WITH HEALTH AT THE FOREFRONT OF OUR MISSION, THE 4R FOUNDATION IS COMMITTED TO LEADING AND SUPPORTING HEALTHY COMMUNITY PROGRAMS. WE ACCOMPLISH THIS BY ENGAGING OUR COMMUNITIES WITH THEIR FOOD SYSTEM, INCREASING ACCESS TO HEALTHY FOOD OPTIONS, AND CREATING SOCIAL INSPIRATION TO MAKE HEALTHY CHOICES.
The 4R Farms Fresh Connect Network is an innovative approach to enhance the local food system in Central Florida through healthy food production, processing, distribution, and education.
The 4R Foundation is working with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF IFAS) and Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) to build and operate a hydroponic farm, food processing and distribution center, and educational facility. Our project partners share a vision for our state that includes a thriving agricultural industry, food and health equity among our state's residents, and financially secure and innovative businesses. This project seeks to achieve these goals by increasing consumption of and access to locally grown produce, while developing new market opportunities for a network of local farm operations and producers.
The 4R Farms Fresh Connect Network will cultivate and process healthy edible crops. Operation of its central hydroponic farm, cooperative food-processing and distribution center, and coordinated network of local farm operations will enhance the region’s ability to grow and distribute fresh, healthy produce to local businesses and organizations. This increase in access to, and consumption of, healthy foods will result in healthier communities.
4R Farms will direct various agriculture education programs in the community. The 4R Foundation has partnered with UF IFAS and OCPS to develop the curriculum for and conduct an agriculture-training program in Central Florida high schools. This partnership will create a platform for ongoing study, teaching and research in the areas of agriculture, botany, business, logistics, entrepreneurship, cooking, and food preparation. Employing progressive farming techniques, students will engage in a hands-on learning experience with state of the art hydroponic systems. The produce grown in the school greenhouses will be processed onsite, by students, and served in their school meals. Ocoee High School has been designated to launch this program beginning with the 2016-17 school year.
The Fresh Connect Network will facilitate an economic improvement in Central Florida. The impact of strengthening local farm operations will result in additional jobs, local versus out of market product purchases, and many secondary effects throughout the distribution system that will benefit the region. Likewise, 4R Farms will generate numerous job opportunities while producing a skilled workforce needed to fulfill those jobs.
4R Farms will employ an innovative approach to farming. The hydroponic grow system used for the farm will maximize food crop production using minimal land. This innovative system will offer several advantages compared to traditional soil based farming. Reduced water consumption, advanced environmental control, and annual growing capabilities all contribute to better tasting, sustainable, and economically friendly fresh food for the community. Ongoing research will be conducted to enhance these innovative farming techniques as the farm expands its produce variety and increases production.