Thanksgiving reminds us to give thanks. A reminder is much needed for all of us! So many times all that we have does not easily register over the demands of work in all its forms, the things and experiences we wish we had, and the other struggles we face. Being an Extension Agent working with farmers, landscapers, nursery growers, and other agribusinesses, I get a chance to see first-hand the ways these community members contribute to our lives. In writing this article, I want to bring a grateful focus to the work of the growers here in Martin County. We are fortunate to have so many professionals devoting their careers and businesses to maintaining the crops and plants we benefit from. Let’s give thanks to the growers!
What do we grow?
Our growers produce the food we eat and the plants we surround ourselves with. Their work is in evidence outside our living room windows, in the parks we visit, and as we travel through rural Martin County. We have 250 nurseries and nursery stock dealers registered with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) here in our county (Source: https://www.fdacs.gov/Agriculture-Industry/Plants-and-Nurseries/Nursery-and-Stock-Dealer-Registration). When it comes to maintaining our landscapes, we have almost 700 professionals licensed to apply pesticides safely and another 109 licensed to apply fertilizers commercially in our yards and neighborhoods (Source: https://ceu.fdacs.gov/LicenseeReport.aspx). Over 187,000 acres of our county’s land are devoted to agricultural production, including pastures and other livestock operations (130,607 acres), cropland (50,303 acres), groves/orchards (2,364 acres), and ornamental plant production (3,969 acres) (Source: https://www.pa.martin.fl.us/tools-downloads/data-downloads).
Who is growing here?
Data gathered through the USDA Census of Agriculture County Profile offers a look into the different types of people and ag operations we have here in Martin County. While the majority of our growers are men, 41% of our growers are women. We have 68 Asian growers, as well as 50 growers with Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origins. More than a third of our growers are new and beginning farmers, and almost 10% are under the age of 35. Most of our farms are considered family farms, even those that don’t sell directly to consumers. While direct-to-consumer sales make growers easier to recognize and connect with, it can also take extra labor and expense for growers to make themselves available to consumers, bring their products in-person to markets, network with chefs, and advertise to potential buyers. The majority of family farmers instead choose to sell through intermediaries, and their products go into grocery stores, restaurants, schools, commercial kitchens, and other markets across the US and globally. The fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy, and ornamental plants our Florida growers cultivate contribute to the supply of agricultural products at the local, national and global scales. For a visual, check out the major shipping routes of Florida products map created by FDACS.
How can you support local growers?
There are lots of ways to support local growers, from purchasing decisions to policy-making. To find local growers selling direct-to-consumers, check out the Local Harvest online listings, the USDA Local Food Directory, or the FDACS Community Farmers’ Market Locator, to name just a few such directories. If you want to visit a farm and meet the growers, maybe while enjoying a meal or music, check out Martin County’s Agritourism event listing or the Florida Agritourism Association events and activities. When shopping at the grocery store, look for the country of origin on the produce you buy, or even better, look for the Fresh from Florida logo! Visit a local plant nursery or find one on the Florida Nursery Growers and Landscapers Association’s (FNGLA) member map. Consider how policies can affect our growers and agricultural lands. Decisions around land use, development, trade, labor, regulations, research funding, and more all have a bearing on our agricultural production. The websites of agricultural industry associations, trade journals, and ag/food policy organizations identify specific policy areas of concern to their members. You can also reach out to your local extension office to learn about agriculture in your part of Florida. There are so many ways to show support. In doing whatever is right for each of us at this moment in time, we make a difference in the livelihoods of growers and in our food system as a whole.
Thanks to the growers!