Extension Small Farms Team Receives Epsilon Sigma Phi Award At Florida Association Of Extension Professionals (FAEP) Conference

Chuck Woods (352) 392-1773 x 281

Mickie Swisher (352) 392-1869
Wayne Odegaard (352) 754-4433

KISSIMMEE—Fourteen faculty members from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and Florida A&M University have been honored by Epsilon Sigma Phi, the national honorary of the Cooperative Extension Service, for their work with small farmers in Florida.

The ESP award was presented to the team at the Florida Association for Extension Professionals conference in Kissimmee, Fla., Monday, Sept. 27.

Those honored with the ESP team award include James App, professor and assistant extension dean, Gainesville; Charles Brasher, Jackson County extension agent, Marianna; Jacque Breman, Union County extension director, Lake Butler; Timothy Crocker, professor, Department of Horticultural Sciences, Gainesville; David Dinkins, Bradford County extension director; Starke; Cassel Gardner, assistant professor, Florida A&M University, Tallahassee; Edward Jennings, Sumter County extension director, Bushnell; Perry Lord, Alachua County extension agent; Gainesville; Wayne Odegaard, Hernando County extension director, Brooksville; Clay Olson, Taylor County extension director, Perry; John Shuffitt, Marion County extension agent, Ocala; Mary Sowerby, Hillsborough County extension agent, Seffner; Marilyn Swisher, associate professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Gainesville; Paulette Tomlinson, Columbia County extension agent, Lake City.

While extension programs have always focused on improving farm income for small producers, the current program goes beyond economic goals, said Swisher, leader of the extension small farm program design team.

“For this group, farming is often a lifestyle choice, and economic considerations may be of secondary importance,” she said. “Rather than seeking to maximize profit, for example, these farmers may have other economic goals, such as maintaining the tax advantages of having a farming operation, maintaining a rural way of life and not losing money they invest in their small farms.”

Swisher said the UF/IFAS Cooperative Extension Service is working with small farmers because they help keep land in agricultural use, and they perform an important role in natural resource management, environmental protection and community development in Florida.

“As the state’s population increases, there is a tendency for land to move from agriculture to urban land use,” she said. “This change in land use can result in decreasing environmental quality due to, for example, loss biodiversity and decreased recharge areas for the state’s aquifers.”

In 1998, Odegaard and other team members organized a highly successful Small Farm Conference and Trade Show in Brooksville attended by more than 400 people. A similar program will be held Oct. 30 at the Hernando County Fairgrounds.

Odegaard said the 1999 Small Farm Day will emphasize demonstrations on a variety of small scale farming practices. Topics will range from organic farming and raising livestock to value-added production and marketing, aquaculture, vineyard establishment, vermicomposting, shiitake mushroom cultivation, beekeeping, soap making and enhancement of wildlife habitats.

The program also will include producer association meetings and family events such as hay rides, petting zoos and pigmy goat shows. Livestock displays will include Florida cracker cattle and horses, Boer goats, Nigerian dwarf goats, llamas, meat-type rabbits and rare breeds of chickens and turkeys.

The National Commission on Small Farms, a group commissioned by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, defines small farms as those with gross sales of $250,000 or less on which the majority of labor and management are supplied by the farm family. Small farms account for about 15 percent of the market value of agricultural products in Florida, according to the 1997 census. They account for 85 percent of all farms in the state. In some counties, small farms comprise more than 90 percent of the farm population.

Editor’s Note: For more information on the 1999 Small Farm Day, please visit the following Web site: http://www.ifas.ufl.edu/~F2F/