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Southwest Florida Small Farmers Network Meeting Recap 2018

On Monday, November 5th, small-scale vegetable farmers, cattle ranchers, mushroom growers, food foresters and industry members came together to discuss the opportunities and challenges of small-scale farming in Southwest Florida.                                                 UF/IFAS Photo by Camila Guillen

The Southwest Florida Small Farmers Network (SWFSFN) connects southwest Florida farmers to a resource-network focused on diversified and sustainable farming systems. The group, facilitated by the UF/IFAS Agriculture Extension agents of Sarasota, Lee and Collier counties, aims to help address the priorities, issues, and needs identified by small farmers through education. The intended audience includes beginner as well as established small farmers who want to develop a regional network of producers with similar interests and evaluate alternative production systems first-hand. Membership is open and at no cost.

UF/IFAS Photo by Camila Guillen

The meetings are typically held twice a year and open to farmers from Hillsborough County south to Collier County, although those from farther away are welcome to come and do attend. The group’s meetings typically includes a farm visit featuring a farmer-led walk and description of farm operations in conjunction with Extension presentations on topics.

UF/IFAS Photo by Camila Guillen

Thee year’s focus was on regulation and policy and the farm business. The group discussed UF/IFAS Extension’s Small Farms & Alternative Enterprises’ new and improved website as well as the ‘Direct Marketing Guide’ that provides resources on business planning, current laws and policies, marketing strategies, and food safety.

 

UF/IFAS Photo by Camila Guillen

Extension Agents also invited speakers from Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services to discuss their On-Farms Readiness Program, Feeding Florida to share the benefits of Double Access Bucks for SNAP recipients that purchase Florida produce at Farmers Markets, the SWFL Regional Planning Council’s recent grant that explores ways the region can support small to medium size farming, and Collier County Waste & Recycling program’s efforts to measure and reduce waste in the county.

UF/IFAS Photo by Camila Guillen

The meeting was hosted at Oakes Demonstration Farm, a local farm that showcases diversified production systems such as raised beds, greenhouses, hydroponics, chickens, fresh flowers and aquaculture production. Additional activities included a pot-luck lunch and seed swap.

UF/IFAS Photo by Camila Guillen

Keep an eye out for the SWFL Small Farmers Network meeting next year! For more information contact Jessica Ryals, UF/IFAS Extension Sustainable Food Systems Agent at jessicaryals@ufl.edu

UF/IFAS Photo by Camila Guillen

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