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Eat Near: Small Farms conference, and an agroterrorism course to boot

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Agroterrorism expert Art Johnstone

Agroterrorism expert Art Johnstone

Agroterrorism course set for Mon., Aug. 5

My question for agroterrorism expert Art Johnstone is about as basic as it gets: What the heck is agroterrorism?

While Johnstone says the term has been in "strong use" for the past decade or so, ever since Sept. 11, it's still foreign to most folks, he knows. Basically, agroterrorism is an umbrella term for the intentional contamination of the food supply to sicken or kill people, or the introduction of an animal or crop disease that would economically damage the States. One example Johnstone cites: the 1984 Rajneeshee attack in The Dalles, Ore., when members of a commune deliberately spread salmonella through local salad bars, sickening 751.

Johnstone and fellow instructor Jenifer Chatfield will go into much greater detail Mon., Aug. 5, at a free Department of Homeland Security-sponsored course held at the Manatee County Public Safety Center in Bradenton. He calls the course an "awareness-level" class, intended to educate first responders on how to handle an attack, and to help local food producers understand whom to turn to if they become suspicious. The former director of agricultural emergency preparedness for the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Johnstone has been doing courses like Monday's all over the state since 2009.

As with all things terrorism-related, concerns about agroterrorism skyrocketed after Sept. 11, particularly after the discovery of research on America's agricultural infrastructure that had been collected by al-Qaida in Afghanistan. Johnstone says the food system is ripe for attack because of how interconnected it is. One contaminated plant, he points out, can affect thousands of products.

Agroterrorism Course on Principles of Planning and Implementing Recovery: 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon., Aug. 5; Manatee County Public Safety Center, 2101 47th Terrace E., Bradenton; free; ruraltraining.org.

Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises Conference runs Aug. 2-4

As longtime readers of this column know, I'm a big fan of the annual Florida Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises Conference, hosted by the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and Florida A&M's College of Agriculture and Food Sciences in Kissimmee, Fla. The three-day shindig presents an amazing opportunity for Sunshine State growers, ranchers, crafters, chefs, distributors and more to get together, trade tips and best practices, learn a lot, eat a lot and drink a lot.

One tireless advocate for the event resides right here on the Suncoast: Sarasota County extension agent Robert Kluson, who is responsible for delivering high-quality in-state food to conference attendees. He's worked with a team of researchers from around the state to collect great eats and drinks for this year's confab.

One such provider is Sarasota's Local Coffee + Tea, which is offering a wide variety of teas to the event. Local owner Michael Duranko says his company is trying to encourage restaurateurs to broaden their tea options, normally no more creative than a bag o' Lipton and a slice of lemon. Duranko won't be on hand for this weekend's conference (he says he's tried to attend each year, but the downtown farmers' market always keeps him occupied), but he's a "supporter." He wants restaurants to get more creative with their tea, and he thinks the conference is a great opportunity to spread the message.

If you have even a passing interest in the local food movement, you should really be in Kissimmee this weekend.

2013 Florida Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises Conference: Aug. 2-4; Osceola Heritage Park, 1875 Silver Spur Lane, Kissimmee; $75-$230; conference.ifas.ufl.edu/smallfarms.

This is the 28th entry in Eat Near, a regular column dedicated to all the lovely food that folks on the Suncoast grow, raise, kill or craft. If you have an idea for someone/thing to feature, email me at eatnearsrq@gmail.com or hit me up on Twitter: @LeveyBaker.

Last modified: July 29, 2013
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