• TABLE OF CONTENTS
HIDE
 Front Cover
 Title Page
 Abstract
 Memorandum
 Introduction
 General features
 Certification
 Crops produced
 Production operations
 Marketing and information...
 Conclusions and recommendation...
 Annex






Group Title: Food and Resource Economics Department Staff paper SP 97-4
Title: Organic agricultural production in North and Central Florida
CITATION PAGE IMAGE ZOOMABLE PAGE TEXT
Full Citation
STANDARD VIEW MARC VIEW
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00053845/00001
 Material Information
Title: Organic agricultural production in North and Central Florida a sondeo report
Series Title: Staff paper
Physical Description: 16 p. : ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Hildebrand, Peter E
Zimet, David J
Brinen, Gary H., 1943-
University of Florida -- Food and Resource Economics Dept
Publisher: University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Food and Resource Economics Dept.
Place of Publication: Gainesville Fla
Publication Date: <1997>
 Subjects
Subject: Organic farming -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Sustainable agriculture -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Genre: government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
 Notes
Statement of Responsibility: conducted by students in AGG 5813, Farming Systems Research-Extension Methods, University of Florida ; Peter E Hildebrand, professor ; David Zimet and Gary Brinen, collaborators.
General Note: "April 1997"--Cover.
Funding: Staff paper (University of Florida. Food and Resource Economics Dept.) ;
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00053845
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Marston Science Library, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida
Holding Location: Florida Agricultural Experiment Station, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the Engineering and Industrial Experiment Station; Institute for Food and Agricultural Services (IFAS), University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved, Board of Trustees of the University of Florida
Resource Identifier: aleph - 002263337
oclc - 37025615
notis - ALL6252

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover
    Title Page
        Title Page
    Abstract
        Abstract
    Memorandum
        Unnumbered ( 4 )
    Introduction
        Page 1
    General features
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
    Certification
        Page 4
    Crops produced
        Page 5
    Production operations
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
    Marketing and information exchange
        Page 10
        Page 11
    Conclusions and recommendations
        Page 12
        Page 13
    Annex
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
Full Text
ZZ.12q


STAFF PAPER SERIES


ORGANIC AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION IN NORTH
AND CENTRAL FLORIDA: A SONDEO REPORT
By Students in AGG 5813,
Farming Systems Research-Extension Methods

Edited by

Peter Hildebrand, David Zimet
and
Gary Brinen


Staff Paper SP 97-4


April 1997


0 UNIVERSITY OF

F FLORIDA
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Food and Resource Economics Department
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL
















ORGANIC AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION
IN NORTH AND CENTRAL FLORIDA:
A Sondeo Report










Staff papers are circulated without formal review by the Food and Resource Economics
Department. Contents are the sole responsibility of the author.








Conducted by:
Students in AGG 5813
Farming Systems Research-Extension Methods
University of Florida
Spring, 1997
Angela Caudle, Laury Cullen, Marcos Freire, Yntiso Gebre, Bocary Kaya, Robert
Miller, Maria Morera, Tina Rivera, Avrum Shriar, Rodney Stubina, Brandi Stunson
Peter E. Hildebrand, Professor
David Zimet and Gary Brinen, Collaborators








ABSTRACT

Seventeen organic growers from central, northwest and north central Florida were interviewed.
Most of the informants identify with the sustainability movement and actively promote it.
Organic operations generally are small but have many of the characteristics of larger farms,
being part time operations. All informants are certified organic growers, a process that
requires a $300 fee plus an annual assessment. A large number of crops are produced
including vegetables, fruit, grain, herbs and forage. Perhaps the most striking characteristic of
organic production is the management requirement. Successful organic production requires
knowledge not widely available, marketing efforts both of inputs and products, and close
supervision.

Key words: Sustainability, vegetables, herbs, community supported farming, soil amendments.







