ColorOcala!

ColorOcala Contest

Grab your crayons, colored pencils, watercolor markers and cray pas, and join the hot new coloring craze!

Floridians, are you ready to COLOROCALA? Create beautiful art and compete for valuable prizes in Ocala Magazine’s latest big giveaway contest. You could win tickets for four to the Walt Disney World® theme park in Orlando, a family Christmas for four at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Kissimmee, and more. Color us excited!

Our latest contest is specially designed with family fun in mind. With a contest for both children and adults, you and your kids will have plenty to do this summer. And best of all, you can be creative together!

You can always count on Ocala Magazine for the best in news and entertainment, family fun, and fabulous prizes, so let’s get coloring! Show off your artistic side, and you might have a summer you’ll never forget.

Feeling Social?

Visit Ocala Magazine’s Facebook and Instagram pages and Colorala’s Facebook and Instagram pages – and while you’re at it, we hope you’ll Like our pages!

Here’s How You Enter:

You must complete Steps 1 through 4 to qualify for prizes!

  1. Download, print, and color your favorite specially drawn Ocala-themed coloring page from contest sponsor Colorala. (You can download pages as many times as you like.)
  2. Fill out the entry form (below) on the Ocala Magazine website before 6 p.m. Eastern time, July 22, 2016.
  3. Upload a photo of your completed coloring page using the File Upload feature provided on the form.
  4. Post your photo on Facebook OR Instagram before midnight, July 22, 2016. Use the hashtag #ocalamagazinecontest on Facebook OR Instagram in your post. Don’t forget to tag your friends and show off your creative genius!

That’s it. You’ve entered!

Click Each Image to Download a Coloring Page! (PDF Format)

Adult Coloring Page – Thoroughbred
Adult Coloring Page - Thoroughbred
Adult Coloring Page – Silver Springs
Adult Coloring Page - Silver Springs

Children’s Coloring Page – Thoroughbred
Children's Coloring Page - Thoroughbred

Children’s Coloring Page – Silver Springs
Children's Coloring Page - Silver Springs

 

Entries Are Now Being Judged, Stay Tuned!

Click for Contest Rules

Official Rules

  1. By entering, you agree to abide by The COLOROCALA Official Rules.
  2. All contestants must reside in the state of Florida.
  3. The contest will be administered by contest sponsor 7Hills Communications of Tallahassee, Florida.
  4. Entries must be submitted through the online form located at ocalamagazine.com/colorocala and all entry requirements must be met before midnight, Friday, July 22, 2016 in order to qualify.
  5. Entries submitted will be screened by 7Hills Communications and/or contest sponsor Colorala of Newport Beach, California, to ensure all entries meet contest requirements.
  6. Ocala Magazine, 7Hills Communications, and Colorala cannot be held responsible for email that is misdirected or undeliverable.
  7. Entries that do not meet all the “Here’s How to Enter” criteria will be disqualified.
  8. 7Hills Communications may, at its sole discretion and depending upon volume of entries, notify contestants whose entries are incorrect and must be resubmitted.
  9. 7Hills Communications will send only properly completed entries to Ocala Magazine.
  10. Completed coloring pages, along with the artist’s name, will be posted on the Ocala Magazine Facebook page and Instagram profile, and the Colorala Instagram profile. If the artist is 12 years of age or younger, the artist’s age also will be published.
  11. Following the conclusion of the contest, a team of fine artists from Colorala will judge the entries and select the winners.
  12. A list of winners will be published on the COLOROCALA Contest official web page, located at ocalamagazine.com/colorocala; the Ocala Magazine Facebook page; the Ocala Magazine Instagram profile; and the Colorala Color Instagram profile.
  13. Winners must claim their prizes by 5 p.m. Eastern time Monday, August 22, 2016. Any prize not claimed by Monday, August 22, 2016 will be awarded to an alternate winner.
  14. Ocala Magazine and/or 7Hills Communications will make every effort to notify winners via email, telephone, or postal mail within the 31-day prize redemption period. Ocala Magazine and 7Hills Communications cannot be held responsible for winners who cannot be located for notification within the prize redemption period.
  15. Ocala Magazine, Colorala, and 7Hills Communications will hold all contestants’ personal information except name, age, and city of residence confidential, and will not reveal said information to any third party unless required by law.
  16. By entering, contestants agree to allow Ocala Magazine, Colorala, and 7Hills Communications to post their names, ages if applicable, and photographs of their coloring pages to social media.
  17. By entering, contestants grant Ocala Magazine permission to publish their coloring pages in Ocala Magazine without remuneration. Published entries will be credited.
  18. By entering, contestants grant Ocala Magazine permission to publish photos of the winners, if applicable, without remuneration.
  19. Anyone employed as a professional artist, or who holds a college or university degree in studio art or graphic design, is not eligible to participate.
  20. Employees of Ocala Magazine, Colorala, and 7Hills Communications and their families are not eligible to participate.
  21. Each participant may enter the contest only once.
  22. All children 12 years of age or younger in a single family may submit one entry each for the children’s contest.
  23. Only one contestant 13 years of age or older from a single family may submit an entry to the adults’ contest.
  24. Only one prize per family will be awarded.
  25. While we encourage parents and legal guardians to experience the joy of coloring together with their children, contestants 12 years of age or younger must color their own coloring pages without physical assistance from any third party.
  26. All contestants 13 years of age or older must color their own coloring pages without assistance from any third party.
  27. Because children must be 13 years of age or older to have a Facebook or Instagram account, entries from children 12 years of age or younger must be submitted by a parent or legal guardian.
  28. Entries submitted by children 12 years of age or younger without parental supervision and consent will be disqualified.
  29. Contestants must abide by all Facebook and Instagram rules. Ocala Magazine, Colorala, and 7Hills Communications cannot be held responsible for any adverse decisions made by Facebook or Instagram as a result of a contestant’s violations of their Terms of Service.
  30. Contestants may use crayons, colored pencils, watercolor markers, or oil pastels (cray pas) to complete their coloring pages.
  31. Contestants may not use online or electronic coloring apps to complete their pictures. All entries colored with electronic coloring applications will be disqualified.
  32. One grand prize and two honorable mention prizes will be awarded in the children’s coloring contest.
  33. One grand prize and two honorable mention prizes will be awarded in the adults’ coloring contest.
  34. Contestants, or the parent or legal guardian of contestants 12 years of age or younger, must pick up prizes by appointment at the offices of Ocala Magazine, located at 743 E. Fort King Street, Ocala, Florida 34471. Ocala Magazine, at its sole discretion, may waive this requirement for winners who are not area residents.
  35. Winners must present a picture ID to receive their prizes.
  36. Ocala Magazine may, at its sole discretion, require a scanned or faxed copy of a picture ID before shipping prizes to winners who are not area residents.
  37. The Children’s Grand Prize Package is subject to the terms and conditions of the Walt Disney World® theme park.
  38. The Adults’ Grand Prize Package is subject to the terms and conditions of Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center.
  39. While we invite contestants to be fans, liking or following any Facebook page or Instagram profile is not required to win a prize.
  40. No purchase is necessary to win a prize.
  41. All judging/winner decisions made by Colorala Color are final.
  42. All contest decisions made by 7Hills Communications are final.
  43. Questions about The COLOROCALA Coloring Contest must be submitted via email to contest@ocalamagazine.com. No telephone calls, please.

