Posted by: ShawnC | July 2, 2009

FAMU program aids area farms

Edgar Roberts’ blue eyes and blonde hair seemed to shine in the sun filtering through the trees around Lake Ella. His smile greeted everyone who walked by his booth.

Roberts, 20, was surrounded by three of his siblings. They sat behind the family sign, Pasco Farms.

A small group of Roberts’ large clan, including 11 brothers and sisters, came from the family farm in Thomasville, Ga., to the growers’ market, which is open on Wednesdays from 3 p.m. to dusk. The Roberts family, like many others who come to the market, hope to sell naturally grown produce or other wares at a site used by Florida A&M University as part of its Small Farm Program.

FAMU’s Jennifer Taylor organizes the program. She said it’s designed to assist and equip small farm populations, farm workers and their families. Taylor said the program’s goal is to assist farmers and urban farmers with organic methods. The program offers farmers access to “knowledge about sustainable agriculture production and management systems.”

FAMU students and faculty at the College of Engineering Sciences, Technology and Agriculture (CESTA) are also provided with a hands-on learning environment.

“These are the actual people growing your food,” Taylor said. “It’s a participatory market that we developed with farmers.”

No fees are required for vendors at the markets, farmers workshops, marketing strategies and other sessions. CESTA students, however, can take advantage of “new kinds of learning opportunities in terms of outdoor and indoor laboratory experiences and resources.”

The community gets to take advantage a growers’ market complete with cooking classes, fresh bakery and herbal soaps and lotions.

“I fit at a growers’ market,” said Dolly Fields, who sells herbal soaps and lotions made out of pure vegetable oils.

Fields said not a lot of vendors who make crafts can say they fit in at growers’ markets like the ones FAMU oversees.

Lesa and Bob Burnham of Sycamore Gardens also participate in the markets.

“The people who come here appreciate freshness — people who like the friendly community atmosphere,” Lesa Burnham said.

As she spoke, cooking demonstrations were conducted with clams on the grill. Flowers of every hue and size filled large white buckets.

“We try to have an integrated kind of learning experience for the community as well as the farming population,” Taylor said.


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