• TABLE OF CONTENTS
HIDE
 Copyright
 Front Cover
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 List of Tables
 Introduction
 Watermelons
 Squash
 Concluding observations/future...
 Bibliography
 Back Cover






Group Title: Watermelons and squash in Alachua County, Florida : a farming systems oriented comparison of smaller and larger scale farmers
Title: Watermelons and squash in Alachua County, Florida
CITATION PAGE IMAGE ZOOMABLE PAGE TEXT
Full Citation
STANDARD VIEW MARC VIEW
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00055250/00001
 Material Information
Title: Watermelons and squash in Alachua County, Florida a farming systems oriented comparison of smaller and larger scale farmers
Physical Description: 49 p. : ill. ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Kostewicz, S. R
University of Florida -- Center for Community and Rural Development
Publisher: Center for Community and Rural Development, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville Fla
Publication Date: [1982]
 Subjects
Subject: Watermelons -- Florida -- Alachua County   ( lcsh )
Squashes -- Florida -- Alachua County   ( lcsh )
Watermelons -- Marketing -- Florida -- Alachua County   ( lcsh )
Squashes -- Marketing -- Florida -- Alachua County   ( lcsh )
Genre: government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
 Notes
Bibliography: Bibliography: p. 47-49.
Statement of Responsibility: by Steve Kostewicz ... et al.
General Note: "January 1982."
General Note: "CD-11."--cover.
Funding: Florida Historical Agriculture and Rural Life
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00055250
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 - 001075300
oclc - 17011055
notis - AFF9998

Table of Contents
    Copyright
        Copyright
    Front Cover
        Front Cover
    Title Page
        Title Page
    Table of Contents
        Page 1
    List of Tables
        Page 2
    Introduction
        Page 3
        Page 4
    Watermelons
        Page 5
        Watermelons production in Florida Alachua County
            Page 5
        Characteristics of farming systems involving watermelons
            Page 6
            Page 7
            Page 8
            Page 9
        Watermelon production practices
            Page 10
            Page 11
            Page 12
        Economic aspects of watermelon production
            Page 13
            Page 14
            Page 15
            Page 16
            Page 17
            Page 18
            Page 19
        Marketing of watermelons
            Page 20
            Page 21
        Implications for research and extension
            Page 22
    Squash
        Page 23
        History of squash production in Florida and Alachua County
            Page 23
            Page 24
        Characteristics of farming systems involving squash
            Page 25
            Page 26
            Page 27
        Production practices
            Page 28
            Page 29
            Page 30
            Page 31
            Page 32
        Economic aspects of squash production
            Page 33
            Page 34
            Page 35
        Marketing of squash
            Page 36
        Implications for research and extension
            Page 37
            Page 38
            Page 39
    Concluding observations/future directions
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
    Bibliography
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
    Back Cover
        Back Cover
Full Text





HISTORIC NOTE


The publications in this collection do
not reflect current scientific knowledge
or recommendations. These texts
represent the historic publishing
record of the Institute for Food and
Agricultural Sciences and should be
used only to trace the historic work of
the Institute and its staff. Current IFAS
research may be found on the
Electronic Data Information Source
(EDIS)

site maintained by the Florida
Cooperative Extension Service.






Copyright 2005, Board of Trustees, University
of Florida




4,-r'


CD-11


WATERMELONS cAND CGQUASH
INALACHUA COUNTY FLORIDA
4 Farming Systems Oriented Comparison
Of Smaller And Larger Scale Farmers


Center for Community and Rural Development
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
University of Florida, Gainesville
John T Woeste, Dean for Extension


January 1982














WATERMELONS AND SQUASH
IN ALACHUA COUNTY, FLORIDA
A FARMING SYSTEMS ORIENTED COMPARISON
OF SMALLER AND LARGER SCALE FARMERS














by


Steve Kostewicz and George Clough
(Department of Vegetable Crops)
Elon Gilbert
(Department of Food and Resource Economics)
Art Hansen
(Department of Anthropology)


with


Philip d'Almada, David Dodson, David Griffith
John Butler, and Sandra Powers
(Department of Anthropology)
Gary Brinen (Alachua County Extension Horticulture Agent)
Robin Lauriault (Department of History)




Center for Community and Rural Development
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
University of Florida
Gainesville, Florida


January 1982










TABLE OF CONTENTS


PAGE


I. INTRODUCTION . . . .

II. WATERMELONS . . . .

A. Watermelon Production in Florida and
Alachua County . .

B. Characteristics of Farming Systems
Involving Watermelons . .

C. Watermelon Production Practices

D. Economic Aspects of Watermelon
Production . . .

E. Marketing of Watermelons . .

F. Implications for Research and
Extension . .

III. SOUASH . . . . .

A. History of Squash Production in Flor
and Alachua County .. . .

B. Characteristics of Farming Systems
Involving Squash . .

C. Production Practices . .

D. Economic Aspects of Squash
Production . . .

E. Marketing of Squash . .

F. Implications for Research and


Extension


. 6

S. 10


S. 13

S. 20


S. 22

S. 23


. 23


. 25

S* 28


S. 33

. 36


S. . .. . . 37


IV. CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS/FUTURE DIRECTIONS

BIBLOGRAPHY . . . .


S. 40

. 47
















LIST OF TABLES


PAGE


TABLE 1.


TABLE 2.


TABLE 3.


TABLE 4.


TABLE 5.


TABLE 6.


TABLE 7.


TABLE 8.


TABLE 9.


TABLE 10.


ACREAGES, PRODUCTION AND PRICES OF
WATERMELON: 1961-1979 . .. .

SELECTED CHARACTERISTICS OF WATERMELON
PRODUCERS, ALACHUA COUNTY . .

SELECTED PRODUCTION PRACTICES OF WATERMELON
PRODUCERS . . . . .

PER ACRE COSTS AND RETURNS FOR WATERMELON
PRODUCERS, ALACHUA COUNTY, 1980 . .

AVERAGE PER ACRE COSTS AND RETURNS FOR
WATERMELON PRODUCERS, ALACHUA COUNTY .

MARKETING CHARACTERISTICS OF WATERMELON
GROWERS INTERVIEWED . . .

ACREAGES AND PRODUCTION FOR SQUASH:
1961-1979 . . . . .

SELECTED CHARACTERISTICS OF FARMING SYSTEMS
INVOLVING SQUASH: ALACHUA COUNTY . .

SELECTED CULTURAL PRACTICES OF SQUASH
PRODUCERS IN ALACHUA COUNTY . ..

PER ACRE COSTS AND RETURNS FOR SQUASH
PRODUCERS, ALACHUA COUNTY, 1980 . ..


FIGURE 1. HOURLY LABOR WAGE RATES AND SQUASH PRICES . .26

FIGURE 2. AVERAGE MONTHLY PRICES FOR SQUASH . .38


29


34









I. INTRODUCTION


The purpose of this study was to examine the range of
production and marketing practices for watermelon and sum-
mer squash in Alachua County and to compare them with IFAS
recommendations to assist research and extension efforts
for these commodities. The report is intended to provide
an example of how with modest resources, researchers and
extension workers at the county level can rapidly and sy-
stematically incorporate farmer perspectives into the de-
termination of priorities for research and extension activ-
ities.


The primary focus of the enquiry was small and medium
scale farmers, who were roughly distinguished on the basis
of total acreage in crops. Small scale producers were de-
fined as having no more than 50 acres in crops (excluding
pasture) while medium scale producers had less than 200
acres in crops. A few large farmers were also interviewed
to provide a basis for comparison. Even more important,
large growers proved to be an invaluable and generally
quite cooperative source of information and ideas, some of
which appear directly relevant to small and medium-scale
production systems.


