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Hillsborough 100 Conservation Challenge

Draws Widespread Interest By Linda Chion Kenney For Hillsborough 100 Conservation Challenge organizers, the effort is as much a passion as it is a cause, a touchstone for environmental protection and activism, the results of which will be on display this month. “Road cleanups, river cleanups, tree plantings, recycling and gardening of all kinds, all these things play a part in the conservation challenge,” said Betty Jo Tompkins, who spearheaded the effort last year as executive director of the Hillsborough Soil and Water Conservation District. “The goal is to bring together the entire community, urban, suburban and rural, to emphasize the importance of conservation in everyone’s life.” This year marks the debut year of the Hillsborough 100 Conservation Challenge, culminating in a nine-day showcase of effort, set to run

from Earth Day, April 22, through April 30, on Arbor Day weekend. Bringing to bear individual, group and collaborative efforts, the projects stem from a kickoff meeting last year in June, at the Hillsborough County Extension Office in Seffner, where attendees were asked to become the first to sign up for the challenge. “We met with a packed room of business and community leaders after taking the proposal to the American Farm Bureau Federation convention in Orlando,” Tompkins said. “We presented the concept at the town hall meeting with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and he was very intrigued. He said he felt we could create a template that could be used in communities throughout the country and that’s what we intend to do.” Tompkins on behalf of her district took the matter before politicians and local players, getting support from agriculturists, civic groups, service clubs, chambers of commerce, family and corporate farms, agriculture associations and organizations, government entities,

became the youngest elected official in the county when he, too, filled a board seat. In their respective terms, all three served as chairmen. “This was one of the things our family talked about, the absolute necessity of everyone taking responsibility for our environment and for conserving our natural resources,” said Tompkins, who grew up in Miami and spent summers as a child on her grandparents’ dairy farm in Pennsylvania. “Our family’s philosophy has always been, seek power to do and never seek power to be. It’s a real tragedy that so many people in our culture

schools, individuals and first responders. According to Tompkins, support came early from the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners, School District of Hillsborough County, Florida Department of Agriculture, Hillsborough County Farm Bureau, Florida Strawberry Growers Association, Hillsborough County Extension, Rotarians, Kiwanians, Lions, 4-H, FFA, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, farmers and more. Consider it a bipartisan effort to reinvigorate the community’s posture toward protecting soil, water and air, said board chairman Betty Jo Tompkin s, ex and Republican loyalist Mark Hillsborough Soil ecutive director, Proctor, who noted that too an Conservation Disd Water often environmental causes are trict stigmatized and politicized. A plus for the conservation district, he added, is that its board members are as diverse as the interests that weigh in on resource conservation. “We have Republicans, Democrats, find waste as totally acceptable.” socialists, Green Party followers, In Kim O’Connor’s world, waste is environmentalists, corporate interests anything but acceptable. A Green Parand the whole community involved,” ty adherent and board vice president Proctor said. “This is about conserving for the Hillsborough Soil and Water the natural resources that we’re all in Conservation District, O’Connor notlove with and depend on every day.” ed that “ecological wisdom” is one of Calling himself a “revolutionary the Green Party’s 10 key values, calling socialist,” David Maynard said he is for humans to “practice agriculture the longest-serving supervisor on that replenishes the soil, move to an the Hillsborough district’s five-memenergy-efficient economy and live ber conservation board, now in his in ways that respect the integrity of second four-year term. Supervisors natural systems.” serve without compensation. They The Hillsborough 100 Conservation meet bi-monthly in public meetings in Challenge “highlights the need for each downtown Plant City to address local of us to emphasize in our daily lives environmental concerns, plan outreach how we can organize and work for a activities and secure and distribute society that maintains an ecological grant money for conservation balance,” O’Connor added. “I am projects. certain that by involving local groups “We’re focused on promoting working on local initiatives we will set just what is in our title, the ratio- a good example for all of the citizens nal use of our natural resources, of Hillsborough County, that though including soil and water,” Maythe challenges are many, our efforts nard said. “For students can and will make a difference.” at all levels we have Across the great political divide the programs to educate divergent backgrounds and interests and involve them in reflected on O’Connor’s board are set conservation and to to coalesce around a flurry of activity learn about the environthis month that ranges from underment. You could just as water divers exploring the impact of well call us an environmenfestival beads in the Tampa estuary to tal education district.” individuals signing up for composting It’s a mission and rain barrel workshops. Tompkins takes to Susan Dumke, who with her heart, having served husband, Scot, owns Blues Berry on the board before Farms in Plant City, was elected to the her position today board in November. She said she ran as executive director. because she was a farmer and because Her husband also she believed in the Hillsborough 100 served on the board Conservation Challenge, to show by and her son, at age 18, example the power of conservation.

Indeed, she could be considered a poster child for conservation, a self-described corporate-world dropout who finds in her life on a 20acre blueberry farm and a plethora of opportunities for sustainable living. “I drive an electric car and every piece of clothing I have has been test-driven by someone else,” Dumke said. “All the water we use on our fields is recovered and while other farmers run water to frost-protect, we don’t go to that party. We use air drains and wind machines to suck in the warm air, down into the field, to change the temperature of our fields five degrees, so we’re not turning on the water. I can’t tell you how many millions of gallons of water we save.” Moreover, variable-frequency drives hooked up to electric wells save the Dumkes thousands of dollars in electricity and help preserve equipment by ramping electricity up and down slowly. Also in the fields the Dumkes employ drip irrigation and manage birds without chemicals, opting to use computer chips to play chirping sounds over loudspeakers that drive away birds. Wind-blown kites on big poles create activity and pandemonium, “an atmosphere birds don’t like,” Dumke added. “It chases off the birds that want to come and eat lunch with us.” Tired of throwing out blueberries not suited for the fresh fruit market, the Dumkes find alternative uses, which led to the production of Blues Berry Jalepeno and Blues Berry Habanero jellies. Any damaged, distressed or ugly produce is given to the chickens to eat, and in turn their eggs for Easter are dyed in mashed-up blueberries. “It’s a really tight circle,” Dumke said. In her life as a “garbage artist” Dumke specializes in recyclable art. Collecting unneeded shoes from her friends, she in turn hosts a Cinderella Shoe Party for migrant workers. Likewise, items that don’t sell at neighborhood garage sales she collects and offers for free at Yardis Gratis gatherings for people in need. In New Hampshire she convinced operators of a 100-year-old mill to put words and images on scraps of jacquard-woven ribbon, which she in turn bought and sold to scrapbooking companies. “We use that same ribbon and tie it on our buckets at the farm for harvest workers,” Dumke said. “Whenever I see waste, I ask, ‘What are you throwing out? What can I do with that?’” In a nutshell, “I can inspire anybody to conserve anything,” Dumke said. “The more ways people can see other people conserving the more we can get people to think about conservation.” To contact the Hillsborough Soil and Water Conservation District, call Betty Jo Tompkins at 813-752-1474, ext. 3, or 813-477-8332. Supervisors meet bi-monthly on Wednesdays, at the district’s office in Plant City, at 201 South Collins St., Suite 202.