A Date With Destiny

Photo by Mark Lennihan

by Brad Rogers

Those who know Todd Pletcher say he was destined for horse racing greatness. Now, he’s headed to the sport’s Hall of Fame.

Love and Pride (no. 3), ridden by John Velazquez and trained by Todd Pletcher, wins the 65th running of the grade 1 Personal Ensign Invitational Handicap for fillies and mares three years old and upward on August 26, 2012 at Saratoga Race Track in Saratoga Springs, New York. (Bob Mayberger/Eclipse Sportswire)

On Aug. 6, Todd Pletcher will be inducted into horse racing’s Hall of Fame of the National Museum of Racing in Saratoga, New York. There will be no debate over whether it is deserved — Pletcher has the victories, the records, the awards and the career earnings to validate his first-ballot selection.

But for Pletcher, being named to the Hall of Fame is more than an honor earned from a life of accomplishment on the track. It is a date with destiny.

You see, Pletcher, in his own words, was “exposed to horse racing from birth.” By age 7 he was a hot walker for his father, J.J. Pletcher, a respected quarter horse and thoroughbred trainer himself. Before he even reached adolescence, Todd told his mother he wanted to be a horse trainer when he grew up. Today, he has won more prize money than any trainer in history and, arguably, is the face of American horse racing.

“Training horses is all I ever wanted to do,” Pletcher said after learning he was being inducted to the Hall of Fame. “I remember being 11 or 12 and telling my mother I wanted to train, and she said it was wonderful. From that point on, with her endorsement, I never thought of doing anything else.”

Now 54, the list of honors and records Pletcher has racked up is remarkable. Among them:

• A record seven Eclipse Awards as outstanding trainer, 2004-2007, 2010, 2013-14.

• Five Triple Crown wins, including the Kentucky Derby twice with Super Saver (2010) and Always Dreaming (2017) and the Belmont Stakes three times with Rags to Riches (2007), Palace Malice (2013) and Tapwrit (2017).

• 11 Breeders’ Cup wins.

• He’s trained 11 Eclipse Award-winning horses, including Hall of Famer Ashado, English Channel, Lawyer Ron, Rags to Riches, Uncle Mo and Vino Rosso.

• He has racked up more than 5,150 victories, including 699 graded stakes races, en route to becoming horse racing’s all-time leading trainer in earnings, some $409 million to date.

• He has more than 22,000 starts since becoming a trainer in December 1995, finishing in the money an impressive 52 percent of the time, including winning 23 percent of those races.

So, what does it mean to Pletcher to be the all-time leading money winner in horse racing history?

“I never looked at it from that perspective,” he said. “I was surprised when, at one point, we moved up into the top 10. Frankly, I’ve never been motivated by the purse money. The excitement for me is the excitement of the win and the excitement you can create for other people.”

Horse racing pedigree

Pedigree plays an important role in horse racing, and not just with the horses. Pletcher was exposed to horse racing from the day he was born, and it undoubtedly played a role in him getting to where he is today. Both his parents came from horse racing backgrounds, especially his father, J.J., who today, at 86, still operates Payton Training Center in Belleview, a 96-stall, 40-employee operation in which Todd is a partner and calls “a big part of our organization.”

During Todd’s childhood, J.J. was a successful quarter horse and thoroughbred trainer largely in the Southwest who knew some of the legendary names in the business. An only child, Todd spent much of his youth around J.J.’s barns and started working as a hot walker at 7 or 8. His father remembers going to races – where, at the time, children were not allowed in the tracks – and Todd being left at the barn while J.J. went to watch the races.

“He’d pretend he was a jockey,” J.J. Pletcher said, adding “he can ride as well as anybody.”

As a teenager, the younger Pletcher continued to work around his father’s barn and pursue his dream of becoming a trainer. That his father knew some other biggest names in horse training presented special opportunities.

“The only thing I required is you’ve got to go to college,” J.J. Pletcher said.

Grooming Pletcher for what he has become today started early. Between his junior and senior year of high school, Pletcher went to California to work as a hot walker for his father’s best friend, Henry Moreno, a high-respected West Coast trainer. After enrolling in the University of Arizona’s four-year Race Track Industry Program, he worked as a groom for fellow Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas between his sophomore and junior years of college and as a groom for another Hall of Fame trainer, Charlie Whittingham, the following summer.

“There’s no question that the people (my father) knew in the business certainly gave me a head start,” Pletcher said.

Good gets better

After graduating from Arizona with a degree in animal science in 1989, Pletcher went to work for Lukas in New York as a foreman under Lukas’ son and right hand man, Jeff. Within two years, he was promoted to assistant trainer. At the time, Lukas was horse racing’s hottest trainer and was known for developing young trainers, his “coaching tree,” as he calls it. 

“I was at the right place at the right time,” Pletcher said. “I was fortunate.”

Lukas said Pletcher showed the “intensity and work ethic to be successful.” 

“The thing you have to see early on is that they can see what a horse needs,” Lukas said. “I call it intuitive awareness, and he had that.”

