Monday, November 29, 2010

5% Day at Whole Foods in Winter Park Dec. 8th

Volunteer opportunity! Come help us our table at Whole Foods in Winter Park, anytime between 11am till 7pm December 8th.

Shayla Dougher, volunteer coordinator

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Winter Park Harvest Festival and Simple Living Institute

The park in downtown Winter Park was transformed and transfixed by the 1st annual Winter Park Harvest Festival. Pictured here, Avery and Lauressa, model volunteers. But look past these lovelies at all the greenery! Yes when we table at events, we bring plants and we speak about our passions, gardening and local food. This day, we were not the only ones!! I have the most beautiful mix of feelings about our burgeoning community collaberators! Yes, we are the leaders in this growing (pun intended) collective and I am used to being the one with the pretty plants and the big news about our awesome activities at the different events we table. No more. We are many now and the Winter Park Harvest Festival showcased all of US very well.

There were throngs of people strolling through the festival in the sunshine. Glorious! the weather could not have been better! Our table enjoyed planty of attention. And my vols were there in force, except my daughter Joanna, she was there by force (hhaha). Stacks of stuff touting our programs, projects and of course, our dynamite website flew off the table and into the eager hands of folks who are curious about Simple Living Institute and all we do. A very grateful raffle ticket buyer received a grow box at the end of the day! We sold a few plants and Seminole pumkins. Interest at our table was high and I expect the ranks at our Organic Grower's meetings to swell.

Our president, Tia meer is a leader in this bunch (of carrots!) and a star speaker! She presented a workshop on filling a grow box and she participated in a panel discussion, "Meet the Farmers". She was joined there by her brethren to explore the ins and outs and to share what's new. Both tents were active all day with several of our own members rounding out the line up. Trina Hofreiter presented, on organic gardening, Russ Rice, on orgainc weed and pest prevention, Bernie Moro, on worm composting and Stephanie Syson, on edible landscapes. All were well attended!

I stepped over to Williams-Sonoma on Park Ave to see a couple of the cooking demos sponsored by Edible Orlando Magazine Not only does this community grow beautiful food, they prepare it for enjoyment at the table in high style and simplicity. And aren't we fortunate? Edible Orlando Magazine assists us with the printing and distribution of our local food guide. See The Central Florida Sustainable Food Project on Facebook and at . I tasted raw chocolate that was creamy and dreamy! Next came Catelonian Kale, all raw, but so tender! Catelonian means sweet, with raisins, in this case. mixed with salty, Kalamata olives, combined with lemon juice and olive oil. Kendra told me the kale was picked that morning from Heart of Christmast Farms . Fantastic!

I tried not to eat too much because I knew that the Farm to Table dinner was going to offer an amazing array of foods. All locally produced and crafted together by 7 local chefs! A magnificent appetizer opening, 3 courses and a pear torte ending that was divine! I wonder where those pears came from! I could smell them and the taste of the pears popped right through the cakey dessert. Marvelous food! The music was bluegrass and the people were fun! Fran and I sat with an anesthesiologist and his pediatrician wife and a Chipolte exec here to visit his mom. Enchanting autumn table decor greeted us and set the mood for a beautiful evening!

My daughter Joanna and I helped Tia and Tom Scala set up the table at 7am. At midday, Matt from a late night radio show at Rollins radio station WPRK asked me to come on to talk about Simple Living Institute. Check the time on the clock. Yes! I went over, after that huge dinner, to crow about what a great day it was and to tell the world, I mean... whoever was listening to the radio that night about our big local food project. Matt and his co-hosts had walked through the Festival. I was happy to hear about how impressed they were! They loved all of the food and the up-beat people and suggested we hold a fest like that every quarter or so. Great idea!

When I got to the car, I found a text from Lauressa (pictured above). She had been listening to the radio! We gabbed as I drove home. What an amazing day it was!

Do this every quarter? Oh ya! What do you think Mr. Rife, founder of ?

To all who participated, especially my beautiful volunteers, and John Rife the founder, please accept my a profound thanks! This event will have a far-reaching affect for a long time to come. We appreciate all of your great efforts to make the Winter Park Harvest Festival grand! Now that we all know each other a little better, bring it on! more community, more connection, more local food!

