2022 – Central District All Faculty Symposium – Agriculture
M. Bailey, UF/IFAS Extension, Marion County, Ocala, FL
Situation: In 2021 agricultural production costs and land prices increased significantly in North Central Florida. This creates substantial challenges for new farms to begin and existing farms to expand. The need for high value crops on small acreage is increasingly important. Passion fruit is a new high value crop that has not been previously grown commercially in North Central Florida. The objective is to help small farms begin, grow, and become profitable with passion fruit production. Methods: Three key components are necessary to launch passion fruit as an alternative crop: establish production methods, grower adoption of the crop, and effective marketing. Two EDIS publications support current and prospective growers with the fundamentals of passion fruit production. Growers that are seeking alternative crops now have the option of passion fruit. They are also provided with basic marketing options as well as passion fruit market analysis. Growers are directly supported with a recurring site visits and regular communication. Plant pathogen diagnostic services and production recommendations have been provided. A production meeting is planned for both current and prospective growers to share the latest information and encourage two-way communication between IFAS and the growers. Results: Small farms (n=10) in North Central Florida have planted passion fruit on small acreage, averaging ¼ acre, in 2021. Additional small farms are in the process of establishing passion fruit. Small farms that planted in 2021 are beginning to produce an initial crop and those that planted in 2020 have achieved profitability. Conclusion: Passion fruit is an emerging alternative crop that has significant growth potential to generate profitability for regional small farms and benefit consumers with high quality Florida Grown passion fruit.