2023 Fall Meeting of the SWFL Small Farmer Network

On November 3, 2023, the Southwest Small Farmer Network held our fall meeting at Circle C Farm in Hendry County, FL. The focus of the meeting was to highlight Circle C’s new on-farm store, learn about pasture management, connect producers, and share UF/IFAS Extension and industry partner resources.

SWFL Small Farmer Network attendees

The Southwest Small Farmer Network is facilitated by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension agents from Lee, Hillsborough, Sarasota, Polk, Manatee, and Collier counties. The network comprises of small farmers throughout the SWFL region who gather to learn, share knowledge, and interact with each other to create a community of small farmers.

The 53 attendees consisted of experienced producers in cow-calf operations, tropical fruit groves, hay production, goat and pig production, forestry, and many beginning and aspiring producers looking to figure out how to make it in the farming business.

Attendees taking a tour of Circle C Farm

Circle C is the first and only farm in Florida to have an on-farm USDA Federally Inspected and Custom Inspector Abattoir and Butcher shop. Owner and operator Nicole Cruz spoke to the group about her pasture-raised, grass-finished poultry, beef, pork, and eggs. Nicole shared insight on production practices such as pasture management, stress management of animals, harvesting, and processing. She also focused on the business aspects of running a farm, such as the importance of proper permits and certifications, risk management, and diversification. She shared experiences with the demand for local food, pricing, and the importance of leaning on ‘your network’ to help make sound business decisions.

Nicole Cruz of Circle C Farm talking to the group about farm practices

We also had FDACS, NRCS, and the USDA Discrimination Financial Assistance Program industry attendance. Lee County School District, Harry Chapin Food Bank, Florida Organic Growers, and SWFL Fresh also attended, sharing resources, and learning about agriculture in SWFL. Luis Rodrigues of Polk County Extension gave a mini pasture management workshop.  UF/IFAS Extension agents were available to answer farming and zoning questions and help connect participants.

Extension Agent Luis Rodriguez Pasture Management workshop

Survey results showed that 96% of participants learned something new. This included knowledge gained in pasture management, livestock management, risk management, on-farm processing, business and marketing decisions, identifying new market opportunities, and networking with other small farmers and industry representatives.

Attendees also learned skills such as building livestock pens and designing a farm layout. 93% of attendees said they would reach out to a new contact they made at the meeting.  25% of attendees plan to adopt changes to their operation within one year due to attending, which included efficient grazing management and diversification of products.

Industry members and rancher networking at SWFL Small Farmer Network meeting at Circle C Farm

Circle C Farm is the only producer in Florida working this type of production model. We thank them for their support over the years, for sharing their experience with us, and for taking the time to support the small farm community in Southwest Florida.

Cattle at Circle C Farm

The SWFL Fresh: Choose Local, Choose Fresh brand is a farmer-driven initiative that began after Hurricane Irma’s effects on the SWFL agricultural sector in 2017. It is supported by the SWFL Regional Planning Council and UF/IFAS Extension. The website and brand were developed to promote Southwest Florida residents and visitors to select food and beverages sourced from Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, and Lee counties.

We hope those of you reading this will attend a future meeting and see for yourself the power of the SWFL Small Farmer Network. If you are interested in attending the next SWFLSFN meeting, contact your local extension agent to be added to our mailing list.


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Posted: November 28, 2023

Category: Agribusiness, Agriculture, Events, Farm Management, Livestock, UF/IFAS Extension
Tags: Agribusiness, Agriculture, Farm Business, Farmers, Small Farms, SWFL, SWFL Small Farmer Network, UF/IFAS Extension

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