Lukas said his son, Jeff, and Pletcher were his two most successful proteges.

After Jeff Lukas was severely injured in a barn accident in 1991, Pletcher took over running Lukas’ New York operation, where he learned a tremendous amount about the horse racing industry.

By 1995, at age 28, Pletcher knew he was lucky to be working for “the strongest stable in the country” with Lukas, “But at the same time, I felt like I wanted to make my own decisions.”

So, Pletcher got his trainer’s license and, with eight horses, started his own stable.

Pletcher’s demeanor, confidence and knowledge of horses helped him to quickly grow and prosper. Maybe his most important attribute, according to his father, was his ability to manage people, especially the rich owners who are a trainer’s bread and butter.

“Managing people,” the elder Pletcher said when asked his son’s best quality. “Managing the owners. Handling egos. Managing rich, successful people.”

But that isn’t Pletcher only strength, according to his father.

“He’s probably got the best work ethic of any trainer I know — meeting the right people and how to do the right things,” J.J. Pletcher said.

Pletcher also has a gift for identifying quality horses, sometimes when their potential is unnoticed by his competitors. One of Pletcher’s most famous horses, Breeders’ Cup Turf champion English Channel, was purchased for $50,000 and earned $5 million. It is just one example.

The passion and intensity that both his father and Lukas talk about Pletcher possessing help him manage his horse training operation from his base in Garden City, Long Island, New York. With facilities and horses in New York, Kentucky and Florida, Pletcher has to keep tabs on the 175 horses under his care and the 125 employees who keep his Todd A. Pletcher Racing Stables Inc. running.

That requires a lot of attention to detail, 24/7, 365 days a year. Something those who know Pletcher say he excels at.

“He has a memory like an elephant,” his father said. “He can tell you about a horse he trained 20 years ago.”

“His work ethic and intensity, he doesn’t leave anything untouched,” Lukas said. “He’s got his hand on everything.”

For Pletcher, though, training horses isn’t complex, just common sense.

“A lot of training horses is common sense and recognizing what the horse is responding to and making adjustments,” Pletcher said. “I think they’re creatures of habit. They like to be familiar with their surroundings and a routine.”

That said, he acknowledges that horse racing is anything but easy or predictable.

“It’s a never-ending challenge,” Pletcher said. “The thing about the horse business is there is literally a new challenge around the corner every day.”

Perspective is necessary as well, he said, because it is a business that produces extreme highs and extreme lows. The trick is to find consistency in training methods and recognize a horse’s limits.

He talked about the thrill of achieving his 5,000th victory as a trainer last November. A couple months later, though, he experienced his 17,000th loss.

“It’s a rollercoaster ride, for sure,” Pletcher said.

“What we try to do as a stable is pretty simple. We try to get the most out of a horse that they’re capable of.”

Todd Pletcher’s 4,000th win. Photo by Leslie Martin

Ocala TIES

Pletcher spends most of his time in New York, with frequent visits to Kentucky and Florida. Ocala is special because his father and stepmother, equine Realtor Joan Pletcher, live here and the Payton Training Center (named after Pletcher’s eldest son Payton) is where he sends most of his horses to prep them “to take the next step forward.”

Of course, his father remains his biggest confidante, and they talk frequently.

“We talk often, sometimes six, seven times a week,” he said. “We talk about all sorts of things – family, horses, the industry, all sorts of stuff.”

Pletcher also is a regular visitor to Ocala Breeder Sales’ auctions, and the family spends several weeks in Ocala around Christmas each year.

Pletcher’s place in history

To be inducted into the Hall of Fame, a trainer has to have been licensed for 25 years. Pletcher hit the 25-year mark in December. As a result, he got into the Hall on the first ballot. So, we asked Hall of Famer Lukas where he believes Pletcher stands among horse racing’s greatest trainers, especially given that he is the top money-winner of all time.

“I won’t answer that,” Lukas responded. “I don’t know that there’s an answer to it.

“What I will say is Todd has certainly done everything you would expect of a man at his age. I never doubted he was going to be very, very successful. I never had any doubt he would be in the Hall of Fame.”

Both Lukas and J.J. Pletcher said one of the things that sets Todd Pletcher apart from most trainers is his devotion to family and the remarkable relationship he has maintained with his wife, Tracy, his high school sweetheart in Dallas, Texas, and who Pletcher said is “heavily involved” in his business.

Lukas said Pletcher’s familial success is every bit as impressive as his on-track success.

“I’m glad you’re talking about his family,” said Lukas, who has had four marriages. “He has been a wonderful, wonderful family man, and that’s difficult in the business we’re in with all the traveling and long hours. That’s as impressive as winning the Kentucky Derby.”

Lukas called Tracy’s influence on Pletcher and the business “huge.”

“When you’re as intense as Todd is, you’re married to the barn and the industry,” he said. “If you’ve got back-up like Tracy, you’ve really got something. She’s a tremendous support system.”

Veteran racing journalist and author of 22 books on thoroughbred racing Edward L. Bowen said the perception is trainers are typically either good managers who leave the horsemanship to staff, or they’re good horsemen who leave the management of their operations to others. Pletcher, he said, has the rare ability to excel at both.

“Todd Pletcher is one of the group that are called ‘super trainers’ today in the United States,” Bowen said. “It is popular in the media to presume that a trainer can be a traditional hands-on horseman who is up to date on each and every horse in his/her care, OR he/she can be a highly efficient organization leader who runs a successful ‘company.’ Fact is, Pletcher and a few of his compatriots are proving that one trainer can be both.

“True, Pletcher is a confident communicator and organizer, but … (he) can emulate the traditional, wise and sharp-eyed horseman, who can run his hands along a horse’s legs and discern that change in routine is, or is not, called for.”

Having won more than 5,000 races and won hundreds of millions of dollars, Pletcher still remembers his first Grade 1 stakes winner, Jersey Girl, with fondness. He also remembers winning his first Eclipse Award. So many wins and awards have followed.

“My first Eclipse Award meant a lot to me,” he said. “It was certainly something I didn’t think was possible when I started.”

What about being inducted to the Hall of Fame?

