Outlook for the Florida State Farmers' Market system

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Outlook for the Florida State Farmers' Market system
Degner, Robert L.
Moss, Susan
Moseley, Ann
Mack, Stephenie
Place of Publication:
Gainesville, Fla.
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida
Publication Date:
Copyright Date:

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University of Florida Institutional Repository
Holding Location:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All rights reserved, Board of Trustees of the University of Florida


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May-June, 1993

Outlook for the Florida State Farmers' Market System

Robert L. Degner, Susan Moss, Anne MXwlI and Stephenie Mack

No. 112

The Sta-t Farmers' Market system is
comprised of 15 markets located throughout the
state of Florida from Bonifay in the panhandle to
Florida City in south Dade County (Figure 1).
These markets are owned and managed by the
Florida Department of Agriculture and
Consumer Services. Each market is unique with
respect to the role it pl ay,, in the agricultural
I:arketini system of its own geographic service
area. Fourteen of the markets specialize in the
marketing of fruits and vegetables, and one in
livestock. Of the 15 markets currently in
,-peratiL'., 10 were established prior to World
War II, one was opened in late 1945, two in the
early 1950s and one in the mid-1960s. The
newest market was opened in 1988.
The original purpose of the State
Farmers' Markets (s5FM s was to provide
farmers with a centralized facility where
relatively small lots of fresh produce or livestock
could be assembled into larger, more uniform
lots for more efficient marketing and greater
profits for producers.
A few of the produce markets have retail
vendors that sell directly to consumers, but the
major emphasis is on wholesale activities. In all
markets, the overwhelming majority of sales
volume goes to the wholesale trade.
The Florida Agricultural Market
Research Center conducted a study to provide
long-range policy direction for the improvement
and development of the Bureau of State
Farmers' Markets. The study examined the
forces hopingg the future of agriculture in each
of the 15 geographic areas served by state-

owned farmers' markets. Trends in population
growth and agricultural production were
.nal,.,-ed for the service areas of each market.
Performance trends for each market were
studied, as well as other factors including
changing trade policies and emerging
environmental constraints such as water quality
and supplies, soil erosion and environmental
regulations. Finally, qualitative and quantitative
projections as to the economic viability of each
market were made.


A brief overview of each market and a
summary of major issues affecting the economic
viability of agriculture in general and farmers'
markets in particular follows.

Market Summaries

Arcadia.-Located in DeSoto County,
78% of the Arcadia Livestock Market's gross
receipts are from the sale of calves. The
market's outlook is favorable. Cattle population
in the market's service area is more than
500,000 head, and livestock numbers in the
region are stable. Alrhiughl the market needs
some repairs, it appears that the Arcadia market
is in a position to serve area livestock npro-uL-;rs
well into the 21st century at little or no cost to
the State of Florida.
Bonifay.-The Bonifay SFM is a major
watermelon market for West Florida and also
handles a significant volume of tomatoes. The

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general outlook for the market is positive.
Gross sales have trended upward and the market
has a tenant waiting list. Production of
watermelons and tomatoes will continue to be an
important economic activity, but dramatic
increases in production are not likely. It was
recommended that conservative 'nuidniz,
programs should be considered to better serve
the Bonifay region.
Bradford (Starke).-The Starke area is
developing into a bedroom community for
Jacksonville and Gainesville, but the area
continues to produce blueberries, pecans,
strawberries and mixed vegetables. Recent
activity in the blueberry industry is encouraging,
but many of the traditional' .-,r-lh'i pniouceis
have ceased production. Further declines could
jeopardize the long-run economic viability of
this market.
Florida City.--Although Dade C, urnt, is
highly urbanized with a population of about 1.9
million, it is a major producer of agricultural
products. Eighruen traditional vegetables, 16
tropical vegetables and 15 tropical fruits are
grown on a commercial scale along with
numerous nursery crops in Dade County. The
market's performance history of gross sales, net
returns and number of people served has been
exemplary, and in spite of Hurricane Andrew,
the long-term outlook for the Florida City SFM
is positive. The state has rebuilt the demolished
market, and it is poised to handle upcoming
vegetable harvests.
Fort Myers.-Traditional agricultural
packing and shipping activities are likely to
continue to decline as population growth in the
host county is forecast to be among the highest
in the state, increasing by 82% between 1990
and 2010. In order to maintain a market
facility for agricultural producers, it may be
necessary to increase the amount of space leased
for non-traditional uses.
Fort Pierce.-Despite rapid urbanization,
agriculture, particularly citrus, remains a major
economic force in the Fort Pierce service area.
Citrus production is expected to increase through
the year 2000. Although fresh market citrus
may foster increased demand for packing and
shipping facilities, there may be some excess

