Plant of the Month Program

Alachua County, in partnership with the Alachua County Extension Office, is pleased to announce the new Plant of the Month Program.

County Commissioner Mary Alford, who had the idea for the program, said in a statement:

Today, I am proud to announce the Plant of the Month Partnership, a collaborative effort between Alachua County, IFAS, the Master Gardeners of Alachua County, and Working Food. Our goals are the following:

  1. Great tasting, fresh, inexpensive, nutrient-packed vegetables, fruits, and herbs.
  2. This will spur sustainable change, produce less food waste, have less environmental impact, create healthier soils, and eliminate the packaging and transport of the food products we grow.
  3. After this year of COVID, we need stress relief, we need sunshine, we need the pride and happiness that comes with producing our own food.
  4. Growing, harvesting, cooking, and eating food grown at home saves money and helps us be more resilient in the face of any future crisis.
  5. Finally, food is a need we all share. Politics aside, we can all talk with a neighbor about tomatoes, blueberry bushes, or zucchini. This can bring our community together, help us know our neighbors, and help us exchange knowledge, experiences, and successes together.

Like many of you, when COVID first hit, I wanted to grow something, do something fundamental and essential, and feel safer and more secure. My brother and I planted a garden: we planted fruit trees, vegetables, and blueberry bushes. 

Some things we planted thrived. Some did not. 

I only produced a couple of mottled tomatoes and sickly squash, and my blueberry bushes all died. But my fruit trees have grown tall and healthy, and sweet potatoes took over my entire side yard! Rather than chalk it up to fate, inexperience, or other mistakes, I was really curious about why some things were so much more successful than others. But I was overwhelmed trying to learn everything at once.  

I found others that shared this experience. We were excited to continue gardening but wanted to dig in and really learn about each thing we grew. This program grew out of that need. So many of us grow collard greens in September and strawberries in October, and onions in November. We have foods with cultural heritages like Seminole pumpkins, tomatillos, and roselle, along with pantry staples like potatoes, tomatoes, and onions.
  
Every month will offer a chance to explore new foods and expand your palate. As we go forward, we want to expand and include recipes for cooking and techniques for preservation. We want to also expand to fruit trees and bushes, herbs, and perennials. It is an exciting program – please grow with us!   

First, check out the website. Then, engage and connect on social media and share your successes and your challenges! 

Watch for these links to be posted. Then, run right over to a local home improvement, hardware, farm, or seed store and pick up a package of collard green seeds! Or you can stop by and visit our partners and Working Food and pick up a package there.   

For more information, contact UF IFAS/Alachua County Cooperative Extension Director Dr. Cynthia Sanders at 352-955-2402.

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