UF and FAMU create web site to help small farmers
LIVE OAK, Fla. — At at a time when large corporate farms dominate the marketplace, small farmers often struggle to compete, but help is on the way, thanks to a new Web site created by the University of Florida and Florida A&M University.
“With fewer resources available to them, small farmers in Florida face a variety of issues and challenges, which often places them at a competitive disadvantage,” said Bob Hochmuth, a multicounty extension agent with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, or UF/IFAS.
“Small farms represent more than 90 percent of all farms in Florida, and their success is vital to the state’s $69 billion agriculture and natural resources industries,” he said. “That’s why UF/IFAS and FAMU have created a Web site (http://smallfarms.ifas.ufl.edu) that specifically addresses the needs of these farmers.” Hochmuth, based at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center in Live Oak, said the Web site was developed to make small farm information accessible in one convenient location. Alejandro Bolques, a Florida A&M University extension agent in Gadsden County, helped design the Web site.
“Small farmers may be seeking information on getting started in farming, or considering one of many alternative enterprises, and it’s now all pulled together on one site to make the search easier,” Hochmuth said.
The Web site provides links and other resources for small farmers, including information on how to get started, budgeting, business planning, financing, grants, marketing and other issues. Farmers using the site can select topics on enterprises of special interest to them, including aquaculture, cut flower production, livestock production and organic farming. Each topic includes information on production, marketing and economics, as well as links to other useful information.
“What a fabulous resource,” said Betty O’Toole, owner of O’Toole’s Herb Farm in Madison, Fla. “We have found that the IFAS small farm Web site has become an invaluable tool – it’s jam-packed with useful information, quick and user-friendly, even for the computer novices we are.”
Input from small farmers and allied organizations was used to design the site, which identifies critical issues, such as access to profitable markets, business skills development, technical information, and alternative crops and enterprises. Input from counties throughout Florida identified the need for small farm educational programs to be developed. The Web site provides information that farmers can employ to address these issues and become more efficient in their business, Hochmuth said.