Yes, I have agreed with Mark Bittman to break up the USDA. I now need to modify that position. Break it up except for Florida.
This is one state that has an extension program that is in tune with the ultimate boss and that is the taxpaying consumer.
Florida is first in indoor plant production and in the top ten in terms of total agricultural receipts. California is at the top of the agriclutural receipts list with Texas a distant second. You would logically think that Californing would be the national leader in the use of modern urban food production methods based on science and technology.
My research shows that even though California is at the top in agriculture and has vaunted state schools such as Cal Poly Pomona (where I went to graduate school), Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, UC Davis and UC Riverside, it is virtually mute about education regarding modern methods of urban food production such as portable micro gardens, sub-irrigated planters, simplified hydroponics, and aquaponics.
Most of the extension program and other gardening activist organizations I monitor appear to be stuck in the dirt. California leads the country in many ways but urban consumer agriculture education is clearly not one of them.
The University of Florida Martin County Extension Office is very busy these days! In addition to growing a Sustainable Vegetable Demonstration Garden at their office, they're coordinating the local Florida Yards and Neighborhoods (FYN) Program. Under the stewardship of Multi-County Extension Agent Fred Burkey, a variety of fresh vegetables are being grown and harvested in EarthBoxes, and using other sustainable techniques.
These plants are being tended by FYN Assistant Pat Bonis and a host of community volunteers. Among the vegetables they're growing are several varieties of lettuce, basil, tomatoes, squash, string beans, and broccoli. Some of the harvested produce is sold in the community, and the volunteers also enjoy meals themselves with the freshly picked plants. "This is the first time we've grown in the Earth Boxes, and they are fabulous," notes Ms. Bonis.
For visitors interested in learning more about sustainable growing techniques, the extension office has many different methods on display. You can even buy fresh produce or seedlings while there! For more information, click here.