“To be honest with you, it’s still sinking in. It’s obviously a tremendous honor, but it’s just starting to sink in.”

That said, on Aug. 6, Todd Pletcher has a date with destiny.

What lack of faith in elections?

Ever since Nov. 3, 2020, a lot of people have been questioning the integrity of America’s elections. Never mind a lack of evidence. Never mind dozens and dozens of court rulings dismissing such claims. Never mind election officials and elected officials alike —of both parties — declaring the 2020 election the most secure and accurate ever. Yet, the unfounded claims of voter fraud drone on and on. Alas, if you tell a lie enough times, people will start believing it, right?

Well, if there is any concern over the integrity of our elections in Ocala, you’d never know it by looking at the ballot for the Sept. 21 municipal elections. Fifteen people are running for city office — two for mayor and 13 for four of the five City Council seats.

Concerns about election integrity? Not here, apparently.

Wesley Wilcox, Marion County’s venerable elections supervisor, said it is the largest city ballot he has seen in his 20 years of working in the county elections office and he believes that is a testament to peoples’ faith in the election process.

“I think it shows just by their actions that people trust our elections,” he said. “Because if you didn’t trust it, why would you be running?”

Exactly.

Wilcox said turnout for a typical city election usually runs around 10-12 percent. But because this year’s city election features two well-known mayoral candidates in incumbent Kent Guinn and challenger Manal Fakhoury, and four of the five council seats are up for consideration, he believes “there is a decent shot” to see a much bigger turnout, say, somewhere around 25 percent.

Part of the reason for the abundance of candidates is that District 4 City Councilman Matt Wardell announced earlier this summer that he was resigning midterm, creating the need for a special election for his seat.

Here are the candidates for Ocala mayor and City Council. The mayor earns $500 a month and serves a two-year term. City Council members earn $200 a month and serve four-year terms.

Mayor: Five-term incumbent Kent Guinn and community activist Manal Fakhoury.

District 1  (an at-large seat that serves the entire city): Incumbent Brent Malever and construction company executive Barry Mansfield.

District 3 (serving southwest Ocala): Incumbent Jay Musleh, a banker, electrical contractor Ty Schlichter and hair salon owner Rusty Juergens.

District 4 (Wardell’s seat, serving downtown Ocala and surrounding neighborhoods): real estate broker Kristen Dreyer, fencing contractor Alex Everts, retired human resources executive and ex-county commissioner Barbara Fitos, filmmaker and anti-vaccination activist Lori Gregory, pastor and advocate for the poor Curtis Jones and software developer Kevin Lopez.

District 5 (serving east and southeast Ocala): electrical contractor Greg Steen and Jim Hilty, a former city councilman and a financial advisor.

Quite a line-up. Quite a testament to just how robust and healthy our election system is.

Wilcox noted that with four of five City Council seats up for voter consideration, not to mention the mayor’s office, voters need to pay attention and, most importantly, participate.

“You’ve got 80 percent of this important decision-making body that will be chosen,” he said. “That’s a big deal.”

Yes, a really big deal.

The deadline to register to vote in the city election is Aug. 23. Requests for mail-in ballots need to be in by Aug. 13.

The election, again, will be held Sept. 21.

Seems like our election system is more than alive and well. 

Brad Rogers, OM Editor

Brad Rogers, OM Editor

 

Kids and the COVID vaccine: What should a parent know?

by Brandpoint

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted an Emergency Use Authorization allowing adolescents ages 12-15 to get the COVID vaccine — another giant leap forward in the fight against this coronavirus.

So, your 12-year-old is eligible for the COVID vaccine. Here’s what a pediatric epidemiologist wants you to know.

“We’re elated to be able to protect more people from COVID-19 through vaccination. We understand that parents may have questions before signing their kids up for the vaccine. The biggest things I want parents to know are that this vaccine is safe, effective and our best shot at beating COVID-19,” said Dr. Emily Godbout, epidemiologist and infectious diseases specialist at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU.

Dr. Godbout answers some of the most common questions parents have about the COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents.

Which vaccine is available for kids ages 12+?

The FDA’s most recent EUA is specifically for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children 12-15 years old. This is currently the only COVID vaccine authorized for people under 18.

How do we know it’s safe?

Before the FDA grants an EUA, vaccines go through a rigorous series of trials. Children’s immune systems are different from adults’ and they can even vary at different ages. Vaccines are fully tested on specific age groups for their unique stages of development. EUAs are granted for age groups only once the vaccines have proved to be safe and effective. Multiple federal partners are working together to ensure that the COVID-19 vaccines are as safe as possible.

The COVID-19 vaccines were developed rapidly not because corners were cut, but because they were a top priority and, thankfully, research on a COVID-19 vaccine didn’t have to start from scratch. Scientists have significant prior experience working with other coronaviruses such as SARS and MERS.

Will the COVID-19 vaccine impact fertility?

There is no evidence that any COVID-19 vaccine causes fertility problems. In fact, many professional organizations support and encourage women who are interested in becoming pregnant to get a COVID-19 vaccine since it offers great protection.

Is the COVID vaccine dose for adolescents the same as
for adults?

Yes. For the groups approved thus far, the same dose is given no matter the person’s age or size. This is really because the vaccine impacts the immune system, rather than muscles, bones or fat, which are what influence a person’s weight.

Are side effects the same in kids and adults?

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine trials showed that side effects observed in the 12-15 age group were generally consistent with those in the 16- to 25-year-olds. Mild side effects — such as arm pain, fatigue, headaches, muscle aches, chills and fever — are a sign the body is building protection. While they can be annoying, they should go away in a couple days.

Where can kids 12 and up get the COVID vaccine?

Many health care providers and pharmacies are providing the COVID-19 vaccine. Contact your child’s pediatrician or primary care provider for information about availability, or register with your health department to be notified when it’s their turn for the vaccine.

Keep up with the latest COVID vaccine information for kids and teens from Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU at chrichmond.org.

