For six years, now, the UF/IFAS West Florida Research and Education Center and Feeding the Gulf Coast have been feeding hungry families at the holidays in a program called Farm to City Week. Since 2010, the two organizations have joined forces to prepare healthy Thanksgiving feasts. The goal of the initiative is to promote agriculture and increase public awareness of the importance of local farms and farmers. The program distributes Thanksgiving meals to 800 needy families, 400 in Escambia County and 400 in Santa Rosa County. The more than 52,000 pounds of food that will be distributed this year is largely locally grown and fresh, including cabbage, collards, turkey, sweet potatoes, and grits grown and ground at the UF/IFAS West Florida REC.
Florida’s beaches are very popular, drawing 35 million visitors a year, but in many cases, other opportunities for ecotourism and agritourism aren’t as well known. Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties in particular offer many opportunities for ecotourism, river recreation, biking and hiking, and visits to farmers’ markets, U-pick operations, and historical landmarks. The biggest challenge has always been letting people know about the fun adventures that await them along with their beach trips. Naturally EscaRosa, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences website and mobile app, supports hundreds of local businesses in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. The new app helps tour operators publicize their efforts and allows Florida visitors and residents alike to discover Florida off the beaten path. It’s just one example of the ways UF/IFAS Extension helps to support local businesses in Santa Rosa County. In this video, Escambia Bay business owner Shawn Brown talks about the impact Naturally EscaRosa is having on the area.
Photo:Big Bayou and Bayside FWC Recreation Areas near Navarre, Florida. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones