Redland farmers have launched a program called Adopt-a-Box to get fresh South Florida produce into the hands of hungry families and help farmers with their crops at the same time. For those appalled at news video of milk being poured down drains and ripe fields being plowed over, Adopt-a-Box provides a way for the public to get involved and ensure that Florida crops are not wasted.
For a tax-deductible donation of $25, a 20-pound box of fresh fruits and vegetables will be given to a family in need. Boxes will contain locally grown produce and fresh from Florida items such as tomatoes, squash, onions, okra, mamey, avocado, lychee, mango, oranges, blueberries, eggplant and peppers (depending on the season).
The first distribution of boxes will take place Saturday, April 18, 2020 at 9 a.m. (800 boxes will be distributed on a first come first served basis) at the Homestead Sports Complex at 1601 SE 28th Avenue, Homestead, FL 33035. Distributions will continue every Saturday as long as funding is available.
Total donations for Adopt-a-Box have reached more than $20,000, mostly from private donors, and organizers are hopeful that citizens and companies will keep the program running throughout the summer picking season. To make a donation, please visit the Redland Ahead GoFundMe page at www.gofundme.com/adopt-a-box-fl.
Adopt-a-Box is being organized by Redland Ahead, a non-profit organization that trains veterans and underserved communities to become farmers with the support of Florida International University, and they teamed up on this project with Unity Groves, one of the largest packing houses and growers in Miami-Dade County.
“The state’s agricultural industry is suffering greatly due to the coronavirus pandemic. Our solution feeds the hungry and helps farms at the same time,” says Redland Ahead President John Mills. “We need to get creative during this crisis in our nation and support the local agricultural community and families in need at a crucial time.”
“We need to pick the crops and get them out to the community,” says Louis Carricarte, President of Unity Groves of Homestead. “Each $25 dollar donation allows us to harvest, pack and deliver the boxes to families for free, while getting the farms paid for their crops at market price. We work with over 200 farms annually and it’s vital to their operations to cover labor costs and to keep things functioning. None of us want to see food going to waste, especially when so much blood, sweat and energy goes into each field and hand involved.”
The Adopt-a-Box program is a team effort designed to keep the wheels of South Florida agriculture turning while supplying families in need with healthy local fruits and vegetables. “It’s a win-win situation for everyone, but in order to make it successful, we hope people will adopt a box and make a donation for any amount they can,” says Carricarte.
“People are in need of healthy food, especially now during a health crisis,” adds Michael Huter of Unity Groves’ Taste of Redland team. “On top of that, farmers are facing the loss of their livelihoods. Agriculture is the second most important industry in Florida and one of the largest economic engines and employers in Miami-Dade County. Now is the time for people to resoundingly demand that their supermarkets buy local fruits and vegetables and Florida grown before those that are imported from other countries like Mexico. The consumer wants it, I guess it is better to say that the voters certainly want it.”
“With the stroke of a pen, the Governor of Florida could sign an emergency declaration temporarily during a pandemic crisis, requiring supermarkets, larger distributors and other retailers to buy produce from Florida growers first — before purchasing from foreign countries. It could well be the move that saves a lot of Florida farms and would have an immediate impact by giving access through supply chain to consumers, restaurants and others,” said an unnamed official within the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Charles LaPradd, Agricultural Manager for Miami-Dade County, has been a consistent advocate for county farmers and supports Adopt-a-Box. “A good diet of fresh fruits and vegetables is a key to remaining healthy. Programs like this can help bring those in need together. It helps farmers move their produce and provides people with an economical source of locally grown and safe fresh produce,” says LaPradd.
Other organizations supporting the Adopt-a-Box program include the Dade County Farm Bureau, Miami-Dade Homeless Trust, South Dade Chamber of Commerce, FIU, Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association, Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association and the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau.