Join us for the Panhandle Fruit & Vegetable Conference on February 19 & 20 in Pensacola! Registration includes a farm tour, dinner after the tour, breakfast & lunch the next day, and excellent educational sessions. The complete agenda is now available. Use your mouse or finger to “click” on the image below for full screen viewing. Register online at: Panhandle Fruit & Vegetable Conference Registration Page
The Panhandle Ag Extension Team hosted the inaugural Panhandle Fruit & Vegetable Conference on Tuesday, October 11. The conference featured three concurrent session tracks for participants to choose from, a keynote address on whole farm business profitability, and a locally sourced lunch cooked by the Jackson County Master Gardeners. More than 120 people attended the conference.
The conference was sponsored by 18 different businesses and organizations. A Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Specialty Crop Block Grant provided funding for the educational resources for the conference.
Dr. Pete Vergot, Northwest District Extension Director, welcomed attendees to the Panhandle Fruit & Vegetable Conference by sharing his first-hand experiences about growing up on a vegetable farm in Michigan.
The Protected Agriculture sessions were organized by Leon County Extension Agent Molly Jameson. Bob Hochmuth, UF/IFAS Regional Extension Agent is a vegetable production specialist. He spoke to participants about different hydroponic production systems and about fertilizer management.
Tallahassee’s Red Hills Small Farm Alliance members Herman Holley, Katie Harris, and Wayne Hawthorne discussed their farming and marketing experiences with attendees at one of the Protected Agriculture sessions. The Red Hills Small Farm Alliance is a 501c3 non-profit organization that assists small farms in the Red Hills Region with production and marketing.
The Fruit & Berry sessions were organized by Washington County Extension Agent Matt Orwat. UF/IFAS Blueberry Specialist Dr. Jeff Williamson talked to participants about blueberry production practices and blueberry varieties.
Dr. Violeta Tsolova gave participants an in-depth review of grape varieties suitable for North Florida. Dr. Tsolova is a Viticulture Specialist at Florida A&M University.
The Diversified Agriculture sessions were organized by Dr. Josh Freeman. Dr. Freeman is the UF/IFAS Vegetable Specialist housed at the University of Florida’s North Florida Research & Education Center in Quincy, FL. During one of the Diversified Agriculture sessions, Dr. Ayanava Majumdar, from Auburn University, taught participants about various Integrated Pest Management strategies for insect management in vegetable crops. Dr. Majumdar also presented in one of the Protected Agriculture sessions.
After the morning sessions were complete, the attendees of the conference were treated to a home cooked meal prepared by the Jackson County Master Gardeners. The lunch featured squash from farmer Allen Childs in Sneads, FL and peas from J&J Produce in Cottondale, FL. The lunch was capped off by ice cream from Southern Craft Creamery in Marianna, FL. Snack breaks included chocolate milk from the Ocheesee Creamery in Blountstown, FL.
To kick off the afternoon events, Farmer Richard Wiswall from Cate Farm in East Montpelier, VT talked to participants about managing a successful farm enterprises. He shared his experiences about starting with a small farm and growing over time as finances allowed. Richard also led a farm business seminar in the afternoon.
Attendees had to make a difficult decision when choosing between an afternoon tour, a farm business discussion, or a hands-on vegetable grafting demonstration. Participants on the Citrus Tour got to see Mack Glass’ packing house and his satsuma grove south of Marianna.
UF Grafting Specialist, Dr. Xin Zhao, came in town to teach participants how to graft vegetables. Participants got to practice grafting tomato plants.
The Protected Agriculture Tour visited Fox Family Farm in Cottondale. Fox Family Farm utilizes high tunnels to grow heirloom tomatoes and other vegetables. They are a Certified USDA Organic Farm.
The Panhandle Fruit & Vegetable Conference was a success thanks to the volunteers, sponsors, and Extension Agents and Specialists that made it all possible. We are looking forward to the next Panhandle Fruit & Vegetable Conference.
One excellent way to increase farm sales is to host a farm tour. In 2013 the Florida Legislature passed Senate Bill 1106, protecting farmers and ranchers from liability as long as activities are directly related to agriculture. This has opened up many opportunities for Florida farmers and has given citizens access to local farms where they can explore and meet the farmers where they work every day. Farm tours give the public the opportunity to not only see where their products originated, but also how they were produced and what farming techniques are actually used. This can help strengthen the relationships you have with customers, help you reach new customers, and make your farm stand out and be remembered.
One important aspect of planning a farm tour involves marketing. How will you let potential visitors know about your tour? If an organization, farm, or other entity organizes a farm tour event in your area, definitely take advantage of the opportunity. Often all you will need to do is complete an application providing a description of your farm and its amenities, and organizers will market the farm tour for you. If you live in an area without an established regional farm tour event, consider organizing one yourself or ask your local extension office for guidance and support. When advertising for your tour, include information on what visitors should bring, such as hats, sunscreen, water, and closed-toe shoes, as well as what not to bring, such as pets.
