cabbageMilk and cookies, Valentine’s Day and flowers, peanut butter and jelly some things are just meant to be together. For St. Patrick’s Day it’s corned beef and cabbage, which has been an American tradition since the 1800s. But did you know that cabbage became popular as a result of a damaging agricultural fungus?

More than 150 years ago, Ireland was a large agricultural nation, many Irish people were tenant farmers and the potato, imported from South America, was a staple crop. In the mid 1800s potato plants started to show signs of a strange disease that caused potatoes to rot. This disease spread across Ireland, drastically reducing their potato production, causing mass starvation economic devastation, and what is known today as the Irish Potato Famine.

The culprit behind the famine was late blight or potato blight (Phytophthora infestans), a fungus-like airborne microbe not native to Ireland. The Irish Potato Famine is just one example of how invasive species can devastate the environment and agricultural systems in an area, consequently affecting the lives and livelihoods of people in that region.

With the devastation the potato famine had brought to Ireland, the Irish turned to cabbage as a primary source of sustenance. Many affected by the agricultural ruin fled the country for America, bringing with them an assortment of cabbage dishes. One popular dish is bacon and cabbage. Yes, I said bacon, and no I do not mean corned beef. Originally bacon was a primary source of protein for the Irish because of the high cost of beef. It was cheap, and readily available. Once in America the situation changed. Corn beef was the cheaper alternative and quickly became an Americanized version of cabbage and bacon.

In Florida, cabbage remains a wonderful affordable vegetable that is widely grown; ranking 3rd in the nation accounting for approximately 13% of U.S. cabbage production.  Cabbage can be readily found in season from November to June.

So while donning your greenest attire and feasting on your annual corned beef and Florida cabbage, you can education your family and friends about the wonderful history of cabbage and its abundant heritage in Florida.

Check out these great cabbage-inspired recipes:

Hearty Florida Cabbage Soup

Hearty Florida Cabbage Soup

Baked Cabbage Egg Rolls 

Bake Cabbage Egg Rolls

Shrimp Tacos with Cabbage

Shrimp Tacos with Cabbage

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

grill_208572658_smallCollege football season has just begun and Florida teams are off to a decent start, but what many people like myself, are more concerned with is the FOOD! Watching the game is all well and good but it’s nothing without a good hot dog, boiled peanuts, or even a cold lemonade. I mean that’s why we all get together and hang out in the hot Florida sun for five hours before the football game right?

What you may not consider when chowing down on your favorite snacks is where they come from. When people think of Florida they think of theme parks, beaches, and our outstanding colleges. But what people don’t consider is that Florida is a major producer of various agricultural items. For example, Florida grows oranges, potatoes, peanuts, corn, tomatoes, sugarcane, and blueberries amongst other things. Florida is a very diverse state in terms of agriculture and may contribute more to what you consume then you think.

Game Day

Florida is the number one producer of oranges in the country…but you knew that already. Many tailgaters will start their day with a fresh glass of Florida orange juice or for the fancy tailgaters a mimosa! You may have even had a bowl of locally grown watermelon, strawberries and blueberries for breakfast, those are all Florida grown too!

During your tailgate, you and your friends have grilled up some burgers, and hot dogs. Don’t forget to dress them up with lettuce, tomatoes, ketchup and relish! Florida grows 32,000 acres of tom
atoes annually, and 18,000 acres of cucumbers are produced in Florida just for pickles! That doesn’t include the 10,000 acres of cucumbers for your grocery store or garden salads.peanuts

Kick off

You’ve made it to the game and you’re still hungry, me too! Time to grab some peanuts! They’re a better option compared to the premade pretzels or imitation cheese that comes on those nachos. Florida is the second highest peanut producer after Texas, growing 180,000 acres annually! Peanuts are so popular they have their own day (National Peanut Day Sept. 13)

Do you need something a little bit more substantial? What about hot dogs or hamburger? Florida contributes 15,000 acres of wheat to the nation. Keeping you well stocked on buns and bread for any and all of your lunch time desires. While you’re out you better grab some French fries to go with your hot dog or hamburger. Florida produces 29,000 acres of potatoes annually.