The goal is to bring together th community, urb e entire and rural, to eman, suburban importance of phasize the conser everyone’s life. vation in ”

Not Too Late To Take Conservation Challenge By Linda Chion Kenney

ATTEND A GARDEN WORKSHOP. April 21 — “Groundcovers for Central

Florida,” Charles J. Fendig Public Library,Tampa. April 24 — “Dragonflies and Damselflies,” Seminole Heights Library Branch. April 25 — “Flowering Shrubs and Trees,” North Tampa Branch Library. April 29 — “Compost Happens, Micro-Irrigation, and Rainwater Harvesting,” Hillsborough County Extension Service, Seffner. April 29 — “Vericomposting:Where the Worms Do the Work and We Reap the Benefits,” Hillsborough County Extension Service, Seffner.

Late to the game for the Hillsborough 100 Conservation Challenge, presented by the Hillsborough Soil and Water SIGN UP FOR THE WATER-WISE WORKSHOP and learn about Conservation District? Florida-friendly landscaping principles, water conservation, and miNo worries, it’s always timely cro-irrigation (also known as drip, or low-volume, irrigation), which involves delivering water directly to the root zone of a plant. The to conserve, with key players workshop is free for Hillsborough County residents and each attendand organizations at the ready ee receives a no-cost micro-irrigation starter kit. Choose the basic to suggest ideas for conservation landscape, patio, or vegetables kit, which are reviewed in extension service videos posted online. education and engagement. The Hillsborough County SIGN UP FOR A FREE ENERGY AUDIT through the Tampa Electric Co. (TECO). The auditor checks ductwork, insulation, windows and Extension Service, based in doors, heating and cooling systems, and more. Call: 813-275-3909. Seffner, is rife with conservation COMMIT TO CONSERVE FISH AND WILDLIFE. The Florida Fish ideas and education and Wildlife Conservation Commission suggests ways to handle nuiopportunities throughout sance wildlife and aid injured or orphaned animals. Through its Wildlife the year, including a series Lighting Certification Program, learn how to use proper lighting methods of workshops scheduled to minimize adverse impacts to wildlife.Visit: www.myfwc.com. from the eve of Earth Day COMMIT TO PREVENT FOREST FIRES. Preventing human-caused fires is a pressing goal for the Florida Forest Service, which offers education and (April 22) through the mitigation programs that hammer home the point that even though Florida is end of Arbor Day considered the lightning capital of the world, arson and escaped debris burning weekend (April remain main causes of Florida wildfires. Suggestions include reducing accumulated veg30). etation (wild land “fuel”) before wildfires occur and filling out the Hazard and Wildfire Risk Assessment score sheet to evaluate the wildlife hazard of a subdivision or neighborhood.Visit Florida Forest Service through the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, at www.freshfromflorida.com.

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE FLORIDA YARDS AND NEIGHBORHOODS PROGRAM, which covers the benefits of Florida-friendly landscaping and its nine

key principles, including efficient watering; as-needed fertilization; mulch; wildlife attraction; responsible pest control; recycling; waterfront protection; “Right Plant in the Right Place” landscape design; and stormwater reduction runoff, as in using rain barrels to collect rainwater for irrigation. For more, and to register, visit the extension service online, at www.hillsborough.ifas.ufl.edu. For Water-Wise Program information, call Sheila Monahan, at 813-744-5519, ext. 54144. For information on the Florida Yards and Neighborhood Program, call Lynn Barber, at extension 54105. The extension service is in Seffner, at 5339 County Road 579. Call: 813-744-5519. Boy Scouts of America gives suggestions for earning a Conservation Good Turn patch, which in turn fits the bill for last-minute conservation challenge projects. • Plant grasses, trees, shrubs, and ground cover to stop soil erosion. • Plant shrubs to provide food and cover for wildlife. • Build and set out bird and squirrel-nesting boxes. • Plant tree seedlings. • Remove litter and garbage from a neighborhood recreation area or park. • Recycle, or visit a recycling center. • Take advantage of programs offered by utilities to help consumers conserve resources. Conservation categories include energy conservation, soil and water conservation, fish and wildlife management, forestry and range management, air and water pollution control, resource recovery (recycling), hazardous material disposal and management and invasive species control. Below are related challenge suggestions. COMMIT TO REDUCE AIR POLLUTION. Conserve energy (turn off lights, computers, and electric appliances when not in use). Use energy efficient light bulbs and appliances. Limit driving (carpool, bike, walk or use public transportation). Combine errands for fewer trips. Keep your vehicle well-tuned and maintained. Avoid excessive idling. Use electric or hand-powered lawn-care equipment. Choose environmentally friendly cleaners. Use water-based or solvent-free paints when possible; buy products labeled “low VOC.” To prevent volatile organic compounds from evaporating into the air, seal containers of household cleaners, garden chemicals and workshop chemicals and solvents. (Source: NH Department of Environmental Services.)