Tasty tomatoes and peachy peaches

Story, Photos and Recipes by Robin Fannon

There is positively nothing better than a juicy vine-ripened tomato in peak season. Unfortunately, those beautiful displays of the bright red fruit (yes, tomato is classified as a fruit) are deceiving. For the most part, commercially grown tomatoes are sprayed or gassed with a chemical called Ethylene, which causes them to turn bright red and actually changes the components, to raise the sugar content and lower its natural acidity. The reason is that tomatoes are highly perishable and delicate once ripened, so the process of packing, transporting and storing results in loss and waste. Hence the use of chemicals to give the appearance of a ripe fruit when basically underneath the color is an unripe product. 

It’s a good business model for growers, but bad for our health and our taste buds. Nothing beats the flavor of a naturally grown, organic tomato, as God intended them to be. Seek them out at farmers markets (know your Farmer!) or farm stands. Better yet, grow them yourself. They are easy to cultivate and do well in pots on your patio or deck.

Moving on to peaches, or stone fruit in general. When the temperatures warm up, I immediately start craving these delectable goodies. A sweet, perfectly ripe, juicy peach is heavenly. Nectarines and plums run a close second. Stone fruit has many health benefits like helping the body to create collagen (wait, what?), improving eyesight and encouraging healthy digestion.  Wow, all that and you feel like you’re cheating on your diet?  There are so many wonderful recipes, both sweet and savory, to choose from. I love to simply add them to salads, cut them up and freeze for smoothies or use them in baked goods. Grilling them lightly also brings forth these juices and intensifies their flavor.

So, get out there and forage for some summer produce, then get in the kitchen and experiment with some creative recipes. Or, you can keep it super simple, like a good ol’ fashioned southern tomato sandwich on white bread with mayo (the jury is still out whether Duke’s or Hellmann’s is the better choice) and sprinkle on a little salt and pepper.

Throw a dill pickle on the plate, pour some sweet tea and head on out to the porch swing. Heavenly indeed!

 

Grilled Bourbon Peach 

Parfait

Ingredients 

6 peaches, halved and pitted

6 chocolate cookies (crumbled)

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream

½ cup confectioners’ sugar

3 tablespoons bourbon

¾ cup toasted pecan halves, chopped

Garnish: fresh raspberries, fresh mint

Instructions

Preheat the grill or use a cast-iron grill pan with cooking spray. Heat over medium heat.

Press cut side of peaches in granulated sugar to coat. Place peaches cut side down on grill. Cook until grill marks form and peaches are slightly softened, 2 to 3 minutes per side.

In a medium bowl, beat cream, confectioners’ sugar, and bourbon with a mixer at medium-high speed until soft peaks form.

Chop up grilled peaches and layer in a goblet alternating with cookies and bourbon whipped cream. Sprinkle with pecans, and garnish with raspberries and mint, if desired.

 

 

 

Heirloom Tomato, Creme Fraiche and Ricotta Tart with Pesto

Ingredients 

6 to 8 small, multicolored tomatoes, such as heirloom, kumato or Campari sliced crosswise 1/4-inch thick

Kosher salt and black pepper

1 sheet packaged puff pastry, thawed (about 7 ounces)

3 tablespoons crème fraîche or sour cream

¼ small red onion, very thinly sliced

Red-pepper flakes, for garnish (optional)

¾ cup fresh ricotta

Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Fresh basil leaves, for garnish (optional)

Instructions

Line a large baking sheet with paper towels. Set the sliced tomatoes on top in a single layer. In a small bowl, combine one teaspoon salt and one teaspoon pepper. Use it to season the tomatoes evenly on both sides then cover with another paper towel and let sit 15 minutes, allowing the salt to draw moisture out of the tomatoes.

As the tomatoes sit, heat the oven to 400 degrees and set a rack in the middle of the oven. Working on a large sheet of parchment paper, roll out the puff pastry into a 9×11 inch rectangle, trimming any uneven edges. Prick the inside with a fork every few inches, leaving a half-inch border. Using a pastry brush, coat the center of the puff pastry with the crème fraîche, leaving the border unbrushed.

Working within the border, layer the tomatoes and red onion on top of the tart, allowing them to overlap slightly. Transfer to a sheet pan and bake, rotating halfway through, until puff pastry is browned and puffed, 30 to 35 minutes.

Sprinkle tomatoes with pepper. Dollop with fresh ricotta. Thin pesto with olive oil until it reaches the proper consistency for drizzling; drizzle on top of tart to taste. Top with basil, if using, and serve warm or at room temperature.

 

Peach, Burrata Salad 

Ingredients 

6 cups mixed greens

8 ounces burrata, cut or torn into bite sized pieces

1 large peach, sliced

1 cup fresh tomatoes, sliced lengthwise

¼ purple onion, sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper

balsamic glaze

Instructions

Let Burrata come to room temperature for best flavor.

In a large shallow serving bowl, layer the greens. Place the Burrata pieces on top. Layer with the sliced peaches, tomatoes, and onions.

Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper making sure to season the burrata pieces well. Drizzle with balsamic glaze  

 

Citrus in Peril

Greening is threatening Florida’s citrus industry, but cultivation of new varieties may come to the rescue

Story by Carlton Reese    |     Photography by Ralph Demilio

Like an ancient soldier’s widow scouring through the charred aftermath of an inglorious battlefield, quixotically searching for any scant signs of life, Bill Phillips meanders through his once-thriving orange grove just beyond the east shore of Lake Weir. He assesses the carnage of his field, the translucent state of the fruit trees that in past years filled its spatial canvas and yielded the types of harvests that earned Florida’s reputation as the nation’s orange juice factory.

Texas has its oil, Michigan its automobiles and Florida its citrus. More than beaches and Mickey Mouse, citrus for the past 170 years has been the economic engine and the iconic feature of Florida’s landscape, yet today the splendor of what was seems to be fading at the hands of a tiny insect, the vector of a bacteria causing what experts in the field call “citrus greening.”

Upon his retirement as Marion County Extension agent, Phillips began selling oranges from his fruit stand in Weirsdale back in 1996, and up to about three years ago the venture flourished – that is when greening overcame his grove and rendered the fruit unsellable. 

“It’s sad to see what it has become,” said Phillips, who majored in citrus production and fruit crops at the University of Florida and also earned his master’s degree there before a 30-year career with the county. “By the time I retired, the groves were just starting to produce, and after six or seven years the groves got big enough that I began to sell wholesale.”

