Food Bullying Podcast

Why isn’t food raised the way it used to be? Episode 58


Social media memes and marketing messages often ring nostalgic for how things used to be on the farm. But were the “good old days” really better?  In this episode we chat with fruit and vegetable expert Gene McAvoy about how farming used to work (and how it still works in some parts of the world) and how research has made farming better. 

Gene McAvoy is currently the Associate Director for Stakeholder Relations at the University of Florida Southwest Florida Research and Education Center and previously served with UF IFAS Extension as regional specialized vegetable extension agent in SW Florida for 23 years. He has over 50 years experience in vegetable production in New Jersey, West Africa, South Africa and the Caribbean and most recently Florida. He is currently president of the National Association of County Agricultural Agents.

Key points:

What does an agricultural agent do?

Agricultural or extension agents act as go betweens bringing research information from land grant universities to the people who need it. 

How has agriculture changed?

In the past farmers were barely feeding themselves – sustenance farming.  Today a single farm supports 250 people.  Florida grows food for 150 million people. ,

How has COVID19 impacted Florida agriculture?

A single town in Florida produces 16 million pounds of produce per week during harvest. During the early months of COVID Florida had to destroy 60 million pounds of produce per week.

As much food as possible was donated to charity, but difficulties in transportation and produce that perishes quickly made it challenging.

Crops had to be destroyed instead of harvested to keep them from becoming a breeding ground for pests.

It costs $16,000 per acre to bring a crop to market.  Florida experienced a 1/2 billion dollar loss in 6 weeks in Spring 2020.

Florida agriculture is starting to recover. 

How has traveling the world influenced your view of farming?

In places like the Caribbean it is expensive to import food.  Growing food locally for residents and tourists increases income for the farmers and decreases expenses for local governments.

In Africa a simple school garden can prevent children from going blind by supplying food rich in vitamin A.  Teaching simple practices impacts an entire community. 

Three tips to overcome Food Bullying:

  1. Educate yourself.  Not everything on Facebook is true.
  2. Any fruit or vegetable is better than none. Produce is good for agriculture and good for you.
  3.   Don’t buy into claims that pit one type of agriculture against another.

Florida ProduceLinks:

Gene McAvoy website:

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  1. Ann Fussell on September 3, 2020 at 11:05 pm

    Excellent episode. I enjoyed hearing from Gene McAvoy and learned several things from his perspective.

    • Michele Payn on September 15, 2020 at 6:18 pm

      Thanks. He does a great job and has insight on produce that few have.

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