The nature of the small, low resource farming systems
in Alachua County has changed dramatically over the past
half century (Hansen et al 1981). Today's small, low re-
source farmers are a heterogeneous and geographically dif-
fused group who are primarily dependent upon income from
off-farm sources. They have limited time and money to
devote to farming operations and, as a consequence fre-
quently have difficulty in acquiring and continuously up-
dating the know-how necessary to be 'successful' in farm-
ing. These factors complicate and often appear to frus-
trate research and extension initiatives aimed at this
group. At the same time, productivity levels are often si-
gnificantly lower among small, low resource farmers as com-
pared to large commercial growers indicating considerable
scope for improvement through the adaptation and extension
of existing production techniques relevant to the small
farmers, possibly with only a modest commitment of re-
sources. This is a key premise underlying the present
study.

The investigation of production and marketing prac-
tices for specific commodities in Alachua County was an
outgrowth of a more general overview of farming activities
in a part of the county carried out during the spring of
1980 in a farming systems research and extension methodo-
logy course. One of the recommendations that emerged from









the course was to analyze existing production practices for
specific commodities and compare them with extension recom-
mendations. Farm trials would then be designed to assess
the relative merits of alternative sets of practices. This
approach would also provide a valuable source of informa-
tion for research and extension workers on the strengths
and weaknesses of current recommendations with respect to
small farm operations. The watermelon and squash study was
an outgrowth of that recommendation.


The methodology employed reflects the diversity of the
academic disciplines involved. Farmers were interviewed by
multidisciplinary teams of 2 or 3 graduate students; some-
times they were accompanied by a faculty member.Nearly all
interviews included at least one representative each from
the biological and social sciences. The names of farmers
were drawn from a number of sources including i) the gen-
eral survey of farming systems in Alachua County (Hansen et
al, 1980); ii) lists from the county extension office and
iii) names provided by farmers and farmer organizations.
No attempt was made to obtain a representative sample in a
statistical sense, rather to explore and compare a variety
of systems operated by large and small/medium scale
farmers.


A total of 16 watermelon and 10 squash growers were
interviewed using a structured questionnaire which covered
i) an overview of the farming system (nature and size of
farm enterprises, off farm employment, equipment, etc.);
ii) specific cultural and marketing practices for squash
and watermelons; and iii) reasons for growing squash or
watermelons including profitability and relationship to
other enterprises in the system. Follow up, open ended in-
terviews were also utilized in a number of instances.

Although this report draws primarily upon the survey re-
sults, existing statistics and published reports were also
used. The report represents an effort to accumulate and
summarize a variety of information on production and mar-
keting in the area in a relatively short period of time
with only a modest investment of resources. If such inves-
tigations are deemed to be useful in helping multidiscipli-
nary teams define research and extension priorities at the
county level, the analytical techniques must be largely re-
stricted to those that can be rapidly and easily employed
and broadly understood. At the same time, efforts should
be made to enhance the 'rigor' (not necessarily equivalent
to 'sophistication') of the analysis possibly through ana-
lysis procedures in such areas as trends in prices, acre-
age, yields and production; enterprise budgets, and determ-
inants of yields. There are well-established procedures
for performing such analysis although some modifications









may be desirable to ensure that analysis does focus on the
objective of helping define research and extension priori-
ties for the specific commodity in question.


Finally, this report draws upon the collective wisdom
of a number of researchers, extension staff and farmers.
Obviously, it is not practical for those engaged in prepar-
ing reports of this type at the county level to have access
to researchers as readily as was done in this instance in
view of the limited time and distances involved. However,
linkages are needed between researchers and extension
workers at the local level and on-going research programs
for specific commodities and areas centered in Gainesville.
The process should be two way: county level teams will need
advice, information and assistance with analysis and re-
searchers can benefit greatly from access to information on
actual farming conditions to assist in more sharply defin-
ing research priorities and provide a mechanism for the on-
farm trials of improved techniques.


Although elaborate computer analysis of data is not
recommended, there should be easy access to simple programs
in such areas as budgets, price analysis, acreage and yield
trends which would be produced in a format that could be
directly incorporated into reports.


II. WATERMELONS


A. WATERMELON PRODUCTION IN FLORIDA AND ALACHUA COUNTY


The western part of Alachua County lies in the heart
of the historically most important watermelon producing
district in the U.S. Alachua and neighboring Gilchrist
County have frequently led the nation in acreage, though
not in yields (U.S. Agricultural Census 1925-1974,
Rauchenstein, 1928, Strowbridge, 1933). Watermelons are
not shipped as far as other vegetables on the average due
to their bulk value ratio. Therefore, the Southern
California and South Texas growers whose crops fall into
the same "second early" period (mid May through early June)
as Alachua's cannot compete in the big Eastern or even the
Mid-western markets. This very favorable market window is
an important factor explaining the continuing success of
this crop locally.

The watermelon's origin is probably in the Congo Basin
but its cultivation was common throughout the ancient
world. Though widely planted for home consumption through-
out the nineteenth century, commercial production in









may be desirable to ensure that analysis does focus on the
objective of helping define research and extension priori-
ties for the specific commodity in question.


Finally, this report draws upon the collective wisdom
of a number of researchers, extension staff and farmers.
Obviously, it is not practical for those engaged in prepar-
ing reports of this type at the county level to have access
to researchers as readily as was done in this instance in
view of the limited time and distances involved. However,
linkages are needed between researchers and extension
workers at the local level and on-going research programs
for specific commodities and areas centered in Gainesville.
The process should be two way: county level teams will need
advice, information and assistance with analysis and re-
searchers can benefit greatly from access to information on
actual farming conditions to assist in more sharply defin-
ing research priorities and provide a mechanism for the on-
farm trials of improved techniques.


Although elaborate computer analysis of data is not
recommended, there should be easy access to simple programs
in such areas as budgets, price analysis, acreage and yield
trends which would be produced in a format that could be
directly incorporated into reports.


II. WATERMELONS


A. WATERMELON PRODUCTION IN FLORIDA AND ALACHUA COUNTY


The western part of Alachua County lies in the heart
of the historically most important watermelon producing
district in the U.S. Alachua and neighboring Gilchrist
County have frequently led the nation in acreage, though
not in yields (U.S. Agricultural Census 1925-1974,
Rauchenstein, 1928, Strowbridge, 1933). Watermelons are
not shipped as far as other vegetables on the average due
to their bulk value ratio. Therefore, the Southern
California and South Texas growers whose crops fall into
the same "second early" period (mid May through early June)
as Alachua's cannot compete in the big Eastern or even the
Mid-western markets. This very favorable market window is
an important factor explaining the continuing success of
this crop locally.

The watermelon's origin is probably in the Congo Basin
but its cultivation was common throughout the ancient
world. Though widely planted for home consumption through-
out the nineteenth century, commercial production in








Florida did not get underway until after the First World
War (Rose, 1977). In the early 1930's, Fusarium wilt be-
came a major problem for growers. With the depression
economy this resulted in very low production throughout
the decade (Williams, Personal Communication). Prices be-
gan to improve during the Second World War and, though
prices fell from wartime levels, production climbed
throughout the forties and fifties. By 1955 Florida was
producing about one quarter of the nation's watermelons,
production having tripled since 1946 (Brooke, 1956).
Yields, however, remained almost constant from 1925 to
1958. As shown in Table I, average yields first reached
100 cwt (10,000 pounds) per acre in 1958 and since then
have generally averaged well above that level. Prices drop-
ped dramatically in 1958 to $1.00 per cwt., the lowest
level since 1942, but rose rapidly thereafter with less an-
nual variance than before.


