Sunday, October 23, 2011

Keeping GMO's off your Plate

By: Dr. Samadhi Keever
To contact Samadhi visit:

Genetically Modified Organisms were first introduced into our food supply in the 1980’s. They appeared without consumers knowing what was happening…until recently. Currently there is a GMO scare circulating through the social media. GMO crops look, smell, and taste like normal food, so how can we protect ourselves?
A GMO By Many Names Is The Same:
GMOs are referred to by several acronyms and proper names: Genetically Modified Organism, GMO, Genetically Modified, GM, Transgenic, Transgene, and Bt (which is the name for a bacterium used during the genetic modification process). Plant seeds are often referred to as Bt or Round Up Ready, implying they are ‘safe’ to spray with the glyphosate herbicide called Round Up, which is manufactured by Monsanto.
There are hundreds of crops being experimented with using bacteria, viruses, antibiotics, plant, animal, and insect DNA and this is cause for alarm. Although there is much experimentation, not all of these science projects make it to the grocery shelves. Some that have made it to the shelves have been rejected. Years ago, the DNA from cold water fish was added to a tomato seed, producing a GM tomato plant that was cold-hearty. This failed in the market place because consumers didn’t like the flavor. Crossing a fish gene with a vegetable gene is suspect and the side-effects to human health are yet to be determined.
Current List of GM Foods:
The following Genetically Modified foods are being sold in our stores right now: corn, wheat, soy, canola, Hawaiian papaya, alfalfa, zucchini, and yellow crookneck squash. Buy organic! USDA Certified Organic guidelines (currently) do not allow GM foods to carry an organic label.
Sources of GM Foods in the Food Supply:
GM wheat, corn, and soy show up in most boxed or packaged ‘foods’ and this is what the scary statistics in the social media are pointing to. Wheat, corn, and soy are farmed in massive quantities. These crops are used by manufacturers to make things such as ketchup, vitamin supplements, eco-friendly, non-plastic corn utensils, veggie burgers and other vegan and vegetarian meat-substitutes, tofu, soy milk, corn syrup, energy bars, protein powders, cereals, breads, candies, snack ‘foods’, pastries, food additives, rennet, artificial sweeteners, enzymes, and the list goes on.
GM crops are used as feed for livestock and poultry, which translates into meat, eggs, and dairy containing GM constituents. Buy meat, poultry, and dairy from local farmers who you can talk with about what they are feeding their animals. Farm raised fish are also fed genetically modified grains. Get your fish labeled wild-caught and locally sourced if available.
Other sources of GM contamination are dairy products from cows injected with rbGH. This is a Genetically Modified hormone (created by Monsanto) to increase the production of milk. Organic milk does not contain rbGH.
Grass Roots…Taking Action, Get Involved!
There are many resources that we can utilize to stay aware and educated of what is actually in the food supply here in the United States. It is important to clarify ‘in the United States” because GM seeds and food are being exported to other countries.
There is now a voluntary Non-GMO seal that companies can receive to distinguish their product from GMO competitors. If you see a product labeled with a Non-GMO seal, support this company by purchasing their product. Getting this seal is a costly process that is not mandatory. Many of these companies are small, independent businesses, which have elected to put their product through this expensive, voluntary testing regime to earn this seal.
Our shopping dollars influence what is being sold in the stores. GMOs are not allowed in USDA Certified Organic Foods. Buy ORGANIC! There is a Non-GMO Shopping Guide which lists companies that guarantee there are no GM ingredients in their food. Download the Non-GMO Shopping Guide online for free (see Resources).
The Institute for Responsible Technology is working diligently with groups such as The Organic Consumers Association and The Center for Food Safety. These organizations are the leaders taking large corporations such as Monsanto to court in a monumental effort to keep GM crops from entering into our food supply. They are working to create a mandatory label on foods that have GM ingredients. Support these organizations and sign up for their email newsletters. The Organic Consumers Association fuels the Millions Against Monsanto Campaign; join this effort on their website (see Resources).
Shopping for locally produced items is beneficial for our local economy and gives us a chance to meet the folks involved in growing, raising, packaging, and selling the food we eat. Farmer’s Markets and local food stores such as the Florida Homegrown Co-op in Orlando and Essential Health in Altamonte Springs provide locally sourced foods.
Make your own grass roots movement…grow your own! GM seeds do not make it into the home garden. Having your own garden is a wonderful way to keep your green thumb on the pulse of your own food supply.
Institute for Responsible Technology (
Center for Food Safety (
Non-GMO shopping guide (free download) (
Organic Consumers Association (
Millions Against Monsanto Campaign (
Uncertain Peril (book) by Claire Hope Cummings
The Future of Food (movie)
Food Inc. (movie)
Florida Homegrown Co-op (
Essential Health Market (
Community Supported Agriculture
Local farms and local farmers
Farmers Markets
Your own garden

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Winter Park Urban farm experiment

The Winter Park Urban Farm is an urban farming experiment in the heart of Winter Park. We will be meeting once a week throughout this Fall to work the farm and learn about urban agriculture. The mission is to take a vacant residential lot in Winter Park and convert its fallow land into a productive harvest garden.
With 11 weeks to work with we are looking to see just how much produce we can grow and bring to market at this year’s Winter Park Harvest Festival. Along the way we will beoffering volunteers and our “ag-curious” neighbors free lessons on the in’s and out’s of organic agriculture.
Join Tia Meer and John Rife for the next farm days at the Winter Park Urban Farm scheduled for Tuesday October 4th from 4-6pm and Thursday October 13th from 10am till noon . We will be planting more biointensive beds of vegetables and checking on our baby bean, broccoli, cabbage, collard, cucumber, carrots, and pea plants. Bring your favorite shovel! More info at

Friday, September 23, 2011

Making Connections: Anarchy & Permanent Culture

Permaculture is about allowing natural systems to exist. Its about helping them to become more diverse and therefore, strong, healthy, and “more productive”. Modern thinking and philosophy involves that you apply force to a system in order to bend it to your will, that we become "masters over nature". The conventional approach is that a system will either perform as you instruct it, or be destroyed and replaced. And I do mean DESTROYED. Current landscaping techniques vitiate healthy natural systems so that they can install a particular order that is convenient to manipulate and control, but that devastate millions of years of perfectly balanced ecosystems. This can sometimes be repaired, but the overall pollution may make some areas toxic breeding grounds, incapable of sustaining life.

The good news is that natural, organic systems, although complex, can be “guided” along with ever diminishing need for human intervention by the use of bio-mimicry. Of course the answer is not to destroy the natural systems in the first place. Our best option would be to allow the system to interact, while introducing beneficial elements that offset our use of an area.

These natural systems, I believe, are the essence of anarchism. Anyone who has observed nature can tell you is that when you change the natural balance of a system, the end results are almost always a disaster. Anarchism is about belonging to natural systems. Those that evolve from free interaction between autonomous actors, both in nature and in human social structures. And as with permaculture, it is necessary that each actor be allowed to evolve and grow. As the anarchist-ecologist Murray Bookchin put it,

"The notion that man must dominate nature emerges directly from the domination of man by man...But it was not until organic community relation...dissolved into market relationships that the planet itself was reduced to a resource for exploitation."

Unnatural systems force actors to perform in a rigid manner, or risk destruction. Natural systems allow actors to unfold as a part of their environment, providing fertile ground that promotes growth, diversity, and resilience, not destruction.

We, as living organisms, evolve along with our environment. The mutilation of these natural systems destroys not only that system or resource, but destroys life on a cellular level that even human stewardship cannot redeem. Fortunately, we don’t have to rely on artificial science to fix the problems humans create in their environment, including their social structures. Natural systems already know how to deal with those problems. If only we would let nature reign.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Simple Living Organic Grower's Meeting – the Seed Exchange

Get your seeds ready and arrive early at 6:45pm on August 17, 2011 at Leu Gardens for Simple Living Institute's August Seed Exchange. For details, check out:

See you there!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Orlando Permaculture Design Course

We are pleased to offer the second Permaculture Design Course at the Econ Farm in Orlando, FL. This will be a weekend-format 72-hour course that will give you an in-depth understanding of Permaculture design concepts and applications in the Central Florida region. Participants that attend all sessions of this class and complete the final design project will receive a certificate in Permaculture Design.

