July 15-17, 2011
Florida has nearly 47,463 farms. Calculated on an area or on an economic basis, nearly 90% of all Florida farms are small farms. Florida is unique in that there was an 8% increase in farm numbers from 2002 to 2007, essentially all in the small farm category.
Recent increased efforts to meet the educational needs of small farmers in Florida became visible through the work of the University of Florida/IFAS and Florida A&M University Small Farms Focus Team. Efforts have included the development of an extensive website specifically targeted at small farmer needs. The site (http://smallfarms.ifas.ufl.edu) receives over 100,000 hits monthly and includes a calendar of small farms events and a Feature Farmer page.
A series of regional small farms conferences were initiated in 2006. At least a dozen regional conferences are held annually in Florida and in addition, many other county or local Extension programs are now being held. These programs are very popular and are being attended by a few thousand people annually.
As the success of the local and regional meetings became apparent, a common question also emerged from the small farmers. That question is how can we get more information and get to the “next level”? Although the regional educational programs have been successful in satisfying many educational needs, all Florida small farmers are faced with similar challenges of (economics: land, gas, inputs) increasing regulatory pressures, challenges of marketing, etc. so that by coming together as a diverse group, solutions can be identified. This brought us to the stage of starting a statewide small farms conference for Florida. Since it’s initiation in 2009, the statewide conference has been an overwhelming success.