The Easy Way to Help Your Local Ecosystem

A visit to Native Nurseries in Tallahassee proved to be an educational treat! Not only did I learn about the plants that are native to Florida, but I also learned why they are so important to our local ecosystem. Local plant guru Lilly Anderson-Messec gave me some great information to help me understand more about this under-discussed topic.

The whole concept revolves around the simple concept that native insects use native plants for food, and native birds and other creatures use native insects for food. If there isn’t enough food for the insects, the whole food web is therefore depleted. That means it’s VERY important to choose native plants over imported plants that aren’t useful to the local insect population. Moreover, I learned that the number one food of choice for birds is caterpillars! It sounds awful that those caterpillars will never become beautiful butterflies, I know… but out of hundreds of eggs, only a few will become butterflies, and the rest will be caterpillar bird food. That’s life!

I’m happy to report that I am doing my part to increase the native plant population in my own yard and garden after such an eye-opening experience. I hope you will consider doing the same now that you know too!

Expanding Our Horizons

Expanding Our Horizons

We’ve been doing some thinking, and we realized we’ve been missing an opportunity! Don’t worry… we’re ready to seize the day, and we’re making some changes that will get everything right on track. YouTube will be the new home of informational videos about growing your own food and preparing dishes using the food you’ve grown. It takes a little while to get a permanent official YouTube URL, and one of the requirements is 100 subscribers. The other is 30 days of operation. The channel URL is LONG until we meet the requirements, so if you would like to subscribe, go to Once I get the official YouTube URL, we’ll post it and change that link.

What to expect… first expect nothing. That’s right NOTHING! LOL

Emerging SeedlingIn all seriousness, this idea is young (like yesterday), so give us some time to build up some content and produce some quality videos. It is our intention to create videos that give information and entertainment in the joys and sorrows of organic gardening first and foremost, then we will show you what to do with the fruits of your labor in the form of recipes and kitchen tips. Also, because we can’t grow it all in our little plot, we intend to take you on video field trips to farms and gardens of other growers that have interesting edibles growing. Conversations have already started, and you can expect to see some great content as we get our feet wet and our wheels turning. Please subscribe today, and you’ll be informed as soon as content is uploaded to the channel. Thank you for your support!


Dave Palmer is the owner and operator of Florida Farmers Market & Cafe in Paxton, FL. As a volunteer he serves as a guest educator for middle school agriculture students at Paxton School (K-12) teaching a hands on approach to plant science as well as the business of growing and selling organic plants and produce. His focus is, no surprise, growing food and eating it!

Teaching Our Future

August 10th, 2017 is a day that I look forward to for many reasons… It’s the first day of school! It’s also the beginning of a new involvement for me in helping the students. I’ve been asked to be on the Paxton School (Paxton, FL) Agriculture Department’s Community Advisory Committee. It’s a voluntary position that will allow me to assist the new Ag teacher, Mr. Nate Moore, in teaching the kids about growing plants with an agricultural/horticultural purpose and a lot more!

I intend to teach them as many aspects of the business as I can, because growing plants from seed is only the basics of learning about a grower’s involvement in a career in agriculture. They need to learn how to plan, maximize their investment, work efficiently, brand their products, sell in the real world marketplace, and see projects through to the end while starting the next cycle to keep their business going. In doing all of that they will also see how they impact their community by adding to its local economy, beautification, and building relationships.

Having a garden behind Florida Farmers Market was in my original drawings from back in 2012 before the market was even open, and in the last two years, I have worked hard to make it a reality. Now I can use it for its original purpose which is helping young people get involved in gardening with a purpose. It’s a small scale operation that can have a big impact! Mrs. Neale has already handled the hurdle of students having permission to “leave campus” to tend to the garden, which is HUGE! Next I am going to rely on our community to help us build the program from scratch. We are going to need some great project ideas, supplies to get them done, people to buy produce and plants, and photos of their successes growing in your yards around town.

These kids are the means by which we will be fed and clothed as we age, so let’s teach them the importance of hard work, innovation, and community building. It all starts with farmers, and less people are choosing farming as their career path. That has to change… be part of the change, and help me teach our kids! I appreciate your involvement in advance.

Dave Palmer is the owner of Florida Farmers Market a neighboring property of Paxton School (K-12) in Paxton, FL. He is also co-founder of Grow and Eat It! Join us on Facebook as we work together to shape our future in agriculture.