Permaculture is a design for sustainable living. Permaculture's foundation of principles and design concepts are universal and can be suited for any region or location. The principles of permaculture can help us reduce society's overuse of industrially produced resources which are destroying the Earth's ecosystems and help us transition to self-reliant homesteads.

Course Dates:
September 17 and 24
October 1, 8, 15, 22, and 29
November 5 and 6

Fee: $1,150 members / $1,200 non-members
Advanced Registration Required! Class size limited to 12 people.
Registration ends Sept 7th, 2011
Contact us to request the course overview
Tia Meer at (321) 217-8492

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Mead Garden Community Garden

Join us for a volunteer work day at Mead Garden's Community Garden in Winter Park. The community garden is also looking to fill some vacant plots. Meet at the garden site at 8:45am and bring hat, sunscreen, water, and tools to trim brush and trees. More info and map to the garden site at

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Our Local Food Guide

The Central Florida Local Food Guide will be the first comprehensive listing of farms, community gardens, and farmers markets in the region. It has been our largest and most exciting project of the year. Join Simple Living Institute and learn about the Guide, soon to be released. Andrew Landis, director of the project, will be presenting and we will be recognizing our sponsors, Our Vital Earth, Winter Park Harvest Festival, Simply Well, First Unitarian Church, and Winter Park Health Foundation. Our Guide is scheduled for release late this summer. More info on our website at

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Free Electronic Waste Recycling Saturday, June 11th, 2011

Keep Orlando Beautiful is holding an Electronic Waste Collection on Saturday, June 11th, from 9am to 1pm, at Orlando Festival Park near the intersection of Robinson & Bumby.

They will be collecting the following items for recycling:
• Computer Monitors
• Televisions (limit one per household)
• Telephones
• Cell Phones
• Telephone Systems
• Fax Machines
• Central Office Equipment
• Rechargeable Batteries
• Electronic Circuit Boards and Components
• Stereo Equipment
• Games
• PDA's

For complete details, please see the Keep Orlando Beautiful pdf flyer:
Electronic Waste Collection (.pdf)

This is a free service and we at Simple Living encourage you to take advantage of the opportunity!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

How to Remove Grass for a Garden

I would say the best way to remove grass and prepare for planting is to smother it with cardboard and then put the mulch on top of the cardboard. The cardboard will kill the grass and then decompose and add to the soil. Heres what to do:

1. Mow or weed whack the area
2. Wet the ground or cardboard (optional) maybe we can get a big bucket and soak it in the bucket for a few before laying it down
3. Lay the cardboard down starting at the corner of the garden where the first plots will go, be sure to overlap sides so no grass can peek through
4. Put a 6" layer of mulch on top of the cardboard. Cover all the cardboard with mulch.

This is the technique we will use to prepare the grounds at the new Coytown Community Garden. Join us for our next workday on June 25th. More info at

Friday, May 13, 2011

News from the Market Gardening committee: How many ways can a local produce grower market their crops to the members of their local community?

U-Pick saves the the grower the harvesting, washing, packing, labeling, transport, sales commission fees, invoicing, and possible inspection costs (organic labeling provides customers the trust when direct inspection {Caveat Emptor} isn't available). The customer base is limited by driving distances factored by crop selection. But once a local customer is hooked up with a local grower, the relationship is similar to your own backyard garden.

Farmer's Markets requires the grower to harvest, pack, transport, and sell (serious time investment), but dodges the labeling, sales commission, and some of the inspection requirements if his customers are familiar with his operation. Pre-sold harvests to repeat customers are incredibly valuable beyond just money. And vending at a local market can be a lot of fun meeting everyone!