With the fruit stand now hiding in overgrowth, Phillips has ceased his citrus operation — attempts at rehabilitation or starting over from scratch just too costly, too time-consuming and, ultimately, too risky. Unfortunately, Phillips is not alone and groves all over the state that once showcased lush green canopies now resemble fields of kindling and have likely seen their last days producing fruit.

In the year 2000, the state of Florida produced 298 million boxes of fruit, but in 2019 that number fell to just 73 million. In Marion County, when during Phillips’ tenure with the Extension office over 13,000 acres existed for citrus production, that number has dwindled to less than 1,000 today.

Phillips’ situation is a microcosm of the problems facing the Florida citrus industry, the small-scale growers in particular. The costs of fighting this latest disease, the potential time constraints and the uncertain future make remaining in the citrus business an unlikely option when land is in high demand for development. This leaves the mighty Florida citrus industry in peril to a greater extent than it ever was in multiple freezes or in fighting the dreaded citrus canker disease that for decades has wreaked havoc on production.

“I think it’s the worst one of the challenges we have had,” said Ken MacKay, who operates a 60-acre grove in Weirsdale that was nearly 800 acres back in the 1970s. “I don’t know that it’s industry-ending and I am cautiously optimistic.”

Trees succumb to the disease through the transmission of a bacteria carried by the Asian citrus psyllid, a tiny insect first discovered in Florida in 1998. When the psyllid sucks on trees infected with a microbe called CandidatusLiberibacter asiaticus (CLas), it then spreads it to other trees. The bacterium infects the trees so that it develops yellow leaves and shoots, thinning canopies and fruit that remains mainly green and inedible. Eventually the tree dies after several years. Because of the yellowing of leaves and shoots, the Chinese officially named the disease huanglongbing (translated to “yellow shoot disease”), but it is referred to in the United States as either HLB or citrus greening.

Although citrus greening has been a global issue since 1905, it did not reach Florida until the early 2000s and did not spread widely through the state until about 2012. Having started in the southern part of the state, Marion County has only recently suffered the effects of this disease. Texas and Arizona crops also suffer from the disease and California growers have been subjected to thousands of square miles of quarantine zones in an attempt to stave off its spread.

While dire outlooks remain from many grove owners in Florida, optimism still abounds among some, including those working on potential solutions at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Science.

“It’s going to come back,” said Pete Spykes, owner of The Orange Shop in Citra as well as groves in the south part of Florida. “The money’s still good – it’s just a question of figuring out how to grow good fruit. People are willing to pay us good money for good fruit and what we have to do is figure out how to deliver good fruit at a profit.”

Count Spykes and MacKay among those growers investing the money and effort in farming practices recommended by researchers at IFAS. Irrigation and fertilization techniques have been drastically tweaked so that trees can at the very least survive and produce some fruit until long-term solutions are reached. Through their investments, Spykes’ and Mackay’s groves show a bit more lush canopies and quality fruit though only shadows of their former glory.

MacKay’s grove produces only about a third of what it did per acre back in its heyday and at twice the production costs, but that beats operating a dead grove yielding nothing. The hope is that citrus varieties more tolerant to the disease will be coming soon and production will return closer to normal.

“What changed during this period is you had to make the decision that there were going to be years that you lost money,” MacKay said. “Those growers who have been committed to a program of fertilization and spraying, those are the ones where you still see the dark canopies and the fruit still being produced. The ones where you see an entire block just die out, usually what happens there is people said, ‘hey, there’s no sure-bet payoff at the end of the day and I don’t know that I want to spend 50 or 100 thousand dollars on production practices that I’m not going to get a payoff on later.”

The latest best practices in dealing with citrus greening include irrigating more often but at lower increments – the same holds true for fertilizing. With infected root systems not as expansive as before, the former practice of saturating the ground with hours upon hours of irrigation has turned to small amounts of watering but with greater frequency.

Spraying of insecticides to control the psyllids serves to buy growers some time, but ultimately the solution to the problem looks to be in the cultivation of tolerant varieties.

According to Micheal Rogers, a researcher with IFAS, this “spoon feeding” of water and nutrients to the trees is so far paying some dividends. 

“In Florida, all the groves have citrus greening,” Rogers said. “If we can’t keep these trees productive and growing fruit then everybody goes out of business pretty quickly.

“We’re seeing that over a couple years of doing the right management, you can take a tree that’s declining in health and turn it around. We’re seeing improvements both in fruit yield and in fruit quality.”

Rogers admits that despite these small gains, which include dramatically increased production costs, the industry is nowhere near its strength of 20 years ago. That’s okay for now while growers wait for long-term solutions to come down the pike – solutions that include new varieties of citrus more tolerant to the disease.

Varieties have been discovered that hold up better against the disease than many of the commercial varieties and those are being included in breeding programs. Among them is a fresh fruit variety called Sugar Belle, which gets the disease but continues to produce quality fruit. 

“The tree is very vigorous and seems to grow very fast,” Rogers said of the Sugar Belle variety. “As it is getting the disease it seems to outgrow the disease – it doesn’t drop fruit very much and the fruit can maintain very good quality. The underlying reasons for that, I don’t think we can quite say yet.”

The cultivation of tolerant fresh fruit varieties is cause for optimism and even excitement for growers, but in Florida it’s juice varieties that drive the industry bus. Historically, over 90 percent of oranges grown in the state have been of the juice variety with product going into cartons of Tropicana, Minute Maid and many others. But up to now, the greatest success in cultivating tolerant varieties of oranges have come mainly in fresh fruit.

New juice varieties are in the works, but according to Rogers, “it’s going to take a little bit longer to have them available for growers.”

Rogers points to a new juice variety that shows a lot of promise called OLL-20, a late-season Valencia orange variety identified by collaborators at Tropicana. The OLL-20 variety has been seen to grow well despite citrus greening and has produced quality fruit.

Tests on OLL-20 have shown it to be a superior piece of fruit that is only now getting into the hands of growers. In several years it is expected that OLL-20 will take over as the late-season variety in the juice industry.

