The Southwest Florida Small Farmer Network is a peer-to-peer network focused on exploring diversified and sustainable farming systems. This group is open to established and beginning farmers in Southwest Florida and hosted by UF/IFAS Extension Agents in the region.
On May 4th, UF/IFAS Extension Agents hosted the Spring 2022 meeting at Dundee Citrus in the C.U.P.S. System of Story Companies in Bartow to look at citrus production in a citrus greening era. The meeting took place on National O.J. Day which recognizes America’s popular breakfast drink.
Kyle Story, Vice President of The Story Companies welcomed the group and talked about citrus production for small and mid-size farmers looking to expand into citrus. Jennifer Schaal, CFO of Dundee Citrus Growers Association highlighted the C.U.P.S. (Citrus under Protective Screen) production system and shared her expertise on how producers are using precision agriculture to create profitable production of HLB-free, fresh fruit in psyllid-free enclosed screen house environment.
Dundee C.U.P.S system: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzJWSKFOk3U&feature=emb_logo
The meeting focus was to explore the growing conditions, financing available, market opportunities of this new way of growing citrus in Florida, as well as how to develop an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program in a small farm in Florida.
In addition to a farm tour, Kirby Quam of FDACS shared information about the On-Farm Readiness Review which helps producers get ready for FSMA Food Safety Inspections. Clay Joyner of Farm Credit shared financial resources available to producers looking to start or expand their operations and Kyle Story of Story Companies represented the Polk County Farm Bureau. Polk County Small Farms Agent, Luis Rodriguez Rosado taught the group general information about IPM and common citrus pests. Lee County Family & Consumer Sciences Agent, Jenn Hagen presented information on the 2021 Florida Cottage Food Law updates and UF/IFAS Produce Safety trainings. And Lee County Extension Director, David Outerbridge shared Natural Resources Conservation Service programs available to producers.
Attendees gathered from Bartow to Broward County and also got a chance to network with one another over lunch.
The SWFL Small Farmer Network is a great opportunity to connect with fellow farmers, food entrepreneurs and see first-hand the challenges and opportunities involved in food production in Florida.
Keep in touch with your local UF/IFAS Extension Agent to learn about upcoming meetings.
Check out the UF/IFAS Extension Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises website for more networking information: https://smallfarm.ifas.ufl.edu/networking/