Local grocery retail sales have almost all the costs involved, but the local retailer's connection to the community can be invaluable. Big box groceries are curious to meet local growers, but often have administrative rules affecting local managers.

Restaurant sales can be interesting, especially when the chef involves the grower in the seasonal menu creation. Consistency of product and production is critical. Restaurants need the profit margin only available with discount pricing.

Onsite, farmstand, retail sales aren't very common here in Central Florida. Zoning laws abound and travel to remote rural farms sucks gas. It's an option that should be considered carefully.

Selling to wholesalers, resellers, storefront produce markets is out there. Research opportunities for consistent production needs. Do you have to deliver or will they send their transport for a pick-up.

I'm sure there are plenty more options out there. What methods have you found to actually bring your crops to market?

Hope to see you in the garden, Tom.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Perfect Pickling with Bill Hetting

At our last Organic growers Meeting we had a pickling demonstration by pickle master Bill Hetting. About 100 people attended and some took part in making their own pickles to take home. We pickled daikon radish, carrots that I grew, and jimcama. Check out the video of the event at

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Permaculture Class Begins!

On Saturday our first Permaculture Design course class was held, with fifteen students in attendance and our three Permaculture instructors. We are learning through lecture, physical demonstration, group discussion, and various permaculture activities.

A little about our instructors:

Bradford White is an Ecologist, world traveler, and Gaia University associate on the track of integrative eco-social design. Bradford has lived and worked on permaculture, food forestry, and perennial food systems projects throughout Central America, the Pacific Northwest, and Orlando, FL in the last year and a half.

Tia Meer grew up on a 13-acre organic farm in Pittsburgh, PA and has had a lifelong passion for growing food organically and lessening our impact on Mother Earth. Tia has studied Permaculture in Costa Rica, Bio-dynamic gardening on the Big Island of Hawaii, and GROW BIOINTENSIVE gardening with John Jeavons in Willits, CA.

Terry Meer grew up on a sailboat in the Florida Keys. Living on a sailboat, Terry learned about energy and water conservation, solar and wind power at an early age. Terry’s expertise is in designing and building small off-the-grid systems for homeowners interested in sustainability and for use in remote locations.


Our students are a wide range of talented, ambitious community members with an amazing bank of knowledge and experience to contribute .

A photo of the class touring and learning about the permaculture techniques implemented at the Econ Farm

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Audubon Park Community Garden (3/6)

On Sunday, we zipped on over to this "ground-breaking" Community garden event just off Corrine Ave on Winter Park Drive.

The garden itself is being placed in between the sidewalk and the baseball field, and in my mind means that many kids and their parents are going to see these wonderful folks tending their food and plants up-close. For those that have not had any exposure to plants, the soil and the joy of tending both it could be just what they need to consider their own garden or plants.

I was so excited to see there wasn't going to be a fence, as it implies there isn't any need to keep anyone out. Of course their was some concern, understandably, but I'm a firm believer that if you put out positive thoughts, that is exactly what you will get in return.

In this garden there will be a 10 - 4'x10' beds. Three interspersed in between trees beside the sidewalk and seven in a row behind that. As always, it was wonderful to meet new folks and see the wide diversity of people. One lady had her camera and of course found plenty of subjects to record, one man brought out his daughter to partake in the experience of creating their garden. We of course brought our dog, as he's part of the family too.

While we didn't get to stay as long as we would have liked, my husband, son and I each worked on three different beds and had a great time helping out.

I must say it is was amazing to watch Tia and Tommy make short work of laying out the beds so we could dig up the grass, sift the sand back into the plots and then rake them clean.

By the time we left the first three beds were well underway and those that will have bed here, were very happy preparing the earth to receive love and care.

Ann S.

Central Florida Fair

For two weekends in a row now, we have trekked out to the Central Florida Fairgrounds to volunteer for a few hours at the Simple Living table.

