Working in Extension has given me a lot of interesting opportunities. On the job, I’ve found myself leading kayak trips all over Florida, building a two-story bat house, and wearing a Mr. Peanut costume while talking about agriculture. But I never really imagined being featured on a home improvement reality TV show. Sure, I’ve watched my fair share of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and Love it or List it, but those were just entertaining ways to pass the time and maybe get some ideas for my own house.
Then, a few months ago our office was contacted by the producers of a show called Flip My Florida Yard, to inform us they would be in Escambia County to film an episode of the show for the Discover Florida channel. As part of the effort, they’d need a local Extension agent to go on a site visit, help review the landscape design, and talk about Florida friendly landscaping principles on air. Based on my prior experience as a Florida Yards & Neighborhoods agent (and our horticulture agent being swamped with Master Gardener training), I got the reality TV job.
Part education and part entertainment, the show’s premise is similar to most home remodeling shows. A couple or family wishing to improve their current home shares their hopes with the remodelers, the homeowners are sent away for a day, and upon their return they are surprised with a brand-new look.
The twist with Flip My Florida Yard is that the landscapes in need of improvement are redesigned with Florida-friendly principles in mind. During each episode, Extension agents, IFAS researchers, and landscape designers are interviewed about concepts like using mulch and compost, proper irrigation, or “right plant, right place” choices based on soil type and sunlight availability. Last season, the crew was in Panama City to help a family restore their yard after damage from Hurricane Michael. For our Escambia County program, we will focus on appropriate fertilization, managing stormwater, protecting the waterfront, and providing wildlife habitat.
In late December I was interviewed by the show’s producers, and we spent a full day renovating a local backyard. The challenging, steeply sloping backyard was given some really nice amenities, including a rain barrel, a seating area, and wildlife attractants. Our local episode should air in March or April. In the meantime, all the past episodes are available for viewing on the Discover Florida Channel. The channel can be accessed via a free online account, or through several streaming services like Roku, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire. Flip My Florida Yard is a creative partnership between the Department of Environmental Protection/Florida State Parks and the state level UF IFAS Extension Florida Friendly Landscaping Program, so even the commercial breaks cover environmentally friendly messages and scenic views of state parks. Check it out—you might get some helpful ideas or even become the next homeowner featured!