*UNIVERSITY OF
FLORIDA

Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences McCarty Hall
Food and Resource Economics Department PO Box 110240
Gainesville FL 32611-0240
Fax (904) 392-3646
Email: hildebrand@fred.ifas.ufl.edu
Direct Fax : 352 392 8634
Phone: 352 392 5830



MEMORANDUM


TO Interested readers
FROM : Peter E. Hildebrand
DATE : April, 1997
SUBJECT : Sondeo report


This sondeo report was produced by the AGG 5813, Farming Systems Research-
Extension Methods, course as one of the course requirements. A sondeo is a rapid appraisal
technique in which multidisciplinary teams carry on conversations with informants, then
following the interviews make notes. Following each day in the field, the teams meet to share
information and process it in preparation for making the report.
This report resulted from a class exercise begun on February 3 with a presentation by
Gary Brinen, Alachua County Extension Agent for Horticulture, on organic production in the
state. Names and addresses of producers were furnished by Mr. Brinen and by Dr. David
Zimet, Agricultural Economist at the North Florida REC in Quincy. Field conversations with
producers were conducted on February 8 and 15. Information was shared and processed
during class time and the final report was presented February 28. The class report was edited
for the present report.
Some readers may wonder at the absence of statistical information from the
conversations. This is precisely because the methodology is conversational; the same questions
are not asked of everyone. The purpose is to obtain people's feelings rather than treat people
as numbers. The method is designed to describe and diagnose situations rapidly and
inexpensively. Should any reader be interested in further information I would be pleased to
answer any questions.


Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Institution








ORGANIC AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION
IN NORTH AND CENTRAL FLORIDA:
A Sondeo Report


Introduction
This report provides a description and analysis of organic agricultural production in
Central, North Central, and North Florida. It is the result of a study conducted by a team of
eleven University of Florida students enrolled in a course, AGG 5813, entitled "Farming
Systems Research-Extension Methods." Data for this study were collected by means of a
sondeo' comprised of subgroup interviews of 17 organic growers in Florida's aforementioned
regions. The purpose of the sondeo was to understand the operations, problems, constraints,
and potentials for organic farming as perceived by the producers themselves. The following
report is organized into six parts: General Features, Certification, Crops Produced,
Production Operations, Marketing and Information Exchange, and Conclusions and
Recommendations.

1 General Features
1.1 Social Profile: Reasons for Becoming Organic
The group of producers interviewed for this study, though heterogeneous in terms of
operation size and type, management approaches, and socioeconomic background, reveal a
fairly consistent philosophical approach to farming. Most of the informants, for example,
identify with the sustainability movement and actively promote it. A large number are on the
board for Florida Organic Growers (FOG) and a substantial number are involved in educating
the public on organic production, especially through the presentation of workshops. For most,
organic production represents the "right" way to cultivate and some have been involved in
organic production for over 20 years.
In many cases, the operations seem to be meeting predefined social objectives in
addition to economic objectives. A few operations, in fact, are not profitable in a classic
economic sense if the individuals were to consider foregone wages for the time they invest in
the operation. However, they reap equally important nonmonetary benefits. On the other
hand, for some, organic production was quite profitable. Most informants were generally
satisfied with their earnings (see Off-farm labor section).
Interestingly, many informants pointed out that the introduction of modern science and
technology into agriculture is of recent origin, dating back just to the forties. Though now
regarded as conventional agriculture, the emphasis on chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and
other improved inputs is indeed a recent development. Most importantly, almost all of the


SA form of Rapid Rural Appraisal. See: Hildebrand, P.E. 1981. Combining disciplines in rapid appraisal:
The Sondeo approach. Agricultural Administration 8:423-432.








ORGANIC AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION
IN NORTH AND CENTRAL FLORIDA:
A Sondeo Report


Introduction
This report provides a description and analysis of organic agricultural production in
Central, North Central, and North Florida. It is the result of a study conducted by a team of
eleven University of Florida students enrolled in a course, AGG 5813, entitled "Farming
Systems Research-Extension Methods." Data for this study were collected by means of a
sondeo' comprised of subgroup interviews of 17 organic growers in Florida's aforementioned
regions. The purpose of the sondeo was to understand the operations, problems, constraints,
and potentials for organic farming as perceived by the producers themselves. The following
report is organized into six parts: General Features, Certification, Crops Produced,
Production Operations, Marketing and Information Exchange, and Conclusions and
Recommendations.