I am constantly amazed by the enormous diversity of people filtering through an event that stop and chat with you about their interest in eating food from their own garden, or the health aspects of eating what you grow, and of course those who love to dig in the dirt.

I especially appreciate those individuals who stop yet aren't really sure which part they are most interested in because they haven't done much of it. They want "to do something", but aren't necessarily sure where to start. These wonderful people are like seedlings; they need lots of sunlight (a warm greeting and a friendly smile), a good base soil (invite them to come to a workshop or check out what they could be doing) and lots of water to spur the grow (encouragement that starting with just one pot is wonderful).

Below are a few conversations that stuck out in my mind, that I though I would share;
One women, Wanda, who we saw at a previous event, was interested in everything and eager to find people who would take the time to answer her questions. We talked about ways she could possibly improve her health and remedy a long suffering skin irritant. My husband talked her ear off with enthusiasm about his experiences in health and wellness. Wanda was even a brave enough soul to try the sunflower sprouts, even though at the time we weren't positive what type of sprout they were. ;)

A man who came by who was interested in growing primarily as a means to get his son involved outside, and so we talked about how excited my son has been to dig, pull, cut, snip WHATEVER he can do to be  part of a gardening experience. He was concerned that his son was too young at first, but I think our story has inspired him just a little, to know that any age, any pace, any ability can come out and do what works for them through Simple Living.

Lastly, I spoke to a women from New Zealand. She indicated back home it is common to have a garden. In fact, the "norm" is to see people out tending to plants and animals. She also mentioned she had a good laugh watching the First Lady out on the White House lawn using a spade when she had clearly never used one. To me, it was heartening to see Michelle Obama, out there. Politics aside, the exposure brings more people searching for ways to bring some of what the "First Family" does back into their lives and I would love to see some of New Zealand brought to North America by way of gardens.

The Central Florida Fair is apparently a big deal here- who knew? We thoroughly enjoyed the small town feel coupled with the openness of the participants. A big,Thank you, to the fair coordinators for putting us in a high trafficked location that allowed us to pass out ever copy of Real Florida Gardner magazine and chat with some excellent folks!

Ann S.

Rollins College Philanthropic Center Membership Appreciation night (Feb 22)

Being new to volunteering with Simple Living Institute this was my first networking event and I had no idea what to expect.
As I put veggies on my plate during the meet and greet portion, I wondered where it came from. I decided if I thought about it too hard I would likely be disappointed, but noted someone from the local community could be doing this with quality and flair.

The amount of people participating was a bit surprising, but I supposed it was a good opportunity to spread their word and perhaps make connections they might not normally encounter. For example; the only person that I really exchanged ideas with was a very nice woman from Ten Thousand Villages in Winter Park. I realize belatedly, that I didn’t get her card, but believe it was noteworthy non-the-less.

She mentioned that she had read that the spice community was concerned by the “eat local” and “Native plants” movements and how would our organization respond? My comment; “Well I can’t speak for Simple Living, but first of all Native when? As North America has had much of their beloved plant material brought from over seas at some point. Additionally, the idea is to bring to the community what you CAN bring from nearby to help promote the actual community, the diversity in each community itself and its natural surroundings. That said; if we don’t also reach beyond our communities into other pools of diversity we isolate not only ourselves but in essence stagnate those same communities we are promoting”.

This Ten Thousand Villages representative mentioned she was a transplant from the North but had lived in Orlando many years, and had watched it transform into what it is today. She loves to garden but commented “it is hard to grow here, fruit for instance”. I’ve heard this so often and find the comment astounding, as I came from up North myself which has a severely limited growing season thanks to Mother Nature. I thought back to my reading about Sepp Holzer, a farmer growing fruit on the mountainside in Austria and told her about him. She said, “But he’s only one man”.  I replied; “yes, but it only takes one to prove it can be done. A little ingenuity and a true desire can create something wonderful”!

Thinking back this whole exchange reminded why I was standing there representing Simple Living. Everyone, no matter what stage of life they are in, can learn from what Simple Living Institute has to offer and that is worth spreading.

