Last year's summit drew at least 200 people, according to orgranizers. /photo from

Last year’s summit drew at least 200 people, according to organizers. /photo courtesy

With the locavore movement driving steady growth in the agricultural, culinary, and ecotourism economies all over the state, there’s no better time to have a broad conversation about how all these producers can collaborate.

That’s the idea behind the second Florida Local Food Summit, happening this weekend in Gainesville.

One of the event organizers is Mary Hathaway, farmer education coordinator for Florida Organic Growers (FOG), a statewide organization based in Gainesville that is among the three original sponsors of last year’s event.

“This is our second annual FLFS; last year it was in Orlando at the East End Market,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of growing momentum for sustainable, clean food. And Florida’s one of the states where not only growers but also people that are real active in food policy, or just very interested consumers, or those in the sustainable agricultural industry, could come together and meet for a more connected food system in Florida.”

Seminars, farm tours, meals

The schedule for this two-day event brims with seminars, lectures, and hands-on workshops, with a fair amount of informal mixing also planned. The summit officially kicks off Friday, Sept. 18, at 5 p.m.with a local-food potluck dinner and gathering at First Magnitude Brewery.

Farm visits are available for early arrivals Friday, from 9:30 to 3 p.m., with three available tours: a Forage Farm hosting a demonstration on seed saving; a livestock tour at Cognito Farm; and a visit to Crones’ Cradle Conserve for a workshop on processing and harvesting.

Events on Saturday, Sept. 19, widen the focus, with a group session on statewide networking and collaborating. Other workshops focus on laws affecting small producers, farming, animal husbandry, marketing and sales techniques, agroforestry, and consumer profiles.


Most classes and workshops will take place at the Straughn Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ Professional Development Center at the University of Florida.

Culinary heritage a focus

Farm Summit Dr. David Shields

David Shields, author

The keynote speaker is David Shields, author of Southern Provisions: The Creation and Revival of a Cuisine. He heads Slow Food’s Southern Ark of Taste Committee and brings to the table inspiration and information about Southern culinary history.

The Ark of Taste Dinner, the “Sunshine Plate,” features farm-to-table dishes linking to Florida’s food history.

Along with Hathaway, the other event planners are John Rife, owner of East End Market; Emily Rankin of Local Roots: Farm to Restaurant Distribution; and Carmen Franz, FOG’s Fresh Access Bucks project coordinator. (Find speaker bios on the website.)

“There were just shy of 200 people (last year), but this year because of the venue, we’re having to cap it at 250 people each day. We’re over halfway sold out already,” Hathaway said last week. Tickets are available through the website

“There are a lot of different stakeholders in this,” she added. “We are trying to get the word out about what resources are available and kind of create a space for sharing best practices.”

Livestock interest growing

Farm Summit-pig“There is a lot of great stuff for livestock farmers this year; we’re really seeing a big push for bringing in more resources for sustainable animal husbandry, so there’s going to be a session every day at different times on sustainable livestock, which runs the gamut of knowing what your production lines are, what the processing laws are, all the way to livestock breeding.”

Hathaway said she knows that encouraging a better farm-to-table system is going to help Florida’s agricultural economy.

“Any dollar and cents spent locally are going to carry greater impact. Florida is interesting because we’re the second-largest distributor of agricultural fruits and vegetables in the whole country, but only 15 percent of what we grow stays in Florida. So that’s something that we’re trying to address.

“We’re trying to flesh out more areas and more ways that these products can get to people’s houses. We think that by pushing and making it more relevant, we can change things so there’s a little more of a cultural norm of being able to seek out and find local products. That will obviously have a great impact not only for the farmer but also for the health of people and the overall economy.

“We have people from all different walks of life from throughout Florida and southern Georgia attending, so we’re real excited about that,” Hathaway said.

If you go:

  • Florida Local Food Summit
  •  September 18-20, 2015
  • Straughn IFAS Professional Development Center, University of Florida, 2142 Shealy Drive, Gainesville, Fla.

Farm Summit workshops On-farm workshops