Plan to join Bearadise Ranch on December 10 for a delicious Christmas Brunch while you enjoy viewing the bears in their natural habitat. Santa is scheduled to visit as well!
Make plans to attend a one-day workshop designed to help growers develop a food safety manual. More details may be found here
September 25th in Gainesville, Florida
From the Tallahassee Democrat:
Saving the bees — one bee lab at a time
MONTICELLO – There were bees in the kitchen at Tony and Becky Hogg’s Jefferson County farm on Wednesday. The Hoggs were unconcerned — they have been keeping bees for 15 years.
They, like many other experts, know the importance of bees. They attribute every third bite of their food to bee pollination.
In their five-acre yard, they have 100 hives. That means 3 to 5 million bees have homes on the property.
The Hoggs began keeping bees about 15 years ago to combat their daughter’s phobia of insects. Now, Tony is the president of the Florida State Beekeepers Association.
He and Becky own and operate Full Moon Farm, though Tony also works as a docking pilot in Jacksonville. On his off weeks, he helps Becky, whom he fondly refers to as the “executive director,” move and manage the 250 hives they own. Their operation is two-fold – honey and pollination.
“For most practical purposes, (honey and pollination) are two entirely different operations,” Tony said. “Most of the stuff that we pollinate, we don’t produce honey off of.”
The bees the Hoggs’ rent out pollinate blueberry crops, watermelon, squash and cotton — just to name a few of the crops integral to Florida’s agriculture.
Last year, 400 semi-truckloads of hives left Florida for almond pollination in California, Tony said. It takes about 1.7 million bee colonies to pollinate the almond crop in California each year alone.
Yet the increase in monoculture — growing a single crop at a time — poses a problem for bee health. That’s because some flowers, like watermelon, do not offer bees much nectar, a bee’s energy source. Hogg sometimes has to supplement food (sugar water) for the bees to eat.
The state of Florida is beginning to recognize the importance of bees to agriculture and is making an effort to plant wildflower nurseries like those seen in highway and interstate medians.
“You know, I like my watermelons,” Tony joked this week.
Joking aside, the issue is serious. He believes bee health is as important to human life as the sun — and bees are in trouble.
It’s not Colony Collapse Disorder, the panic-inducing phrase that swept through the news in the mid-2000s, but just a general decline, Tony said.
“It used to be that most of your bee losses you’d experience in the winter time,” he said, “but now we’re having our losses pretty much divided up equally in summer and winter.”
Radio journalist and Tallahassee beekeeper Rick Flagg agreed. Flagg is a member of the Apalachee Beekeepers Association, a Tallahassee-based division of the Florida State Beekeepers, and has been keeping bees in Frenchtown for seven years.
“Everything we do to (bees) is their biggest threat,” Flagg said. “We destroy their food source simply by mowing down what we do not like to look at.”
So it is with relief and anticipation that the University of Florida is breaking ground in September on a project to build a Honey Bee Research & Extension Lab on its campus in Gainesville.
“The bee lab gives Florida the chance to make its mark in bee research,” said Flagg.
The project, which was vetoed twice by Gov. Rick Scott, was approved last year and UF was allocated $2 million; the university will provide a $500,000 matching grant. Tony Hogg said Florida beekeepers have raised an additional $800,000 through donations. The effort has gained international attention.
“They are some real movers and shakers,” said Hogg. “Beekeepers in Tallahassee have really ponied up and invested not only a lot of money, but a lot of time in making (the project) happen.”
UF is ranked No. 1 in entomology worldwide, and Florida’s climate enables bee research year round.
“This is really the only kind of place this could be pulled off,” said Jamie Ellis, an associate professor of entomology at UF. “It (will be) a state of the art research and instructional facility. It’s a really remarkable grassroots movement, and very humbling to watch this come together.”
Hogg is thrilled the lab will finally have a home.
“The problems are growing and growing and we need to have answers sooner rather than later,” he said. “We’re all wondering what’s going to be the next calamity that faces us.
“It will be a bright day for Florida and for the beekeeping industry across this country to have the bee lab built down there.”
By Martin Owen | Special to the Daily News
Posted Jun 13, 2017 at 12:01 AM
When we think tourism here on the northern Gulf Coast, we automatically default to sugar white sand and emerald green water. Why wouldn’t we? We have some of the best beaches in the world. The trouble is the tourists only tend to see the part of our counties that are within two miles of the beach. The effects of tourism spread far inland, though, as many of us involved in the tourism industry live away from the beach and consequently spend income within inland communities. Incidentally, that’s another benefit of tourism that’s not often recognized.
Last year we went on a short road trip to Georgia, to an area north of Atlanta. I wrote about the trip on my blog — http://ow.ly/KgHL3083iem. We took the back roads avoiding as many towns as we could. It was here that what’s termed agritourism was evident. What may not be obvious is that tourists travel for many reasons, and we’ll cover some of these in the future — cultural tourism, ecotourism, heritage, historical and medical tourism to name a few.
There is a current movement to preserve the rural way of life in Florida. Despite the impression that the Sunshine State is the theme park and beach capital of the world, agriculture is vital to Florida. Farm cash receipts from marketing Florida agricultural products in 2012 amounted to $8.22 billion.
Florida has a vibrant agritourism business (https://visitor.visitfloridafarms.com) as does Georgia (http://georgia-agritourism.org), which offer everything from pick-your-own to farm-stays. Many farms we passed in Georgia had signs offering “on farm accommodation.” There also are farm visitor centers, many boasting restaurants, souvenir stores and produce outlets — all activities that generate new income for the rural communities.
Do we promote agritourism here in Northwest Florida? Well, not really. Our DMOs — Destination Marketing Organizations — can only use bed tax to promote the areas in which the tax is collected. That restricts promotion to coastal areas. Not only can’t the tax be used to promote inland areas, it can’t be used to improve the inland infrastructure. If we (the counties of Northwest Florida) extended the bed tax to short-term accommodations across the whole counties, then the income received could be used for tourist promotion (marketing- and tourist-related infrastructure) in the rural areas.
Remember, bed tax is only paid by visitors — not the local population. It’s a win for everyone.
Our rural areas would get support, promotion and development. They also would receive new opportunities to generate sales tax and income. There would be a need for new employment in our rural areas, so locals don’t have to travel to work, and new skills would be added to the inland areas. Our tourists would get more chances to experience something unique, possibly out of regular tourist season. And lastly our county commissioners would get a legal way to spend bed tax income in northern areas of the county.
Agritourism has taken off in many areas. You could say it’s a rapidly growing industry. One worth germinating!
Martin Owen is an independent consultant to the tourism industry and owner of Owen Organization in Shalimar. Readers can email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
On May 23rd, Governor Rick Scott signed House Bill 1233 which increase the maximum annual gross sales limit of cottage foods from $15,000 to $50,000 in order for cottage operations to maintain an exemption from food and building permits. It also expands cottage food sales to the internet, as long as the items are delivered in person directly to the consumer or to a specific event venue. Cottage food items include homemade breads, jams, candy and honey that are typically found at a farmer’s market.
Yesterday, I attended the public rule hearing on the Fire Safety language in Winter Haven. I, along with several FATA members, were able to ask questions and have our concerns heard. A big thank you to all of the members who attended or expressed their concerns with me prior to the hearing.
There will be another hearing in Taylor County in August, thought it has not been officially noticed. Additionally, the State Fire Marshal has offered to be part of a Q&A session on the rule via a phone conference call that we will set up in the near future.
Thanks again for your input and we will keep you posted on any further development.