The collapse of prices in 1958 significantly affected
the watermelon industry according to some observers. Many
small and marginal growers with below average yields went
out of business, while larger growers expanded their opera-
tions and became more specialized in the process. Larger
growers tended to have more capital intensive systems in-
volving irrigation systems, pesticides, and fertilizer
which combined to produce higher yields.


Despite a jump in production and yields per acre in
the early 1960's (see Table 1), yields have not increased
significantly in the past twenty years. Prices have risen,
but with sharp year to year fluctuations. The delayed re-
sponse of growers to price changes has produced a classic
cobweb situation with a low price leading to a reduction in
plantings in the subsequent season, which in turn contri-
butes to higher prices followed by increased plantings in
the next season (Wall and Tilley, 1979). In addition, cer-
tain production costs, notably those involving significant
labor such as picking, have increased markedly. As a con-
sequence, acreage devoted to watermelons in the county and
the state generally has been stagnant in recent years.
Alachua County shows, major year to year changes but no
clear overall trend.

B. CHARACTERISTICS OF FARMING SYSTEMS INVOLVING
WATERMELONS

A total of 16 watermelon producers were interviewed
representing a wide range of farming systems. Table 2 sum-
marizes the characteristics of the farming systems of the
growers interviewed. Although the primary focus of the
inquiry was small/medium-scale operations, a number of





Table 1. ACREAGES, PRODUCTION AND PRICES FOR WATERMELON: 1961-1979
Alachua Florida
A.Harvested A.Planted A.Harvested Yield Production Average
(x 1000) (x 1000) (cwt/a) (cwt+ Price
x 1000) ($/cwt)
1950 70 68 75 3,718 1.55
1951 60 57 79 4,503 1.80
1952 75 72 76 5,472 2.15
1953 100 93 74 6,882 1.85


1954
1955
1956
1957
1958
1959
1960
1961
1962
1963
1964
1965
1966
1967
1968
1969
1970
1971
1972
1973
1974
1975
1976
1977
1978
1979


3,800
3,800
3,800
3,900
3,300
3,700
3,600
4,640
4,000
4,100
3,800
5,100
4,100
4,100
3,200


105
91
96
105
100
77
75
67
64
61
59
63
62
60
61
59
50
52.2
61.2
54.7
50
47
65
65
59
50


98
88
91
95
95
72
73
65
61
58
56
60
59
57
56
53.5
47.5
50.1
56.i
48.7
44.5
43.6
55
51
50
43


84
92
95
68
100
68
115
130
140
180
150
155
170
145
135
130
145
150
120
160
150
185
180
175
160
150


7,491
7,214
8,190
6,460
7,744
4,896
7,266
8,450
6,388
8,983
8,400
9,300
10,030
8,265
7,560
6,955
6,888
7,515
6,732
7,792
6,675
8,066
9,900
8,925
8,000
6,450


1.30
2.00
1.75
2.05
1.00
2.50
1.55
1.65
1.95
1.40
2.10
2.05
1.90
2.10
2.10
2.49
2.55
2.72
2.42
3.07
3.28
4.36
2.61
2.97
3.35
5.00


Sources: Florida Crop and Livestock Reporting Service: Vegetable Summary
1979. U.S. Statistical Reporting Service. Various published reports on
Florida vegetables and potato production. Washington: U.S. Government Print-
ing Office and U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1917-1975.


~


~










Table 2. SELECTED CHARACTERISTICS
ACERAGE
50 or
less


1. Number of growers

2. Watermelon land
owned
leased

3. Production frequency
annually
irregularly

4. Off-farm employment
or retired

5. Crops
Watermelon only
Watermelon dominant3
Agronomic crops
Other horticultural
crops

Cattle

6. Average (harvested)4

7. Yield (cwt/a)4


4


4




1
3


4


1
2
2

2

3

13(2)

115.4(2)


OF WATERMELON PRODUCERS, ALACHUA COUNTY1
IN CROPS2


51-199

6


-
6


4
2


5


200+

6


TOTALS

16


6

11

116(5)


196.2(6) 291.3(5)


1/ Based on 16 interviews

2/ Exclusive of pasture, timberland and idle land

3/ 50% or more of area cropped in watermelons

4/ Based on number of growers indicated in parentheses (Growers omitted due
to: insufficient data)


t
s









larger operators were also included to compare production
and marketing practices. Eleven of the 16 farmers con-
tacted had acreages under crops (excluding pasture land) of
less than 200 acres. The remaining 5 farmers had 200 or
more acres under various crops.


The following features emerged from the overview of
farming systems of watermelon producers:


Most growers with holdings of more than 50 acres used
leased land. The quality of land is of critical importance
in watermelon production for successful disease and weed
management. Obtaining good quality land is one of the
major difficulties which small farmers face in successfully
growing watermelons. All the small farmers interviewed use
their own land to produce the crop with variable results.
The small farmers generally do not grow watermelons on a
regular basis, but only when they feel a portion of their
own land is ready and suitable for melon production. In
addition, they may not own a sufficient amount of land to
permit a rotation involving pasture and watermelons. They
have difficulty locating suitable land to lease which is
both close to their homes and available in small units
which can be accommodated in their farming systems.


All of the medium-size growers, in contrast, are able
to lease watermelon land and 4 out of the 6 grow the crop
every year. Of the large-scale producers, half lease and
half use their own land. Those that farm their own land
usually have substantial tracts of land in pasture and grow
watermelons as part of a rotation with agronomic crops
field corn, soybeans, peanuts and pasture and also have
significant numbers of cattle.


For the medium and large-scale watermelon producers who
do not possess large amounts of suitable land, the search
for good land to lease is a major consumer of time. Land
that has been in Bahia grass pasture generally commands a
significantly higher rental value than other land and the
rent has been rising in recent years (Brooke, 1978). As
noted earlier, smaller scale producers are at a distinct
disadvantage in locating good land for leasing. Much of
the pasture land is in blocks of land of 50 acres or more
and is owned by large landholders. The large-scale melon
producers are interested in larger blocks and tend to have
better connections. All of the large scale producers grew
melons every year and made preliminary arrangements for
land a year or more in advance of the commencement of farm-
ing operations.








A second major feature of watermelon producers was
that in contrast with .producers of other horticultural
crops in the area, watermelon was usually the major crop
in their farming system. Four producers grew only water-
melons and for another 3, melons constitute 50% or more of
the acreage under crops. Rarely does one find watermelons
grown as a minor element in a farming system.


Virtually all watermelon producers have a special
feeling about the crop. Watermelons occupy "a position in
farmers' minds similar to the position of cattle among
livestock producers. Watermelon production holds the poten-
tial for large gain if one is able to get good land and
have a favorable market.


A third characteristic of watermelon producers is that
most had off-farm jobs or retirement income (13 out of 16).
That not withstanding, watermelon farmers still tend to ap-
proach production of the crop with a zeal and intensity
that is not found among producers of most other horticul-
tural commodities.


A fourth characteristic is that watermelons often
share farming systems with cattle (11 out of 16 farmers).
This is not surprising given the preference for using pas-
ture land to grow watermelons. Even where producers were
renting land to produce melon, they often had pasture and
cattle of their own. Possibly, they first acquired the
watermelon "bug" by utilizing their own pasture land, but
have insufficient land of their own to continue the enter-
prise on an annual basis.


C. WATERMELON PRODUCTION PRACTICES


Table 3 characterizes the production practices of the
16 growers who were interviewed.