As for early season varieties, the popular Hamlin has dominated the juice industry, but it has been hit especially hard by citrus greening. Researchers at IFAS in collaboration with growers are working on varieties to replace the Hamlin as an early-season variety and keep the constant supply of juice for processing plants.

“Early season is the biggest issue,” according to Rogers. “We’re hiring some new breeders to work on this problem, and we’ll eventually get there; we’ll have these varieties one day that growers will be growing to deal with the disease, but right now we just have to have people holding on. 

“It’s a tough time, a real challenge for our growers.”

For those growers with the time and resources to stick it out, they will no doubt be part of an industry that takes on a different shape than before. According to Rogers, the future for the Florida citrus industry may entail a greater role in the fresh fruit varieties, something that has historically been left to California growers while Florida produces the juice varieties.

“We’re not going to come out of this the same industry as we were before citrus greening,” Rogers said. “We’re going to be a smaller industry down the road, but we’re still going to be the predominant juice industry – Florida and Brazil will retain their status as the major producers of orange juice.

“Citrus will remain the iconic crop of Florida, but we will look different.”

Rogers notes that new varieties of fresh fruit are in the experimental stages that “taste way better than anything you get out of California.” He says great tasting new fresh fruit varieties are coming out that will allow Florida to compete with the famous Cuties and Halos of California. The idea is that having a greater percentage of fresh fruit varieties will allow growers to diversify their operations, thereby hedging their losses in times of orange juice price crunches.

According to Spykes, the problem with oranges is bad enough, but grapefruit presents another set of issues.

“Grapefruit is a problem child,” Spykes said. “You can breed your way out of the orange and the mandarin problem, but you can’t breed your way out of grapefruit because you can’t cross a grapefruit with anything and still get a grapefruit.”

The key to grapefruit is identifying more tolerant varieties, one of which Spykes believes to be the Star Ruby. Even so, with experiments and trials taking place, Spykes said he expects within four or five years to have the answers to the greening situation.

“We’re not there yet, we’re in the middle, in an awkward stage where the existing susceptible trees are still declining and we haven’t really ramped up planting the new ones.”

These are optimistic outlooks and the industry is still struggling, meaning a lot of growers like Phillips are facing the pressure of holding on with the hope of future returns or eschewing the exorbitant costs and time preferences for an easier conversion of their lands. Many are choosing the latter.

For MacKay, son of former U.S. representative and governor of Florida Buddy MacKay, maintaining his grove and adapting to the changes is about more than just delayed profits, it’s about carrying the legacy of a family farm now in its third generation.

“If I were looking at it purely as a business enterprise, I’m not sure (my groves) wouldn’t already be converted to pastureland and have cows on it,” MacKay said. “Because it has been in the family for multiple generations and because I grew up being involved with it, it brings a certain level of satisfaction to see it continue to operate.”

The aftermath may be the elimination of many small growers while the large operations are able to absorb the momentary high costs and small yields. Either way, the Florida citrus industry finds itself at a significant crossroads unlike anything it has experienced. With altering farming techniques, new varieties and even a shift toward more fresh fruit, adaptation is the key to survival – the only alternative being its demise. 

“I think (the Florida citrus industry) sort of bottomed out,” Spykes said. “Now, as people begin to re-plant using the techniques and varieties then we’ll see that start to increase again.”

The Florida citrus industry has faced down all comers, from hard freezes to citrus canker and now its most formidable foe: citrus greening. In the end, what will save the industry is science, dogged perseverance from growers and even a little bit of good luck. Florida citrus can certainly use all three right about now.  

Lynde Johnson – 40 under 40 2021


Name: Lynde Johnson

Age: 33

Occupation: Entrepreneur/Manager 

Business/workplace: Golden Ocala Equestrian Center

Grand goal in life: To be brave in my life so others have permission to be brave in theirs. 

I want to be an example to those around me – especially my daughter – to show up with full authenticity, be exactly who God made you to be and go after those big, crazy dreams! 

When not working, I…  am likely at home with my family. I’m an extrovert and a workaholic but also very much a homebody.

What I like about Ocala: I first moved to Ocala in 2011, allured by the equine industry. I’m still in love with the horses and the equine community that made Ocala feel like home. 

Pet peeve: Unfortunately I have SO many pet peeves, but my longest standing pet peeve is for sure when people touch their already chewed gum. I’m also super creeped out by the possibility of stepping on it – it’s weird but, hey, it’s a real concern for me!

Philosophy of life word: Impact. 

Personal superpower: Being able to squeeze in and complete an incredible number of tasks in one calendar day while simultaneously putting off and procrastinating a million different things that I will obviously have to cram in tomorrow. This, my friends, is where I find much of my life satisfaction and also my increasing number of grey hairs.

Superhuman power I’d like: Tto fly. Who wouldn’t choose to be able to fly? I’m frequently late and often forget how long it takes to get from point A to point B so being able to fly (at least if I could fly fast) would most definitely solve that problem for me. 

Favorite cause: Several immediately come to mind. Streetlight Ministries, Women’s Pregnancy Center, and Mission para Cristo in Nicaragua. 

Guilty pleasure: I will always sing if I know the song. And I’m not talking under my breath, hum along to the tune kind of singing but full-out, all the drama, all the musicality, hit every note, give it all ya got kind of singing. Favorites are Disney princess songs, anything from musicals, country music, a little Beyonce, and even Spice Girls. 

HIstorical dinner date: I would want to have a dinner date with my Grandma. I picked up so much of who I am from her and she never saw me graduate college or get married. She’s never met her granddaughter (who is also very much like her) and I feel like we have quite a bit of catching up to do. She was such a strong, independent woman whom I both respected and admired and I’d love to get to talk to her even just one more time. 

People who know me say I am…  a hard worker, a good problem solver and a natural leader.

Biggest professional achievement: Making the decision to go to work for myself. I’m an entrepreneur at heart and have become very unemployable. By that I mean, time freedom and the freedom to create a value-driven culture is of utmost importance to me. Anything else is a deal-breaker. 

Favorite part of my profession: That’s an easy one! My favorite part about my profession is getting to work with horses on a daily basis. Sometimes I think it’s easier to communicate with them than most people I know. I get paid to do what I love and I am so grateful for that. 