COMMIT TO CONSERVE WATER. Inside the home: Repair leaky faucets. Peel and clean vegetables in a large bowl of water (instead of under running water). Fill the sink or basin with water to wash and rinse dishes. Run the dishwasher and washing machine only at full capacity. Install faucet aerators. Take short showers instead of baths. Turn off the water to brush teeth, to shave and to soap-up in the shower before rinsing. Repair leaky toilets. (Tip: Add 12 drops of food coloring into the tank. If color appears in the bowl one hour later, the toilet is leaking.) Outside the home: Maximize the use of natural vegetation and establish smaller lawns. Water lawns and gardens when necessary. Avoid watering on hot and windy days. Water in the morning or late evening to maximize the amount of water that reaches plant roots (otherwise the water evaporates). Use soaker hoses to water gardens and flower beds. For more, visit the United States Environmental Protection Agency, at http://www3.epa.gov. SCHEDULE A FREE RECYCLING PRESENTATION for your school, business, or community group, tailored to different age groups. Focused on solid waste management and recycling, the presentation makes the case for recycling and clears up confusion on what can and can’t be recycled. To request a presentation, call Hillsborough County recycling coordinator Travis Barnes, at 813-209-3085. Email: BarnesT@HCFLGov.net. COMMIT TO THE PROPER DISPOSAL OF HOUSEHOLD HAZARDOUS WASTES, including products that contain toxic, flammable, corrosive, or reac-

tive ingredients. These include pool chemicals, paint thinners, fluorescent lamps, car batteries, rechargeable batteries, fire extinguishers, pesticides and herbicides, propane tanks, flares, ammunition, motor oil, cooking oil, aerosols, cleaning chemicals, gasoline, and mercury thermostats and thermometers. Waste centers in Tampa (9805 Sheldon Road), Gibsonton (13000 U.S. 41), and Seffner (6209 County Road 579) accept household hazardous waste on Saturdays, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more on Hillsborough’s Household Hazardous Waste Program, call: 813-272-5680 (option 1).Visit: www.HCFLGov.net/HHW. REPLACE INVASIVE LANDSCAPE PLANTS. The Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council encourages replacing invasive landscape plants with native alternatives. Native plants conserve water; reduce mowing costs; provide habitat for birds, butterflies and other wildlife; protect the soil; and save money on fertilizer and pesticides.

Need more ideas? Betty Jo Tompkins, executive director of the Hillsborough Soil and Water Conservation District is ready to help. Call: 813-752-1474, ext. 3. Or, 813-477-8332.

Hillsborough Soil and Water Conservation District Explained By Linda Chion Kenney While the Hillsborough 100 Conservation Challenge aims to deepen a community’s conservation mindset, it also helps brand a government entity run by elected officials that not too many people can tell you too much about. Founded locally in 1946, the Hillsborough Soil and Water Conservation District traces its roots to the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s, also known as the Dirty Thirties, when severe dust storms greatly damaged the ecology and agriculture of the American and Canadian prairies. Congress met to address what has been called the worst man-made ecological disaster in American history, causing near pitch-black darkness in the middle of the day following the Great Plow-Up that turned millions of acres of thick native grassland into wheat fields. The ensuing eight-year drought brought to bear the dust storms that at first were considered freaks of nature, but that eventually opened the book on a conservation movement

that included the establishment of conservation districts, which today number about 3,000 nationwide. Hillsborough’s five district supervisors serve in elected capacity with no compensation, sitting for four-year terms and charged with serving as a liaison between government-funding entities and local landowners.The district works also with people of all ages — and students in large order — to educate and raise awareness of the necessity to become good stewards of natural resources, including soil, water and air, but also in terms of product use, reuse and recycling. The board today is chaired by Mark Proctor, with Kim O’Connor sitting as vice chair; Michael Hepburn, as treasurer; and David Maynard and Susan Dumke filling out the remaining supervisor seats. The board’s executive director is Betty Jo Tompkins, a former supervisor herself. “We run because of our interest in agriculture,” Tompkins said. “A lot of people think the dust bowl happened in 1930 through 1940, why should we care today? Each year worldwide

2 million people die from ingesting polluted water. Another 20 million people are debilitated. And probably the most startling fact is that to feed our burgeoning population we must increase agricultural output by 70 percent over the next 40 years. That’s not as easy as people think. We’re trying to get people to see the broader picture, that how you take care of natural resources will impact our future.” This year’s Hillsborough 100 Conservation Challenge, launched in June and set to run from Earth Day, April 22, to April 30, on Arbor Day weekend, is poised to become an annual and signature event for the Hillsborough Soil and Water Conservation District. “Overall, we run projects that are small and others that are much larger,” Tompkins said. “We present seminars for agricultural producers and the AgVenture program for third-graders. We have poster contests for students in kindergarten through grade 12 and speech contests for middle and high school students. The Envirothon is the conservation Olympics and the Land-Judging Contest requires

We’re trying to get people to s broader pictuee the how you take re, that natural resou care of r impact our fuces will ture.” Betty Jo

students in teams to assess the soil in freshly dug pits, with Tompkins, ex college scientists on Hillsborough Soil ecutive director, hand to review and an judge their work.” Conservation Disd Water trict Beyond education and awareness, district supervisors award cost-share money to conservation projects for agricultural operators with crops in the ground. opportunity to start their own food The board has built a reputation banks. for creative undertakings and there’s “It’s not an original idea, but nothno reason to expect that will end any ing’s been done in Tampa yet,” Proctor time soon. To raise awareness of the said. “We’ve been talking to city far-reaching effects of bee decline, and officials and there’s interest in making what Tompkins calls the comparatively it happen.” cost-effective offering of non-contamiPlans already are underway for next nated food in America, she is proposyear’s Hillsborough 100 Conservation ing initiatives aptly titled, “Be a Honey, Challenge, which Tompkins hopes will Buy a Hive” and “Food’s a Bargain, Hug continue to shed light on the Hillsa Farmer.” borough Soil and Water Conservation Moreover, Proctor has proposed a District and its work to build a county Veterans Urban Farm Initiative, which of conservation-minded residents and involves turning condemned land in agriculturists, regardless of political Tampa into an urban farm on which bent or community station. displaced veterans can learn to grow “Far too often we have seen agrifood, giving homeless people an culture, in general, and conservation,

Hillsborough Chairman Mark Proctor (center) was elected as Area 3 Vice President at the April annual meeting of the twelve county AFCD region. Pictured with Mark is Executive Director Betty Jo Tompkins, Supervisor David Maynard,Treasurer Mike Hepburn and Supervisor Susan Dumke. Not pictured is Vice-Chair Kim O’Connor. in particular, marginalized,” Tompkins said. “We’ve been pushed to the kiddie table, where they serve hot dogs and tater tots. We decided if we’re going to move forward we need to move our plates to the big boys’ table, where they serve the meat and potatoes.”