Land selection is more important in the production of
watermelons than most other crops due to the soil borne
disease, Fusarium wilt, which cannot be easily or economi-
cally controlled through other practices. IFAS recommends
that optimal land for watermelon production either be newly
cleared or not have been used for watermelon production for
10 to 12 years. The common practice however, is to reuse
watermelon land every 7 years although one large and one
small-scale farmer utilized a 4-year cycle, with neither
reporting any drastic disease problems.




c


Grower Yield Total
Number (Ib/acre) Crop Acres


1 20,000


6,700

12,000


5 20,000


6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13


4,600

30,000

15,000

12,500

28,000

35,000

24,000

33,000


14 39,500


15 20,000

If1 27.500


34


50

17

20


103


170

77

200

80

65

273

525

1070


445


150


Watermelon Population
Acres (Plants/acre) Irrigation


20


10

9

20


35


26

40

60

40

65

93

125

40


100


150


1360


670

680

910


520


435

1100

1250

970

970

725

870

670


725


790

1815


Fertilization
Soil (Ib/acre N-P20s-Ka0)
Test Initial Subsequent


No Yes (1)
(2)


12-8-4
7.5-5-2.5

60-80-80

44-44-44

36-48-48 (1
2


No No (1) 60-40-20
(2) 180-120-60

No Yes 85-85-85

No Yes 80-120-120

No No 100-0-0

Yes Yes 72-96-96

No No 66-88-88

No No 84-112-112

No Yes 90-120-120

Yes Yes (1) 0-102-144
(2) 123-0-0

Yes Yes (1) 0-120-160
(overhead) (2) 100-0-0

No Yes 96-144-144


Yes


Yes


98-114-114


Placement*


165-0-0 I1,2:M-D
S:B

30-0-30 I:D; S:B

51-0-48 I:D; S:B

60-0-60 I:D; SI:B
1-1-1 S2:liquid

L1:M-C (2 tons)
L2:M-D (6 tons)

36-36-36 I:D; S:B

75-0-70 I:D; S:B

50-0-50 I:A-B; S:C

60-0-56 I:B & incorp.; S:B

75-0-75 I:D; S:B

45-0-45 I:D; S:B

60-0-60 I:D; S:B

7.5-0-35 I:C; S:B
I:A-B

40-0-40 I:C; S:B
12:B

30-0-28 I:D; S:B

65-0-65 I:B & incorp.; S:B


* I: Initial; S: Subsequent; M: Manure; A: Anhydrous NH3; D: In drill; B: Band; C: Broad Cast


3












8:









Bahia grass pasture was the preferred land to use for
watermelon production according to all farmers interviewed.
Reasons for this preference for former bahia pasture in-
cluded relative freedom from weeds and improved soil tilth
caused by the heavy prolific root growth of the grass. Pre-
mium rental fees were paid for the use of such land. All
of the large and medium-scale growers interviewed used
bahia pasture while only one small farmer did.


Five of the 6 growers with large farming operations
and 3 of the 6 medium scale producers utilized soil testing
to determine lime and nutrient requirements. While only
one of the small-scale farmers made use of soil tests, all
farmed their own land and were familiar with the history of
its use and the need for nutrients and lime.


General land preparation practices varied from grower
to grower, reflecting soil condition, previous crop (pas-
ture, fallow, etc.) and nutrient sources (manures, chem-
ical). Although widely varied, these individual practices
were appropriate for the conditions according to IFAS
guidelines for land preparation for vegetable production.
Equipment used ranged from large new tractors in excess of
150 hp to 30 year old, one-row equipment with less than 20
hp..


'Charleston Gray', 'Jubilee' and 'Crimson Sweet' were
the principal varieties grown although some other varieties
(eg. 'Blackstone') were produced for specialty markets.
All are appropriate for Florida according to IFAS.


All growers interviewed planted within the range of
planting dates recommended by IFAS. The large and medium-
scaled growers usually had completed planting by the end of
February while the small operators had finished by the mid-
dle of March. Although this late planting lessens the
chance of crop loss due to late frost, it results in later
maturity which may lead to lower market prices (see market-
ing section).


Planting density ranged from 435 to 1800 plants per
acre. The higher populations were under irrigation and
were in accordance with IFAS guidelines while the lowest
population was less than 2/3 of the recommended minimum of
690 plants per acre.

Fertilization rates and techniques exhibited consider-
able variation. With only one exception, small scale
farmers followed IFAS guidelines for fertilization rates.









Seven out of 12 medium and large-scale growers exceeded re-
commended rates, by as much as 266%. The greatest dispar-
ity between practice and recommendations involved the use
of manure as sources of nutrition. Under-fertilization was
rare, and usually appeared to involve phosphorous.


Placement of fertilizer generally did not coincide
with IFAS recommended practices. Nine of 16 growers inter-
viewed placed fertilizer from 2 to 16" directly beneath the
seed. None of the 9 used irrigation. Reasons offered by
growers to explain this practice included: (1) not feeding
weeds, (2) get it close to seed for plant to use, (3) en-
courage deep root growth (straight down towards fertilizer)
so roots will be where soil water is. The remaining farm-
ers, 4 of whom had irrigation and were medium or largescale
producers, either broadcasted, incorporated or banded their
nutrients in accordance with recommendations. All growers,
with only one exception, side-dressed at least once after
crop emergence.


All of the large-scale growers and half of the small
and medium-scale growers utilized recommended preventive
spray programs for disease control. Bravo, Difolatan and
Manzate were the trade name materials most commonly ap-
plied. Yields associated with preventive spraying average
almost 25,000 pounds (250 cwt.) per acre as compared to
only 16,000 pounds (160 cwt.) per acre for containment
spraying. Two small growers without preventive spray pro-
grams complained of disease problems which reduced yields.


Irrigation appeared to be the sole production techni-
que which consistently made a difference in yield. The
crops under irrigation (4) yielded an average of 28,000
pounds (280 cwt.) per acre while those without averaged
20,400 pounds (204 cwt.) per acre. None of the small-
scale farmers and only one of the medium scale farmers used
irrigation. In contrast, most of the large scale producers
irrigated and even drilled irrigation wells on rented land.

D. ECONOMIC ASPECTS OF WATERMELON PRODUCTION

Although there was no attempt to collect detailed cost
and return accounts as part of the interviews of watermelon
producers, an effort was made to generate per acre budgets
for each of the 16 growers utilizing the information on
cultural practices from the interviews together with infor-
mation on machinery and input costs obtained from dealers
and distributors. This task proved to be far more complex
and time consuming than anticipated since there was con-
siderable variation in such areas as equipment and fertil-
izer. Per acre budgets prepared by other researchers




Table 4. PER ACRE COSTS AND RETURNS FOR WATERMELON PRODUCERS, ALACHUA COUNTY, 1980
Grower Number
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8


A. GROSS REVENUE 00.00

B. CASH EXPENSES
1. Var. Costs, Machinery
-Maintenance & Repair 18.12
-Fuel & Lubricants 32.06
2. Seeds 9.00
3. Fertilizer 41.80
4. Pesticide/Fungicide
5. Var. Costs, Irrigation
6. Labor Mach. Operation
Harvesting 00.00
7. Land Rent
Subtotal 100.98

C. GROSS MARGIN -100.98
G.M. as % of C.E. -100.00

D. FAMILY LAND 50.00

E. FAMILY LABOR 37.95

F. FIXED COSTS
-Machinery Depreciation, etc. 00.00
-Irrigation

G. TOTAL COSTS 188.93

H. NET MARGIN -188.93


500.00


18.12
32.06
9.00
70.88
84.00






214.06




50.00

37.95


00.00


302.01


18.12
32.06
6.28
54.08




75.00


185.54

314.46
169.48

50.00

37.95


00.00


273.49

226.51


600.00 1800.00


18.12
32.06
9.00
72.81
w/fert.