Well on to the main event; we were greeted by the Dean of Crummer Graduate School and several others representing Rollins who spoke about having Philanthropy jobs posted on their website and the numerous classes they offer to us as members. The guest speaker, Mark Russell, Editor of the Orlando Sentinel has an easy manner of speaking I am familiar with and I appreciated his straightforward and witty approach. As someone who believes “tempered technology” can be beneficial to many, particularly spreading our message to an increasingly tech savvy audience, the most important part of Mark’s talk was that the Orlando Sentinel has embraced the idea of tech savvy readers. The Sentinel has grown to incorporate that into their daily coverage of the local news and watchdog stories. They have on average 250,000 visits to their website a day with over 1.5 million page views. Mark also compared covering the Daytona 500 a decade ago to now. The most recent event had “live photo galleries” and a full bodied coverage, from food available to background stories on the participants. My favorite part was hearing the Sentinel recently released an iPhone application in November 2010, which has had over 19 thousand downloads and already has a sponsor. The Droid application was released just a few weeks ago and has 3,700 downloads. They will also be releasing an application geared towards the iPad soon.  As of now they make approximately $1 for online subscription compared to $10 for a printed edition. In my opinion, that will swing the opposite direction in the not too distant future. How does this relate to Simple Living? Well for one, I reiterate what I said at the Visionary Meeting. We need folks, volunteers, to write about their experiences and we need to connect with the local papers to include them routinely. Secondly, it is a reminder that life is fluid and we must identify and put our resources to targeting these areas to truly reach the most people who are out their seeking answers and connections with people just like us.

Inclosing; We come together for many different reasons, but we are connected by Simple Living Institute and I, for one, am extremely grateful.

Ann S.
Volunteer and Member
Simple Living Institute

Ten Thousand Villages is a global network of social entrepreneurs working to empower and provide economic opportunities to artisans in developing countries.

Coytown Garden (Feb 15)

Well this past Saturday dawned cold and sunny.
We were excited to help with this wonderful project at Coytown Garden (just off 50 near Colonial Plaza Shopping Center). We were surprised by how large a group had already gathered when we got their at 8:50 on Saturday morning. It turns out volunteers from the Orlando Mountain Bike group and Summit Church were on hand to help out as well.

The first thing you notice is this was a former military site. The buildings aren't a dead give away, but the fenced in area with traditional barbed wire top sure was.  Making our way towards check-in I was excited to see many families coming to help with small children - it is heartwarming to see little ones putting on gardening gloves!!  At the talk before we get started, we found out their will also be a mountain biking trail that is opening up, so bike enthusiasts keep an eye on this project it's going to be good fun to enjoy Florida style mountain bike trails....... Summit church was also hosting a bbq near their church afterwards as a thank you for a job well done, bonus!

After signing in their were three groups; Those working the mountain bike trail sort of disappeared into the wilderness. A group headed off to the park perimeter and soon we could hear a chainsaw buzzing to clear a few trees and debris a bit later. We headed over to the garden area and met Brendan Wood, the organizer of this project and Tia Meer who is doing lots to help get the garden up and running. Our task was to help clear debris inside the fenced in area which had once held ammunitions (I believe) and is 100' by 130' a BIG garden site. Tia told us later on, the first stage will be to have 27 beds. We got to work - with my husband and I raking and our son jumped in with loppers to go at  a huge mound of tree roots. ;)

It was fantastic to see such diversity in one space, just like nature itself, there were kids around 3, teens, a host of college students, who were adept at keeping our 8yr old son engaged and lopping off tree root after tree root.  All in all; there was much raking and hacking, pieces of fence were ripped off, the barbed wire came down (yippee!) and mulch was layed.

It was quite a transformation!! In just 3 hours this area really felt like it was soon to be a garden. How very exciting.