And lastly, don’t forget about your drinks. Florida grows 409,000 acres of sugarcane that could be in your soda, orange juice, lemonade, or even sports drinks.

While these concessions are delicious, it’s important to remember how vulnerable they can be. Importing agricultural commodities from various areas can introduce new threats to our delicate ecosywheatstem. Do your part and remember when traveling, Don’t Pack a Pest, and Don’t Move Firewood. By remembering this you could be preventing the importation of invasive species, thus, saving our state from a major agricultural problem, as well as preserving our tailgating necessities for seasons to come.

All statistical figures are courtesy of USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Survey.

Gary Van Cleef learned more than instruction and presentation techniques from a supervisor training course. He also learned how to fight a wildfire – and last week he put that knowledge to work. Van Cleef is an Agriculture and Consumer Protection Supervisor in the Apiary section of the FDACS Division of Plant Industry


Gary attended the M410 Facilitator Instructor Course at the Florida Forest Service Withlacoochee Training Center in Brooksville a few years ago to add to his skills as a supervisor in Apiary Inspection. On July 9, he suddenly found himself fighting a wildfire near his home.

It was a windy day in Alachua County – so windy that a pine tree was blown over on a power line, snapping the line and setting the tree and the surrounding forest on fire. Van Cleef, who lives about a mile northeast of the La Crosse Citrus Budwood Repository, was heading home after work.

“I rushed home, passing the La Crosse Volunteer Fire Department going the other way. The 911 dispatcher had given the wrong location to the fire department and power company, so I arrived at the scene first.”

Van Cleef, with the help of a neighbor, Bob, a retired fire fighter, had already established a firebreak when the first engine arrived.

“The woods and pasture were so dry the fire was traveling upwind at a fast pace,” Van Cleef said. “There is a mobile home about 100 feet from the origin point along the forest. Bob’s house is downwind, adjoining another pine forest full of dry fuel.”

The Alachua County brush truck arrived last and mopped up the scene. Two other fire engines were stationed on the road and they remained there to prevent the fire crossing to the other forest.

But Gary’s work was not done after the fire was put out.

brush fire terminator

Van Cleef, walking to get the old, reliable white truck to pull the brush and power company trucks out of the mud.

“The brush and power company trucks got stuck when they were ready to leave, so I pulled them out with the old white, two-wheel-drive Dodge  truck I always drive,” he said.

Van Cleef was left with one more chore: clearing the road of two trees that had blown over.

“I wish I had had a pulaski or fire rake that day,” he said. “I learned how to use them from fellow students’ presentations during the M410 course.”

(A pulaski is a specialized firefighting tool combining an axe and adze in one head. Forest firefighters use it to both dig and chop. It is named after Edward “Big Ed” Pulaski, a hero in the annals of the U.S. Forest Service who, in the early Twentieth Century introduced and improved the tool that firefighters still depend on.)

Van Cleef is undaunted by the hair-raising experience.

“Just another day in Apiary Inspection,” he said.


DPI Diary

January 29, 2016

Plant fanciers favor “Fresh from Florida,” a festival features big bugs, Florida bees hit the road west and the Florida State Fair and Strawberry Festival open next week.

“Fresh from Florida” plants ar preferred

Consumers prefer plants with the “Fresh from Florida” label. Research by a UF-IFAS economist indicates 83 percent of respondents recalled noticing the “Fresh from Florida” logos on plants in retail garden centers. To be designated as “Fresh from Florida,” 51 percent of the product must originate in the Sunshine State, according to Florida Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services guidelines.

Big bugs nestled in the gardens

BigBeetleSaturday is a “Bug A Palooza” day at Orlando’s Leu Gardens. The gardens are currently featuring the giant sculptures of insects by David Rogers. Bug A Palooza, which runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., features hands-on activities, crafts and even an insect petting zoo.

Important survey for growers and beekeepers

Please help FDACS distribute this important pollinator–pesticide awareness survey to growers, beekeepers and other stakeholders. If you are a stakeholder, take the survey. Sharing on social media is encouraged!