I indulge too much in… fast food! I almost always order more than one entree for myself at a restaurant, never end up eating all of either one and then take it all home in to-go boxes. As the expression goes, my eyes are bigger than my stomach. Also dessert! Oh my goodness, all the desserts please! Literally every single day. 

Shane Sandlin – 40 under 40 2021


Name: Shane Sandlin

Age: 24

Occupation: Vice President of Airplane Intel, Inc. By trade I am a pilot and aircraft mechanic but both skills are utilized to help our customers buy, sell, and maintain airplanes. 

Name of business/workplace: Airplane Intel, Inc.

Grand goal in life: To have a big, happy family. 

When not working … I enjoy relaxing with my family and friends. 

What I like most about Ocala: Although it’s growing fast, it still has a small-town feel and the folks are nice. 

Pet peeve: Complaining

Philosophy in a word: Integrity

Personal superpower: Intuition

If you could have a superhuman power, I’d like … to be able to fly.

Community cause: The Wounded Warrior Project

Guilty pleasure: I like to go fast.

Historical dinner date: The real Barry Seal. He probably had plenty of interesting flying stories.

People who know me say I am . . . goofy!

Biggest professional achievement: Joining Airplane Intel as a partner and assisting with its long-term growth.

Favorite part of my profession: Delivering newly acquired airplanes to our customers. Lots of times, we handle the whole transaction so the first time they see the airplane is when we deliver it. It’s always exciting. 

I indulge too much in … eating out.

Brittney Mahaffey – 40 under 40 2021


Name: Brittney Mahaffey

Age: 29

Occupation: Real Estate Broker / Owner

Business/workplace: Ocala’s Finest Real Estate, LLC

Grand goal: to ensure my children are supplied with the resources to obtain a successful future.

When not working, I . . . roller blade or bowl with my boys

What I like about Ocala: driving through tree tunnels!

Pet peeve: not meaning what you say, or saying what you mean.

Philosophy of life word: Love

Personal superpower: spinning many plates

Superhuman power I’d want:  To be in several places at once

Favorite cause: The Early Learning Coalition of Marion County

Guilty pleasure: cookie dough

Historical dinner date: God, I have a lot of questions :)

People who know me say I am . . . optimistic and eager

Biggest professional achievement: Opening a Real Estate Brokerage Community Impact with The Early Learning Coalition, Junior League of Ocala and United Way

Favorite part of profession: Serving others

I indulge too much in . . . Free People at Dillard’s , I can’t stop!

Katelyn Livingston – 40 under 40 2021


Name: Katelyn Livingston

Age: 28

Occupation: Occupational Therapist 

Business/workplace:Strive! Health & Rehabilitation/Ocala Regional Medical Center.

Grand goal in life: Stay healthy, grow old with my husband, raise a family, and build my career. 

When not working, I . . . enjoy spending time with my husband, working out at my awesome gym (Burn Boot Camp), and doing any activities that include water.

What I like about Ocala: I like living in Ocala because it is a good combination of rural and city life. If my husband and I want to take our Ranger out to the forest and ride around we can or if we want to spend a day out on the lake we can take a short trip to my mother-in-law’s on Little Lake Weir. On the other hand if we want to have a nice night out we can go to downtown Ocala. Although Ocala is growing rapidly, I also like that it is still a smaller community where a lot of people know one another. 

Pet peeve: Negativity. I always try to find the positive in every situation no matter how difficult it may be. I cannot stand when people complain and display a negative attitude because what they don’t realize is that even though their situation may not be a good one, it could always be worse and there is always someone out there going through something more difficult than you. 

Philosophy of life word:  Gratefulness. Despite the challenges I have faced thus far in life, I am grateful every day for the life I have been given. I am grateful for the people who have been a part of my life and have already passed on, for the people who are currently in my life, and for all of the things that I have.  I think we so often take people and things for granted when we should just be grateful for what we have. 

Personal superpower: Having strength. My 20s have been particularly difficult and I have had to face several situations in which I never imagined having to face and especially at such a young age, but I feel like I have become even stronger for it. I know there may be other situations in life that arise that may be equally or even more difficult, but I know I have the strength to get through it. 

Superhuman power I’d like: Flying. If I were able to fly I could easily get to places I would like to visit and I could visit family and friends who live far away. 

Favorite cause: Hospice of Marion County. Hospice of Marion County holds a special place in my heart as I have had several very close personal experiences with them in caring for my family members and they are amazing. When a family member is sick it adds so much stress to your life including financial stress. The employees of Hospice are truly caring and compassionate people and they make it show in their work and the financial burden and stress is taken away as you are not charged a dime for any of their services. 

Guilty pleasure: Sweets. I have a major sweet tooth and I definitely have to control myself when it comes to dessert. If it has sugar in it, it is for me.

Historical dinner date: Lou Gehrig. Lou was one of the first people to be diagnosed with ALS. Unfortunately, this disease has been a difficult part of my life as both of my parents suffered with this terrible disease. It would be interesting to talk to him about his experience with the disease and see just how different things were for him back in the 1930s-40s versus today. Maybe his account of the disease would provide information in diagnosing and finding a cure for the disease. 

People who know me say I am… ICaring, loyal, honest, compassionate, and maybe even a little humorous.

Biggest professional achievement: I am the first person in my family to graduate college. I am very proud to say that I am a former Florida Gator and went on to pursue my Master’s in Occupational Therapy at the University of St. Augustine. Many times I wanted to give up and just quit, but looking back I am so proud that I persevered and got through it all and ended up in a profession that I love. 

Favorite part of my profession: I truly enjoy caring for and helping people. Working in the hospital setting as an OT can be very challenging both mentally and physically while often working with people at one of the worst times in their life. It makes me feel very good when I can help someone going through a hard time to help them with something so simple as sitting up on the side of the bed or brushing their teeth. As an OT, it is my job to help people move around but also perform their daily activities such as oral care, getting dressed, or getting up to the bathroom and these are things that we so often take for granted and it is amazing how helping someone do something so simple can make their day when they are sick or injured.

I indulge too much in:  Clothes. I enjoy buying new clothes and having new things to wear whenever I go out, although I end up buying things and then never wearing them or only wearing them once. 

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