We headed over and were pleasantly surprised by the large Summit Church BBQ, we got our 4R sandwich, chips and an icy cold drink and headed back to the warmth of the car it had been a busy morning. We were ready to stretch out at home and relax our muscles. :)

The Coytown Garden has it's own website where Brendan details the steps taken to get this far and up and coming events.

Orlando Permaculture Design Course

The first day of a 72 hr Permaculture Design Course in Orlando, was an exciting and abundantly fascinating experience at Econ Farm, home of Simple Living Institute's president and board members Tia and Terry Meer. Our instructors Bradford White, Tia and Terry Meer have an apparent wealth of knowledge and experience to guide us, a class of 14 very interesting students in the Permaculture Design Course. The instructors each have extensive hands on experience in the worlds of ecology, sustainability, teaching and much more.
The "learning" was dynamic, from the beginnings of meditation to relax and focus, intructional speaking, group discussions of exploration into the fascinating worlds of Permaculture and we enjoyed every moment at Econ Farm and were energized by our instructor's and our own passions for the sharing of information and good will.
I am very thankful to be a part of this course and wonderful group of people.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Market Gardener's Committee

My Co-patriot Market Gardeners and Eaters of Central Florida,

Just as we've kicked our gardens into high-gear for Spring, events have transpired for us to see the creation of a "Market Gardener's Committee" at Simple Living Institute. And since I was the one silly enough to initially float such an outlandish idea, the mantle of Chairman has settled around my 'to-do' list. So for now, we'll call this blog home, and figure out where we're going with this committee.

The inception came via the "Central Florida Sustainable Food Project" meetings I attended as basically a curious market gardener and eater. I enjoyed everyone's welcomes, but didn't have a committee project to contribute to. Hanging with the other market gardeners evolved into my primary interest, so I suggested to Andrew Landis about forming a vehicle for us to formally contribute.

The only purpose for the committee's existence it to provide a communications portal so all us market gardeners can brainstorm with like minded souls (plants rarely choose to carry on their end of the conversation). For now, this blog is the portal. I've got a few ideas about meeting locations (that Irish pub last month was good!). And field trip visits to local operations.

Anyone can join this committee. We all enter the market to buy food.

To explain the name of the committee though, let's start with the 'Market' as anyone growing crops for sale. Let's recognize the wonderful event of growing a crop to sell, interacting in the market, and walking away with cash in your pocket. I totally respect anyone who dares grow their own food, but this committee takes it that huge step furthur. Truth is, it's RISKY to market garden in Central Florida and we can all help each other.

The second part of the name, 'Gardener' is still ringing of the human, natural element. Being able to look the person who is buying your crops right in the eye and take his cash. Not a stockholders conglomerate that uses green all over its labels. We are involved with our crops, we feed them to our families, we know them intimately. Gardener is a term applied to a person who grows his crops sustainably and honestly. (This is the part where we're supposed to mention Organic and all that stuff).

A Market Gardener's operation may be as small as a few pots of basil to flavor cornbread at a farmer' market or as big as a multi-generational ranch supplying a theme park restaurant. We're just looking for that entrepreneurial spark that forms the foundation of the economy. At the turn of the last century, European urban market gardens that ringed every major city were a primary source of food. Let's use this committee to make this wonderful concept function again. And think of all the jobs we can help create!

I'm no 'guest expert' as to how to grow crops. I leave that to IFAS and the Master Gardeners (to whom I owe a garden of gratitude). I'm not intending for this committee to be the garden pest guest expert for every eater out there, but I always try to help when I can.

This committee is for us, the risk takers, growers, producers, the foundation of the economy. WE RULE!