capacity of space in the future which could be
leased to non-traditional tenants. This may
enable the market to maintain positive net
returns while continuing to serve the agricultural
Gadsden County (Quincy).--The long
term outlook for the Gadsden County SFM is
positive. Growers have made a successful
transition from traditional row crops to
tomatoes. The market is fully leased and the
rapid growth of the tomato industry has
generated considerable optimism for the market.
Modest improvements would better serve the
vegetable industry.
Immokalee.--The Immokalee SFM is
one of the most successful state operated markets
in Fcrid Since 1980, gross sales have
6%cr.aed nearly $29 million annually and net
operating revenues have been positive each year
since 1975. The climate allows the area to be
one of the earliest watermelon and cantaloupe
markets in the state. F jT11 L' ln tIc, the market's
service area is sufficiently removed from
urbanization pressures to ensure continued
availability of land and water for the foreseeable
future. However, the future of the market is
threatened by deteriorating facilities.
Palatka.-Cut flowers are currently the
only crop packed and shipped on the market.
Although there may be some need for cold
storage facilities for tablestock potatoes, the
current site is probably too small to allow for
much additional construction while continuing to
serve the large numbers of trucks hauling
potatoes and cabbage to the scales. One possible
solution would be to establish a new facility
designed to serve potato, cabbage and mixed
vegetable producers which could be built nearer
the geographic center of production on less
valuable land.
Plant City.-The outlook for the Plant
City SFM is favorable. Despite rapid
urbanization of Iflil -touro-u h County, trends
indicate continued growth in the production of
'.tFawberrie-;, tomatoes and other vegetables.
However, inadequacy of ta. ilI:ie is likely to be
a limiting factor in sustained growth.
Pompano.-Rapid urbanization in the
service area is encroaching on agricultural lands,

-- in .. .: physical volume on the
market. market is -::"
located in an area relatively convenient to all
major vegetable ....": areas in South
rF::.. and is .. to remain a viable load-
in the .:*.:
Sanford.--Urbaization in the area has
S: .".: in .:: -. : -'. production in
the market's service area. However, unlike
other SFMs in :. urbanizing areas, there
may be an increase of small, : truck
farms which could benefit ,: centralized
,,:,: i .. ... at the :,, 5. T
*^ji.u-ini VJ' d -n. Springs).-
Still in its ..:. compared to other t-F .
Suwannee ..., already shows of
The '- volume handled by the
market has :- :. .": Increasing
urbanization in South Florida may make the
market's service area a more :: ... growing
region, but the timeliness of .,. : and the
overlap of market windows with competing
growing areas will be the major i ::... :::
for this market.
Trenton.-The outlook for the :::
SFM appears positive. Watermelon acreage and
production have been 4:- i::::.., but revenues
remain strong. If trends of the past 10 to 15
years -.: ..: physical volume could
adversely affect the demand for marketing
.......- However, the produce trade has been
fro. m r shipments of watermelons to
.. : .-:, ,. boxed and melons.
These services "- packing
:.:.:. :- thus .:: :; :' at the
Trenton ,,.
Wauchula.-The overall outlook for ::.:
Wauchula SFM is : Although the
market's gross sales have been variable in recent
years with no strong indications of positive or
negative :. there is ..:. evidence that the
S: the market's service
area is strong. Citrus and vegetable production
has been steadily increasing in recent in
terms of physical volume and value. There are
indications that blueberries may also emerge as
a very 'I .' ': crop because of market timing.