1 General Features
1.1 Social Profile: Reasons for Becoming Organic
The group of producers interviewed for this study, though heterogeneous in terms of
operation size and type, management approaches, and socioeconomic background, reveal a
fairly consistent philosophical approach to farming. Most of the informants, for example,
identify with the sustainability movement and actively promote it. A large number are on the
board for Florida Organic Growers (FOG) and a substantial number are involved in educating
the public on organic production, especially through the presentation of workshops. For most,
organic production represents the "right" way to cultivate and some have been involved in
organic production for over 20 years.
In many cases, the operations seem to be meeting predefined social objectives in
addition to economic objectives. A few operations, in fact, are not profitable in a classic
economic sense if the individuals were to consider foregone wages for the time they invest in
the operation. However, they reap equally important nonmonetary benefits. On the other
hand, for some, organic production was quite profitable. Most informants were generally
satisfied with their earnings (see Off-farm labor section).
Interestingly, many informants pointed out that the introduction of modern science and
technology into agriculture is of recent origin, dating back just to the forties. Though now
regarded as conventional agriculture, the emphasis on chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and
other improved inputs is indeed a recent development. Most importantly, almost all of the


SA form of Rapid Rural Appraisal. See: Hildebrand, P.E. 1981. Combining disciplines in rapid appraisal:
The Sondeo approach. Agricultural Administration 8:423-432.











informants were concerned with the effects of synthetic inputs on health and the environment.
Hence, one of the most common motivations for growing organically is environmental
concern. The following three categories comprise the most frequently mentioned reasons for
engaging in organic production:
* Philosophical: concern for health and environmental sustainability
The informants believe that the conventional method of food production in the U.S.,
characterized mainly by large inputs of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, has reached its
"limit of unsustainability" as far as human and environmental health are concerned. They point
particularly to pollution of the atmosphere, degradation of natural vegetation and wildlife, and
contamination of drinking water. The informants feel that the best food for good health is
grown organically. Furthermore, they expressed an appreciation for the ability to produce
their own foods in sufficient quantities. In summary, this philosophical concept is strongly
supported through environmental concerns shared by most of the informants.
* Economical: supplemental or main source of income
Although the majority of the farmers contacted do not make significant financial profit
from their organic farming, most do have some economic motivation. High consumer
preference and low volume of production allow producers to sell their products easily,
requiring little marketing effort.
* Intrinsic Satisfaction: hobby, spirituality, home consumption, family education
The most frequently stated reason for growing organic included:
C the time spent outside in a "clean environment",
C the pleasure of growing one's own food,
C educating others about food production,
C the satisfaction of selling healthy food, and
C the spiritual implications associated with being closer to the earth.
They all share the rewards of organic farming which cannot be valued in monetary terms.

1.2 Farm Size
For many of the growers, production is carried out on only a small part of the total
farm. Organic production takes up less than 25% of the land of at least one third of the
informants. Moreover, total land is not always an indication of the type nor profitability of
operation. For example, an informant who owns 5 acres, of which only 3.5 are under
cultivation, possesses the most profitable operation. On the other hand, several informants
whose production occurs largely in greenhouses on less than an acre, own properties that range
between 20 and 90 acres. The majority, however, own less than 20 acres and the vast
majority cultivate their crops in the field. Only a minority lease their land. Nevertheless,
production activities are quite diverse.








1.3 Labor
* On-farm
Because production activities vary greatly among our informants, the issue of labor can
be analyzed on several levels. In terms of labor type, almost one half of the informants rely
only on themselves and family labor for production activities. About a third hire one to five
employees, with a couple of these hiring only seasonally or on demand. Two of the growers
hire up to 10 regular employees. One farm is a community run operation2 and relies only on
its members for labor. Almost 20% rely additionally on U-Pick labor, though these are
generally family or self run operations.
Several growers pointed out that good labor is difficult to find. Consequently, these
informants pay their employees very well. One informant concluded that it is simply more
efficient to do the work himself.
In general, there is little consistency between the type of production operation and
labor requirements, although the berry and grape growers tend to make more use of U-Pick
labor while the citrus growers tend to rely on only themselves for labor. Apart from these two
exceptions, labor requirements vary among even similar types of operations.
* Off-farm
One salient characteristic of the majority of the operations is their limited economic
returns. Thirteen of the 17 farms rely on off-farm employment to supplement household
income. For most of these, outside employment constitutes the major source of income.
Several growers, in fact, have pointed out that their organic operations could never survive
without outside income, but then this is a common characteristic of family farms in general
throughout the U.S. Nevertheless, 20% of the informants are full-time organic growers.

1.4 Infrastructure
Virtually all of the interviewed growers have some sort of irrigation system. Most
have overhead sprinklers and a few also have drip irrigation systems. Regardless of size or
type of operation, the majority of the informants also owned some form of machinery and keep
at least one small structure or greenhouse for seedlings. Some have cold storage facilities.
Even many of the smaller operations keep a surprisingly large number of farm implements,
such as disk harrows, cultivators, manure spreaders and large tractors.

1.5 Goals and Intentions
Many informants expressed an interest in either expanding or diversifying on-farm
production, yet some of these already comprise the larger operations. One informant, for
example, wishes to expand her current 7.5 cultivated acres to 40. Another informant,

2 Community supported farming is usually by subscription in which people in the community pay a fixed fee
to receive a portion of the product. In some, the subscribers also work for part of the produce.










currently producing on 30 acres, wishes to begin an organic fertilizer supply business. A few
smaller landholders plan on building, renovating, or buying additional facilities and/or
equipment Some growers feel they will need to diversify in order to generate sufficient
household income. One informant feels she eventually will need to obtain an off-farm job in
order to support the family. The individuals who produce organically as a hobby, in general,
plan to maintain the existing level of production.


2. CERTIFICATION
All the informants are certified organic growers or are in the process of becoming
certified and all have done the certification through Florida Organic Growers (FOG). Their
experience as certified organic farmers varies from as early as 1985 to the present. The one
aspect that all of the informants have in common is the process of becoming a certified organic
grower. FOG requires that the growers interested in becoming certified fill out an application
and pay a $300 fee. An inspector then visits the grower to analyze if the growing area
qualifies. If it does the farm is generally certified in three months. If it does not qualify the
grower must wait up to three years without applying chemicals to the growing area. After the
grower has been certified he/she then pays an annual fee of 0.25% gross annual income to the
certification board.
No major problems were reported as far as the certification process is concerned, and
especially if there was proof of no chemical residues in the soil. Growers are allowed to select
their own certification agent through FOG. All of the informants agreed that the agents were
very prompt in the original viewing of the land to be certified. However, some pointed out
constraints related to delays in the bureaucratic process, and think that the requirements are
difficult to meet. One grower said that these constraints might discourage interested growers
from seeking certification. Two informants had a concern with the amount of paperwork
required and one with the fee of $300.
A couple of the informants made an interesting suggestion to make the process easier.
This suggestion was the use of a transitional label (which would state that no pesticides had
been used) for conventional growers who had decided to start organic production. This would
be a good way to advertise the change in production during the three years it would take a
conventional grower to become certified organic.
Most of the informants felt that it was important to be certified to be able to sell their
produce through brokers and distributors or to be known as organic growers for the
philosophical ideals associated with it. There were two informants who said it really was not
necessary to be certified because they felt buyers were primarily interested in high quality,
pesticide free products. However, these two informants are certified or in the process of
certification. One informant became certified only after having it pointed out that his
production was in fact organic while another bought land already certified.











3 CROPS PRODUCED
The food crops produced are very diverse. Some organic growers, Table 1, tend to
specialize and concentrate on a few crops, while others have a large assortment of vegetables
(see Appendix). This diversified system might pose some problem for the extension agent,
who would have to be prepared to respond to problems of a very wide and diverse number of
crops.


Table 1. Different types


of crops produced in the survey area


CROPS


VEGETABLES
Potatoes
Tomatoes
Garlic
Ginger
Onions
Green beans
Carrots
Cabbage
Egg plant
Bokchoi
Broccoli
Cucumber
Mushrooms
Souash


OBSERVATIONS


Mostly Shiitake


FRUIT TREES
Grapes
Oranges
Tangerines
Apples
Papaya
Banana
Figs
GRAIN CROPS
Peas Used as cover crop
Oats
Rye Used as cover crop
Wheat
Millet Used as cover crop
Maize
Sweet corn, Beans
HERBS: Over 170 types of herbs
Lemon grass
Mint
Oregano
FORAGE
Perennial peanuts Used for hay












4 PRODUCTION OPERATIONS
Production operations on organic farms can be divided into three principal areas:
cropping practices, soil fertility and pest management. These areas are discussed separately in
the following section.

4.1 Cropping practices
Intercropping and crop rotation are routinely practiced on most of the farms. While
farmers are certainly aware of the benefits of crop diversity in terms of reducing pests, the
reasons for growing a variety of crops seems to be more market related. Many of the farmers
who grow vegetables sell at farmers' markets or to subscribers and have to grow a wide
variety to keep their customers satisfied. At the same time, diversity of crops helps to ensure a
source of income even if one crop fails. Nevertheless, several farms rely exclusively, or
almost exclusively, on one high-value crop such as strawberries, blueberries, or shiitake
mushrooms. Several farmers use honeybees to facilitate pollination and keep their own hives
or had agreements with beekeepers for this purpose.
Most farms use tractors of varying sizes for soil preparation and weed cultivation. One
farmer reported that her lack of a manure spreader was a serious constraint to productivity.
Front end loaders are used to turn compost. Several farms reported owning more specialized
equipment such as a transplanter and a bean harvester/thresher.
Vegetables are either directly seeded in the field or grown as starts in nurseries, in
which case they are grown in flats using a commercial potting mix (without chemical
fertilizers). Such commercial mixes are also used by herb growers who sell herbs in pots.
The lack of overhead irrigation systems which could aid in reducing frost damage was
reported as a serious constraint, and several farmers lost their more sensitive crops (eggplants,
peppers and tomatoes) in the recent frost. Two farms, one growing strawberries and the
other, blueberries, were observed to have both ground level irrigation (drip hoses or microjet)
as well as overhead sprinklers, with the latter used only when there is risk of frost damage.
4.2 Soil Fertility
The various amendments used by organic farmers to maintain soil fertility and improve
crop growth are listed in Table 2. Although a great variety of materials are used, as can be
seen from the table, the most common amendments used to maintain soil fertility on organic
farms are chicken manure, fish emulsion and rock phosphate, in order of importance. Fish
emulsion can be delivered along with irrigation water or from a backpack sprayer. Farmers
are innovative in terms of exploring locally available materials as soil amendments, which
often can be obtained free or at a low cost. Some examples of this are the use of coffee
grounds (a residue from a soda factory), zoo manure and chipped plant material. One grower
obtains seaweed from the City of Sarasota, presumably from beach cleaning. Products which










two growers were very enthusiastic about were crab meal and greensand, for citrus, and wood
humate for vegetables, respectively.
Several farms use cover crops such as clover, rye grass and cowpeas as green manure.
There is a definite interest in finding out more about the benefits of cover cropping and the
best species to use.
Four of the farms visited make their own compost mixtures, using materials such as
chipped plant matter, chicken manure and minerals. Other farms only compost single
materials, such as chicken manure or cotton seed meal. Chicken manure, widely used, may be
composted for various lengths of time, from three weeks to three months. In the case of one
blueberry farmer, pine bark is used both as mulch for weed control and to maintain soil
acidity.