Shayla Dougher, volunteer coordinator

Great times at the first annual Winter Park Harvest Festival

Last Saturday I attended the first annual Winter Park Harvest Festival in Winter Park, Florida with Simple Living Institute. I would call this harvest festival a huge success. The main goal of this harvest festival was to connect consumers to the farms and farmers that grow locally and organically, as well as to encourage citizens to grow organically themselves. The festival was held in the beautiful Central Park on Park Ave. in Winter Park. This turned out to be a great venue for the event. The city of Winter Park had already placed an ice skating rink adjacent to the festival, which was a great family recreational addition. Inside the harvest festival one could find many vendors selling locally and organically produced foods and herbs, as well as local artisans, and even face painting for the kids. There was several local blugrass bands including the Token Gamblers and Jubal's Kin. Inside the main tent were speakers on food and health related issues. At the main tent at the other end of the festival there were speakers on organic farming and gardening methods. Weeks before the festival, grow boxes were distributed throughout the Central Florida community for citizens to grow organic foods and herbs in. These grow boxes were all gathered and set up artistically inside the festival as a showcase for these local growers. These grow boxes were also a part of a contest for which grow box was the most appealing. Ribbons were distributed to the winners, most of whom were elementary school students. It was nice to see the excitement from the children involved. The food was amazing. There were vendors such as Wild Ocean Seafood serving up the freshest sustainably caught seafood from Port Canaveral, FL. There were cooking demonstrations in the adjacent Williams and Sonoma store, purveyors of fine dining and cookware. The festival also brought together some of the finest chefs from local area restaurants and fine dining establishments in order to showcase their culinary talents. The movie Fresh was played at sundown, which is a very eye-opening film about factory farming practices and where most common food comes from and what is in it. The film also showcases farmers that use organic practices and what organic farming really means. To top off the evening, in the main tent, the best local chefs prepared a four-course fresh local organic meal along with wine and garden mojitos. The meal was outstanding. Some of the best food that I have ever tasted. According to a speaker who is a local doctor for a living, we need to have these harvest festivals more often than annually, maybe even quarterly, for the benefit of our community's overall health. I would tend to agree. If you did not make it out to our first annual winter Park Harvest Festival, be sure to make it out to next year's.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Cold protection for plants and fruit trees

Our Organic Grower’s meetings continue with a stellar presentation given by our own Simple Living Institute member, Hayri Lawrence. She showcased her 5 acre nursery chock full of fruit bearing trees, vegetable beds and scurrying chickens with a beautiful slide show and season appropriate talk on cold preparation. Her personal stories about what to do and what not to do to protect plants and fruit trees welcomed us right onto her property!

I felt a shiver as she explained how important is is to hold down the covers for the plants with heavy objects so the cold (more like freezing!) wind won’t lift them and make all the work done to cover plants, for not. Dates when cuts were made written with a sharpie on banana trees demonstrate her attention to detail. Her pictures showed acccumulations of dead leaves everywhere. She piles them up them at the base of every plant to protect important roots from the cold. A child in the audience asked, “Why don’t you just throw the dead leaves away?” Hayri’s eyebrows raised, “No I wouldn’t! They are like gold! When I see the neighbors leaving bags of raked up leaves for pick up, I pick them up! You can never have too many dead leaves!”

Even a master gardener of 17 yrs has to learn about what not to do! Hayri allows her chickens to run about the garden on sunny afternoons. Sometimes the plant protecting leaves are scattered. The time she remembered to push the leaves back up, she showed papayas that survived the cold. What happened when she had forgotten? Burnt, and split stumps!

"I have been greedy thinking that I'll save the fruits by covering just the tops" she says. But her pictures showed us that when she learned to protect the bases, many tress and plants come back to fruit again. Greedy? Hardly! Hayri showed just how many plants in pots she moves in and out (and in and out!) of her insulated shed and garage during the cold and sunny weather. It is a lot of work!

Do you have a question about cold protection or fruit trees, or gardening? write Hayri at

Thanks to everyone who contributes to our raffle table at the Organic Grower's meetings! There is Shirley making sure everything is labeled and presentable. Members of Simple Living Institute receive a free raffle ticket and many many are purchased at every meeting for cheap! Every ticket holder goes home with a treasure from our raffle table.

Our next Organic Grower’s meeting is Wednesday Dec. 15th. Stephanie Syson from Gray’s Garden, will present "What to do with herbs?" Sounds yummy! See you then!

Shayla Dougher, volunteer coordinator 407-923-4562

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sustainable Agriculture Course at Rollins College

Simple Living board member, Andrew Landis, is teaching the first Sustainable Agriculture course at Rollins College this semester. With the help of myself, Tia Meer, students planted two 4x8' garden beds to learn from. Heres the garden just 2 months after planting!