To contact the Hillsborough Soil and Water Conservation District, call Betty Jo Tompkins at 813-752-1474, ext. 3, or 813-477-8332. Supervisors meet bi-monthly on Wednesdays, at the district’s office in Plant City, at 201 South Collins St., Suite 202.

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When: Tue, April 25, 6:30pm – 7:30pm Where: North Tampa Branch Library, 8916 North Blvd, Tampa, FL 33604 Learn about the many shrubs and vines that are available to enhance your yard with color.


Buchanan Middle School Buchanan Middle School is one of the competitors in the Lipman Growing Challenge. Each school’s project will be judged between April 22 and April 30. Organic Vegetable Gardening When: Tue, April 25, 3:00pm Where: Ruskin Library, 26 Dickman Dr SE, Ruskin, FL 33570 Ag Venture at the Florida State Fairgrounds When: April 25 – 28, 10 am - noon Where: Florida State Fairgrounds Third graders learn the basics of agriculture and food production. Hands on projects include making soil babies from pantyhose, soil, grass, and foam funny faces. Hill Middle School Students at this school have also been working growing their garden for the Lipman Growing Challenge. Each school’s project will be judged between April 22 and April 30. Arbor Day Mail Art Contest Theme: ‘STRONG TREES, STRONG COMMUNITIES’ April 28, 2017 – Winners will be announced at Kerby’s Nursery. Marshall Middle School Marshall students have also been working on growing their garden for the Lipman Growing Challenge. Project judging will occur between April 22 and April 30. Arbor Day Written Word Contest Theme: ‘STRONG TREES, STRONG COMMUNITIES’ April 28, 2017 – Winners will be announced at Kerby’s Nursery.

“Feed a Bee” Bayer’s Bee Care Program Plant City Lions Club When: Sat, April 22, 2017 Club members and friends will plant 20,000 seedling pods to support honey bees and hives. Participants will include Lions Club members, Leo Club students and the public. To participate please contact Karen Crumley at 813-924-3829. Amelia Zeleznock, a Hillsborough home school student, will be promoting the importance of raising monarch butterfly plants in your yard to support the endangered species at local nurseries April 22 - 30. Lipman Family Farms Florida’s largest field tomato producer has sponsored a 12 school competition to test students’ skills in growing tomatoes, peppers, cantaloupes and watermelons. Lipman provided each school two 48” x 84” planter boxes, transplants and $100. gift card to purchase soil and fertilizer. Students determined what care they should exercise in growing their crop and

will be judged during the challenge with prizes going to the winning school. Armwood High School Students have been working for the last three months growing their garden for the Lipman Growing Challenge. The school’s project will be judged between April 22 and April 30. Gardening Workshop - Dragonflies and Damselflies When: Mon, April 24, 6:30pm – 7:30pm Where: Seminole Heights Branch Library, 4711 N Central Ave., Tampa, FL 33603 Learn about the “flying dragons” of the garden – dragonflies and damselflies.These beautiful and unusual insects are extremely beneficial predators of mosquitoes, gnats and flies. This talk will cover common dragonfly and damselfly species found in our area, fun facts about these fascinating aerial acrobats, and ways to attract them to our gardens. Gardening Workshop - Flowering Shrubs and Trees

“Go Green” Hillsborough 100 Festival and Food Truck Rally When: Friday, April 28, 5pm-9pm Where: Downtown Historic Plant City McCall Park at the corner of Drane St and N Palmer St. A fun, family event featuring hands on activities for children, entertainment, exhibits and a Food Truck Rally. Student activities will include making soil babies, water cycle bracelets, decorating clay flower pots, and planting wildflower seeds. Bring your friends and enjoy an evening of fun and excitement. This event is open to the public and free to attend. Newsome High School Students have been growing tomatoes, peppers, cantaloupes and watermelons in their school garden for the Lipman Growing Challenge. Judging will take place between April 22 and April 30. Compost Happens Workshop When: Sat, April 29, 8:30 am Where: Hillsborough County Extension Service, 5339 County Road 579, Seffner, FL 33584 Attend a Compost Happens Workshop and learn to turn trash into treasure. You’ll receive a free compost bin and thermometer

