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Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Agriculture program provides local produce

Every week, Lindsey Barter would wait for food.

It comes in a crate stuffed with spinach, tomatoes and pumpkin muffins with jam.

Sometimes, the 21-year-old said, the contents would be a surprise.

"I got to experiment with kale before it was cool," the UF international studies senior said.

Barter’s crate was part of the Gator Community Supported Agriculture program, hosted by UF’s Office of Sustainability. Started in Fall 2010, the program partners with local farms to bring produce to members of the UF community. Students pay up-front for crates of produce and pick up their share weekly from UF’s Agronomy Department near Southwest Recreational Center.

This year, the program will partner with three local farms — Hawthorne’s Frog Song Organics Farm, Alachua’s Swallowtail Farm and Gainesville’s Siembra Farm. Participants can choose which farm their crate comes from each week, with prices ranging from about $26 to about $30.

Frog Song Organics kicked off deliveries Oct. 1. The other farms will start deliveries later in the month, and the program will continue until the end of winter.

To Allison Vitt, the UF Office of Sustainability outreach and communications coordinator, the program is a great way for students to know where their food is coming from.

"It’s not just this anonymous walk into a grocery store," she said."You know the farm that it is coming from."

Amy Van Scoik, co-owner of Frog Song Organics, said her crates are typically packed with lettuce, turnips, sweet potatoes, carrots and other vegetables in the fall.

"I love exposing people to new crops," she said, adding that the most exciting things she’s ever sold were turmeric and ginger.

Van Scoik said about 20 to 25 UF members are currently enrolled in the program. Although the first crates were already delivered, about 75 spots are still available.

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Noah Shitama, the founder of Swallowtail, said the farm has an assortment of greens available this fall, such as bok choy, kale, collard greens and herbs like dill and oregano.

Siembra Farm, which joined the program last year, will make its first delivery Oct. 21. Co-owner Cody Galligan said the farm typically provides sweet potatoes, eggplant, peppers, yucca, arugula and other vegetables.

For Shitama, participating in the program is a way for him to fulfill his farm’s mission of providing better food for his family and community.

"I love working with living things and watching things grow," Shitama said. "The most gratifying thing is bringing food to people."

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