Table 2. Amendments used to maintain soil fertility
AMENDMENTS USED TO MAINTAIN SOIL FERTILITY

Amendment No. of Observations
farms

Chicken manure 9 Used both composted and uncomposted

Fish emulsion 8

Rock phosphate 5

Chipped plant material 2 Used as mulch or composted

Cottonseed meal 2 Used both composted and uncomposted

Fish meal 2

Green sand 2

Kelp 2 Imported from Norway (cited by one farmer)

Hay 2 Used as mulch and plowed under
Blue crab shells 1 Obtained from processor in Panhandle

Bone meal 1 Used as top dressing for citrus

Cow manure 1

Decaf. coffee grounds 1 Obtained from soda factory, said to attract
worms

Fertrell 1 For potted herbs

Granite dust 1

Mushroom compost 1 Obtained from Quincy Farms

Peat 1

Seaweed 1 Obtained from city services

Soybean meal 1

Wood humate 1

Zoo manure 1 With straw bedding










4.3 Pest Management
Pest control can pose a serious challenge to the organic farmer in Florida. Besides not
being able to use many chemical control options, organic farmers in Florida operate in a sub-
tropical, humid environment. Florida has an abundance of nematodes, weeds, plant diseases
and insects that are virtually unknown in the rest of the United States simply because the
conditions so readily promote the growth of such organisms. However, the types of crops and
the cultural practices can greatly affect the types and population densities of agricultural pests
found on a particular farm.
One pest problem common to nearly all the organic growers interviewed was weeds.
Exception to this were the growers who used greenhouse production and a farmer who
imported miniature sheep from Scotland to graze the weeds between rows of grapevines.
Generally, however, informants regard weeds as the major obstacle preventing conventional
growers from switching to organic. Although several farmers use mulches, plastic sheeting, or
mowing as control tactics, weeds remain a major problem. To manually pull the weeds is
very labor intensive and no biological control exists today. One grower remarked that organic
farming would be impossible on a large-scale operation simply because of the weeds. Many
farmers mentioned that they would welcome any suggestions for good cover crops to be grown
between rows to help both soil fertility and weed management.
To most of the growers, insect pests were considered less of a threat to production than
weeds. Most farmers think that the biological control options they have at their disposal are
sufficient to control most insect pests. Several farmers utilize beneficial insects such as
ladybugs or lacewings as needed. One grower uses predatory nematodes as a control measure
for soil-dwelling insects. Natural insecticides, such as Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), sabadilla,
rotenone, and diatomaceous earth were used when insect populations were high enough to
warrant such an application. Mole crickets and crickets were mentioned as problem insects
which are not being adequately controlled. One farmer mentioned that he believed that
excessive magnesium in his soils (attributed to liming with dolomite) predisposed some of his
crops to insect attack.
Problems with plant diseases were fewer than with either weeds or insects and were
highly crop related. One strawberry grower mentioned problems with Botrytis which was
solved by pulling up infected plants, thereby preventing the disease from spreading through the
field. Plastic mulch helps to prevent soil-borne fungi from coming in contact with
strawberries. A blueberry grower mentioned problems with Phytophthora, as a result of
poorly drained soils. This farmer also pulled out the infected plants and abandoned that
section of the field. Other farmers think that an application of copper sulfate is sufficient to
control most of the plant diseases encountered. The use of cultivars with multiple resistance to
various diseases is an important control tactic for many growers.
Nematodes were rarely mentioned as serious pests by the organic growers interviewed.
Several said that they practiced crop rotation to avoid nematode damage. One grower plans to











use velvetbean (Mucuna spp.) as a summer cover crop, both for its nitrogen fixing properties
and nematode suppression activity. Another grower suggested the use of an extract of the
castor bean plant (Ricinus communis) as a control option for nematodes.
Other pests mentioned include deer, birds, raccoons and slugs. These pests either are
left alone or dealt with on an individual basis.
Many farmers feel that perhaps the greatest control measure for insect, disease and
nematode pests is simply to maintain a healthy soil. The subsequent health of the crop should
prevent pests from reaching injurious population levels. Simply put, a healthy plant is less
susceptible to pest damage than a stressed plant and is, therefore, the best method to avoid
damaging pest populations.

5 MARKETING AND INFORMATION EXCHANGE
Marketing information was obtained for 16 of the 17 farms examined in this sondeo.
Six of the 16 farms sell primarily on a wholesale basis, while 6 sell primarily on the retail
market. The remaining 4 farms can be classified as "mixed," selling more or less evenly
between wholesale and retail.
The marketing avenues for wholesalers include selling to brokers (including exporters)
or selling to restaurants and stores (Table 3). For retail the options employed at present are:
a) selling produce at a farmers' market or at an individual "stand;"
b) selling to "subscribers" people who pay in advance for rights to receive a particular
amount of produce per week for a specified number of weeks;
c) selling on a U-pick basis, in which visitors pick and pay for what they wish to take
home with them; and
d) selling by mail order.