Once you have decided to host a farm tour, you then need to think about what you will discuss with your visitors. Remember that many people touring your farm may know very little about farming and will be interested in every aspect of your practices. Consider discussing your methods of fertilization, soil management, crop varieties, irrigation techniques, planting and harvesting schedule, equipment and tools used, and insect and disease management. Discuss with visitors what makes your farm unique, your experience as a farmer, where you sell your products, how you get your products to market, and your involvement within the community.
On the tour, include as many areas of your farm as possible, including fields, pastures, barns, packing sheds, greenhouses – and even beehives and compost piles. Set up a farm stand to give customers the chance to buy your products on site. If possible, include hands-on activities and demonstrations as part of your farm tour, such as sample tastings, weed and pest identification, or a harvesting demonstration.
Remember to use signs to direct visitors to parking, restrooms, where the farm tour starts, and other important information. You may want to consider offering light refreshments and water for your visitors. Also give your visitors clear safety instructions before entering an area, and post a sign about agritourism liabilities, as detailed in Florida Senate Bill 1106. You can purchase these signs from the Florida Agritourism Association website.
When concluding a farm tour, make visitors aware of your website and encourage them to follow you on social media. It is also beneficial to ask your participants for feedback about what they liked and didn’t like about the tour, so you can make improvements for future tours. Finally, take the time to reflect on the success, and think about what you could change to make your next farm tour event even better!
For additional information on this topic, utilize the following UF/IFAS Publication links:
Author: Jose Perez, UF/IFAS Small Farms Extension Coordinator
Tour a Satsuma Grove on October 11
There was a time when citrus production was booming in North Florida. In the 1920’s, Jackson County, Florida, was known as the Satsuma capital of the World. Satsuma is a citrus variety with excellent eating quality that is cold heady and matures early. Back then, there were about 3,000 acres of satsumas growing in the region, and the town of Marianna organized yearly satsuma festivals. That all changed in 1935 when hard freezes devastated the industry by killing the trees. The satsumas did not come back, and producers turned to other crops for income.
Satsumas were missing from the North Florida landscape until farmer-pioneer Mack Glass became interested in this crop as a way to diversify his farm. Federal payments for agronomic crops started to slide in the 1990’s and the time was right to look for alternative crops. In 1999, Mack attended an agricultural summit where the take-away message was, you either become a mega farm or you pursue niche production. “I decided to pursue a niche product,” said Mack, who decided to plant 6 acres of satsuma mandarins in the year 2002 with the help of UF/IFAS faculty. Along with two other farmer friends, they formed the Cherokee Citrus Cooperative. Mack estimates that there are now about 30 acres of satsumas growing in the region.
Innovative Freeze Protection
Freezing temperatures destroyed the industry in the 1930’s and according to Mack, it continues to be the major threat to the industry. However, one of the main factors that convinced him to give satsumas a try was a micro-irrigation technology that could help the trees withstand the hard freezes in North Florida. The freeze protection system works because heat is released when water turns into ice. The ice protects the tree and allow them to survive.
In January 2003, a year after he had planted the satsuma trees, his grove passed its biggest test to date. The temperature was 15 degrees, but thanks to the micro-emitters, he only lost one tree. “Some years we haven’t used the frost protection irrigation at all, like last year. On the other hand, there was a year where we had to use it three days straight,” he said.
Interest in Growing Satsumas Is Increasing
There are a few more growers planting satsumas in the region, which is encouraging said Mack. “The more growers we have, the better.” Mack is not shy about sharing his experiences with others and encouraging them to plant satsumas.” I think the acreage of satsumas will continue to grow in the future, he said. Besides the threat of freezes, problems with labor availability is an important factor that makes many growers think twice about planting satsumas.
Citrus greening has not been a concern in this part of the state, and Mack reported that no disease had been detected. The low winter temperatures in the region help break the lifecycle of the Asian citrus psyllid, the vector that transmits citrus greening.
Satsumas for Lunch
There was no market for satsumas, but Mack and his fellow farmers have worked hard to put satsumas in the region’s school lunch menus. “I introduced Mr. Glass to Santa Rosa County’s Sodexo manager and they are now serving his satsumas for the county’s schools,” said Christina Walmer, a Food Systems Coordinator for the Farm to School, Farm to Community FNP-UF/IFAS Program. “We did whatever was needed to serve this market. We got insurance, food safety certification, and worked with Fresh From Florida to make this happen, we are fortunate” said Mack. “Even when satsumas are part of the school lunches for only November and December, they have become the favorite item for many children” Mack often goes to schools and shares with students the history of satsumas and how this locally grown fruit is coming back. Some fruit is also sold through organizational fundraising events.
