Fresh From The Farm! New UF Farm Market Guide To North Central Florida Available At County Extension Offices

By:
Chuck Woods (352) 392-1773 x 281

Source(s):
Suzanne Stapleton sstapleton@mail.ifas.ufl.edu, (904) 362-1725

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LIVE OAK—Buying fresh produce direct from local farmers is easier than ever thanks to a new Farm Market Guide to North Central Florida published by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Two versions of the directory are available, one for farms east of Interstate 75 and another for those west of I-75.

“The directories include farms and markets in 17 counties that sell home-grown agricultural products to the public,” said Suzanne Stapleton, multi-county extension marketing agent at UF’s North Florida Research and Education Center in Live Oak. “With a map showing each farm’s location and a list of products available, the retail farm guides are convenient to use. The folded guides can be carried in your car, pocket or purse.”

Many of the farms listed offer discounts for new customers, she said. By showing the guide to farmers, consumers may be entitled to a 10 percent discount.

Stapleton, who developed the guides for the UF Extension Service, said they were produced in cooperation with five co-sponsors: Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Florida Farm Bureau, Council for Progress of Suwannee County and the Columbia and Madison county chambers of commerce.

The guides list sources for fruits, vegetables, hay and livestock, as well as other farm products such as honey, eggs and cane syrup. With the guides, consumers will be able to find U-pick opportunities, convenient retail farmers’ markets and even farms that deliver produce.

She said the guides will enhance business opportunities for area farmers. “The result is a win-win situation for all involved: Consumers can easily locate sources for local agricultural products and farmers can more easily sell their products direct and fresh.”

There are about 5,500 farms in the area, and more than 90 percent of these are small farms, often operated as a family business, Stapleton said.

Eddy Hillhouse, president of the Economic Alliance of Suwannee County, said agriculture is an important part of the environment and economy in the region. “The easiest way to keep our area natural and rural is to keep the farmers in business so they continue to use and care for the land.”

Farms also contribute significantly to local economies, he said, providing jobs and purchasing services from related businesses in irrigation, sales, packaging and transportation.

The guides are available free of charge from UF extension offices in Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Duval, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Lafayette, Levy, Madison, Nassau, St. Johns, Suwannee, Taylor and Union counties.

Stapleton said copies also may be available at local chambers of commerce, city halls and libraries. Within a few weeks, the guide will be available on the Internet at the North Florida Research and Education Center’s Web site: http://nfrec-sv.ifas.ufl.edu

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