Early Spring Gardening

Greetings from sunny… rainy… windy… no clue what will happen next Northwest Florida! It has been a crazy winter here this year. It’s mid-March and the weather is on a roller coaster like I have never seen. The temperatures have been swinging like crazy, and every day it seems I get a little something different. Hot, cold, wet, dry, and windy weather conditions have been alternating where I am like some jacked up weather slot machine. It makes it hard to know what to do, and what to plant. Since I’m confident that I will not get another frost (unlike our friends up North that got snow a few days ago out of the blue), I also feel confident that Summer’s heat will not arrive faster than I can get some nice cool weather crops going and harvested before the long days and hot sun limit what I can grow.

Kale seedlings ready for thinning

So what am I planting amidst the weather chaos? Quick growing crops like lettuce, mustard, arugula, spinach, radishes, salad turnips, and beets. I’ve already planted some kale which germinated nicely despite the temperature swings, and I’m going to sow some early carrots which aren’t considered “quick” but they won’t mind the odd-ball temps as long as it doesn’t freeze. I do, however, expect the unexpected and know that germination may be off a little depending on what happens with the weather. It’s no big deal if 30 day lettuce takes an extra week or if radishes speed through in 20 days instead of 28 if it gets colder or hotter respectively. You just have to be okay with whatever happens.

Fortunately, I have begun building a greenhouse (more on that later), so I should have some seeds started for the summer plants like peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, squashes, and other summer favorites while I wait for things to even out. I dare not put them out just yet. Last year I planted okra too early, and they stalled out until the first good heatwave hit. They exploded in growth all at once, and the plants grew a little taller than I expected. Yields were also varied from a tiny bit to buckets full right up until a hard November frost. Tomatoes suffered the same fate, and I am sad to say I really did them an injustice by not monitoring them more closely. We were in severe drought last summer, and I was not at all equipped to irrigate properly. I know better now… and we learn by doing! It’s okay to fail if you learn something from it.

Getting back to early spring planting, it seems that plugs are the way to go with lettuce, and you can stagger planting depending on your needs, but keep in mind that when temperatures stabilize as the season goes on, your plants will mature more quickly. My advice is to watch them, and when they are halfway through their growing cycle, plant some more until temps are warm enough to sow/plant every week. Days to maturity (DTM) will also stabilize and even quicken for some crops along with the weather. Remember as we move toward summer, the days get longer, meaning more sunlight for longer and more active growth time as well. Pollinators are soon to start buzzing about if they aren’t already. A bee visited my new blueberry bushes just yesterday as I was standing nearby.

If you haven’t done so already, it’s time to start spreading compost to amend the soil, and get ready for those heavy feeders. Don’t worry, the quick growing crops tend to be low feeders, so you shouldn’t really be worried about them taking up much of the nutrients. It won’t hurt a thing to spread it where they are planted already in a bed you plan to plant a heavy feeder in succession after you “crop out” (a term I’m borrowing from Curtis Stone that means to harvest and remove the current crop so you can turn over the bed and plant something else.) You mulching maniacs can just sprinkle it around and let the rain do its thing to push it down to the soil level. (That’s what I do.)

Whatever you do, get started! Happy planting!


Follow our Facebook group for a live discussion anytime. Ask questions, share successes, share failures, and we’ll all help each other out.

Join us:

Enjoying A Four Seasons Diet

I am working hard to change the way Americans eat fresh produce by promoting a return to the days of old. Well kinda… I call it a “Four Seasons Diet”, and it’s nothing crazy or fad-like. It’s simply eating foods when they are in season. The Grow and Eat It! group is working on expanding the variety and amount of foods we grow for ourselves, but even if you don’t grow produce yourself, anyone can eat this way. It’s the way everyone ate before markets were global and shipping food in from all over the place. This was before most of us were born, but think about it… If produce wasn’t in season, it simply wasn’t available back in the day. My suspicion is that, as a result, people were eating healthier back then because they were subconsciously listening to their bodies and eating the foods their bodies told them they needed.

I’ll explain why I’ve come to this conclusion. I was thinking about my garden (as I often do), and I thought about all of the foods that I love. Then I started looking for seeds for those fruits and veggies. I bought the ones I could find and planted them that summer only to fail miserably with most of them. What went wrong? Why wasn’t my lettuce doing great? I love a summer salad, but they are always so expensive. It looks like I didn’t read the fine print: lettuce grows best in cool weather. Believe me, I tasted some that did grow, and boy was it bitter! Could it be that I have been spoiled by the year-round availability of produce at the market? Why have I not noticed this before? The answer was clear: I was a typical American with no clue that fruits and vegetables aren’t really year-round anywhere.

ProduceNow I give the grocery store credit. They take advantage of the fact that we can grow food in controlled environments now that simulate the real seasons. It’s very cool technology, but is it right for us to eat the same foods year-round just because we can? I don’t think so. What about nutrition? What about the sun’s involvement? Sure, you can get it to grow, but is it truly natural with the same vitamins and minerals you get from eating food grown in season? The answer is complex. In fact sometimes it doesn’t matter at all when or how some vegetables are grown, but sometimes it does, and most of us don’t know which ones matter and which ones don’t.

