IFAS Extension: 2011 Northwest District
Featured Story: Santa Rosa Farm Tour
Mike Donahoe, Santa Rosa County Extension Director:
"It's the annual Santa Rosa County Farm Tour and this year is the forty-fifth annual tour, and to our knowledge it's the longest annual running tour of this kind in the state."
"Target audiences are non-farm communities in the county--our business leaders and the general public who are not normally exposed to the agricultural segment of the county."
"We take a day long tour--spent all day--we go out and visit various farms in the county, and we may go to the research center of the Extension office, but we spend a lot of time actually out on the farm. We'll have the farmers actually showing their operation, talking about their operation--they get to see firsthand what a farmer actually does in the county."
"Each year we try to see a different segment of agriculture in the county, so if someone goes on the tour, say four, five years in a row, then they'll see most of the major agricultural operations."
"The overall goal, of course, is to increase awareness of agriculture and appreciation of agriculture in the county because everybody is familiar with the tourism segment, and, of course, military is a big presence in the county, but agriculture sometimes gets forgotten. We just want them to understand what agriculture is all about, how it plays an important part in our economy, especially locally, and just get an appreciation for the farmer and what he does."
"Agriculture influences all of our lives--not only our food, but the clothes we wear, practically everything that we're involved with has to do with agriculture."
In the Northwest district, agents are using innovative techniques to teach their residents about the importance of sustainability and agriculture.
For two years, agents Beth Bolles and Carrie Stevenson designed the landscape for the largest green roof in the state. The 33-thousand square foot area is the first of its kind for Escambia County and part of the first energy efficient building built by the local government. The vegetated roof reduces rainfall run-off and saves energy use by absorbing heat. The garden features Florida-friendly plants that are both drought and cold tolerant. The plants can survive in full sun and grow in only 4-inches of soil media.
In Leon County, the Extension office is being converted into a demonstration site for power and water conservation. The goal for agent Betty Miller is to show residents, county leaders, and business owners how buildings can be retrofitted or built to produce as much energy as they use. The building was retrofitted with four 10,000 gallon cisterns to collect rainwater and reuse it for irrigation in the office demonstration garden. The system is projected to reduce the use of potable water by 80-percent.
And 4-H Ag Adventure program is teaching 600 students a year about the importance of agriculture to their community and their lives. The program brings children from counties across the Northwest District to the North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy. The kids get to chance to see crops growing in the field and to learn how these crops can benefit them.
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