too (1 per household and the representative of the household must be an adult) when they attend a workshop. Columbus Juvenile Residential Facility Students at this school have created growth charts of their plants’ progress as part of the Lipman Growing Challenge. The project will be judged between April 22 and April 30. Micro-irrigation Workshop When: Sat, April 29, 9:30 am Where: Hillsborough County Extension Service, 5339 County Road 579, Seffner, FL 33584 The Micro-irrigation workshop will teach you how you can have a healthy and attractive lawn and landscape while conserving water. Tips on installing and using micro-irrigation are also presented. This irrigation method not only conserves water, but is not as restricted by current water restrictions as traditional in-ground irrigation system! Hillsborough County residents may receive 1 free micro-irrigation kit* (per household and the representative of the household must be an adult) when they attend a workshop. Eisenhower Middle School Students have been growing their tomatoes, peppers, cantaloupes and watermelon for the last three months as part of the Lipman Growing Challenge. Their project will be judged between April 22 and April 30. Rain Barrel/Rainwater Harvesting Workshop When: Sat, April 29, 10:30am Where: Hillsborough County Extension Service, 5339 County Road 579, Seffner, FL 33584 Learn how Rain Barrels are useful for collecting rainwater for irrigation while reducing erosion and storm water runoff and how to make your own barrel using a 55-gallon plastic food-grade drum. Hillsborough County residents may receive 1 free rain barrel* (per household and the representative of the household must be an adult) when they attend a workshop. Vermicomposting Workshop When: Sat, April 29, 1 - 2 pm Where: Hillsborough County Extension Service, 5339 County Road 579, Seffner, FL 33584 Vermicomposting: Where the Worms do the Work and We Reap the Benefits! Attend a Vermicomposting Workshop with us and learn how to compost with worms. The cost to attend is $20 per household for one bin and the worms. Class size is limited to 20 people and registration is required. Greco Middle School Students have been working for the last three months growing their garden for the Lipman Growing Challenge. School’s project will be judged between April 22 and April 30. The Community Roundtable When: Sun, April 30, 1:30 -5 pm The Community Roundtable will restore and clean the original Brandon Family Cemetery in honor of the 160th anniversary of the Brandon family’s arrival. For participation, please contact the Community Roundtable at 661-4350.

Riverview High School Riverview High School is taking on the Conservation Challenge to create the longest plastic bag braided rope to bring attention to the dangers to the environment created by the 100 billion bags disposed of annually in the U.S. alone. These bags, which don’t biodegrade, create major problems for waterways and land alike, killing birds, reptiles and other small animals. The rope must exceed 82 meters to break the record. Measurement will take place Friday, April 28 at the school. Further information is available by contacting Riverview High School, 671-5011. In addition, Riverview students are part of the Lipman Growing Challenge and will be judged between April 22 and April 30. Community Water Wise Award Application Period The 2017 Community Water Wise Awards, sponsored by Tampa Bay Water, recognizes individuals and businesses committed to conserving our water resources and protecting the environment by using FloridaFriendly LandscapingTM (FFL) principles. For more information and to complete an award application go to http://tampabaywaterwise. org. The deadline for entries is June 30. Dana Esposito and Ava Raterman of Berkeley Prep are taking on a Conservation Challenge at their school. Curious about the natural habitat and species living around their campus, they’re developing signage and educational interactive apps to help other students learn about the important role that animals and plant species play in ecosystem health. Rodgers Middle School Students have been working for the last three months growing their garden for the Lipman Growing Challenge. The school’s project will be judged between April 22 and April 30. Berkeley Prep student Makayla Rutski is planting a vegetable garden at school and donating produce raised to an area community food bank. Her goal is to provide fresh, nutritional produce for those in need, rather than relying solely on canned goods. Turkey Creek Middle School Turkey Creek students have been growing their garden for the Lipman Growing Challenge through the FFA program. Their project will be judged between April 22 and April 30. Heritage Home School Group Over 30 students have been raising Monarch caterpillars from egg to larvae, pupa and adult butterflies. The Monarch butterfly is an endangered species and is important to the process of pollination. Southern Belles & Beaus 4-H Club is starting a vegetable garden to share produce with those in need. Blues Berry Farm located on Holloway Road in Plant City, features innovative conservation techniques through the resourceful use of water, weather stations, a sound system and paper birds. Damaged berries are fed to the chickens, who in turn lay eggs which are colored with a natural dye produced from the berries. Blues Berry Farm also produces blueberry jalapeno and blueberry habanero jellies.

Greater Riverview Chamber of Commerce The Chamber’s Conservation project focuses on enhancement of the U.S. 301 median from Bloomingdale/Progress Blvd to Boyette/ Gibsonton Drive. The two phase program includes replacing dying and diseased crepe myrtles and re-locating plants for median re-design. Area businesses are sponsoring the upkeep. For more information please call 234-5944. Tampa Green Party Plastic Bag Abolition Initiative – Members of the Green Party of Tampa will collect plastic bags in area neighborhoods to encourage elimination of this product which represents the single largest quantity of materials in the waste stream. Each year the U.S. uses over 100 billion bags, or 2 million bags per minute. The average time for a plastic bag to degrade is 1,000 years. For further information, or to assist in the cleanup, please contact the Green Party of Tampa. Odiorne Insurance Company, Brandon – Staff at Odiorne Insurance is committed to helping the conservation movement. They sponsor HSWCD’s youth programs and will be conducting a conservation activity during the Challenge. For further information, contact 685-7731. Coalition of Community Gardens Members of the Coalition of Community Gardens collect kitchen scraps from members and friends, as well as from area businesses to enhance their compost operations. For further information contact Kitty Wallace, 992-0940 or kittwal@aol.com. Seminole Heights Community Garden collects from Fodder & Shine, Urban Bungalow, Jet City and Spaddy’s. Tampa Heights Community Garden collects from Café Hey and Duckweed Urban Market. Vista Gardens collects from the Community Food Pantry, New York Bagel, and Sprouts Farmer’s Market. TR Robinson – Keep our School Beautiful Club – The Keep Our School Beautiful Club maintains a small garden. Students are planning to expand production by following conservation practices and installing drip irrigation. Additionally, club members are planting flowering species for local pollinators and birds. The Club is seeking businesses sponsorship to assist them in their efforts. Contact Sarah Sanford, 732-7808. The Mosaic Company – In conjunction with Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful volunteers will work on a beautification project at Apollo Beach Park on Golf and Sea Boulevard. For further information, Nichelle.Foster@mosaicco.com. Plant City Commons Community Gardens, 2001 East Cherry Street, Plant City, 33563 What: Festival, Sunday, April 23, 2017, 11 am - 4 pm Workshops, garden tours, Food Truck Rally. Craft your gardening skills! Free to the Public; Hillsborough Soil and Water Conservation District Exhibit

