bruce.
What do you do when your not working on the farm?
I usually hike, kayak, read fiction books, write stories, eat Chik-fil-a, volunteer, and go to singing lessons.
What is your favorite season of the year?
Fall in Michigan! Cider mills are the best!
What is the easiest thing to grow?
Hair…But in relation to farming, I would say weeds and green beans!
What is the hardest thing to grow?
Basil and anything in the summer!
What is your favorite plant?
Sugar apple tree
Why do you like organic farming?
 I like organic farming because I enjoy being outside and getting dirty and the crops we produce make me feel good when I eat them. I also enjoy the challenge and all the wonderful people it attracts.
Why do you farm?
 I farm because I want to be able to produce healthy food for myself and my community, and I want to do the Peace Corps.
What is your favorite recipe?
My favorite recipe is anything that produces brownies.
What would be the best tip to give future farmers from you?
Flexibility is a virtue in farming. Changes in weather, machines going down, or just unforeseen circumstances happen frequently, so you have to adjust the plan and keep pushing through. Also, honey is a miracle remedy on ant bites if you put it on right after the attack.
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Florida’s Natural Aquifer and Sweetwater Organic Farm

One of the important stops we make when giving farm tours to the public, is at the back of the property right past the playground. It might look like a bunch of useless pool equipment from afar, but what is it really? This contraption of parts is really a well that pulls water from the Florida aquifer. The water that we pump from the ground is untreated, and simply runs through a UV light filter to get rid of anything unwanted. After this, we have our water! By doing this process we are able to water our crops with untreated water.

Tampa’s city water is treated with a number of chemicals for the public to drink, bathe, and use. Chlorine, ammonia, sodium hydroxide, and the list goes on with how the city of Tampa treats its water. As a certified organic farm, we want to keep our crops as whole, and up to USDA organic standards as possible, this is why we choose to use our own water.

But what is the Florida aquifer, and what’s so special about it? It covers not only Florida, but parts of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and even South Carolina! It is one of the most productive aquifers in the world, and was found to be in existence in 1936. Because of the Florida aquifer, we have a number of natural springs such as the famous Weeki Whachee Springs, and others like Rainbow Springs. The aquifer supplies about 824 springs, and the majority is in Florida.

When it comes to our crops and veggies, we want it to be in the purest form. We only use water from our well to grow our crops, and when it comes to distributing them to the public we do a quick dunk to clean off any debris with city water. With all organic certifications, we are required to do a number of different tasks to keep our farm certified. This ranges from record keeping, to crop-rotation requirements, land requirements, and how we fertilize.

You can learn more about what goes into the guidelines for organic crop certification at the USDA’s website https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/Crop%20-%20Guidelines.pdf.

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Sunday Market vacay!

We are taking a long deserved Summer break until October 15th, when we will be back with a bang. We’ll be planting some cover crop to nourish our soil and bringing you the best local produce you can find in Tampa Bay!

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Fun on the Farm

We are having a blast this month with loads of fun activities for the kids (and moms too)! on Mother’s Day, first 5o moms get a handmade heart necklace created by the farm staff for you with love! (kids will string the pendant for mom)

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All about the Earth

 

We are not just celebrating Earth Day, we are celebrating Earth Month! Heck organic farming honors the mother all year long!

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How does your garden grow?

 

Let us help you with that. All March long we have soilful workshops to help you in the garden.

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Sweetwater with Your Sweetie

For February  you can feel the love.. We have many  lovely themed activities for February. Take a selfie with your sweetie post to Intsagram and Facebook  and get a sweet oraganic treat!

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Start the New Year right!

Loads of good health themed activities coming your way!

It’s all about you and your good health this month. Check out our event page for all the amazing Workshops we have on the schedule. Keep posted for more awesomeness down on the farm!

 

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Why May A CSA Be Right For You?

I’ve been buying my produce at grocery stores my whole life, why should I care about a CSA now, you ask?

Well…

1. Buying organic produce through a CSA is less expensive than buying at the grocery store, and the money you pay goes directly to the farmers and community people you know and trust.  That means you’re not paying for high overhead costs to an out-of-state store chain!

2. At a Certified Organic CSA, there are absolutely no synthetic pesticides either on or in your food that can cause disease and illness in humans!  The farmers who grow your food are also not at risk from concentrated forms of toxic chemicals!

3. Joining a CSA means supporting your local community and helping your area become more self-sustaining as a result!

Around The Farm… Why CSA?

Your CSA membership supports community children!

Due to CSA profits, Sweetwater is able to support the important work of educating Tampa Bay’s children on how their food is grown.  In the 2016 fiscal year alone, Sweetwater has educated an average of 6,000 school children!  Children who have gone through our field trip program have had hands-on experiences showing them how food is grown, and the deep connection to the environment that organic farming has.

Every CSA share that is sold directly benefits all children in the Tampa Bay Area who come through the Field Trip Program.  To read more about our Education Program, click here.  To learn more about our CSA Memberships, and how you can be a part of it, just click here

Visit our Education Page_

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