90.00


221.99

378.01
170.28

50.00

37.95


30.00


339.94

260.06


18.12
32.06


22.40




100.00


172.58

1627.42
942.99

50.00

37.95


30.00


340.53

1459.47


230.00 1500.00


18.12
32.06
5.00
82.16
12.00



17.25


166.59

63.41
38.06

50.00

37.95


30.00


301.79

-71.79


18.12
32.06
5.85
120.13
14.70



225.00
50.00
465.86

1034.14
221.99



37.95


30.00


533.81

966.19


83.00 77.00 429.00


750.00


18.12
32.06
5.77
34.10
18.00



112.50
50.00
270.55

479.45
177.21



37.95


30.00


338.50

411.50


-24.00 181.00 122.00


N.M. as % if T.C.


-100.00




K


Grower Number


A. GROSS REVENUE

B. CASH EXPENSES
1. Var. Costs, Machinery
-Maintenance & Repair
-Fuel & Lubricants
2. Seeds
3. Fertilizer
4. Pesticide/Fungicide
5. Var. Costs, Irrigation
6. Labor Mach. Operation
Harvesting
7. Land Rent
Subtotal

C. GROSS MARGIN
G.M. as % of C.E.

D. FAMILY LAND

E. FAMILY LABOR

F. FIXED COSTS
-Machinery Depreciation, etc.
-Irrigation

G. TOTAL COSTS

H. NET MARGIN
N.M. as % of T.C.


9

625.00



18.12
32.06
9.00
119.41
78.00
50.00
18.98
93.75


419.32

205.68
49.05

50.00

18.97


30.00
00.00

518.29

106.71


1200.00 1650.00 1975.00 1000.00 1375.00


10

1400.00



18.12
32.06
6.91
100.06
54.60


18.98
140.00


370.73

1029.27
277.63

50.00

18.97


30.00


539.70

860.30


11

1750.00



18.12
32.06
9.00
99.85
106.05


37.95
262.50


565.53

1184.47
209.44

50.00




30.00


645.53

1104.47


18.12
32.06
14.00
117.56
35.91


37.95
180.00


435.60

764.40
175.48

50.00




30.00


515.60

684.40


18.12
32.06
4.16
82.00
37.50
50.00
37.95
247.50
50.00
559.19

1090.71
195.02






30.00
20.00

609.29

1040.71


18.12
32.06
4.16
95.16
64.80
50.00
37.95
296.25


598.50

1376.50
229.99

50.00




30.00
20.00

698.50

1276.50


21.00 159.00 171.00 133.00 171.00


183.00 122.00 106.00


18.12
32.06
5.85
104.15
21.33


37.95
150.00
50.00
419.46

580.54
138.40






30.00


449.46

550.54


18.12
32.06
8.00
108.81
106.05
50.00
37.95
266.25


567.24

807.76
142.40

50.00




30.00
20.00

667.24

707.76







ASSUMPTION ON WATERMELON BUDGET COMPUTATIONS.


A. GROSS REVENUE = Standardized at 54/# for non-organic
producers, and 94/# otherwise.

B. CASH EXPENSES =
1. Var. Costs = Machinery Based on a representation
system of operations, equipment, rates and prices.

2.' Seed Standardized seeding rates for Crimson
Sweet, Charleston Greys and Jubilees; prices
standardized from local dealers' quotes.

3. Fertilizer Same prices used for each of the
various analyses or substances.

4. Pesticide/
Fungicide Rates of application standardized;
prices standarized from local dealers' quotes.

5. Var. Costs Irrigation Standardized at $50.00
[c.f. squash budget].

6. Labor Machine Operations [15% (Representative
System Time) + (Representative System Time)] @
$3.75/hr.

Harvesting Standardized at 754/cwt. [Propor-
tioned as hired help from general computations.]

7. Land Rent Standardized at $50.00/ac.

C. FAMILY LAND As B.7 land rent, above.

D. FAMILY LABOR Proportioned from machine operation and
harvesting (B.6 labor, above) general computations.

E. FIXED COSTS Machinery Depreciation, Interest, Tax
and Insurance computed (with reference to "Enterprise
Budgets: What, How and Why?" by G.O. Westberry, Staff
Paper 131, Aug. 79, FRED, IFAS, UF, Gainesville, FL,
USA, p.5) and based on average lifetimes of equipment
pieces.

Irrigation Standardized at $20.00/ac.








Table 5. AVERAGE PER ACRE COSTS AND RETURNS FOR WATERMELON PRODUCERS,
ALACHUA COUNTY

Size of Farm Unit
Small Medium Large

NUMBERS 4 6 6

Acreage under Crops 150 150-200 720


A. GROSS REVENUE $275 $1050 $1492

B. CASH EXPENSES

1. Var. Cost Machinery 50 50 50

2. Seeds 8 8 8

3. Fertilizer 60 80 101

4. Pesticides 21 30 62

5. Var. Costs Irrigation -- 8 25

6. Labor, Hired 41 121 272

7. Land Rent -- 17 17

Subtotal 180 314 535

C. GROSS MARGIN
(Gross Revenue minus
Cash Expenses) 95 736 957

D. FAMILY LAND 50 33 33

E. FAMILY LABOR 38 55 --

F. FIXED COSTS, MACHINERY 8 30 30

TOTAL COSTS 276 432 598

NET MARGIN -1 618 894

as % Total Costs Negative 143% 149%








(Brooke, 1979; Westberry, 1979; Prevatt and Pospichal,
1976; and Fuller, 1978) do not apply specifically to the
Alachua area, but were utilized as general guides. Final-
ly, there was need for a number of heroic assumptions. The
results are presented-in Tables 4 and 5.


Gross revenues (line A in table 4) were significantly
lower for the small-scale producers than for the medium and
larger producers due to the lower yields the smaller pro-
ducers obtained. Two out of the 4 small-scale producers
reported zero or negligible yields as a consequence of dis-
ease problems. The 4 small-scale producers averaged a
gross return of $275 per acre as compared to $1050 and
$1492 for the medium and large producers, respectively.


As discussed in the previous section on cultural prac-
tices, the higher yields and hence greater gross returns
are traceable to the following factors: 1) land quality; 2)
irrigation; 3) plant population; 4) levels of fertilizer;
and 5) fertilizer placement. Higher plant populations and
higher levels of fertilizer application (above IFAS recom-
mended levels) were associated with use of irrigation and
with good quality land (particularly bahia grass pasture).
Larger-scale producers who tended to have better access to
good land spent roughly twice as much on fertilizer and
pesticides as compared to small-scale producers (an average
of $162 per acre as compared to $82).


As expected, cash expenditures per acre were signifi-
cantly higher for the medium and large-scale producers than
for small producers. In addition to differences in fertil-
izer and pesticide application levels noted above, larger
operators made more extensive use of hired labor. Small
and to a certain extent medium-scale producers tended to
rely on family labor for all but a portion of harvesting
operations, whereas large-scale producers tend to use hired
labor. The most significant labor expense was harvesting,
the level being rather closely related to yields. Hence,
the large and medium-scale producers had significantly
higher harvest labor expenses per acre.

Non-cash charges included those for family land and
labor, and the depreciation on any machinery and equipment.
These non-cash charges were proportionately a more impor-
tant component of total cost for small and medium-scale
producers than for large producers. For small and medium-
scale producers, non-cash charges represented approximately
one-third of total costs, while non-cash charges amounted
to only one-tenth of total costs for large-scale producers.
Small and to a lesser extent medium-scale producers made
more extensive use of family land and labor. However,









depreciation charges for small-scale producers were low,
since 3 out of the 4 made use of old equipment which was
fully depreciated by conventional accounting procedures.

