Starting a Farm in Alachua County – Choosing and growing your crop successfully
Choosing the right agricultural commodity for you can be a head-scratching process. When choosing, look at your current assets such as knowledge, expertise, equipment, network, etc. Your previous experiences and connections can help you significantly in different aspects of starting an agricultural enterprise. The extension publication Keys to Successfully Choosing Enterprises That Suit Your Small Farm provides several considerations that help you choose what to grow.
It is important to familiarize yourself with the soil pH and nutrient requirements of the crop (or crops) you choose to grow. To create a baseline of the status of your cropping area, you can do soil, tissue and water testing.
- A soil test will enable you to address the general nutritional status of the soil, pH and possible lime requirement.
- Well water in Florida can have high pH which can also bring challenges if you choose to produce an acid-loving crop such as blueberry.
- In the scenario where you acquire a property with an agricultural commodity already in place, tissue testing can be useful to assess the nutritional status of the existing crop. It allows you to identify nutrient deficiencies and correct them.
Soil, tissue and water samples can be sent to the UF/IFAS Analytical Services Laboratories (ANSERV) located in Gainesville but you can use other labs in the region if you choose to. Each lab has its own forms for submission and its own rates. Below, find the information for the lab at UF:
2390 Mowry Road
Wallace Building #631
P.O. Box 110740
Gainesville, FL 32611-0740
Telephone: 352-392-1950 Ext. 221
FAX: 352 392 1960
To download the submission forms for the different tests visit https://soilslab.ifas.ufl.edu/ESTL%20Tests.asp. You will find instructions on how to collect the sample for each type of test directly on the submission form.
For guidelines on crop production and management, you can consult these resources:
- UF/IFAS Vegetable Handbook – Compiles information on varieties, planting dates, seeding rates, and pest control products available for each crop.
- Agricultural Best Management Practices Manuals by the Florida Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services – Recommended and approved BMP guidelines available for the major agricultural industries in Florida.
- EDIS – Electronic Data Information Source of UF/IFAS Extension – Extension information by the University of Florida.
Other sections – Starting a Farm in Alachua County: