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Arboretum’s harvest sold at local market

Published: Sunday, January 3, 2010

Updated: Sunday, January 3, 2010 18:01


Christina DeParis

The Audubon Community Market has occupied the Stardust Video and Coffee parking lot Wednesday nights since February 2009, close to when the first seeds were laid at the UCF Arboretum's organic garden. This past November, the two began a partnership to promote their shared philosophy of creating a local food system.

"It was my dream to have a fresh market that sold locally grown organic produce and the Arboretum has become the provider," said Gabby Othon, the Audubon Market director.

"The Arboretum brings affordable, locally grown food and a volunteer support that really benefits the fresh market."

The Audubon Community Market is the Arboretum's first fresh market to sell its harvests. From 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. every Wednesday, customers browse the market's diverse products as the sounds of local musicans play throughout the night.

Martin Haux and Ruben Ocasio, who both work at the UCF Arboretum, manned the produce stand on Dec. 23.

"We've been here for the past five weeks and will continue to be here," Haux, a senior horticulturist at the Arboretum, said. "We have to be consistent to let people know we are going to be here every week."     

Produce from the cabbage family, different types of citrus, eggplant and fresh-picked pumpkins were a few items available from the Arboretum's harvest. Prices ranged from $1 to $5 for each item.     

"The best part about vending at the Audubon Market is that we pick what we sell the same day and sell it for cheaper than most grocers," Ocasio said. "Organically grown produce is better for your health and you can tell the difference in taste."      

Benefits of organic agriculture, listed in the Arboretum's pamphlet, which cites, include the absence of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.

The pamphlet also states that there are more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants contained in organic produce than conventionally grown food.

"The Audubon Market is an outlet for people to get the best, freshest food available and actually talk to the people who grew the products locally," Othon said.

Supporting local organic agriculture has environmental benefits that both the Arboretum and the Audubon Community Market outline as important factors of the process, such as petroleum resources that are conserved from produce traveling short distances and drinking water systems that aren't contaminated by chemicals.   

"Our mission is to reach out to the community and educate on organic gardening and its health benefits," Haux said.

Pots of compost, potted plants, firewood and bonsai trees were also sold at the market.

Haux explained that the Arboretum has been entirely sustainable since the creation of the 1 acre organic garden, with compost, soil, pots and other items donated from groups like the City of Orlando and the Orange County Landfill. The seeds picked from the vegetation are planted to continue growth in the garden.

"We haven't bought anything in a year," he said. "But still, we are really low on funding."

The Audubon Community Market allows the Arboretum to fundraise and mingle with other local vendors.     

"The Arboretum has connected with [local catering company and delicatessen] Big Wheel Provisions, and have sold them pumpkins for pumpkin butter," Othon said.     

The Arboretum's involvement with the market connects UCF to an objective of local prosperity in the Audubon Park Garden District and all around Central Florida.     

The Audubon Community Market is part of a movement called Ourlando, which is made up of independent businesses and programs that urge communities to think local first, unite the arts, music and recreation communities and provide citizens with a pride of place.     

"Ourlando is a business alliance that is committed to supporting the local economy," Othon said.     

Ourlando encourages investment in the community and creates jobs and job security.      

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