Table 3. Marketing Avenues for Organic Farmers Interviewed


Marketing Strategy Number of Farms1

Wholesale

Sell to brokers 8

Sell to stores / restaurants 5

Retail

Market / stands 8

Subscribers 7

U-pick 5

Mail order 1
'Several marketing avenues may be cited for a single farm.

Produce channeled to brokers generally remains within the eastern part of the U.S.
However, 80% of one farmer's produce (blueberries) is exported by brokers to Europe. In the
case of sales to stores or restaurants, most farmers that rely on this option are engaged in
vegetable production and are located close to large urban areas (e.g. Orlando, Tampa) with
relatively upscale restaurants and a sizeable natural foods market. Elsewhere, such as near
Gainesville, this is less important as a marketing option.
In terms of retail sales, farmers mentioned the use of farmers' markets or stands most
often. A key factor here, mentioned by at least half of the farmers involved, is to offer a large
variety of vegetable or fruit items and even other products, such as crafts. Several farmers
actively engaged in retail through markets or stands emphasized the benefits to be had in
attracting more people to the markets. They should be considered not only as a place to buy
food, but for the entertainment they potentially can offer as well. Sales of crafts, art work,
other interesting food products (apart from fruits and vegetables), and even the presence of
musicians, were possibilities cited in this regard. However, in Alachua county, this idea
reportedly has not been enthusiastically received by the local Farmers' Market Board.
The subscriber system refers to a situation in which a number of consumers pay in
advance at the start of a growing period to receive a regular supply from a particular farmer,
for example, a given quantity or value per week. When customers pay in advance, the farmer
gets an idea of what products are desired and what should be his or her production goals for
the season. In some cases, subscribers get involved in cultivation activities.
The five farmers who rely on the U-pick system are engaged in production of










blueberries and grapes, blueberries, strawberries, muscadine grapes, and citrus, respectively.
For the citrus grower and the blueberry grower, U-pick accounts for a minor part of sales, but
for the other three farmers U-pick is their main marketing outlet. Although not included under
the U-pick category, some of the "subscribers" described above do in fact harvest their own
produce on the farms to which they are was mentioned only once. One blueberry grower
emphasized that the availability of his blueberries early in the season (March/April) is a major
factor in the high price received for his product. Reportedly, it may be a more important
influence on the price than the fact that they have been raised organically. Indeed, very few
farmers mentioned that their organic certification yields them a much higher price on the
market than could be received for "conventionally" grown produce. On the other hand, it was
mentioned that for strawberries, at least, the difference could be substantial: $25 per flat vs.
$7. In the case of organically grown Hamlin oranges, they reportedly fetch a price of $8 per
box as compared to $3.50 for their conventionally grown counterparts.
Few farmers mentioned that marketing is a major problem. However, it is clear that
marketing is a constraint for many farmers surveyed because they tend to scale their
production on the basis of what they can sell. Some farmer wholesalers expressed concern
about having few market outlets and thus about being in a vulnerable position if, for example,
a packing house or broker of a particular commodity goes out of business.
Very little data were obtained regarding information exchange. Main information
sources appear to be other organic growers (in areas where a large number can be found)
including family members with more experience. Some noted that extension agents have
useful advice whereas more claimed that they possess little knowledge of organic approaches to
problems. Some farmers also consult books and magazines for information about organic
methods.


