Tag Archive: local

So What’s Good with Local Seafood?

So What’s Good with Local Seafood?

Shrimping in the Gulf of Mexico.
Photo: NOAA

Actually, if you like seafood – it’s all good! However, not everyone does and sometimes when this question is asked they are interested in not how it taste but where the seafood came from.


In recent years, there has been a move across the country to learn more about where their food comes from. Whether that is because they are concerned what the livestock and chickens have been fed, their living conditions, or whether they came outside the United States – more people are asking and it is affecting how they purchase their food.  Is it the same for seafood?


In some cases, yes. Several years ago, I ran the marine science program at Washington High School.  We were discussing whether, with a growing human population, the ocean could sustain the demand for seafood.  Would we need to focus our production on aquaculture?  We decided to survey locals to see whether (a) they liked seafood, and (b) if so, would it matter whether the product came from the ocean or a farm.  Over a 10-year period, we found that (a) the percentage of locals who did not like seafood increased. (b) Those who did like seafood did not have strong feelings whether it was from a farm or from the sea.   Curious as to why those who did not like seafood felt that way, we followed up with those questions and found it was not as much a concern with seafood safety in that they just did not like the taste of it.  Of course, this was a high school science project and not a formal science investigation, but they did a good job with it and the results were interesting.


That was almost 20 years ago, do people feel the same?  According to Dr. George Baker (Florida Sea Grant), yes… things are about the same.  If they can get access to wild harvested seafood at a good price, they will buy.  If it is not available, or to expensive, they will, purchase farm raised. Moreover, more people do not like seafood.


What about the local issue? In California, there is a program that allows you to find out which boat captain caught your fish.  In Florida, there are studies going on to determine what type of filet you are actually buying.  As with produce and livestock, people seem to be interested in where their seafood comes from – and for many, if effects where and how they buy seafood.

Commercial seafood in Pensacola has a long history.
Photo: Rick O’Connor


So what is local?


Well, we call any seafood product harvested or cultured within 250 miles local. For Pensacola, that would include Alabama, Mississippi, and eastern Louisiana.  We know that between 80-90% of the seafood you currently purchase is imported from both commercial fishing and aquaculture overseas.  That said, local seafood is still here and available.


The commercial fishing in Pensacola goes WAY back. It was one of the first industries to get off the ground shortly after Florida became a U.S. territory.  According to Dr. Jack E. Davis, in his book The Gulf; The Making of an American Sea, Cuban fishermen harvested seafood from the Gulf coast of peninsula Florida prior to our becoming a territory.  Shortly after becoming a U.S. territory, New England fishermen came to harvest the Gulf, including one by the name of Leonard Destin.  Soon a fishing industry was operating in Pensacola.  They sold a variety of species but in 1840 they found red snapper – and the boom was on.  Shrimp followed but water quality, habitat loss, and overharvesting have plagued the industry over the years.  Fishermen did well for a time, then the landings decreased, the fishermen believed the fish had moved, and so the fleet would move.  This continued until they have literally moved all over the Gulf of Mexico seeking fish.  At this point quotas had to be initiated and regulation has been the norm ever since.  Add to this an increase interest in recreational fishing, increasing the number of fishermen, and increased regulation with this sector.  Today we can include the introduction of invasive species as another stressor.


All that said, local seafood is still available. Some species have become quite pricey, but they are still available.  The Gulf & South Atlantic Fisheries Foundation created a Gulf Coast Seafood Species Chart.  This chart indicates when selected species are in peak season for commercial harvest.  This chart suggests they are in season year round but there are peak months.  It varies from one state to another, but the list below includes Florida and Alabama.