My Sundew Gardens is a one-man operation so take pity on me. My organized events are happening once or twice a month, so that would be the best time to visit my gardens. This is the beginning, and I'm sure with your interest and involvement, we can make a difference. Please visit me on my 'Sundew Gardens' facebook page:!/pages/Sundew-Gardens/300609518579 . Thanks, Tom Carey 407-430-2178

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Volunteer Opportunities with Central Florida Sustainable Food Project

Shayla Dougher, volunteer coordinator for Simple Living Institute invites the community to participate in our Central Florida Sustainable Food Project.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Time to Make "Hey" in the Garden

While the rest of the continent hunkers down for another blizzard, we need to take advantage of the early start to our Spring growing season. Taking a prepared risk to plant tomato or pepper seeds while the nights still dip into the 40's is part of our responsibility to the national gardening community. This January's almost 6" of rain is money in the soil bank, so start earning a return on your investment. Like I always say "Make Hey* while the sun is shining"! (*Hey, as in having fun.)
It's time!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Permaculture Design Course in Orlando

Instructors Bradford White and Tia Meer are pleased to offer the first Permaculture Design Course in Orlando, FL. This will be a weekend-format 72-hour course that will give you an in-depth understanding of Permaculture design concepts and applications in the Central Florida region. Participants that attend all sessions of this class and complete the final design project will become certified in Permaculture Design.

Permaculture came about by studying ecology and examining relationships among organisms at different scales of organization. It is a philosophy and approach to land use which weaves together microclimate, annual and perennial plants, animals, insects, soils, water management, and human needs into intricately connected productive communities. Permaculture's foundation of principles and design concepts are universal and can be suited for any region or location. The principles of permaculture can help us reduce society's overuse of industrially produced resources which are destroying the Earth's ecosystems, and help us instead transition to self-reliant homesteads.

Bradford White, our instructor, is an Ecologist, world traveler, and Gaia University associate on the track of integrative eco-social design. Bradford has lived and worked on permaculture, food forestry, and perennial food systems projects throughout Central America, the Pacific Northwest, and Orlando, FL. Bradford attained his Permaculture Teaching Training Credentials in order to spread the philosophy of love and earth care through means of permaculture application in Central Florida.

Fee: $1,150 members / $1,200 non-members
Advanced Registration Required!
More info at

Monday, January 3, 2011

Composting Workshop at Simple Living Institute

An account by Lars Paul Linden

I hacked at the rotting fruit. The tool was a sharp blade, curved like a crescent. Others in the workshop hacked along side me. We chopped up big leaves and the leave's woody stems. In this we added another layer; we were making a compost pile. With each layer that we added, we learned a little more about composting. I observed varying colors and textures, all quite beautiful. The hacking motions were rhythmic and satisfying, and somehow rambunctious.
The compost pile was rectangular, and grew
to over 18 inches in height. I easily imagined the pile several months later, in a flattened state, almost as if it was a balloon and the air was being
let out. I had already seen how compost piles shrink over a span of months. I speculated that each blade of grass would loose its ability to hold a shape, and th
at the decay is a kind of given up of the shape of life. I thought of the microorganisms that I am told are there in the comp
ost pile, and I imagined how the microorganism were aiding this collapse.

as I am eager for advanced knowledge of organic gardening, I am in no hurry. I relish in my recent and newly found simple ideas. The compost pile is filled with life. The compost pile is alive. For me, this idea requires knowledge, but also perhaps some imagination. My new friends, microorganisms, are in there. By habit I think of a metaphor that they have little microorganism homes and little microorganism communities. I desire to know their names and to see them under magnification; however, at the workshop I thought mostly about the the differing colors of each layer.
A group of us, under Tia Meer's instruction, layered the palm branches, busted fruits, leaves, and grass. The vegetation looked partly woody and partly moist. I knew that it would all yield to the processes of decomposition. Perhaps, it was already changing colors under the Florida sun as we added each layer.

I report now these colors: green-browns and brown-greens, yellow-oranges and orange-yellows. Each layer was different. Some of us took photos, and surely these could be cropped to be expressions of abstraction. A photo of a compost pile is a kind of abstract art.

Volcanic ash was sprinkled on top, to season the compost. While I am not sure, I think we collectively made a small prayer, each in our own way, to all compost piles. Together we had created a simple compost pile and it was a beautiful sight, the compost pile and us standing there admiring it. The next day it occurred to me that the compost pile is a kind of opposite of the garden itself.