January 29, 2013

Urban Farming in Pinellas County

Jane Morse,
University of Florida, IFAS Pinellas County Extension Agent 

The first urban farming conference is being held at Pinellas County Extension. Urban farming promotes self-sufficiency, sustainable living and the efficient use of space. Learn the latest trends in hydroponic vegetable gardening, backyard chickens and integrated pest management – the control of pests with minimal environmental impact. Learn the business aspects for getting started with business planning and cost analysis, cottage industry regulations, marketing with market maker and protected agriculture.

The class will be held on Saturday, February 9, 2013 at the Pinellas County Extension Service, Magnolia Room, 12520 Ulmerton Road, Largo, FL 33774.

The morning session is for both homeowner and commercial farmers while the afternoon session is geared for those interested in going into business as a commercial farmer.

For class information and registration please visit: or or call 727-582-2100 and press 2.

The conference fee is $7.50 for the morning or afternoon sessions, and $12 for the full day. Attendance is limited to 200 participants.

January 14, 2013

Living with Sandhill Cranes

Lara Miller, 
Natural Resource Agent
Their call cannot be mistaken, a sound of a rattling trumpets from far reaches of the sky. Standing at almost 4 feet tall with long legs and a long neck, they are hard to miss and hard to mistake with any other bird. Sandhill cranes are typically found in small family groups or pairs with numbers increasing during winter as non-resident cranes migrate down from the north. Florida sandhill cranes (a non-migratory subspecies) will stay with the same mate for several years while young cranes only stay with their parents for about 10 months. You are most likely to see a sandhill crane in open pastures and prairies or wetland areas; however, it’s not unusual to find them in more urban areas such as golf courses, airports, etc. Keep in mind if you should see one in an urban setting, it is illegal to feed them per the Florida Fish and Wildlife Code 68A-4.00(3).

As with most laws and regulations, there is reasoning behind them. Florida’s sandhill cranes are a threatened species. The feeding of this bird puts citizens and the species at risk. Cranes that are fed by humans can become aggressive and thus attack causing personal injuries. Furthermore, urban settings are filled with windows, screened porches and shiny cars which may be damaged by these birds searching for food or mistaking their reflection for another bird, causing a territorial response. Their attraction to urban settings also puts them at risk for being struck by cars as they cross neighborhood roads in search of food. Young cranes are particularly at risk from attack by domestic pets such as cats and dogs as well as pesticide poisoning from neighborhood lawns. Human food does not make up part of a sandhill crane’s natural diet (seeds, plant tubers, grains, berries, insects, earthworms, mice, snakes, lizards, frogs, and crayfish) and can thus disrupt their digestive system. The foods which make up a crane’s diet are abundant in the natural environment and thus there is no need for supplemental food from humans.

If you wish to learn more about the Florida sandhill crane and its conservation, plan to attend “Florida Sandhill Crane Conservation”, an educational program on Saturday, January 19th from 10:00-11:00am at Brooker Creek Preserve. Learn about Florida sandhill crane populations, their life cycles, their habitats and special organizations that help the cranes with all aspects of their health including prosthetics. We will cover in detail the many threats to sandhill cranes and important things people can do to protect them in their habitat.

Stay up to date on news and information affecting our environment by following your Pinellas County Natural Resource Extension Agent on Twitter

Find out about upcoming programs at Brooker Creek Preserve by liking us on Facebook.

January 8, 2013

We have Solutions for YOU

Ramona Madhosingh-Hector,
Urban Sustainability Agent

Did you make your New Year’s resolution? Are you on your way to a great start? No matter your goal, Pinellas County Extension can help you accomplish it. We offer a range of information on healthy living, family finances, nutrition, and youth development. And, Pinellas County Extension offices are closer than you think – we are located in mid-county at 12520 Ulmerton Road with satellite offices at Weedon Island Preserve and Brooker Creek Preserve. Each of our outstanding facilities offers traditional and non-traditional educational opportunities.
If your goal is to get fit this year, join us for regular Saturday morning hikes at Weedon Island and Brooker Creek Preserve. These facilities also offer special guided hikes for bird enthusiasts and photographers. The Extension Office in Largo offers guided garden tours once a week and each facility has boardwalks, walking trails, and amenities to help you stay on track.

If you set your sights on eating healthier, our Family Consumer Science expert can provide you with healthy eating tips and new recipes that will encourage you to try out new foods. Pinellas County Extension also provides information about farmers’ markets and home gardens so that you can eat healthier from start to finish!

If you pledged to become more eco-conscious in 2013, sign up for classes in energy efficiency, rain harvesting, or composting. Most of our classes are free and open to public - saving the environment couldn’t be easier and you will pocket the savings!

If you are looking for educational opportunities for you and your family, each of our locations provides ongoing learning through hands-on classroom activities or week-long training sessions. Salty Topics, Going Coastal, Nature in the Classroom, and Brooker Creek Explorers offer programming for young and old alike on the marine and natural environment in Pinellas County. Our Master Volunteer programs provide more in-depth knowledge and training in specific areas. You can become a Master Gardener, Master Money Mentor , or a Sustainable Floridian!

Solutions for Your Life is a mouse-click away when you visit We look forward to serving you in 2013!

January 2, 2013

Food Trends for the New Year

Alexis Herman, 
Dietetic Intern
Bay Pines VA Healthcare System

After the New Year’s hoorahs and holiday fests have silenced, many of us think about what we want to change in the new year. Most have their new year’s resolutions to lose an extra five pounds, become more physically active, or eat healthier foods. New food trends for 2013 are in the making and can help us achieve some of those resolutions. Here are some predictions.

In 2013 vegetables are moving to the center of the plate. Look for them to be prepared in new and innovative ways. Vegetables will show up on dessert menus. According to Food Technology magazine, corn, cucumber, celery, beets, and eggplant will be adding substance to sweets. To add healthy fats to the dessert course, avocado will be used to give a creamy texture to ice cream and mousse.

A wider assortment of greens will be in the spotlight in 2013. Beet greens, chard and turnip greens will be more popular. Earthbound Farm, a company that offers organic brands at stores such as Wal-Mart, Target, Whole Foods, and other providers, has predicted a rise in the consumption of komatsuna, a leaf vegetable grown in Japan and Taiwan. It is also known as Japanese Mustard Spinach. Komatsuna is a good source of calcium, providing 65% of your daily recommendations, with 14 calories in approximately 2 cups. This green has a little bite to it like kale and can be eaten raw, sautéed, braised, or added to soups.

Quinoa (keen-wah), a whole-grain that serves as a complete protein, is being added to more snacks and recipes. This grain can be used as a side dish with dried apricots and spinach, or the focus of the meal like in a turkey and quinoa meatloaf. Quinoa and turkey meatloaf recipes can be found at One cup cooked quinoa has 222 calories, with 8 grams of protein, and 5 grams of dietary fiber. The company iheartkeenwah has manufactured four flavors of quinoa clusters (like rice cakes) that will be on shelves this year.

Aside from this high protein grain, other meatless proteins like eggs, nut butters, tofu, beans, and legumes will take the place of chicken and beef due to the 2012 drought, declining supply and increasing price.

Coconut water, a popular beverage for the last several years and chia seeds now come in a powdered form. Mix it the coconut powder for a beverage on the go or add it to smoothies. Chia can be used in baked goods as a flour substitute and sprinkled over oatmeal and yogurt.

Fermented foods like miso, yogurt, and kombucha will be on the rise this year. These foods are a source of complex flavors and are a source of probiotics that will appeal to health conscious consumers.

Bon appétit! Have a healthy and happy 2013!