Third annual Tampa Bay Collard Green Festival

The 2020 Tampa Bay Collard Green Fest will highlight healthy eating next Saturday, Feb. 15, in front of the Carter G. Woodson African American Museum.  Shown here is the 2018 event with (L-R) News Channel 8’s Rob Carter, Boyzell Hosey and Samantha Harris.

BY JOYCE NANETTE JOHNSON, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — The third annual Tampa Bay Collard Green Festival will get underway this Saturday, Feb. 15.

The free, fun-filled, family-oriented event will feature the dynamic Dundu Dole Urban African Dancers, a KidZone with bounce houses, fun activities and complimentary collard green smoothies. Natasha Walker of Nu Body Fitness, yoga gurus Annika Keller and Clayton Sizemore will get the crowd moving with an interactive exercising experience.

More than 40 vendors will line Ninth Avenue South and 22nd Street, in front of the Carter G. Woodson African American Museum.

Local cooks will have delicious scents drifting through the air as they compete for the annual “Best Collard Green Recipe” grand prize of $500.

The festival will kick off on Friday, Feb. 14, with “Collards After Dark Event, An Evening with Toni Tipton-Martin” at Tombolo Books 2153 First Ave. N from 6- 9:30 p.m. Tipton-Martin is the author of “Jemima Code” and “Jubilee, Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks.” She is a James Beard Book Award winner and has appeared as a guest judge on Bravo’s Top Chef.

Collards After Dark is a ticketed event that includes samplings from chefs Sophia and Julius Forte, a live interview with Tipton-Martin by TBT food critic Helen Freud and a signed copy of her book “Jubilee, Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks.”

If you miss Tipton-Martin on Friday, you can catch the nationally renowned chef and cookbook writer on Saturday when she will give an oral presentation on the link between African-American cooking and culture.

Professional chef Anne White will be on hand, creating healthy recipes and giving advice on the advantage of eating healthy.  White is a member of the American Culinary Federation (ACF) of Tampa Bay Cooking and is a volunteer chef-instructor at GiGi’s Playhouse, a non-profit that assists people with downs syndrome.

Get ready for her braised collards with kimchee and fried Rice at the event.  “The recipe is high in fiber, low in fat, and flavorful,” she said.

White credits ACF president Rene Marquis and Rob Rawlings with helping to create the original dish.

“Energy in, energy out” is White’s philosophy of healthy eating. “Feed yourself the right food, and then you have to work it off. The consumption of nutritious foods will help one develop mentally, healthy, and spiritually.”

White will be giving advice on prepping, storing and the different ways collards can be used in recipes. She wants people to “challenge themselves to try something new; collards are contagious.”

“The letters in my company name stand for Love, Eat, Teach and Smile,” said local professional chef Jovan Holmes of Let’s Eat 365. “We want to help fight the good fight against heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc. by promoting a healthy diet and daily activities.”

Holmes has forged his own path by starting a home-based delivery of vegan dishes. The St. Petersburg High graduate said he was motivated to start a health food enterprise due to the medical conditions of several family members.

His father died of cancer, and one set of grandparents have diabetes. His other 102-year-old grandmother was frail but loved all of his vegan dishes, and it seemed to him that it gave her more vitality and energy.

“People are scared of eating healthy because they think all healthy food is expensive,” he said. “It’s knowing where to buy healthy food, less expensive food and what to eat. Bringing awareness to people that we can control what we eat and what we put in our mouth. General knowledge can ignite the flame.”

Holmes feels there are more healthy stores and restaurants on the north side of town, and there are no businesses on the south side that promote healthy or vegan style restaurants or stores. At the festival, he will demonstrate to the crowd collard green rolls and avocado toast.

Ray Wunderlich of WunderFarms will give a presentation on Backyard Gardening and Composting 101 at the festival.

“I like building, educating the community, and providing nutritious food to people who don’t have access or can’t afford it,” Wunderlich stated. “I get joy in people appreciating the fresh vegetables, and I’ve given over seven tons of food in the last 10 years.”

WunderFarms is a group of four community gardens with approximately 50 volunteers, located at Edgemoor, Lealman, Allendale Methodist Church and a parcel on Ninth Avenue South. Their mission is to provide the most nutrient-dense produce to the neediest populations in our community, to educate people on organic farming while pursuing sustainable practices, to cultivate a community of engaged urban farmers.

In the 2018-19 season, WunderFarms donated 1,800 pounds of organic vegetables to the St. Petersburg Free Clinic, Daystar Life Center, Wesley Presbyterian Church, Refugees of Tampa Bay and the Ronald McDonald House. Another 1,700 pounds were given to volunteers and sold to local restaurants.

“I want to encourage and actively help the Collard Green Festival,” Wunderlich said. “It is unique to our state and for the betterment of health for the African-American community.”

Collard Green Festival board member Samantha Harris said the festival will have a well- thought out schedule for the entire day. She also emphasized the great business opportunity for small businesses in St. Pete and the surrounding areas.

“This is a great opportunity [for the vendors],” Harris stated. “People from every demographic attend the festival. Vendors will get to meet people in their own backyard and build relationships within the community.  You never know who’s going to taste your food or buy your merchandise.”

According to Harris, she and the other board members including Boyzell Hosey, Andrida Hosey, LaDonna Butler and Eve Hemby-Jones feel that their passion and goals are reflected in their mission statement: “To inspire healthier communities through urban agriculture, culinary experience, nutritional education, fitness, and family fun.”

“Health is wealth,” exclaimed Harris. “The Tampa Bay Collard Green Festival Inc. from its inception, focuses on lifestyle habits that disproportionately plague the African-American community.  By making small changes in the way we grow and prepare food to incorporating daily physical activity, we can live better lives and teach the next generation to do the same by example.”

This year’s KidZone partnered with Urban Youth Farm, Bartlett Park Community Garden, and Miss Jo’s Garden sponsored by The Gathering Women, Inc. Josephine Lampley, co-founder of Miss Jo’s Garden, recently passed, and her impact and memories still resonate throughout the community.

“For Miss Jo, her garden was much more than just a set of raised beds. Rather, it’s an open and welcoming space that encourages the community and students not just to sow seeds and vegetables, but to sow the seeds of community and creativity,” said Samantha Richardson, president of the Gathering of Women.

“Miss Jo’s Garden provides an expressive outlet for youth in south St. Petersburg through maintaining the garden and learning how to grow vegetables, fruits, and herbs all under the watchful, caring eye and heart of Miss Jo.”

The Tampa Bay Collard Greens Festival is free to the public and takes place Saturday, Feb. 15, on 22nd Street & Ninth Avenue South from 10 -5 p.m. For more information, call 727-219-1781 or visit tampabaycollardgreenfestival.org.

Collards After Dark, an Evening with Toni Tipton-Martin happens Friday, Feb. 14 at Tombolo Books 2153 First Avenue North, St. Petersburg from 6-9:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 or $60 (includes a signed copy of her book). For more information, call 727-219-1781.

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