A Basic Philosophical Issue
In the statewide survey of farmers'
market A .-. Committee : market
tenants, and county extension agents,
were asked whether the .
should be .- ., leaving the private sector
to handle basic marketing .
survey revealed overwhelming for the
current system of State .: Markets.

Of :' ..i ,., Issues
An issue .. ..: raised by advisory
S .-: '.- tenants was the statewide policy
., .. .: .. h. handling ,,-.., .. ,., produce by
SFM tenants on SFM property whenever the
::::. :: in .... -..'- are available from
Florida growers. Nearly 80 percent of advisory
S. ..:: favored the current policy,
. .... with less than half the tenants.
Another area of concern dealt with
acceptable uses of SFM ..::::. .. ; the
advisory and tenants, : .. ...use
by produce and truck brokers was .... by
: 90 percent; about two-thirds of
the advisory respondents supported use of space
for processing of '. ." : .. -:. ... but
only about one-third of the tenants agreed. The
only ...... ::: ...... use of market space favored
bya '.; :.. of both advisory .
and tenants was local wholesale produce
Use by local packaged
: .... agricultural-related services, and
;; '. : input w I.::.: ::,: was
favored by -:: ': '. less than half of the ., : .-
respondents and even :: -tenants.

Performance of the SFM .,. :-
All respondents were asked to evaluate
the .:: of-' local market.
Most advisory ... and tenants rated the
.: : of their markets very
Only five -. I of the advisory respondents
and 8 ; ; of the tenants rated their market's
:. as poor.

Environmental Issues
Respondents were asked to assess the
impact of environmental regulations on
agricultural use of fertilizers and pesticides and
the subsequent effect on their respective state
farmers' market. Most felt that environmental
regulations on these items would pose problems
for agriculture in their areas over the next 20
years. Most advisory respondents rated such
regulations as a moderate problem, but tenants
were far more pessimistic, with over half saying
that environmental regulations would pose major
problems. With respect to the availability of
irrigation water over the next 20 years, the
advisory respondents and the tenants were
somewhat pessimistic, citing rapid population
growth and increasingly stringent water
management district regulations.
Nearly one fifth of the advisory
respondents and one-half the tenants were of the
opinion that water shortages, restrictions, or
costs would pose major problems in the years
ahead, adversely affecting their market's
economic viability.

Trade Issues
Trade issues, particularly the threat of
produce imports from Mexico and Cuba, were
viewed with a great deal of apprehension by
advisory respondents and tenants. Competition
from Mexico was viewed as a major problem by
nearly one-third of the advisory respondents and
over half of the tenants. The prospect of
competition from Cuban imports of fresh
produce also caused concern, but it was not
viewed with as much alarm as Mexican
competition, particularly in the more temperate
growing areas of the state.


Despite the potential threat of
environmental and trade problems, the potential

for agriculture in the major production regions
of the state remains bright. The biggest threat to
the long tenn viability of the State Farmers'
Market system appears to be the lack of funding
to adequately maintain and improve its physical
facilities. Many markets are in dire need of
basic maintenance and renovation. If these
needs are not met soon, deterioration and
obsolescence of many structures could jeopardize
the ability of some markets to adequately serve
their clientele.
As production patterns and economic
conditions affecting Florida agricultural
enterprises continually change, producers,
businesses involved with agricultural production
and the State Farmers' Market system itself have
proven adaptive. Over the past half century, the
State Farmers' Market system has played a
significant role in agriculture's prosperity, and if
current production trends can be maintained,
most SFMs will continue to make valuable
contributions to agriculture and the state's
economy in the foreseeable future.

Address editorial comments or corre- Artiles appearing in Florid Food and Rloart
spondence concerning address or mailing Ecoa3mis my be reproiaced, In whole or In pr, This publication was produced at an annual cost
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1125 McCary Hall, Food and Resouce nd p mabl ar e d to rpri research results and economic information on
artices whh woil be of Ir to ther readers.
Economics Deparmem, Umversity of Florida, Cret i r ned I laiinmmo is rrtmel. Florida food and agricultural industries.
Gainesville, Florida 32611

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