When account was taken of all costs, small farmers
lost an average of $1 per acre. This was due to the fact
that 2 out of the 4 producers in this category had crop
failures, which was significant since 1980 was generally
regarded as a good crop year, price and weather-wise.
Large-scale producers achieved an average net margin per
acre of $894 per acre which was nearly 50% higher than the
average for the medium-scale producers. However, when ex-
pressed as a percentage of total costs, the net margins
were nearly identical for medium and large producers at
143% and 149%, respectively.

The question arises as to whether conventional ac-
counting techniques which involve inclusion of charges for
non-cash expenditures, such as family land and labor, cor-
rectly reflect the perspective of the small farmer. A
farmer may not wish to rent out his land for a variety of
reasons and may have a strong preference to work on his or
her own farm as opposed to hiring out to someone else. To
the extent which small and medium-scale producers do not
take non-cash charges into consideration, watermelon pro-
duction becomes increasingly profitable and the gap in net
returns as a percent of costs between the various groups of
farmers narrows.

1980 was a profitable year for watermelon producers in
the area with 13 out of 16 producers realizing positive and
on the average, very profitable returns. At the same time,
the variation in costs and returns was striking. Larger
producers had on the average more than double the costs per
acre of the small-scale producers traceable to higher ex-
penditures on irrigation, fertilizer, pesticides and labor.
Gross revenues were also significantly higher as a consequ-
ence of higher yields. The fact that large-scale producers
often started with better quality land is probably the
single most important factor followed by differences in
cultural practices, notably the use of irrigation.While
there appears to be improvements in cultural practices such
as pest control and fertilizer application which would im-
prove the profitability of watermelon production for small-
scale producers, these improvements are not likely to yield
very attractive returns unless good quality land is util-
ized. Watermelon production emerges as a rather profit-
able enterprise for producers who have access to good qua-
lity land. Irrigation facilities are desirable, but it is
clear that profitable returns can be realized without irri-
gation. Thus, for farmers without access to good quality
land, watermelon production remains a risky and rather mar-
ginal venture.








E. MARKETING OF WATERMELONS


Watermelon marketing in Alachua county, as in the
State as a whole, is not highly organized. Brooke (1978)
reported that the bulk of the crop is handled by local and
traveling brokers who move north with the season. This
method of marketing has remained substantially unchanged
since watermelons entered the national market in the
1920's. Prior to the 1960's most of the watermelons were
moved by rail, but now most melons go by truck which pro-
vides transportation directly from the field to major mar-
kets.


Local pricing and grading. Grading of the fruit is
done by weight and by condition. During the spring of
1980, prices for watermelons in Alachua Co. ranged from 3
to 6 cents per pound, with 4-1/2 to 5-1/2 cents being the
most commonly quoted price.

Markets and varieties. The growers interviewed util-
ized a variety of market outlets. Table 6 surveys the mar-
keting characteristics of the growers who were interviewed.
By far the largest volume of produce, whether through
brokers or independent truckers, leaves the county on
trucks. Much of the produce ends up in cities on the eas-
tern seaboard of the United States. Brokers followed by
independent truckers handle the majority of Florida water-
melons. In both of these cases watermelons are loaded di-
rectly from the fields onto the trucks. There are also a
number of minor marketing options open to farmers with a
focus on the local market. One producer sold watermelons
through a curb side operation, another sold through a co-op
in Trenton, still others sold to local grocers and health
food stores.

Brokers commonly work on a commission basis receiving
a percentage of the total sale. Once a broker has agreed to
handle a certain farmer's crop he (the broker) is generally
responsible for transporting the melons out of the field.
This lessens the risk the farmer takes when he must be re-
sponsible for the transportation himself. An independent
trucker will usually buy on sight and pay the farmer in
cash. Independent truckers either buy for themselves and
then sell to independent retailers, jobbers, market the
melons directly themselves, sell to chain stores, or they
buy for one of the above outlets directly. Producers who
have been growing melons for some time may have an estab-
lished relationship with certain truckers who have bought
from them over the years. A farmer generally uses the type
of outlet that has worked best for him in the past and is
consistent with his lifestyle. A farmer who has a full time




ACREAGE UNDER CROPS1
50 or less 51-199 200+
(Number of Growers)
4 6 6


Brokerage 1 5

Cooperative 0 1

Health Food 0 1

Independent Trucker 1 1

State Farmers Market 0 1

Roadside Stands 1 0


3

0

0

3

0

0


TOTALS


16

9

1

1

5

1

1


Average Production2
Per Grower.(cwt) 1,500(2) 8,616.7(6) 33,670(5) 12,950(13)

Average Receipts2
Per Grower ($) 6,262.50(2) 46,395.83(6) 174,115(5) 89,344(13)

1/Land exclusive of timberland, pasture and idle land.

2/Based on parenthesized number of growers (growers 1, 2, 16 omitted).

TOTAL PRODUCTION AND RECEIPTS PER GROWER
1 2 3 4 5 -6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
PROD- 600 2,400 7,000 1,200 12,000 9,000 5,000 17,500 32,550 30,000 36,000 39,500 30,000 -
(cwt)

RECEIPTS 2,925 9,600 63,000 6,000 54,000 45,000 21,250 83,125 162,750 150,000 190,575 217,250 150,000 -
($)


N









off-farm job may hire a broker because this is the quickest
and surest way to dispose of his crops. Alternatively a
farmer may try marketing a portion of his crop through curb
side operations and local retailers thus realizing a
greater profit by investing more time in the marketing pro-
cess.


The watermelon varieties a farmer chooses to grow will
be in part determined by the markets to which he caters.
'Charleston Gray', 'Jubilee', and 'Crimson Sweet' are the 3
most important commercial cultivars in Florida (Montelaro,
1977). Of the 5,000 acres of watermelons planted in Alachua
county during the 1978 season over half were of the 'Crim-
son Sweet' variety followed by the 'Charleston Gray'and
'Jubilee' varieties (Alachua County Extension Service).
'Charleston Gray' melons are popular with some of the curb-
side retailers around Gainesville and are also a popular
shipping variety. Elongated varieties such as the 'Jubilee'
and 'Charleston Gray' are popular among operators melons by
the slice. 'Crimson Sweet' is popular among retailers who
know that their clientele will seek out the sweet ruby red
flesh of this melon. Certain buyers may offer a premium of
one-half to one cent per pound to growers for the 'Crimson
Sweet' and 'Jubilee' varieties (Agricultural Research
Center-Leesburg, 1972).


F. IMPLICATIONS FOR RESEARCH AND EXTENSION


Although some producers stated that watermelon is a
relatively easy crop to produce, it is not a crop which is
particularly well suited for a small-scale, low management,
low resource farming system. The most important considera-
tion is the rather stringent land quality requirement and
the, problem which small-scale producers experience in ob-
taining use of premium quality watermelon land. On the har-
vesting and marketing side, large-scale operators can pick
more uniform sizes in a single harvest in the process of
filling one or more truck units (40,000 pounds each).


Specific areas which may be of assistance to producers
to improve their returns are:

1. Use of transplants rather than direct seeding as is
now the practice would enable farmers to commence harvest-
ing 2 or 3 weeks earlier than they do now. This would in-
volve some additional cost/risk and labor which may not
make it attractive to small-scale producers. On the other
hand, the entire transplant operation can be accomplished
with family labor. In addition, it may be mechanized for









the large-scale producers. Prices are usually about $1/cwt
higher 3-4 weeks prior to the first reported harvests in
Alachua Co., which should more than compensate for the ad-
ditional planting expense.


2. Although IFAS recommends the use of at least 1 bee-
hive per 5 acres, most growers interviewed do not use do-
mestic bees for crop pollination. Some reported a low num-
ber of fruit set early in the 1979 season which they attri-
buted to a low wild bee population as a consequence of a
late frost. Studies have indicated that the placement of
beehives in a melon field increased both numbers of melons
and the weights of individual melons. A simple and low cost
technique might be developed to test the adequacy of the
wild bee population and make recommendations to growers to
supplement with domestic hives as needed.


3. Efforts might be made to approximate the soil con-
dition produced by bahia grass pasture to at least partial-
ly remove the land quality constraint currently faced by
small-scale producers. No-till or minimum tillage techni-
ques most closely approximate the soil conditions of a
grass pasture i.e. less soil compaction, better aeration,
increased water infiltration, improved waterholding capa-
city, more organic matter, etc. However, it involves addi-
tional expenses and more technical management skills, espe-
cially in regards to the use of herbicides and other chemi-
cals. In addition, there is no evidence, that notill has any
effect on the residual disease organisms in the soil which
are responsible for the need for land rotations.


III. SQUASH

A. HISTORY OF SQUASH PRODUCTION IN FLORIDA AND ALACHUA
COUNTY

Squash is native to the Americas and was grown by the
indigenous population prior to European settlement. The
self-sufficient homesteaders of the late nineteenth century
commonly grew squash for home consumption but significant
commercial production for distant markets did not begin un-
til after 1880 (Rose, 1977). The original center of produc-
tion in Alachua County was in the vicinity of Orange Lake,
but since the Great Depression the High Springs/La Crosse
district has become the principal area of production.


Since 1970 squash production has increased signifi-
cantly in Alachua County and in the state as well, not
withstanding a sharp increase in Mexican imports (Table 7).









the large-scale producers. Prices are usually about $1/cwt
higher 3-4 weeks prior to the first reported harvests in
Alachua Co., which should more than compensate for the ad-
ditional planting expense.


2. Although IFAS recommends the use of at least 1 bee-
hive per 5 acres, most growers interviewed do not use do-
mestic bees for crop pollination. Some reported a low num-
ber of fruit set early in the 1979 season which they attri-
buted to a low wild bee population as a consequence of a
late frost. Studies have indicated that the placement of
beehives in a melon field increased both numbers of melons
and the weights of individual melons. A simple and low cost
technique might be developed to test the adequacy of the
wild bee population and make recommendations to growers to
supplement with domestic hives as needed.


3. Efforts might be made to approximate the soil con-
dition produced by bahia grass pasture to at least partial-
ly remove the land quality constraint currently faced by
small-scale producers. No-till or minimum tillage techni-
ques most closely approximate the soil conditions of a
grass pasture i.e. less soil compaction, better aeration,
increased water infiltration, improved waterholding capa-
city, more organic matter, etc. However, it involves addi-
tional expenses and more technical management skills, espe-
cially in regards to the use of herbicides and other chemi-
cals. In addition, there is no evidence, that notill has any
effect on the residual disease organisms in the soil which
are responsible for the need for land rotations.


III. SQUASH

A. HISTORY OF SQUASH PRODUCTION IN FLORIDA AND ALACHUA
COUNTY

Squash is native to the Americas and was grown by the
indigenous population prior to European settlement. The
self-sufficient homesteaders of the late nineteenth century
commonly grew squash for home consumption but significant
commercial production for distant markets did not begin un-
til after 1880 (Rose, 1977). The original center of produc-
tion in Alachua County was in the vicinity of Orange Lake,
but since the Great Depression the High Springs/La Crosse
district has become the principal area of production.


Since 1970 squash production has increased signifi-
cantly in Alachua County and in the state as well, not
withstanding a sharp increase in Mexican imports (Table 7).










Table 7. ACREAGES AND PRODUCTION FOR SQUASH:

60-61 62-63


ALACHUA:

A. Harvested

FLORIDA:

A. Planted
(X 1000)

A. Harvested
(X 1000)

Yield (bu/a)

Production (bu)
(X 1000)


12.0


10.8


111.

1,204.


12.5


11.0


109.

1,189.


Extracted from:


Florida Crop and Livestock Reporting Service:

Florida Crop and Livestock Reporting Service,
vegetable production. Orlando: 1930-1975.


Vegetable Summary 1979


Area and County Acreage: Published reports on Florida


1961-1979

64-65


150.


66-67


220.



8.7


8.3


145.

1,205.


68-69


220.



8.2


7.8


176.

1,371.


70-71


540.



9.8


8.7


146.

1,266.


11.6


10.1


127.

1,281.


72-73


720.



10.8


9.8


151.

1,481.


74-75


640.



11.8


11.2


160.

1,792.


76-77


500.



12.6


12.0


158.

1,893.


78-79


800.



13.85


13.35


139.

1,860.









This is apparently due to an increase in the national de-
mand for fresh vegetables on a year-around basis. Prices
have fluctuated sharply both monthly and annually, but
levels have generally been higher in recent years. However,
as illustrated in Figure 1, labor wage rates, which are a
major factor in harvesting costs of squash, have risen
rapidly in the last 8 years. This has significantly reduced
profits and, for the small grower in particular, has dimin-
ished the attractiveness of squash production.

B. CHARACTERISTICS OF FARMING SYSTEMS INVOLVING SQUASH

Ten squash producers were interviewed. They represent
a variety of farming systems but almost all farms were in
the Alachua/High Springs/La Crosse area. Names of farmers
were obtained from sources previously described. There were
difficulties in locating farmers for interview since a num-
ber of the people contacted were found to no longer be
growing squash. Some farmers indicated they had abandoned
squash because of the high labor costs, shortages of labor
and low returns.


Table 8 summarizes the characteristics of the farming
operations of the 10 farmers contacted. Although the. pri-
mary focus of the inquiry was small/low resource farmers,
larger operators were also included in the sample to com-
pare of production and marketing practices. Eight of the
10 farmers contacted had acreages of less than 300 acres of
which no more than 150 acres were cropped during the past
12 months. The remaining 2 farmers were large commercial
operators with more than 300 acres under crops.


In this study the small/medium size farming operations
can be divided into two groups according to size and im-
portance of farm income. The 4 farmers with acreages of
less than 50 acres all had off-farm jobs or retirement in-
come. In contrast, the 4 farmers with acreages between 50
and 300 acres were all full-time farmers, as were the 2
large commercial operators.


Squash is produced in conjunction with a wide variety
of other crops and livestock enterprises including agrono-
mic crops, tobacco, other horticultural crops, and live-
stock (primarily beef). Farmers generally felt that squash
was a relatively easy commodity to produce and fit well
with their other activities. Squash was normally produced
in the spring and fall with the former being the most im-
portant. Labor, equipment and management requirements for
squash meshed well with those for other commodities such as
tobacco and field corn. None of the producers grew only











600


SQUASH PRICE


() 500 -
< 400-
__-J
0 300-
200
200- WAGE RATE
100-
I I I I I I I I I I I I
52 56 60 64 68 72 76 80
YEAR
Figure I.
'Hourly labor wage rates and squash prices, 1952-1978.
(From Brooke, 1978 and Polopolus, 1977)







Table 8. SELECTED CHARACTERISTICS OF FARMING SYSTEMS INVOLVING SQUASH: ALACHUA COUNTY1

Total Acreage2

50 50-300 300 Total
(No. of growers)


1.


4 4 2 10


Number interviewed

Organic growers

Other crops grown

-Agronomic crops

-Only horticultural crops

-Tobacco

Cattle

Irrigation (for squash)

Off-farm employment/retired

Size of holding (average)2

Acreage under all crops (average)5

Acreage of squash (average)

Average squash yield (bushels/acre)


3

2 10

1 7

1 3

2

1 5

2 5

4

(not available)

2400

65 18

325 1004


1Data from interviews with growers.