What’s the easiest way to ensure that you are getting what you pay for in quality and nutritional value? Buy food that’s in season, locally grown, or grow it yourself, and skip the shipped in (un-ripe) and forced to grow crops grown in simulated environments and/or far away places. Our bodies need a more varied diet than most of us give them. Get this: You hardly have to think about it all, because if it’s in season, you probably need it in your diet!

I’m not a doctor, and this is not medical advice. This is common sense! You probably knew this already subconsciously, and I’m just backing it up with some facts. Let’s look at an example to prove our theory to be correct, and pat ourselves on the back. We’ll take vitamin C on for our example.

oranges_groceryWe all know we need vitamin C for healthy immune systems and to maintain a scurvy-free life (if you are a pirate). What’s a great source of vitamin C? Oranges! What a delicious Summer fruit! NOPE! Oranges are harvested in Winter. Believe me… I live in Florida, and I run a farmers market. Beach goers stop all Summer long looking for Florida oranges in June and look at me like I have 3 heads when I tell them they will have to come back in December if they want them fresh off the tree. Okay, you get the point… You’ve known this all along.

So where will we get our vitamin C from in Spring when those super popular Florida oranges are out of season? How about peas, asparagus, or strawberries? Summer’s peppers are loaded with the C, and there are always raspberries, pineapples, kiwi, cantaloupes, and papayas to name a few. Fall gives us apples, cranberries, mustard and collard greens, beets, and spinach all loaded up with good old vitamin C. Shiver me timbers… It looks like pirates can avoid scurvy year-round if they eat right!

That’s exactly the point I am making here. No, I’m not talking about pirates anymore… I’m talking about all of us! The fruits and vegetables available in any given season can provide us with the vitamins and minerals that we need to survive. It’s not even hard to get them, and you can probably grow them yourself! Maybe you can’t grow pineapples and papayas in Michigan naturally, but you can grow strawberries and raspberries in the same season the other two are growing elsewhere. Wherever you may live, you will have a source of what you need nutritionally that can be grown locally to you. I told you it isn’t hard!

Have you ever bought an apple in say, May, and realized that you made a huge mistake? The texture and the taste are all wrong, but why? They had them on sale at the store, and they looked tasty! Maybe it was shipped halfway around the world to a distribution center, then kept in cold storage for a while, then trucked in to the store last week before you saw it on sale this week. After you take that mushy, pithy bite of nastiness it occurs to you why it was on sale. It’s not apple season… anywhere! You bought it, because your body told you it needed some vitamin C, and you know apples are a good source of the C. They just aren’t the source you should look to in May.

strawberries-6875_640What you could have bought were the deliciously ripe strawberries grown on a farm just outside of town that were probably picked yesterday. They were right around the corner from those mushy apples you bought and contain the very same nutritional value your body was looking for, but they are locally grown and in season. So why didn’t you choose them? The answer is sad: You never once considered the season as a basis for your choice. You just remembered that apples were a vitamin C source, and they are, but they taste better in the Fall when they are in season (when strawberries taste like crap and/or have an awful texture because they are shipped in from another hemisphere and held at customs for days before they reach you.)

I’ve beaten vitamin C to a mushy pulp now, but you get the idea. There are always choices in the produce department that are better than others depending on the season it is. You can be choosy and still get the nutrition that you need by picking produce when it tastes best. Oh my gosh doesn’t that sound good? It is good! It’s good for your health and your taste buds all at the same time! Back in the old days it wasn’t quite as complicated.

Before global availability came into play, you didn’t have a choice. If it wasn’t in season, it wasn’t available. Now we need to be a little more educated about our purchase decisions to make the best ones for our diet. That’s one reason that we at Grow and Eat It! are working on growing more of our own food. If we can grow it, we can eat it! That helps a lot with the situation, but we all still shop at the grocery store too, so this concept applies to everyone. How do you do this Four Seasons Diet lifestyle change starting from scratch? There are only three principles to remember.

450px-Shopping_with_grocery_list[1]First, think about it… you know most of the information already, but if you have forgotten something you are just a quick Internet search away from the answers you seek. Make a list of all the produce items that you consume on a regular basis, then find out when they are in season. Sort the list by season, and BAM! there’s your grocery list.

Second, think about the nutritional values of each item on the list. You might want to look that up too… look it up, record it somehow, and you can refer back to it if you need to. It will help you balance your diet easily. If your seasonal produce list is deficient in a particular vitamin or mineral during a season, you will be too. It’s time to branch out and try new things! Search for a list of fruits and vegetables that are harvested during the season you need to balance, and look for what your body needs on the list.