Mack was one of the first producers in Jackson County to become GAP (good agricultural practice) trained in food safety. Mack has now built a USDA approved citrus packing facility, and is hoping to join forces with more growers in the future.
Visit Mack’s Satsuma Grove on October 11
The Panhandle Fruit & Vegetable Conference is scheduled for October 11, 2016 in Marianna, FL. The event will give participants the chance to tour Mack’s grove through an afternoon farm tour. By that date, everyone will be able to see fruit beginning to turn color. Mack will lead a tour of his grove showing various aspects of his operation, including how the freeze protection works. The conference will also offer a Protected Agriculture tour, practical workshops, conference sessions, and a trade show. A highlight of the event will be farmer and author Richard Wiswall as the Conference Keynote Speaker.
For more information and registration visit: https://pfvc.eventbrite.com. Early bird registration is $40 before September 6. Your registration includes breakfast, lunch, refreshments, educational materials and transportation to farm tour locations. The event is sponsored by UF/IFAS Extension with support in part by a Florida Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant. We look forward to seeing you there!
The Jackson County Cattlemen’s Association hosted their annual tour on August 13, 2015. This year’s tour went to two farms and the local research station. More than 80 people attended the tour this year. MWI Veterinary Supply, Southern States and Farm Credit of Northwest Florida sponsored the event and covered the expenses of lunch and refreshments. Below are some of the highlights of the event.
Bill Conrad, who has a custom grain and baleage harvesting service provided a demonstration of making round bale silage, more commonly called baleage. He shared some of the key aspects of harvesting, storing, and feeding baleage. Bill said, “baleage won’t make your grass better, it just allows you to preserve it at higher moisture levels, so you can get it harvested when it is ready and not have the issues with frequent rains like hay.”
He also demonstrated his in-line bale wrapping machine for the group, as can be seen in the short video below.
Cindale Dairy Farm
Brad and Meghan Austin shared with the group about how the dairy farm operates and contributes to the beef industry. Even though milk and ice cream are the primary products, the dairy is also one of the larger cattle operations in the county. They also have an intensively managed forage system for their milking herd utilizing both perennial Bermudagrass and annual forages such as crabgrass, millet, rye, and ryegrass.
NFREC Beef Research Unit
Researchers at the North Florida Research and Education Center’s Beef Unit provided the final three stops on the tour. Ranchers were able to see the new cattle pens that have been built to handle cattle more efficiently and safely than the previous system, using a “Bud Box” and a double alley system, along with a new hydraulic sorting gate that has been added. The group also got to see this year’s crop of bulls being evaluated in the Florida Bull Test, along with several feed additive trials currently being conducted at the facility.
The tour concluded with a visit to the Forage Research Trials. Jose Dubeux showed the group the one of the paddocks where they are working to integrate both bahiagrass and perennial peanut. Over the next several years he will be comparing the weight gains on young cattle, as well as the effect of fertilization with and without nitrogen.
The Beef Unit is also serving as one of four Florida locations for Bermudagrass Variety yield trials, so the group got to see first-hand the varieties being evaluated.
The Jackson County Cattlemen’s Association hosted a farm tour on Thursday, July 17. There were 75 cattle ranchers from Jackson, Washington, Holmes, and Calhoun Counties, as well as surrounding Alabama and Georgia counties that participated in the tour. Three farms and a feed mill hosted the group.
The first stop on the tour was a blackberry and dewberry control trial on property being leased for hay production by AAA Farms. Tour participants got to see preliminary results, 45 days after application, of seven different herbicide applications made to balckberrry and dewberry briars in a Bermudagrass hayfield. All of the herbicides did provide defoliation of the briars, but actual control will not be evaluated until next spring.
The second stop on the tour was a sponsored hamburger lunch at Bigham Farms. Several speakers shared information with the group before Billy Bigham provided an overview of their commercial cattle operation.
Lee Bigham shared with tour participants how their cattle pens were designed to work their cattle calmly with as little stress as possible.
The third stop was at AFG Feed Mill in Donalsonville, GA where local peanut, cotton and corn by products are being made into feed. The company is working with a local peanut mill, cotton gin, and ethanol plant to make use of locally produced by-proucts..
The final stop was a visit to North American Farms, where Florida cattle are being fed out to be shipped to Central Packing in Sumter County. They are working with Seminole Pride, a branded beef program that will provide Florida Fresh Beef to consumers in the state.
The Jackson County Cattlmen’s Association organized the event with the help of the Jackson County Extension Service. The event would not have been possible without the support of the Tour Sponsors. MWI Veterniary Supply and Northwest Florida Farm Credit sponsored the hamburger lunch. Southern States provided refreshments through out the day. Dow AgroSciences and Dupont supplied the chemicals for the briar control trial.