Species Months in Peak Season Comments
Blue crab No peak season
Blue crab

Soft shell

Mar – Jun
Black drum No peak season
Red drum No peak season Subject to quotas and closures
Clams All year – FL only Clams are now cultured in FL and are available year round
Crawfish Apr – Jun – LA only LA only, but close to us
Flounder Jul – Aug; Oct-Nov Subject to quotas and closures
Grouper No peak season Subject to quotas and closures
King mackerel Jan – Feb; Jul-Sep; Dec Subject to quotas and closures
Mahi-Mahi May – Jun
Mullet Jan; Sep – Dec
Oysters Jan – Apr; Sep – Dec
Pompano Jan – Apr;
Sheepshead No peak season
Brown shrimp May – Sep
Pink shrimp Jan – Jul
Rock shrimp Jun – Sep
White shrimp May – Nov
Snapper Peak season year round Subject to quotas and closures
Yellowtail snapper Mar – Jun
Spanish mackerel Jan – May; Aug – Sep; Dec Subject to quotas and closures
Spiny lobster Aug – Sep; Oct – Nov
Spotted seatrout No peak season Subject to quotas and closures
Stone crab Oct – Dec
Swordfish Sep – Nov
Yellowfin tuna Jun – Oct


The health benefits from consuming seafood are understood. We certainly think it should be part of your of weekly dinner menu.  There are concerns for safety in some seafood products, as in mercury and king mackerel, and we will address that in another article – but the lack of consuming seafood can create health issues as well.  We hope you enjoy local Gulf seafood.

Commercial crab boats docked on Escambia Bay.
Photo: Rick O’Connor




Baker, G. 2017. personal communication.


Davis, J.E. 2017. The Gulf; Making of an American Sea.  Liveright Publishing. New York NY. Pp. 530.


Gulf & South Atlantic Fisheries Foundation. 2013. Gulf Coast Seafood. www.eatgulfseafood.com


Author: Rick O’Connor – roc1@ufl.edu

Sea Grant Extension Agent in Escambia County

Rick O’Connor

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/08/19/so-whats-good-with-local-seafood/

Ground Pearls, the Peril of Local Lawns

Ground Pearls, the Peril of Local Lawns

Typical ground pearl damage to lawn. Photo Credit: Larry Williams

There are numerous reasons why maintaining a North Florida lawn is challenging and ultimately frustrating.

One such reason is ground pearls.

Ground pearls, small-scale insects that bother turfgrass roots, are soil dwelling pests that are not much of a problem in northern lawns. But they are quite the problem in North Florida lawns.

Most people, having never heard of ground pearls, may blame weeds, mole crickets and a multitude of other possible causes for their lawn’s demise. But in the last two to three years, this insect seems to have become more of a problem in many of our lawns, including mine.

Unfortunately, there is no effective chemical control for ground pearls in lawns.

Ground pearls feed on roots of bermudagrass, bahiagrass, St. Augustinegrass and zoysiagrass but prefer centipedegrass. They suck juices from the roots. Their feeding eventually causes areas of the lawn to thin and die out to bare ground, especially when the grass is under stress due to drought, nutritional deficiencies, etc.

Reddish adult female ground pearl & immature “pearl” stage. Photo credit: Larry Williams

Many times, the dying areas are somewhat circular or serpentine in pattern. Sometimes the circular areas coalesce, forming larger, irregular shaped dying areas. Weeds tend to invade infested areas.

The quote below, taken from a UF/IFAS Extension publication on this insect, provides some insight into their life cycle. “Clusters of pinkish-white eggs, covered in a white waxy sac, are laid in the soil from March to June. Tiny crawlers attach to roots and cover themselves with a hard, yellowish to purple, globular shell. These “pearls” range in size from a grain of sand to about 1/16 inch. They may occur as deep as 10 inches in the soil. The adult female is 1/16 inch long, pink in color, with well-developed forelegs and claws. Adult males are rare, tiny, gnat-like insects. One generation may last from 1 to 2 years.”

It is the immature stage (nymphs), which look somewhat like tiny pearls from which they get the “ground pearl” name. In this stage, they look like tiny shiny pearls once they are uncovered and exposed to sunlight. They are less than a BB in size. They overwinter in the “pearl” stage.

The ineffectiveness of insecticides is at least partly due to the ground pearl’s ability to avoid insecticides because of being protected in the soil and because of the prolonged protective “pearl” stage of its life cycle.

Since there are currently no biological or chemical controls that work, it’s recommended to minimize lawn stress and maintain proper fertilization and irrigation to help grass tolerate the damage.