Third and finally, enjoy your new diet! One of the worst parts of a fad diet is that it tends to get mundane. Fad diets are not tailored for long-term adoption. They are designed for quick results, so they can be pretty short-sighted. A Four Seasons Diet is a way of life. If you adopt this baby, it’s yours! Anyone can do this, and it works for everyone. It always has worked, and it always will. Why it works is very simple: It’s the way nature intended it to be!

So get out there and buy some produce that’s in season and delicious! When seasons change, change what you buy. You won’t find yourself tired of one particular thing, and what you eat will taste better. That in itself is a win, win situation! If you want to go the extra mile, grow your own fruits and vegetables to cut your grocery bill down and enjoy the many benefits of gardening. The best benefit is that you get to Grow and Eat It! Most importantly, be healthy in body and mind with a balanced diet and a mindset to match. Welcome to the Four Seasons Diet!


Dave75pxDave Palmer is a farmers market/restaurant owner with a love for science, gardening, cooking, and eating well. He’s not the creator of the Four Seasons Diet (nature is), but he is the reviver of the concepts that you just read.

Sharing is Caring

  You know when you buy a packet of seeds and sometimes you get 2000 seeds of the same variety for a buck or two? Who needs 2000 heads of romaine lettuce from their home garden in one season? No one! Now my buddy has 1500 broccoli seeds, his friend has 1000 carrot seeds, and someone they are connected to but don’t really know has 800 butternut squash seeds. If each person of this group of one veggie wonders shared with the other 3 some of what they each have in excess, it looks like we have a seed CO-OP going, and everyone will be having the soup and salad combo instead of too much of their one veggie. Yes, I know… It’s stupid simple, but seriously why wouldn’t we want to do that?

Sharing seeds amongst gardeners has been done for centuries. Trading is actually a more accurate description. Traders traveled far and wide introducing non-native plants and adding variety to diets around the world well before grocery stores and huge farms existed. Variety is the spice of life right? Right!

So here’s how our “Grow and Eat It! Seed CO-OP” is going to work: Members will compile a master list of all of the seed varieties and quantities they have available for trade, and note how many they would like to have of other member’s offering via a common spreadsheet stored online. The goal is for all of us to share to increase the variety of seeds we have to plant each season in our gardens. Everybody has more options in their gardens and menus, and everybody spends less on seeds because there is less waste!

  We will all have some time before the time to plant comes to plan our gardens if everyone lists what they have early enough. The CO-OP facilitator, Dave Palmer (this time) will compile a master list of who wants what and arrange a flow of mailing that makes the most financial sense. It’s possible that everyone might only have to mail one envelope of seeds if the chain is well organized. For it to work, everyone must CO-OPerate and do their part when the time comes. 

The most it should cost is a couple of bucks per person to share and receive a wide variety of seeds. Why should we all buy the same seeds separately and have a bunch left over when we could each buy a few types of seeds and end up with a much wider variety? Trading seeds just makes sense! 

There are only a few rules:

  1. Non-GMO seeds only
  2. No old seeds (previous year or newer only for best germination results)
  3. Ship within 48 hours of receipt of your seeds or instructions from the facilitator.

Depending on the group size, we could all be ready to plant in a week or two from compilation of the master list. We look forward to enjoying the benefits of seed sharing with you all! To join the CO-OP look for the post for the upcoming growing season in our Facebook group at Grow and Eat It!

It Begins…

IMG_2926From a conversation, to a concept, to a real group of people who are ready for a healthy change for their lives “Grow and Eat It” was born today in a few short hours. When there is a meeting of the minds in this technologically advanced world we live in, there is bound to be a spark that starts a fire burning once in a while. This is one of those times. Shean and I (Dave) were friends way back in the mid-90’s as teenagers. Even then we were creating and leading together… so it should come as no surprise to anyone that we are working together again. This time we have a much larger cause… better health and happier living for everyone including us!

SWTomatoesWe don’t live in the same area anymore, but we both have families with wives and young children, we still share a love for music, and now we share a passion for growing our own food and doing it in the healthiest manner. Today we learned through our conversation that we are both opposed to GMO seeds and methods, harsh chemicals, and poor eating. We are all about growing food for our families that is organically grown and environmentally friendly, and we want to help others do the same. It’s a bit of a revolution that’s been brewing for some time. We believe that if we make it easier for everyone to produce healthy food for themselves, there are enough of us that will make the change and force big agriculture to make some changes too. Be part of the Grow and Eat It revolution with us! You will be happier, healthier, and even save money… It’s a triple win for all of mankind!