The Florida Strawberry Growers Association (FSGA) invited members of the Southeastern Regional Chapter of the Research Chefs Association (RCA) to tour the fields and farms of the growing area in Plant City/Dover, Florida, known worldwide as the Strawberry Capital of the World.
“The goal of the tour was to educate the attendees from the ground up about Florida winter strawberries,” said Sue Harrell, director of marketing for FSGA and a strawberry grower. “This initiative supports the national movement by many chefs, product research and development professionals and foodservice distributors to buy local whenever possible.”
The Southeastern Regional Chapter members of RCA attending the tour included Kevin Anderson, Jamila Muhammad, Chef Jeff Cofer, Bobbie Huston, Sandy Gibilisco, Deanna Smith and Alexa Hart Bosshardt.
Mike Lott, a Florida strawberry grower, invited RCA members for a personal tour on his farm. Guests picked strawberries while Lott educated them about the Florida strawberry industry, the growing cycle and his experiences as a farmer.
Lott showcased modern techniques for growing and marketing fresh market strawberries and shared information about the development of the industry’s latest promising variety – Winterstar – a hardy, sweet, early blossoming berry that is a cross between the popular Florida Radiance and Earlibrite varieties.
“The FSGA staff and Lott enjoyed hosting the chefs and researchers. They were extremely interested in learning all they could about our industry. We can now network with these culinary pros to educate our customers about the importance of Florida’s producers of fresh fruits and vegetables. Their questions indicated they are anxious to know more about how berries are grown and the people who grow them,” Harrell said.
“We’re focusing on educating seasoned chefs and the chefs of tomorrow about our industry from the farm to the table. Establishing and nurturing these relationships is an important program that will help maintain, develop and sustain new markets for our berries.”