Additional information on ground pearls is available at the following UF/IFAS Extension publication “Ground Pearls”.


Author: Larry Williams – llw5479@ufl.edu

Larry Williams is the County Extension Director and Residential Horticulture Agent for the UF/IFAS Extension Office in Okaloosa County.

Larry Williams

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/06/10/ground-pearls-the-peril-of-local-lawns/

The Florida Master Naturalist Program Training Local AmeriCorps Volunteers

The Florida Master Naturalist Program Training Local AmeriCorps Volunteers

By: Laura Tiu and Sheila Dunning


For the second year in a row, University of Florida Extension Agents Sheila Dunning (horticulture) and Laura Tiu (marine science) taught a Florida Master Naturalist Program (FMNP) Coastal Module to a newly recruited AmeriCorps group in Okaloosa and Walton counties. The AmeriCorps members have been recruited to work with local the non-profit Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance during the 2016-17 school year teaching Grasses in Classes and Dunes and Schools at the local elementary schools.

AmeriCorp volunteers learning about coastal environments by attending the Florida Master Naturalist class.
Photo: Laura Tiu

As part of the training, FMNP students participated in an aquatic species collection training to enable them to collect species for touch tanks used throughout the school year. At the training, we met two Fort Walton Beach High School science teachers. Teachers Marcia Holman and Ashley Daniels (an AmeriCorps 2013 member herself) were surprised to see two former students in our AmeriCorps 2016 FMNP class; Dylan and Kaitlyn.  Dylan, they reported, was a student that many teachers worried about during his freshman year.  However, he just blossomed because of his involvement in the marine classes and environmental ecology club.  They were most proud of his leadership designing and implementing a no-balloon graduation ceremony.  This prevented the release of potentially harmful balloons into our coastal waterways where they pose a hazard to marine life.


The teachers were so happy to see both students had joined AmeriCorps and were receiving FMNP training. They realized that they were making a difference in the lives of their students and the students they had trained were working to preserve and protect the environment in their communities.  When asked if they had any other students that we need to be prepared for Holman replied, “It’s hard to tell at this point in the year if we have any rising marine science stars, but we did have 20 kids show up for the first meeting of the ecology kids club.”  We can’t wait to meet them.


Author: Laura Tiu – lgtiu@ufl.edu

Sea Grant Extension Agent – Okaloosa and Walton Counties

Laura Tiu

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/03/31/the-florida-master-naturalist-program-training-local-americorps-volunteers/

Local Bluebirds Have Started Nesting

Local Bluebirds Have Started Nesting

Bluebirds are very energetic birds. If you enjoy watching wildlife in your yard, now is a fantastic time to put up a few bluebird houses. You might gain hours of entertainment watching all the hard work these small birds put into gathering materials to build nests and gather food to feed their chicks.

In the Panhandle, bluebirds begin in March to create their first nests of the year. They carefully weave a basket of pine needles and twigs, and line it with fine grasses. Photo by Holly Ober.

March is when bluebird nest-building begins in the Panhandle. Believe it or not, these enterprising birds are likely to continue building nest after nest from now through July or even August!

The reason we can observe bluebirds more closely than many other birds is because they prefer to nest in cavities situated in open, sunny locations. These birds readily use nest boxes because natural cavities in clearings are quite scarce.

If you’re considering putting up a nest box to attract bluebirds, be aware that these birds are rather fussy when it comes to selecting nest boxes. They prefer structures that are approximately 4”x4”x9” or 5”x5”x9”. These structures could be rectangular, cylindrical, or wedge-shaped. It’s best if the entrance hole is 1.5” in diameter, and located about 5” above the floor of the box. Each house should be mounted on a pole 4-8’ above the ground.

We have been conducting an experiment the past few years to determine which of three common nest box designs local bluebirds prefer. The three types of houses we tested were:

  • traditional wooden rectangular house (4”x4”x9”)
  • Gilbertson (cylindrical houses made of a PVC tube with a wooden floor and roof)
  • Peterson (wedge-shaped houses made of wood and covered in metal, with a sloping floor and roof).

