NEW PORT RICHEY — It's harvest time for the sweet potato.
And for those who have a hankering, the 2017 Sweet Potato Round-Up and Fall Farming Market will take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the West Pasco Habitat for Humanity Restore on Madison Street.
The Sweet Potato Round-Up is part of a larger project that harmonizes with other annual events, such as the Okra Occasion, now in its third year, and the Loquat Festival, which will celebrate its fifth anniversary in March, said Dell deChant.
Getting the events off the ground is a passion for deChant, associate chairman of religious studies at the University of South Florida.
"These events stress education and encouragement and engagement within the community," said deChant, who serves locally on a variety of urban gardening ventures, including as chairman of the New Port Richey Environmental Committee and as a steering committee member for Friendship Farm and Fare. "The idea is to educate folks about local seasons, local foods, local markets and local economy."
Those who have relocated to Florida are often unfamiliar with Southern growing seasons, said Sylvia Spencer, manager of the Habitat garden as well as the Grand Garden community plot on Grand Boulevard.
"A lot of people don't know what you can grow here in the hot summer months," Spencer said, listing what's been planted in some of the 30 raised beds at the Habitat garden. "There's sweet potatoes, okra, eggplant. We just harvested 11 pounds of peanuts good for boiling."
About 300 pounds of heirloom sweet potatoes pulled from the gardens of local organic growers will be up for the offering on Saturday, Spencer said.
"It's almost like a treasure box, digging them out of the dirt," she said. "You never know what you're going to find — how many, how big they are, what kind."
Varieties available at the Round-Up will include Georgia Jets, Beauregards, Centennials and Nancy Halls. Sizes will vary from small fingerlings to extra-large.
And don't expect them all to be pretty.
"They're not going to be perfect like in the supermarket," Spencer said, adding that some will have blemishes and may need trimming. That's the trade-off when it comes the "waste not/want not" organic philosophy.
This is a twofold event that also includes the Fall Farming Festival, for those who want to purchase cool-weather seeds and seedlings for fall vegetable gardens and perhaps get some advice from local organic gardeners.
Information will also be available for consumers and organic growers interested in joining the FarmNet online market and the weekly Saturday Market at the Habitat for Humanity Restore in New Port Richey.