‘Florida Farm Finder’ connects consumers to fresh local products

Michael Musoke and his wife Miriam tend to a large variety of lettuce at their Aqua Organics Farm in Polk City.

"We've got a bunch of hydroponic lettuce, celery, kale," said Michael.

"Lettuce is our number-one crop. We grow probably about 10 different varieties of lettuce, from summer crisps to butters to romaine, and then some fancy stuff in between that you will never find at the store," Miriam added.

They typically sell their crops at markets, but, for a time in 2020, those markets were on pause because of the pandemic.

"We went from being at our markets and doing really well to not knowing what to do," Miriam recalled.

Jillian Childs, who has a love of the farming community and a background in event promotion, wanted to help. 

"When the pandemic started, we were faced with a couple of unique situations regarding food security," Childs explained. "The grocery stores didn't feel as safe as they previously did. There was a lot of demand for local product. So, I reached out to a couple of friends of mine and we put together a Facebook group where we could help Florida with efforts to reconnect to its local agriculture."

They called the group, "Florida Farm Finder."

"Now, we have posts from farms as far away as Escambia County in the Panhandle. We can connect you with different commodities," Childs said. "If you're looking for raw milk, if you're looking for produce, if you're looking for tomatoes for canning, if you want to fill your freezer with beef, we can help you find all of those things."

The interest in the Facebook page increased and there's also a website. 

"You can search by county. That's the biggest thing," Childs said. "We went out and crawled the state digitally to find all of the farms that we have the database and the spreadsheets from the state early on."

"We reached, definitely, a larger audience," Miriam said. "In recent years, a lot of people are focusing on getting locally-sustained food from farmers and there's not really an easy way to search that out so she's really kind of connected the dots on that and it's really helped a lot people will contact us from all over the state."

And Childs points out that money spent at Florida's farms will help the state's economy grow.

"You may end up paying a little bit more but you've got to think about where that money goes," she explained. "When you come to a farm like this and you pick your product right up off the ground or from a basket because it was harvested that morning, you get a much cleaner, more sustainable product."

LINK: For more information on Florida Farm Finder, head over to the Facebook page or website