A Local Food Solution

Family farmers and local business owners gathered Sunday evening in the hopes of finding a place in Gainesville to sell their products, which include a cold-hardy avocado that produces fruit in Gainesville's coldest winter, biodynamically grown produce and unpasteurized goat's milk and cheese. About a dozen vendors gathered at the Citizen's Food Expo to inform a large crowd interested in learning how to eat locally and gain support for the Citizen's Co-op of Gainesville. Photo by Katie Tschopp: Michael Espinosa grills tempeh and fresh vegetables at the Citizens Food Expo on Sunday afternoon in the Sun Center Plaza. The event was coincided with the movie "Food, Inc." - a cinematic depiction of massive food corporations - which is playing this week at the Hippodrome Cinema. "What you see, the things that they put into the food we eat everyday, is really eye-opening," said Liz Nesbit, co-founder of the Citizen's Co-op, an organization working to create a permanent grocery store for locally grown organic food. She hopes to have the co-op store open by the fall of 2010 if they can reach the 500-member mark. The group reached 400 members on Sunday. Ryan Brouillard, co-owner of Abundant Edible Landscapes, said he fully supports the efforts to re-establish a co-op in Gainesville, adding that there was one in the early '90s that closed. His company used the expo on Sunday to highlight its services as licensed landscapers who focus on planting food-producing plants. Brouillard said the company's best seller is the cold-hardy avocado, which produces fruit slightly larger and oilier than the Haas avocado. Patrick Ross of Sandhill Farm near Micanopy said his family farm feeds 35 families. He emphasized that the 30-acre farm doesn't use pesticides, but it rather focuses on biodynamic agriculture - a practice of using natural pest deterrents and compost as a fertilizer. "We're being hampered by some things going on at the farmer's markets, with people buying whole sale produce and selling it," Ross said. Ross said his farm now donates excess production to charities but could use a place like the co-op. And Joe Pietrangelo, owner of Glades Ridge Dairy in Lake Butler, said his dairy needs a place like the co-op now that it was suspended from the farmer's market on U.S. 441. Pietrangelo sells unpasteurized milk products, which is technically against Florida law, however he labels both his milk and his cheeses as "for animal use only." Pietrangelo said that for most of his customers, they understand the health risk of unpasteurized milk but also know that it has more natural enzymes than regular milk.

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