We tested bluebird preferences for 3 types of houses: the traditional rectangular wooden house (left), the Gilbertson (cylindrical house of PVC, center), and Peterson (wooden wedge-shaped, right).

We put up 18 houses during the summer of 2013 and have been keeping track of the number of nest attempts, eggs laid, and chicks fledged ever since. The ambitious birds using these 18 houses have fledged 124 chicks during the past three years! The standard rectangular wooden houses have performed best, with bluebirds laying an average of 8.3 eggs per house per year, and fledging 4.3 chicks per house per year. The other two house types performed similarly, with bluebirds laying an average of 4.3 eggs per house per year in each. An average of 2.4 chicks fledged from each of the Gilbertson houses each year, whereas 1.8 chicks fledged from each of the Peterson houses each year.

Regardless of which type of house you choose to put up for bluebirds, be sure to place the houses at least 100 yards apart. These birds are very territorial and will not allow other bluebirds to nest nearby.


Author: hollyober – holly.ober@ufl.edu


Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/03/18/local-bluebirds-have-started-nesting/

Local Farmers Inspire the Next Generation about Agriculture

Fred and Bobby teaching a group of 4-Hers about goats.

Fred and Bobbie Golden relocated to Jefferson County from Lakeland, Florida in 2000 to establish Golden Acres Ranch LLC.  The sixty-three-acre ranch is home to one of the largest mayhaw ponds in the region, grass fed goat & sheep, free-range chickens, guineas, pet boarding, and a country store.

Bobbie and Fred have genuine love for Jefferson County 4-Hers. Can you tell the difference between a sheep and a goat?  Jefferson County 4-H campers can!  For the past six years, 5-8 year old youth visited their ranch during 4-H day camps for some hands-on learning about agriculture. The campers have opportunities to feed, pet and learn important facts about Tennessee Fainting Goats, sheep, Pyrenees and Maremma, chicken, guineas and other animals reared on the farm.


Abagail Loveless, day camp participant said, “the reasons I like to visit Golden Acers Ranch, you get to feed, pet, learn things about the farm animals and swing on the tire/rope. “London Skipworth indicated that she was afraid of chickens, but with help and support from teen counselors and 4-H Staff, she was able to overcome her fears. London now plans to participate in the 4-H Chick Chain Project this year.

After a day of farming, Abigail enjoys a tire swing

Bobbie Golden, said “I like inviting the campers to the ranch because I like teaching them interesting facts about our farm animals, but most importantly bringing the youth back in touch with agriculture.”

Bobbie is a member of the Jefferson County Extension Ag Advisory and Vice President of the Overall Extension Advisory Committee.  Bobbie also chaired the Extension Office open house committee.  Bobbie and Fred support Jefferson County Extension in every capacity.

Annually, Jefferson County Extension participates in the Millstone Farm Tour and the Mayhaw Festival; both held events at Golden Acers Ranch. Each Extension program area provides interactive displays and hands activities for the youth and adults. For more information about Golden Acres Ranch, please go to https://goldenacresranchflorida.com/.

Campers leading songs on a hay ride around the farm.


Author: jgl1 – jgl@ufl.edu


Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/03/03/local-farmers-inspire-the-next-generation-about-agriculture/

Tropical Sod Webworms Active in Local Lawns

Tropical Sod Webworms Active in Local Lawns

Tropical sod webworms have been active in local lawns during the past few weeks here in North Florida. All of our warm season turf grasses are susceptible to these pests.

Sod webworms are not consistently a problem every year. Some years their numbers are low enough that they are not a problem. Some years we do not see them at all. Those years when they are a problem, it’s usually not until late summer and early fall that they become active and they may continue to feed on lawns until frost occurs.

Fall armyworm. Photo credit: Frank Peairs Colorado State University, bugwood.org.

Fall armyworm. Photo credit: Frank Peairs Colorado State University, bugwood.org.

Fall armyworms and sod webworms can attack at the same time. Sod webworms are the smaller of the two species, reaching a length of about ¾ inch. Armyworms grow to ½ inch in length. Both of these caterpillars are greenish when young, turning brown at maturity. Armyworms generally have a light mid-stripe along their back with darker bands on either side of the mid-stripe. Their feeding is similar, resulting in notched or ragged leaf edges.

