Our Research Farm
"It is vitally important that we can continue to say, with absolute conviction,
that organic farming delivers the highest quality, best-tasting food,
produced without artificial chemicals or genetic modification,
and with respect for animal welfare and the environment,
while helping to maintain the landscape and rural communities."
Dragon Fruit Blossom
Our Changing Marketplace
There are many great reasons to buy organic food, such as reducing exposure to pesticides, mitigating environmental pollution, improving soil quality, and eating more nutrient-rich produce. But, it turns out there’s yet another reason to buy organic — it’s a bigger money maker for farmers.
The choice to ‘go organic’ means farmers can make a better living.
A recent study by the National Academy of Sciences found that organic agriculture is 22-35% more profitable than conventional agriculture, and there's significant room in the global marketplace for expansion.1
A study released in August 2017 found that regions defined as 'organic hotspots' decrease poverty by 1.3%, and increase median household income by more than $2,000.2
This news comes at a time when less than 1% of our population farm for a living, our farmers are aging, and North American farmers are in financial distress.3
Florida’s agriculture industry has been especially hard hit by the ripple-effects of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA 1993), increased development pressure, and a failure to adapt to a rapidly changing American diet.
Since 2000, the value of Florida’s agricultural sector has been cut in half.4 In the same time period, national organic sales enjoyed double-digit growth, with the sale of organic fruits and vegetables leading the category.5
"(In 2017), organic (was) found on the shelves of kitchen cupboards and in the refrigerators of 82.3% of American households."6
While Florida consumers match national organic consumption, the state falls far behind in organic production. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 6% of domestic farmland is certified organic. This number drops to only 0.6% in the state of Florida.7
Our Unique Challenges
Florida farmers must overcome significant challenges that growers in more temperate climates seldom face, including: heavy rainfall, the presence of year-round pests and disease, and a lack of climate-adapted cultivars.
The University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) is working to identify and promote viable alternatives to Florida's once-dominant citrus, sugar, tomato, berry, and beef crops.
The Organic Farming Institute’s goal is to establish organic best practices for the cultivation of alternative crops on a Demonstration Farm in Southwest Florida. Our research team will develop scalable production methods using the standards established by the USDA's National Organic Program (NOP).
Our ultimate goal is to expand organic agriculture in the subtropics by providing research-based solutions, and hands-on training to the next generation of organic farmers.
Our Organic SuperFoods
'SuperFoods' are popularly known as nutrient powerhouses that pack large doses of antioxidants, polyphenols, vitamins, and minerals. Eating them may reduce the risk of chronic disease and prolong life.
The Organic Farming Institute's Demonstration Farm will grow SuperFoods from the UF/IFAS 'high-potential' crop list, including:
SUPERFRUITS: Acerola Cherries, Blueberries, Dragon Fruit, Goji Berries, Pomegranates, and Muscadine Grapes
SUPERHERBS & SUPERFLOWERS: Lemon Balm, Comfrey, Culantro, Marigolds, Purple Coneflower, and Sunflowers
SUPERVEGETABLES: Luffa, Everglades Tomatoes, Seminole Pumpkins, and more
Organic produce, herbs, and value-added products from the Demonstration Farm will be sold in regional markets to support the Organic Farming Institute's Mission.
Our Demonstration Kitchen
Just as the kitchen is the heart of the home, the Organic Demonstration Kitchen will be the heart of the Organic Farming Institute. This multi-use facility will provide a hands-on laboratory where multiple stakeholders will process fresh organic produce, develop and process value added products, and prepare and share farm-to-table meals.
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“Organic farms are 22-35% more profitable
than the average farm.” ---National Academy of Sciences
Acerola or Barbados Cherry,
(Malpighia emarginata) is best known
for being extremely rich in vitamin C,
although it also contains vitamins A,
B1, B2, and B3, as well ascarotenoids
and bioflavonoids, which provide im-
portant nutritive value and have anti-
oxidant uses. Vitamin C is known to
strengthen the immune system and
build collagen cells. It also supports the respiratory system. Vitamin C is known to be an effective antioxidant. The anti-oxidant qualities of acerola make it an ideal ingredient in skin care products to fight cellular aging. In another report, acerola extract was shown to enhance the antioxidant activity of soy and alfalfa extracts, acting synergistically. This may be beneficial in coronary artery disease.1
Blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum) Researchers at the USDA Human Nutrition Center (HNRCA) have found that blueberries rank #1 in antioxidant activity when compared to 40 other fresh fruits and vegetables
They contain several water-soluable
antioxidant ingredients, including
polyphenols, pigments, flavanoids,
and anthocyanins. New research
suggests that eating blueberries may
improve thinking and memory skills
in older adults with mild cognitive
impairment.2 Blueberries contain
flavonoids which could help prevent erectile dysfunction by improving vascular health. There is clinical trial data and also lab data suggesting that they can improve blood pressure, they can improve blood flow and make our arteries more flexible."3