Castillo Farms Prepares For Plant City Strawberry Festival

By: Becca Demski

PLANT CITY- Castillo Farms sprouted hundreds of strawberry vines recently in preparation for the upcoming Strawberry Festival.

Castillo Farms started off as 3 acres when Fidel Castillo and his wife Hilda first moved to the United States. It has now expanded to over 100 acres. Alberto Castillo, one out of three siblings, received a degree in marketing last year and helps his family through sales and promotion. When he’s not doing that, he’s working on the farm.

“To see them do something big without the education that they wanted motivates me. I thankfully have a college education and I want to put it to good use. That’s what wakes me up in the morning and to not give up because my parents didn’t give up.”

Castillo carefully squatted down next to a bed of soil as he ran his pointer finger and thumb over a red tinted stem.

“When they start to get this red color, that means they’re maturing…that’s how it shows you that the plant is good and healthy.”

Depending on the season, they grow watermelons, cantaloupe, vegetables and strawberries. Right now, strawberries are their main focus. Black plastic material covered each of the rows as the vines peaked through the tiny slits. Hundreds of sprinklers ticked as they watered the crops. Shallow streams of water flowed down into a retention pond.

“Our water goes to our homemade retention pond and then it goes back out through the sprinklers. We also try to reuse the plastic on our beds because other farmers will either burn it or send it to a dumpster and that’s bad for the population, so we try to cut down as much as we can.”

According to Castillo, the strawberries should be ready to harvest in November. His family’s farm is also one of the main suppliers for venders at the Strawberry Festival. They also donate to their community.

“We donate berries to our church and they have their own little stand inside the Strawberry Festival and they sell milkshakes and shortcakes…We donate the berries to them so they can make a profit off of it.”

The Strawberry Festival starts on Feb. 28 and runs for 11 days. Over 500,000 people attend every year. The festival has headline entertainment, rides, youth livestock shows and, of course, strawberries.

“We have people from New York, New Jersey, North Carolina and Georgia come down to the Strawberry Festival,” Castillo said. “When they come down here and see it themselves, they go back and buy more of our product. They go into stores looking for our product because they made that connection with us at the festival.”

In 2017, their farm was honored as Agriculturist of The Year by the Plant City Chamber of Commerce and Farm Credit of Central Florida.

“We’re very family oriented, very friendly and very open to the public and to anybody that comes in to visit. We treat them like family.”

Free Mental Health Counseling For USF Students

By: Becca Demski
TAMPA- The Counseling Center at the University of South Florida has helped many students overcome personal challenges. One student is living proof of the positive effects that counseling can have on mental health.

Twenty-year-old Nicole Yacura says she first experienced anxiety at the age of six. It wasn’t until her appointment with a USF counselor that she was officially diagnosed with chronic depression and anxiety.

“I saw three different counselors actually,” Yacura said. “I used to self-harm, so the first counselor taught me different techniques like proper breathing exercises to help manage my anxiety and lower my heart rate.”

According to Anxiety And Depression Association Of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older. Also, anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality and life events.

Yacura decided to go to counseling in order to not only improve her own mental health, but also her personal relationships.

“Before I went to counseling at USF I noticed that a lot of my friendships were not as deep because I felt like I couldn’t talk to them about my mental illness,” Yacura said. “I felt like if I expressed that, then I’d be judged or seen as being weird. Being able to talk about that with a counselor kind of de-stigmatized it for me.”

The American Counseling Association states that school counselors have been proven to be effective in preventing suicide. It also indicates that preventative counseling, occurring before students are in crisis, reduces the risk of students dropping out later.

“It’s kind of weird because when you tell people that you have a cold or a really bad cough they tell you to go to the doctor for it,” Yacura said. “But when we talk about mental illness or when someone says I don’t know if I want to exist anymore it makes people feel so uncomfortable.”

Jason Axford is one of the many counselors at USF. He encourages all students to come in and schedule an appointment with a professional.

“One of the biggest things I hear from clients is that I just feel stuck, overwhelmed or both,” Axford said. “We have skills and techniques to heighten your awareness so that you can shift, reframe and increase your ability to emotionally express yourself.”

Axford’s office is dimly lit, calm and serene. On his desk are items like play dough, textured rocks, stress balls and other various objects that students can fidget with if they need to during their session. His tone is welcoming and his conversation flows easily, as if he were chatting with a friend.

“I’m no different than anybody else,” Axford said. “Just because I sit in this chair on this side of the room doesn’t mean that…I too experience emotions, thoughts, distress, crisis…I’m trained in a specific way, but I am always learning from my clients.”

The USF Counseling Center is located at the Student Services Building on the second floor, Suite 2124. Its hours are Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday’s from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Friday’s from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you are in a crisis, their 24-hour phone line is available at 813-974-2831.

How To Use USF’s New 3D Artec Scanner

TAMPA- Students and faculty at the University of South Florida can now make 3D scans for free at the new Access 3D Lab.

Access 3D lab instructor, Michelle Assaad, demonstrated how to use one of the newest pieces of equipment on campus, the Artec Space Spider. She held the iron-shaped plastic scanner in her hand as she panned slowly over a miniature stone statue.

Blue-tinted LED lights flashed from five circular holes on the face of the scanner. While she scanned, she kept her eyes fixed on the computer screen as the data digitally pieced the statue together.

The Artec Space Spider is a $24,800 3D scanner that has the capability of capturing images of small and medium-sized objects. Originally developed for the International Space Station, the scanner is now mostly used for reverse engineering, industrial design, manufacturing, health care, science, education, art and design.

A more recent project was the first ever presidential face scan of former President Barack Obama. Two 3D professionals circled Obama as he sat still in a chair for 90 seconds. While the finished project took over two years to complete, the actual scanning process took a total of seven minutes from the minute Obama stepped into the room.

According to Assaad, not only is the Artec extremely precise but it is also easy to use. She uses many different methods to scan various objects. One way is through trial and error.

“Sometimes you just have to figure out what angles…get on the table itself, bring the object down to the ground, it’s just a matter of experience. It’s about developing your own personal workflow.”

First, plug the Artec into a computer and a power source. After opening the Artec Studio Software, turn on the scanner by pressing the button up once. Scanning objects can be done with or without the flashing lights. To activate the flash, press the button on the scanner again.

One of Assaad’s most recent projects consisted of scanning her own personal cameras. Based on her prior experience with the Artec, the lights are not needed when it comes to reflective objects like glasses, cups and jars.

“Turn them off. It’s best for reflective materials like cameras or metals. If it’s a jar, that’s especially difficult…turn them off and you won’t have that kind of reflection.”

Once the scanner is turned on, scanning can take anywhere from 10 to 40 minutes depending on the size of the object and the user’s skill level. To turn off the scanner completely, press down on the back button.

After that, the completed digital image can be edited, manipulated and perfected to its final form through the software. Assaad says manipulating 3D data is something that takes practice. Students are encouraged to try one of the many 3D tools like the Artec Space Spider.

“That’s sort of the pro of having someone here who actually knows and can help teach you the tricks that maybe aren’t in a manual or online. Just email us and we’ll set up a time…all day if you want it doesn’t matter, that’s what we’re here for.”

Free lab access is available for students and faculty only. Normal lab hours are Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at CMC102.