Plant City Commons Community Gardens, 2001 East Cherry Street, Plant City, 33563 What : United Way “Hands on Day of Service, “ April 29, 2017, 8 am Opportunity to help the gardens grow and prosper. Environmental Protection Commission - Executive Director Janet Dougherty and Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Stacy White will celebrate numerous activities at Yates Elementary in Brandon. What : Tree planting on the campus with the distribution of free tree saplings to all students. April 29, 2017, 9 am. HSWCD Awards Presentations – Winning posters will be recognized by HSWCD for the 2017 theme, “Healthy Soils are Full of Life” in the categories of K – 1, 2 3, 4 - 6, 7 - 9 and 10 -12. Awards presented at 4 pm, Monday, April 24, 2017 at the HSWCD offices, 201 South Collins Street, Suite 202, Plant City, Florida 33563. For further information: 752-1474, Extension 3. Hillsborough County Fire Rescue – “Conserve Life”,Tuesday, April 25, 2017, 9 am – 3 pm. Having working smoke alarms in your home decreases your risk of dying in a fire by more than 50%. Hillsborough Fire Rescue is partnering with the American Red Cross to install smoke alarms at Featherock Mobile Home Park located at 2200 SR 60, Valrico, Florida 33594. Residents won’t have to change the batteries in the alarms, as each one has a ten year lithium battery that lasts the lifespan of the alarm. In addition, every alarm with a 10 year battery installed prevents 19 9-volt batteries from entering landfills. The Mosaic Company is partnering with Tampa Bay Watch – in an oyster reef project. What you’ll need to do: The project involves shoveling fossilized shell into mesh bags, transporting the bags via boat and placing oyster shell bags on the shoreline to create a series of oyster bars. The project is an effort to restore lost habitat systems in the bay, prevent further erosion of the shoreline, and improve water quality through natural biological filtration. Date : April 20, 2017, 9 am – noon, DeSoto Park. Open to the public. Florida Department of Agriculture – Office of Ag Water Policy. Services will be provided for BMP (Best Management Practices) Workshops. Brandon Kiwanis – Join members of the Brandon Kiwanis Club as they put a “shine” on Kings Avenue with a community cleanup between SR 60 and Lumsden Road.You don’t have to be a Kiwanis Club member to participate, but you just might to join. April 22, 2017 at 409 South Kings Avenue, Brandon 33511 Temple Terrace Rotary – An active Rotary Club, Temple Terrace Rotary is committed to rebuilding the Rotary Riverfront Park located on the Hillsborough River at Fowler Avenue in the Temple Terrace area. This ongoing project will feature natural landscaping, as well as improvements in facilities at the parks, including new toilets, building repair and overall enhancement of the Park. Assisting

on the project is the Interact Club of King High School, City of Temple Terrace, and Bay Area Plumbing. The Club also participates in the Adopt - A -Tree program and Neighbor to Neighbor program, providing yardwork for elderly individuals unable to do so themselves. Moonlight Garden Circle – Meets monthly at the Tampa Garden Club, 2629 Bayshore Blvd., Tampa, with a goal of improving the community one garden at a time. Club members will work with an area school to improve their overall garden. Hillsborough County Fair – The Hillsborough County Fair will conduct natural plantings on the Fairgrounds between April 22 and April 30, 2017 to provide appropriate landscaping for the Fair’s new electric sign. For further information, call 737-FAIR Suncoast Chapter, Florida Native Plant Society – Come discover the beauty of native plants on a one hour guided walk through the park, 6920 East Fletcher Avenue, Tampa. April 22, 2017, beginning at 9:30 am. The tour is free, but there is a $2 per vehicle entry fee. Take advantage of this opportunity to learn from the best. Tampa Bay Association of Environmental Professionals (TBAEP) – will hold its annual picnic with Hillsborough 100 celebration featuring cleanup of the grounds of Cypress Point Park, 5620 West Cypress, Tampa 33607 April 30, 2017 , 11am – 2 pm. Join fellow environmental professionals to help our environment and make new friends. NAUI Green Diver Initiative – This project, a collaboration of several groups, is known as “Gasp – Our Beads of Tampa Bay.” It’s an incredible effort that’s featured elsewhere in this publication. Take the time, read all about it and remember that items thrown in the Bay, don’t biodegrade. The following groups had not completed their project plans prior to publication: Busch Gardens Hillsborough County Government Florida NRCS Florida State Fair Authority Florida Strawberry Growers Association Hillsborough County Farm Bureau Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce Greater Seffner Chamber of Commerce Rotary Club of Sun City Center Veterans Association Blue Thong Society Hillsborough Community College – Brandon campus Hillsborough County 4-H Foundation Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee Rotary Club of Southbay After Hours Brownie & Girl Scout Groups Boy Scouts 4-H Clubs Fancy Farms Blue Monkey Farms Hillsborough County Property Appraiser Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections

Bruton Library - Plant City

Special Thanks to Our Cooperating Partners

Hillsborough100 Kickoff Supporters When the Hillsborough 100 Conservation Challenge kicked off June 14, 2016, interest was high among government, business, and community interests, whose representatives were among the first to commit to the challenge. Organizers used their interest to spread the word and to grow the list of participants. Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners


Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services http://www.freshfromflorida.com

Hillsborough County Extension Service http://hillsborough.ifas.ufl.edu

Natural Resources Conservation Service (United States Department of Conservation) https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/site/national/home/

Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County http://www.epchc.org

Hillsborough County Ag In The Classroom (Ag-Venture) http://www.floridastatefairag.com/pdffiles/agvent-flyer.pdf

Hillsborough County 4-H Foundation


Hillsborough County Farm Bureau http://www.hcfarmbureau.org

Hillsborough County Fair http://hillsboroughcountyfair.com

Florida State Fair Authority http://www.floridastatefair.com

Hillsborough County Property Appraiser http://www.hcpafl.org

Hillsborough County Fire Rescue


Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White

http://www.hillsboroughcounty.org/en/government/board-of-county-commissioners/ stacy-white

Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee http://www.hillsborough.gop/our_county_board

Hillsborough Community College (Brandon campus) https://www.hccfl.edu

The Community Roundtable (Brandon) http://www.thecommunityroundtable.org

Center Place Fine Arts and Civic Association (Brandon) http://www.centerplacebrandon.org