Sod webworms tend to feed in patches while armyworms cause more scattered damage. Sod webworms feed at night while armyworms will be seen feeding during the day. Sod webworm caterpillars rest, curled up near the soil surface during the day. Adults of both species are fairly small grayish to brown moths.

If your lawn has damaged spots, look closely for notched leaf blades from their chewing. You may first notice a patch in your lawn that looks like it has been mowed extra low. Closer inspection reveals grass blades that are chewed away. Caterpillar feeding on zoysiagrass shows up more as translucent whitish tan areas on the surface of individual blades more so than as notched blades.

Fall armyworms and sod webworms can be controlled with the same insecticides as the other lawn insects. But you also may use insecticides that contain Bacillus thuringiensis; a bacterium that only kills caterpillars. Control should only be directed against the caterpillars, not the non-feeding, flying adult moths. Always follow the label directions and precautions for any pesticide you use.

For more information on lawn caterpillars contact the UF/IFAS Extension Office in your County or visit http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_tropical_sod_webworm.



Author: Larry Williams – llw5479@ufl.edu

Larry Williams is the County Extension Director and Residential Horticulture Agent for the UF/IFAS Extension Office in Okaloosa County.

Larry Williams

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/09/03/tropical-sod-webworms-active-in-local-lawns/

Support Your Local Growers’ Markets

Support Your Local Growers’ Markets

Carrots and squash at the Lake Ella Growers' Market. Photo by Jennifer Taylor.

Carrots and squash at the Lake Ella Growers’ Market. Photo by Jennifer Taylor.

When you think of farmers’ markets, what is that comes to mind? Is it the customers perusing the tables, the vendors organizing their displays, the variety of colors of the fruits and vegetables, the aromas of many types of baked breads, the pop-up tents forming a loose circle…? Or is it all of these things wrapped up in a sense of community?

Lake Ella Growers Market - honey 1

Honey from Mac’s Honey and Bee Farm. Photo by Molly Jameson.

If you have not experienced a farmers’ market that evokes such senses, then you should stop by one of the farmers’ markets where vendors selling the produce actually grew it themselves. These markets are often referred to as growers’ markets.

Still not convinced? What is it that you are looking for? Liven up your summer dinner table with fresh blueberries grown in Monticello, sweet corn that hardly needs cooking, flavorful heirloom tomatoes, freshly dug potatoes, lime-green field peas, cucumbers with a crunch, sweet yellow onions, multi-colored oblong peppers, juicy garlic, yellow crook-neck squash, dark green zucchini, shitake mushrooms harvested off oak logs, herbs just picked that morning, edible flowers….

The adjectives used to describe the produce may seem like an exaggeration until you really dive into these flavors and learn about how they were grown, where they were grown, and why the farmer decided to concentrate his or her efforts on the particular varieties. And when you are at a growers’ market, don’t be shy! Ask the farmers what they are growing and the methods they use for farming. What has gone well, what has not. They very well may tell you it’s all in building the soil, conserving the water, and supporting diversity.

Jack from Crescent Moon, selling fresh baked bread. Photo by Molly Jameson.

Jack from Crescent Moon, selling fresh baked bread. Photo by Molly Jameson.

And don’t just come for the produce. At many growers’ markets, there are so many types of fresh-baked breads and cookies, local wildflower honey, local eggs, grass-fed meats, fruit preserves, hand-made soaps, and dried vegetables and powders.

Some growers’ markets in the Tallahassee area include the Lake Ella Growers’ Market, the Red Hills Online Market, the Frenchtown Heritage Marketplace, and the Sunshine Growers’ Market. If you do not live in the Tallahassee area, visit the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Community Farmers Markets locator to find farmers’ markets near you. Take some time to explore your farmers’ markets to see who is growing their own and what markets are growers’ markets. In this way, you can help support local farmers!


