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Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises Conference

Elena Toro, Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent

Interested in exploring new alternatives for your farming operation or looking for new markets? Are you seeking changes in regulations that support local agriculture and willing to learn from others that have been successful when venturing into new agricultural enterprises?

I would like to take this opportunity to encourage all Suwannee County residents with an interest in farming to consider attending the Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises Conference that will take place in Kissimmee, FL on August 1 & 2, 2009. This will be a unique opportunity to explore a wide array of production systems and marketing channels for agricultural products. This is the first time the Extension Service in Florida is able to organize a single event that will cover horticultural crops to livestock while outlining a variety of production methods under which these products can be grown. Furthermore, there will be numerous sessions where you will be able to hear other farmers who have ventured into new agricultural enterprises talk about their experiences and challenges. Their advice may save you thousands of dollars and may set realistic expectations if you are planning to start or transition into a similar venue. In addition, a tradeshow is organized where you will be able to meet many of the equipment and input suppliers who will be part of the conference.

As an extension agent, I get asked too often what can I do with the land I bought and ―make money.‖ Usually most get discouraged after learning the initial investment needed and the hard work farming entails. But as the old saying reads

  • where there’s a will there is a way‖ I have been

pleasantly surprised to find more and more, that if you have a passion for farming, work hard, and are

patient you can be a full-time farmer. In many ways, farming in small scale is nothing new. A recognized supporter of agriculture in this county raised his family by selling produce he got off his five acres at a roadside stand. These days you don’t have to rely on a roadside stand exclusively, there are new farmers markets in North Florida that literally have thousands of visitors every week looking for fresh, local produce and food. This is just one example of new marketing opportunities for farmers that have recently surfaced.

On the other hand our farming community is slowly feeling the pressure to explore new markets or production systems. Despite its name this conference is not exclusive for small farmers since it will cover a vast array of alternative enterprises that have been successful in other parts of the country and that can work in our area. Some farmers may realize they have the ideal set up and resources to meet the standards of some niche markets. Please visit the conference website at: http://smallfarms.ifas.ufl.edu and decide to join us for the conference. Give yourself the opportunity to receive the most up to date information and make contacts with other farmers and industry that will come handy in the future.

Workshop Topics: · Livestock: Grass-fed Beef, Pastured Poultry Production, Health Management, Honey Bees · Alternative Energy: Farm Solar Energy Applications & Biofuels · Organic and Sustainable Production: Pest Management, Inputs, Farm Bill Opportunities · Horticulture: Blueberry, Strawberry, Stone Fruit, Producing High Value Vegetables & Herbs, Hydroponics · Business/Marketing: Owning your Own Business, Cooperatives, Buying from You

· Policy/Regulations: Food Systems Policy, Changing Regulations: What you need to know.


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