Florida Strawberry Growers Association http://floridastrawberry.org

Kiwanis Club of Greater Brandon http://brandonkiwanis.com

Rotary Club of FishHawk-Riverview https://fishhawkriverviewrotary.org

Rotary Club of Brandon South Rotary Club of New Tampa http://www.newtamparotary.org

Rotary Club of Sun City Center https://www.facebook.com/RotarySCC/

Rotary Club of SouthBay After Hours


Tampa Metro Civitan


Brandon Lions Club


Greater Brandon Republican Club


4-H Clubs Girl Scouts

Boy Scouts FFA Chapters and Federation https://www.ffa.org/home

Florida Native Plant Society, Suncoast Chapter http://www.fnps.org

Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce http://www.brandonchamber.com Greater Riverview Chamber of Commerce https://www.riverviewchamber.com

Greater Seffner Chamber of Commerce http://seffnerchamber.liveeditaurora.com

Sun City Center Area Chamber of Commerce http://sccchamber.com

Blue Thong Society

Odiorne Insurance Agency https://odiorneinsurance.com

American Legion Auxiliary Lipman Family Farms http://www.lipmanfamilyfarms.com

The Southern Peach Company


Fancy Farms


Trees, Inc. (Plant City) M&B Products Blues Berry Farms


Wish Farms



NAUI Green Diver Initiative

Brandon Auto Salvage


Busch Gardens



Tampa Bay Times


Lipman Family Farms Joins the Hillsborough 100 Conservation Challenge By Linda Chion Kenney hen the owners of Lipman Family Farms, the largest open-field tomato grower in North America, decided to sign up for the Hillsborough 100 Conservation Challenge, it didn’t take long to find a collaborative fit with Hillsborough County public schools. “Together we came up with a simple concept, to challenge schools to compete in growing the best produce possible in a controlled setting,” said Betty Jo Tompkins, executive director of the Hillsborough Soil and Water Conservation District, the organizing force behind this year’s inaugural conservation challenge. Kevin Yue, environmental compliance engineer for the fourth-generation Lipman Family Farms, said he was at the meeting last year in June when Tompkins first introduced the project to the community at large, at a meeting in Seffner, at the Hillsborough Extension Service. “We got the approval to move forward and put together a good project,” Yue said. “We wanted to promote and tell our story, how farming for us is part of our vertically integrated philosophy. We strive to be good stewards to our natural resources so that we can be sustainable growers as well as packers and distributors. We want to make sure we can provide good nutritious produce to our customers and farming is an integral part of our operation.” Recognizing that most students today are not familiar with what it takes to grow a plant — let alone farm for a living — the Lipman Family Farms conservation challenge asked students at 12 middle and high schools to learn for themselves what it takes to grow food. “We didn’t tell them exactly how to grow each of the products,” Yue said. “We said, ‘Here are the transplants, here are the stakes to do vertical


growing, here are the raised-bed planter boxes and here is a gift card to buy soil and fertilizer.’” Students basically “had to learn how to be a farmer on a small scale,” Yue added. “They had to research how much water to use and at what frequency. They had to maintain the sunlight, as much as they could. They had to check the plants every so often to see if they were dying.” Yue said as an engineer he finds it doubly rewarding that his company’s project is a STEM initiative, bridging science, technology, engineering and math. “They’ve been learning about the science of growing, the use of technology in agriculture” he said, “and the math needed to determine how much water to use and at what frequency.” The students’ resulting work will be on display during the nine-day Hillsborough 100 Conservation Challenge, which runs from Earth Day, April 22, to April 30, the last day of Arbor Day weekend. Yue said representatives from Lipman Family Farms, headquartered in Immokalee, will visit schools to judge the final products on criteria such as yield, size and color, for the respective tomatoes, watermelons, peppers and cantaloupes they nurtured. With the final judging details yet to be worked out,Yue said in an interview in early April that regardless of who brings home the ribbons, the project will have winners all around, if for no other reason than more youngsters will understand the importance of food production, conservation and sustainability. “We hear about child obesity, hunger and unhealthy eating, and a lot of it stems from a disconnect in understanding,” Yue said. “We want to bridge that gap and get students to understand where their food comes from, that you can’t just throw away food because you don’t like it, because

About Lipman Based in Immokalee, Florida, Lipman is the largest open-field tomato grower in North America, providing dependable yearround fresh produce through an integrated network of research and development, farming, processing and repacking. Farms in Florida, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, California and Mexico – totaling tens of thousands of acres – allow Lipman to grow and ship fresh produce 365 days a year. For more information, visit www.LipmanFamilyFarms.com. it takes a lot of effort to grow plants. And to hopefully get them interested in farming and agriculture.” Here are the schools participating in the Lipman Family Farms Hillsborough 100 Conservation Challenge: Armwood High School Buchanan Middle School Columbus Juvenile Residential Facility Eisenhower Middle School Greco Middle School Hill Middle School Marshall Middle School Newsome High School Riverview High School Rodgers Middle School Turkey Creek Middle School

