USF Students Learn Farming

USF Students Learn to Harvest in New Port Richey Gardens

Dirt was flying this Sunday as USF students visited Friendship Farm & Fare’s “South Garden” located in New Port Richey to help out with the Fall harvest. The students are part of a USF group called FARM–Food Activists Revolutionizing Meals–whose mission is to educate people about local farms and to learn about what those local farms do. The group was joined on Sunday by their staff advisor, Colleen Mulcahey.

USF seniors Katie Miller and Chelsea Swats harvesting sweet potatoes
USF seniors Katie Miller and Chelsea Swats harvesting sweet potatoes

The students ranged in their majors and interests. Max Pietsch is a junior majoring in computer engineering. He was waiting with gloves in hand to harvest potatoes. Max said he was there to learn how to garden “and to help out, pick some sweet potatoes, and get some sun too.” Another student, Katie Miller, is a senior Biology major. She said the group was there to take advantage of an opportunity to harvest sweet potatoes for their farmer’s market. That market is hosted twice a month on USF’s campus between the Sun Dome and the campus gy, according to Katie. Another senior, Elloni Ellick, is a business major and also a member of the FARM group.

Friendship Farm & Fare’s Dell deChant was at the gathering to help educate the students on how the garden is run and the environmentally conscious methods employed by the farmers. “Fertilizers and pesticides affect all life, they even affect us,” deChant said, “so we aim to limit its use in all of our production.” deChant said that the garden is supported nutritionally by locally sourced mulched provided by the City of New Port Richey’s mulch program. The farm uses marigold plants to deter pests, including nematodes, only uses organic fertilizers, and has a no-kill policy when considering most pests. Meanwhile, rain barrels hold water harvested from building roofs to irrigate the garden–and tadpoles raised in the barrels consume mosquito larvae that would otherwise build up.

deChant’s lecture also spread to other important topics in the garden, including two citrus trees that were suffering from citrus greening: a serious illness affecting the citrus industry across Florida. The disease is carried by the larvae of the psyllid mite, and is a vascular disease that strangles the fruit and branches of citrus trees. The students and deChant also discussed the numerous burgeoning loquat trees on the property. He highlighted progress that has been made in the garden which–counter to what deChant calls “misinformation from professional literature across the country”–are ready to bear fruit just two years after being planted from seed.

dechant with loquats

The garden is an officially recognized community garden in New Port Richey, and bears a wide variety of crops including okra, sweet potatoes, grapes, cucumbers, loquats, kumquats, habanero peppers, and eggplant. The garden has produced over 200 pounds of sweet potatoes this season and is nearing the end of its production of summer crops. The students on Sunday were able to harvest about 30 pounds for their market. All of this considered, it would appear that a healthy movement for locally grown items is drawing many to the New Port Richey area, and residents here are leading the way regionally in educating others about the benefits of sustainable farming.

Dell deChant showing off a locally grown habanero pepper to USF senior Chelsea Swats
Dell deChant showing off a locally grown habanero pepper to USF senior Chelsea Swats

via NewsPortRichey


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