Bees are on the move

HoneyBeeFlowerFlorida beekeepers are moving bees, first to California to pollinate 1.7 million acres of almonds and then to other states. National Geographic posted this great animated map to indicate the movement of hives and the crops that depend on them for pollination.  Our DPI Apiary inspectors are busy certifying truckloads of bees for the voyage.

Plan to “bee” there!

It’s the most extensive educational honey bee event in the state of Florida and it will be held Friday and Saturday, March 4-5 at the Whitney Marine Lab, 9505 Ocean Shore Boulevard, St. Augustine, FL 32080. It’s the annual Florida Bee College and beekeepers, naturalists, farmers, gardeners, county agents, and anyone interested in honey bees should plan to attend. DPI’s apiary inspectors play a major role in the college.

Don’t Pack a Pest

The folks at Forbes magazine included agricultural products on a list of “10 things to bring on every international flight (and three things not to).” We want travelers to know they can usually answer the question “Can I bring it?” by visiting www.Dontpackapest.com

Florida State Fair and Strawberry Festival open next week.

The Florida Strawberry Festival opens its gates March 3 in Plant City. Festivities include strawberries, shortcake, big name concerts, rides, games, shows, animals and exhibits, and the fun won’t stop until The Band Perry’s concert closes out the Festival on March 13.

The Florida State Fair runs February 4-15 at the state fairgrounds in Tampa. Staff members from the Division of Plant Industry will be manning Insect Encounters at the Hall of Fame Building. Remember, you can reserve tickets now for the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame Banquet and Ceremony, Feb. 9 beginning at 5:30 p.m.

Our friends at Florida Ag in the Classroom send this reminder: Registration for the 2016 National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference is open! The conference will be held June 20-24th in Litchfield Park, Arizona. Early bird registration is now through April 15th. http://naitcconference.usu.edu/index.cfm



Survey supports exending Don’t Pack a Pest to Caribbean


Jamaica is a partner in the Don’t Pack a Pest travelers program.

Shortly after the inception of the Don’t Pack a Pest program in 2011, the program directors set a goal of inviting Caribbean countries to participate. Now, five years later, seven island nations are partnering in the program. They are Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands and The Turks and Caicos Islands, the latest to join, in December 2015.

International airports in each of those nations remind travelers to declare agricultural products in luggage. Signs are up at 50 major ports of entry in Florida and the Caribbean and the program video is playing in 20 of the busiest airports in the United States and at cruise terminals in Florida and elsewhere.

Linus the Dector DogA recent study by the UF/IFAS Center for Public Issues Education at the University of Florida supports the wisdom of extending the program into the Caribbean. In response to the survey, more than half of American travelers – 54 percent — said they had been to the Caribbean in the past three years. Top destinations were the Bahamas, Puerto Rico and Jamaica. Residents’ preferences were evenly split between airplanes and cruise ships.

PIE Center researchers distributed an online survey to travelers nationwide who were planning to or had traveled to the Caribbean to gauge the public perceptions of the Travelers Don’t Pack a Pest program. More than 1,000 U.S. residents age 18 years and older completed the survey.

Read a summary of the survey here: http://www.piecenter.com/2016/01/14/study-travelers-careful-with-caribbean-destinations/


FDACS-facilitated field day preceded the conference

On January 5, personnel from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services facilitated a field day for apiary inspectors and professional apiculturists from around the nation, focusing on techniques for protecting honey bees from pesticide exposure and investigating bee kills.

Bee Kill Workshop Jan 2016

Gary Van Cleefe, Apiary Supervisor, leads workshop on inspecting for suspected bee kills.

The field day at St. Augustine preceded a joint meeting at Ponte Vedra of the Apiary Inspectors of America, American Beekeeping Federation (ABF) and the American Association of Professional Apiculturists (AAPA).

“The success of this field day was due largely to the high level of cooperation among the agencies involved and the expertise of the facilitators,” said David Westervelt, assistant chief of the Division of Plant Industry Apiary Inspection Section.

Hive Inspection

Hive Inspection.

Personnel from the Apiary Inspection Section of the Division of Plant Industry, the Bureau of Agricultural Environmental Laboratories and the Bureau of Inspection and Incident Response provided information and hands-on demonstrations.