Author: Molly Jameson – mjameson@ufl.edu

Molly Jameson

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/07/19/support-your-local-growers-markets/

Tupelo Honey – Rich in Local History and Medicinal Value

The Annual Tupelo Honey Festival will be held on Saturday, May 21st from 9 AM – 4 PM at Lake Alice Park in Wewahitchka. It’s an exciting event, and your chance to take part in this local delicacy. Area honey producers will be on hand, selling their honey in a variety of sizes. There will also be food, art & crafts, and live music.

For decades, tupelo honey has been synonymous with Gulf county. The pollen from the tupelo gum tree (Nyssa ogeche), produces some of the finest honey in the world. The common name “tupelo” is derived from language of the Muscogee Nation, also known as the Creek Indian Nation. The meaning of the word is “swamp tree”, as this tree flourishes in areas of wet soils and seasonal flooding. Gulf county, especially in the Dead Lakes and Apalachicola river region, provides prime habitat for one of the largest tupelo forests on earth.

The tupelo pollination process kicks off during April. The tupelo bloom begins to form as a small bud. Within a few weeks, the bud explodes into a cluster of many nail or spike like attachments. At this point, honeybees begin to descend and capture the pollen.


Figure 1. Honeybee visiting tupelo blossoms.

Credit. Gulf County Tourist Development Council.

The tupelo bloom season lasts from approximately mid-April to the end of May. This is an anxious time for beekeepers. Tupelo blooms are very temperamental and delicate in nature. For this short period, beekeepers hope for little wind or rain and no cold temperatures, as any of these factors can decimate tupelo honey production. Regardless of seasonal impacts, the demand for Gulf County’s tupelo honey never subsides.

A bonus to honey’s great taste, is the medicinal value. Honey has been used for medicinal purposes throughout time and cultures. Ancient Egyptians used honey in the embalming process, wound dressing and treatment for burns. Honey can be used as an antimicrobial agent. This is mostly due to low concentrations of hydrogen peroxide produced naturally from sugar compounds. Honey contains large amounts of sugars, approximately 97%. Most of the sugar content is glucose and fructose. Honey also contains smaller amounts of vitamins and minerals.

The color of honey is a factor when grading content. Generally, a darker honey will have a higher concentration of polyphenols. This means the honey is higher in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Exposure to area honey has been thought to help people who suffer from area specific seasonal allergies. However, there is no consensus among the scientific community to support the claim. Though there is research supporting honey as medicinal purposes, please consult with your physician before using as a medical treatment.

Enjoy tupelo honey and see you at the festival!

For more information on Gulf County Tupelo Honey, please visit:



Supporting information for this article can be found in the UF/IFAS EDIS publication “Health Benefits and Medicinal Value of Honey” by Sara Marshall, Liwei Gu and Keith R. Schneider: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/FS/FS26700.pdf

An Equal Opportunity Institution. UF/IFAS Extension, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Nick T. Place, Dean for UF/IFAS Extension. Single copies of UF/IFAS Extension publications (excluding 4-H and youth publications) are available free to Florida residents from county UF/IFAS Extension offices.




Author: Ray Bodrey – rbodrey@ufl.edu

Gulf County Extension Director, Agent II Agriculture, Natural Resource & Community Development

Ray Bodrey

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/05/13/tupelo-honey-rich-in-local-history-and-medicinal-value/

Enjoying Local Seafood; What’s in Peak Season for February?

Enjoying Local Seafood; What’s in Peak Season for February?

There has been an increase interest, from both visitors and residents, in purchasing local seafood.  Here we are going to define local seafood as anything caught or grown within 200 miles of your location.  For Pensacola that includes Alabama, Mississippi, and much of Louisiana; for St. Mark’s that would include the Big Bend and much of Florida’s west coast.

Though some seafood is caught, or grown, year round we will focus on species in peak season each month.  This peak season list is provided by the Gulf & South Atlantic Fisheries Foundation’s Gulf Coast Seafood Program.

Oysterman on Apalachicola Bay. Photo: Sea Grant

Oysterman on Apalachicola Bay.
Photo: Sea Grant

So What’s in Season for February?