6 CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Production Operations
Several organic farmers expressed interest in finding out more about the use of cover
crops for green manure and weed control. If extension services could supply information
about which cover crops are suited to the Florida environment, as well as information about
their management, this would be very useful to organic farmers.
One complaint heard from farmers was that extensionists are unfamiliar with
alternatives to chemical pest control, and have been unable to help them with various pest
problems. However, it has been pointed out that IFAS publications on crop pests generally
cite means of non-chemical control, when these are known. Perhaps what is needed then is a
greater flow of information between research and extension, which could take the form of a
compendium on non-chemical control for common pest problems in Florida. Training should










be provided to extension agents so that they can give information appropriate to organic
farming and be knowledgeable in the many varieties which are being cultivated.
Because several growers have difficulty purchasing bulk fertilizers individually, they
could benefit from some form of cooperative purchasing of these materials in order to obtain
them at low cost. If an organic growers' manual were developed, perhaps an index could be
dedicated to listing co-ops and/or other organizations which growers could participate in for
bulk purchases.
There is a need to organize workshops to give information to growers on new
technologies and ideas and to stimulate exchange among growers (e.g. newsletter).

Certification
Several farmers expressed what might be a useful marketing idea for the organic
movement. This entails establishing a "transition" label for growers not using agrochemicals
but not yet certified organic, for instance, because insufficient time has passed since chemicals
were used on the parcel in question. This would allow growers in this category to be
recognized easily as "officially" chemical free, and would contribute to enhancing the public's
and consumers' awareness that alternatives exist to chemical agriculture and food.
Some farmers expressed an opinion that the application form and fee should be evaluated to
determine if there is a need for improvement.

Marketing
It may be worthwhile for officials involved in the planning and management of
farmers' market boards to investigate ways to attract more customers to these venues for
shopping and for entertainment or recreation. Several farmers have suggested that a greater
variety of food products, crafts, and even the presence of entertainers, will be effective at
attracting visitors. Perhaps the board officials should pay a visit to one of the many urban
centers in North America (and Europe) where large and diverse farmers' markets, often in
downtown areas, are very popular as a family shopping and entertainment outing.
There appears to be a paucity of information on the prices of organic products relative
to conventionally grown produce. A study of this issue should be undertaken in the Florida
context to identify products for which the extra costs commonly associated with organic
methods are justified by higher farm gate prices. Such a study would provide a useful guide to
existing and prospective organic growers.


































ANNEX











Annex Informants/crops table


Annex: Informants/crops table (cont'd)


Informant 1 Informant 2 Informant 3 Informant 4 Informant 5 Informant 6

Hamlin Orange sMuscadine Bokchoy 60 varieties Blueberries Main crops
Grapes Carrots Leafy Veget.& Strawberry
Cabbage Root crops
Collards (Kohlrabi)
Potato
Beans
Sweet corn
Zucchini
Squash
Cucumbers
Broccoli

Cover Crops

Rye
Cowpea


Informant 7 Informant 8 Informant 9 Informant 10 Informant 11

Main Crops Fruit trees Blueberries Herbs Tomatoes
Grapes (4 different (170 varieties) Peppers
Citrus Cereal varieties) Mushrooms Lettuce
Oranges (Oats, Rye,
Tangerines Wheat) Grapes
Grapefruit Potato (for
Garlic consumption)
Secondary Vegetables
Crops Herbs

Macadamia
Figs
Apple
Papaya
Banana
Ginger










Annex: Informants/crops table (cont'd)


Annex: Informants/crops table (cont'd)


AGG5813sp97/sondeo3.wpd


Informant 12 12 Cont 12 Cont. 12 Cont. Informant 13

Aragula Cilantro Lemon Balm Peppers Cut flowers
Basil Citrus Lemon Grass (Sweet & Aromatic herbs
Bay leaf Collards Lettuce Hot) Other vegetables
Snap beans Dandelions (12 varieties) Radishes
Beets Dill Marjoram Rosemary Cover crops
Salad Brunette Eggplant Mint Sage
Calabaza Endive Mizuna Savory Millet
Carrots Fennel Mustard Scallions Cowpea
Chamomile Feverfew Mustard Sorrel
Chard Figs Oregano Tarragon
Chives Kale Bokchoi Thyme
(Onion, Garlic) Kohl Rabi Pansy Tomatoes
Leeks Parsley Turnips


Informant 14 Informant 15 Informant 16 Informant 17

Main crops Herbs Mushrooms Potatoes
Shiitake mushrooms Perennial peanut hay Tomatoes
Shiitake mushrooms Grain (peas)

Secondary crops
Other vegetables




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