Agriculture takes center stage this month with fresh perspectives on where and how we produce our food and why it matters. Are you ready to consider growing your own food? With tainted crops making headlines regularly there’s an urgent need to explore self-sufficiency. There’s growing concern about the standards for certified organic produce, as demand for it has spiked beyond the capacity of inspectors to ensure the organic label is deserved.

Enterprising entrepreneurs are capitalizing on our appetite for organics and have developed niche businesses serving urbanites and suburbanites alike. Learn how organic city farming is made easy in “Crops in the City: Urban Agriculture Breaks New Ground.” From rooftops and vertical tower gardens to abandoned warehouses, growing your own is surprisingly easy, cost-effective, and immensely rewarding.

If you have land, there’s a small army of experts available within the agriculture extension centers in Volusia and Flagler. Through a partnership with the University of Florida and the U.S. Dept of Agriculture, the Extension Service provides residential horticulture assistance and much more. I’ve used the Flagler Extension office to mitigate invasive weeds in my horse pastures and was impressed with the quick response and wealth of information available, including soil testing at no charge. Eco-friendly pest
control is another specialty of these extension offices. Now that summer rain is a daily event, it’s time to combat those pesky mosquitos with natural predators and eco-friendly methods. Master gardener programs are also available in both counties. Contact Volusia.org/extension or FlaglerCounty.org to learn how to use the resources available.

July’s rising temperatures make this an excellent time to add a healthy dose of fresh, organic herbs to cool salads, green juice and smoothies. Herbs are not only a flavorful addition to any meal, they’re also chock-full of health benefits, from lowering blood pressure and improving mineral balance to increasing immune support, hydration, energy and healthy skin. Discover the best ones to choose for this time of year in “Summer Eating: The Herbal Connection.”

Remember when neighborhood children played outdoors until the streetlights came on? In “The Pure Joy of Play: Why Kids Need Unstructured Fun,” writer Ronica A. O’Hara reminisces about those bygone days and presents compelling evidence that free play is so important to children that pediatricians are actually writing prescriptions for it. I’m blessed with baby grands that love my made-up games and stories, and my silly songs make their little feet dance. I think adults need unstructured fun just
as much if not more than children. I feel blessed to have mylittle buddies for playtime.

Our calendar is full of activities to help you expand in a number of areas. I invite you to try something new this month and look forward to seeing you around town!