Food’s a Bargain… Hug a Farmer Y

ou hear it all the time, ”Food costs too much, my grocery bill just keeps going up.” Yet, as strange as it may seem, individuals in the United States actually pay a lower percentage of their income toward food than any other country. It’s estimated that 6.4% of U.S. income goes to food purchases, with Singapore (6.7%), Switzerland (8.7%), the U.K. (8.2%) and Canada (9.1%) rounding out the lowest countries. While a number of European countries spend between 10 and 20% of their income on buying food, the figure jumps considerably when countries such as Mexico (24.1%), China (33.9%) and India (35.8%) are considered. Yet shockingly, in countries such as Pakistan and Nigeria between 40 and 50% of income goes for food. This doesn’t mean that food in Nigeria is more expensive than in the U.S., but rather the opposite. But in the United States available food is of the highest quality and largest variety possible. The fact is U.S. residents in the 1950’s weren’t as fortunate as they spent almost double today’s income percentage on food. But the comparison doesn’t end there. In 1950 approximately 12.2% of the labor force was engaged in farming, while today that figure is only 2%. While the percentage of farmers has gone down, individual production by farmers has risen from feeding 15.5 people per farmer in 1950 to feeding over 168 people today. Farmers and ranchers receive only 16 cents of every dollar spent on food bought at home and away. The additional costs are represented by distribution, processing and preparation. The challenge for farmers doesn’t end there. With a burgeoning world population it’s estimated that agricultural production must grow by 70% in the next 40 years to avoid massive food shortages. Thanks to modern technology, the future appears bright for agriculture. Well-educated farmers use everything from computer chips on cows to determine food ratios, to drones in the field to review crop issues. This, in addition to research conducted by land grant universities throughout the country, provides today’s farmers with the best tools to tackle tomorrow’s agricultural challenges. The next time you enter a supermarket, take a look around and realize that you’re able to choose among about 40,000 items. Then maybe you just might want to “Hug a Farmer.”


of U.S. income goes to food purchases

Be a Honey, Buy a Hive Members of the Greater Brandon Republican Club have become the first participants in the Hillsborough Soil and Water Conservation District’s newest project, “Be a Honey, Buy a Hive”.” The project’s goal will be to secure 100 organizations and That Honey Bees aren’t businesses to sponnative to America and sor a beehive within were brought here by European Hillsborough County settlers? between April 2017 That the honey bee and April 2018. colony consists of one According to Queen, drones and worker bees? Club President Melissa Jackson, “This project That the Queen bee is seemed like a natural to the mother of all bees support conservation efforts. Honey within the colony? bees are essential to the overall health That in peak season a of our environment in so many ways beehive consists of 60 to and without pollination many of the 80 thousand bees? foods we enjoy would cease to exist.” The District selected this project That out of over 20,000 to bring a greater awareness to the species of bees, only seven importance of a healthy bee populaspecies are recognized as honey tion, with approximately one-third of bees? the food Americans eat being directly That the study of bees is or indirectly derived from honey bee known as melittology? pollination. Crops pollinated by bees include almonds, apples, apricots, avocaThat bees fly an equivados, blueberries, cantaloupes, cherries, lent of 48,000 miles to cranberries, cucumbers, kiwi, pears and collect the nectar required to plums, among others. produce a quart of honey? Bee hives will be placed in community gardens and other Hillsborough locations. Besides helping the environment, hive sponsors will receive a “sweet treat” during the year. The hives make a perfect gift to honor someone special for Valentine’s Day or other occasions. Further information on this project may be obtained from the Hillsborough Soil and Water Conservation District by calling 752-1474 Extension 3 or stopping by the offices at 201 South Collins Street, Suite 202, Plant City, Florida 33563.

Did You Know?

Gasp-Our Beads Set for Conservation Challenge Survey and Cleanup By Linda Chion Kenney What happens to the discarded party beads and trinkets that brighten Tampa’s Gasparilla Festival, and how does this plastic debris impact the water you drink and the water in which you play, swim and fish? That’s the driving question underlying Gasp-Our Beads of Tampa Bay, a collaborative effort involving the Center for Open Exploration (C4OE) and the Green Diver Initiative of the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI). Supported by a Tampa Bay Estuary Program mini-grant, research to answer the impact of plastic festival waste on coastal waterways is set to deepen 9:30 a.m. April 23, at a survey and diver cleanup held in conjunction with the nine-day Hillsborough 100 Conservation Challenge presented by the Hillsborough Soil and Water Conservation District.

“Let’s get in the water and see the debris and what we’re talking about,” said Angie Cowan, of NAUI, in an interview in early April. “We’re not the first to do this. We’re not trying to be the biggest or the best. We’re trying to effect change at the local and regional level and really support the grassroots efforts to effect change. We’re divers, and we’re especially concerned with our water resources.” With cooperation from the Tampa Port Authority, the Tampa Police Department, U.S. Coast Guard and other authorities, the Green Diver Initiative and C4OE conducted in May 2016 a survey by boat of the Tampa harbor. “By using underwater cameras and other research tools, the team

investigated the amount of festival-related plastics and similar debris found at different sampling sites in the harbor,” according to a news report distributed by Cowan’s organization. “Data were collected to assess waterquality parameters, including currents and clarity, to determine if a Green Diver cleanup event was viable at the selected sites.” That survey was held in preparation for the April 23 survey and cleanup, which falls within the parameters of the conservation challenge, set to run from Earth Day, April 22, to April 30, on Arbor Day weekend. The challenge calls for at least 100 government,

business, community and individual conservation-minded projects to showcase the need to protect natural resources, including soil, water and air. “We are delighted to have the NAUI Green Diver Initiative and Center for Open Exploration as partners,” said Betty Jo Tompkins, executive director and past board chair of the Hillsborough Soil and Water Conservation District, on behalf of the district’s five elected supervisors. “The uniqueness and goals of their Gasp-Our Beads cleanup project aligns perfectly with what we hope to accomplish with other Hillsborough 100 Earth Week events, in which we want to promote conservation, outreach and education efforts related to the health of our coastal waters.”

Cowan stressed that the research and cleanup initiative is not meant to adversely affect Gasparilla merriment; rather, the effort is intended to counter an “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” mentality of waste disposal. “We’re not taking away from Gasparilla, but there are alternatives to consider,” Cowan said. “There are beads that float, which are easier to comb up, and beads made from biodegradable materials.” There’s also care to be undertaken in how festivalgoers discard their beads and trinkets. “We’re not setting out to overhaul the event but to educate the public before and after Gasparilla,” Cowan said.“The ocean begins at your front door. It’s your own backyard and people can doubt there’s something going on or they can do something and learn more about it.” For more, visit www.naui.org. Call: 813-628-6284.

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Hillsborough 100 Conservation Challenge  

A touchstone for environmental protection and activism.

Hillsborough 100 Conservation Challenge  

A touchstone for environmental protection and activism.