The field day focused on ways agriculture and apiary inspectors can work together to address colony loss incidents. AIA President Mark Dykes of the Texas Department of Agriculture and Dale Dubberly, Bureau Chief, Bureau of Inspection and Incident response, FDACS, welcomed participants. Jeanette Klopchin, FDACS, reviewed Florida’s Managed Pollinator Protection Plans. Other speakers discussed pesticide label changes, bee statement interpretations and effects of honey bee’s exposure to pesticides.

Outside the classroom, in the hives, faculty demonstrated bee hive handling and basic inspections, basics of bee agriculture, pesticide use by beekeepers, techniques for investigating suspected bee kills and standard sampling procedures for disease and parasites.


DPI Diary

January 22, 2016

A collection of social media posts and links we think you’ll enjoy — even find useful — from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry

Stakeholders should participate in this survey

FDACS has developed the Managed  Pollinator Protection Plan (MP3), to establish a systematic and comprehensive approach to mitigating the risks of pesticides to bees and other pollinators while supporting both crop protection and insect pollination. Key stakeholders, beekeepers, growers/landowners, and pesticide users are asked to participate in a state-wide pesticide-pollinator awareness survey that aims to collect important background information about the current state of knowledge, common practice and, concerns about pesticides and pollinators in Florida. Please participate.

The coming weeks are chock full of big ag events

  • The Florida Strawberry Festival opens its gates March 3 in Plant City. Festivities include strawberries, shortcake, big name concerts, rides, games, shows, animals and exhibits, and the fun won’t stop until The Band Perry’s concert closes out the Festival on March 13.
  • InsectEncounter2015

    Insect Encounters is an extensive display at the Florida State Fair. It is located in the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame Building.

    There are just 13 days until the Florida State Fair, which runs February 4-15 at the state fairgrounds in Tampa. Staff members from the Division of Plant Industry will be manning Insect Encounters at the Hall of Fame Building. Remember, you can reserve tickets now for the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame Banquet and Ceremony, Feb. 9 beginning at 5:30 p.m. This year the industry is honoring Thomas H. Braddock of Duval County, Dr. Joseph C. Joyce, Billy Kempfer and Dr. Charles “Chip” Hinton. Reserve tickets now, as a sell-out is anticipated.

  • Our friends at Florida Ag in the Classroom send this reminder: Registration for the 2016 National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference is open! The conference will be held June 20-24th in Litchfield Park, Arizona. Early bird registration is now through April 15th. http://naitcconference.usu.edu/index.cfm

Now is a good time to check in the FAWN


Lee Staudt (top), a field technician for the Florida Automated Weather Network (FAWN), checks a monitoring station in Bronson, 2005. (Photo courtesty UF/IFAS)

With most of the Northeast bracing for a record snow storm and Florida receiving widespread showers , we thought the TBT post by UF/IFAS about the Florida Automated Weather network FAWN) was timely. FAWN was developed in 1997 after a devastating freeze exposed the need for accurate real-time weather information for Florida’s agricultural producers. A network of 44 monitoring stations around the state records temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, solar radiation and other important information, and relays it every 15 minutes to the FAWN website at


It’s not too late to dispose of Christmas trees properly

Some folks don’t get rid of their Christmas trees until the end of January, and a friend of ours at USDA-APHIS reminds us to remind you that there is a right way to dispose of the trees and avoid spreading forest pests or invasive weeds. Short version: take advantage of local tree recycling programs. If you can’t find a local program, take the tree to a local solid waste facility, dump or landfill. There are more details on the Don’t Move Firewood Blog.

Big bugs invade Orlando’s Harry P. Leu Gardens

BigBugVisitors to the popular Leu Gardens in Orlando are invited to use the tag #BigBusatLeu. The gardens are featuring giant sculptures of bugs by artist David Rogers, made from all-natural materials and they will remain in the gardens until April 15. You can see photos and a preview video on the gardens’ Facebook page.

This billboard is “oozing” charm

BeeBillboardWe have posted about this billboard in St. Cloud before. It is continuing to produce honey. Sweet!

Forest Service offering free trees

Florida’s Arbor Day was last Friday, Jan 15, but Florida Forest Service is still offering free trees to homeowners, as long as they last. More information here.



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