Clams and Oysters

Winter is a good time to consume local bivalves.  These creatures are filter feeders and in the warm summer months there is more bacteria in the water.  Clams are a new item for Floridians but we are growing our own in Cedar Key! (see links below). There are many seafood markets providing them so ask for them by name – Cedar Key clams.

Everyone knows the historic oyster beds of Apalachicola have suffered in recent years, but there is an effort to restore oysters to beds all across the northern Gulf coast.  Oysters are a Florida classic and though many like to eat them raw, we do recommend you cook them.  For clams most people grill, roast, or steam them.  To learn more about bivalves and seafood safety visit www.flseagrant.org


Pink Shrimp 

Shrimp is hands down the most popular seafood species in the Gulf region.  There are three species we harvest here, and some are experimenting with culturing, but right now pink shrimp are at peak.  Pink’s are more common in the eastern Gulf, and they may trucked into your area, but local none the less.  If you want to know how to prepare shrimp – watch Forest Gump… there are 1000 ways.

The famous Gulf Coast shrimp. Photo: Mississippi State University

The famous Gulf Coast shrimp.
Photo: Mississippi State University

Mackerel – King and Spanish

Mackerel are members of a family of fish we call “ram letters” meaning they must move in order to flush water over their gills.  Constantly on the move, getting them to bite bait is not the hard part… it is finding them and getting the bait within their range.  This time of year is good for mackerel but king mackerel is one of the species of concern with mercury.  The current recommendation is that if the king is <31” you should not consume more than one meal / month; young children and women of child bearing age should not consume at all.  King mackerel >31” should not be consumed.  For Spanish you should not consume more than one meal/week; for young children and women of child bearing age – no more than one meal/month. Read more about mercury in Florida fish athttp://www.floridahealth.gov/programs-and-services/prevention/healthy-weight/nutrition/seafood-consumption/_documents/advisory-brochure.pdf



This is a Gulf coast favorite anda great tasting fish.  I like mine grilled but there are plenty of other ways to prepare pompano.  This is one fish that many like to blacken.



There are 10 species of snapper in the Gulf but the red snapper is the one most are looking for.  Snapper are in season now but availability of some species is dictated by federal and/or state  quota’s and closures.  This is one of the most popular finfish species in the Gulf.


We’ll let you know what is in Peak Season in March.










Author: Rick O’Connor – roc1@ufl.edu

Sea Grant Extension Agent in Escambia County

Rick O’Connor

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/02/08/enjoying-local-seafood-whats-in-peak-season-for-february/

Florida Master Naturalist projects impact local communities

Florida Master Naturalist projects impact local communities

On "project day" students share their knowledge with the class. Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson

On “project day” students share their knowledge with the class. Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson

The Florida Master Naturalist Program is a 40-hour experiential learning course offered by UF IFAS Extension. While we spend time in class with presentations, by far everyone’s favorite aspects of the course are field trips and “project day.” As part of the course, each participant produces an educational tool—a display, presentation, skit, or lesson—that delves deeper into a topic of interest. The students and instructors are able to use these tools again and again to teach others.

Master Naturalist students walk "The Way" boardwalk in Perdido Key. Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson

Master Naturalist students walk “The Way” boardwalk in Perdido Key. Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson

One example of a multi-year student project is “The Way” nature trail, located at Perdido Bay United Methodist Church. Master Naturalist Jerry Patee worked with volunteers from his church and community to design and permit a boardwalk and nature trail leading to Bayou Garcon. The unique trail is less than a mile, but traverses upland, freshwater wetland, and coastal habitats, making it a perfect ecological teaching tool. The trail is open to the public and maintained as a place of quiet contemplation. The project is ongoing, with educational signage planned, but it is an excellent new resource for the community.

“The Way” is just one of many positive contributions made by Master Naturalist students over the years. To enroll in a Florida Master Naturalist course near you, visit the FMNP page or talk with an instructor at your local county Extension office.


Author: Carrie Stevenson – ctsteven@ufl.edu

Coastal Sustainability Agent, Escambia County Extension

Carrie Stevenson

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/02/05/florida-master-naturalist-projects-impact-local-communities/

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