2Acreage of land owned plus acreage rented in.

3Based on 3 growers.

4Based on 9 growers.

SInclude double cropping in some instances- notably for large owners.


1

4

4


2

2

1


196

85

8

153









squash and in 7 out of 10 cases squash was decidedly secon-
dary in importance in the farming system.


The small producers made extensive use of family labor
for harvesting, and the extent of such labor appeared to be
an important factor limiting the acreage devoted to the
crop. Virtually all farmers complained about the rising
costs of labor and problems with its availability. Small
farmers in particular said they had problems obtaining
labor. For some of the medium size farmers utilization of
hired labor on a more or less continuous basis throughout
the year was a major factor in determining the mixture of
crops. In other words, one or a few hired hands employed
on a full-time basis was preferable to trying to engage
labor for specific tasks. In this fashion farmers could be
assured of labor supplies. They believed they could get
better quality labor and be able to pay less when figured
on an hourly basis by such an arrangement.


C. PRODUCTION PRACTICES


Production practices for squash varied considerably
among farmers as did the resulting yields which ranged from
37 to 400 bushels per acre. Table 9 summarizes specific
production practices of the ten farmers interviewed.


Soil testing and lime application were accomplished
well in advance of crop planting date, in accordance with
IFAS recommendations by most of the farmers who were inter-
viewed. Two farmers (both from the small or medium size
groups), did not use soil testing.


General land preparation practices varied from farmer
to farmer, reflecting soil types, previous crops (green
manures, fallow, etc.) and sources of nutrients (chemical
vs manures). Farmers utilized a variety of equipment rang-
ing from old, small tractors to new high horsepower trac-
tors. Although widely varied, these individual practices
were generally appropriate for the conditions, according to
IFAS land preparation guidelines for vegetable production.

Most farmers interviewed used hybrid seed and with
only one exception, followed variety recommendations for
Florida. In this one case, a small-scale farmer chose
varieties recommended by seed catalogues for northern
areas, assuming less susceptibility to insect and disease
attack if hardier, quick-to-mature northern varieties were
selected.





Table 9. SELECTED CULTURAL PRACTICES OF SQUASH PRODUCERS IN ALACHUA COUNTY, 19801


IFAS
RECOMMENDATIONS


1. Acreage under squash

2. Yield (bu/a.)

3. Grade Objective

4. Plant Population (plants/a.)

5. Irrigation

6. Soil Test

7. Fertilization2 (#N/a.)

-Preplant/Plant

-Postemergence

-Total


155-1703



5,500-13,800

with without
+
yes no



90 60


1

8



organic

13,400

with
+
yes



80-240



80


120-360



120


1/Data from grower-interviews.

2/Fertilization levels are in accordance with soil test results.

3/State average.


SIZE OF OPERATION
< 50 A.
(Grower Number)
2 3

1 3.7

6 200

organic 1's/2's

8,700 4,850

with without
+
yes no


--------


4

3

45

fancy

3,400

without

no





Table 9. SELECTED CULTURAL PRACTICES OF SQUASH PRODUCERS IN ALACHUA COUNTY. 19801 (Continued)

SIZE OF OPERATION
50-300 A. > 300 A.
(Grower Number)
5 6 7 8 9 10
1. Acreage under squash 1 7 10 17 10 120

2. Yield (bu/a.) 37.5 175 225 175 250 400

3. Grade Objective organic ls/2's 1's/2's 1's/2's 1's/2's 2's

4. Plant Population (plants/a.) 2,900 5,700 6,000-9,000 5,250 8,250 12,500

5. Irrigation without without with without with with
+ + +
6. Soil Test no yes yes yes yes yes

7. Fertilization2 (#N/a.)


-Preplant/Plant 180-540

8 -Postemergence

-Total 180


18

45, 30

93


52.5

52.5

105


1/Data from grower-interviews.

2/Fertilization levels are in accordance with soil test results.









Reported planting dates coincided with those tradi-
tionally recommended for fall and spring (February April;
August September), with one exception. This farmer
planted yellow squash in June to capitalize on high market
prices for summer harvested squash.


Variation in plant populations ranged from 2,990 to
13,500 plants per acre. The highest plant populations were
under irrigation and were within the recommendations for
that practice, while the lowest reported populations were
far below (about 1/2) the recommended minimum plant popula-
tions under any conditions. Generally, those farmers who
grew organically and did not use chemicals for pest control
attempted to limit the spread of insects and disease
through utilization of extremely wide row and plant spac-
ings; This practice predictably coincided with the lowest
yields per acre reported.


Fertilization practices exhibited considerable varia-
tion. Among the small-scale farmers, two applied levels of
nitrogen below the recommended levels while the 2 small-
scale organic farmers who used chicken manure fertilized
generally in excess of recommended levels. None of the
small-scale farmers used subsequent applications of ferti-
lizer, a factor which may have contributed to low reported
yields. With chemical fertilizer, a single application at
planting may result in a lack of nutrients later in the
growing season due to leaching by rainfall. However, a
single application was appropriate for those farmers util-
izing manures due to the slow release of nutrients char-
acteristic of manure.

The greatest variation in fertilization practices was
found among the medium-scale producers. The 1 organic
farmer in this group applied fertilizer (manure), well in
excess of recommended levels at time of planting. At the
other extreme another farmer who applied all fertilizer 1
week after emergence in order to reduce nutrient leaching
and to insure a good stand before making a significant in-
vestment in fertilizer. The other 2 medium-scale farmers
and both the large-scale farmers split fertilizer applica-
tions, applying some at planting and the remainder as side-
dressings, either 1 or 2 times, at 3 to 4 week intervals.
The methods of application of the medium and large-scale
producers, with one exception where the fertilizer place-
ment was directly under the seed furrow, coincided with the
general recommendations of IFAS.

It is important to note that all the farmers who fol-
lowed IFAS guidelines and applied at least part of their
nutrients after crop emergence consistently obtained the








highest yields (175 bu/acre or more) while those who ap-
plied all of their fertilizer either before or at planting
obtained yields of 100 bu/acre or less. Growers were aware
of the practice but did not use it because they either did
not have the proper equipment or felt that the crop did not
need side-dressing.


Pest control practices are generally within those re-
commended by IFAS. The usual practice was to wait until a
problem appeared, then spray to eliminate or contain the
pest.


Irrigation, although recommended for best yields, was
not used by all the growers. Only 3 of the 8 farmers in
the small and medium categories used irrigation. The 3
farmers who obtained the highest yields (more than 200 bu/
acre) used overhead irrigation to insure at least 1" of
water per week on their crops. The average yield of those
farmers who utilized irrigation was 234 bu/acre as compared
to only 107 bu/acre average yield without irrigation.


These reported differences in yield may not be due to
fertilization or irrigation practices alone because the
growers who obtained the lowest yields also had the lowest
plant populations, and marketed only "fancy" grade. This
practice involved in the harvesting of the smaller size
squash which reduced yields when measured on a bushel per
acre basis.


The farmers whose yields exceeded the average 155-170
bu/acre reported by IFAS for north-north central Florida
farm full-time with total land utilization for crops in ex-
cess of 100 acres and annual squash production acreage
averaging more than 30 acres. All relied upon soil testing
to determine lime and nutrient requirements, and all ap-
plied part of their fertilizer after crop emergence. The
average plant density was about 8,000 plants per acre. All
but two used irrigation.


The part-time farmers who reported the lowest yields
(average 60 bu/acre) also shared several characteristics.
Total acreage farmed was less than 80, with squash acreage
averaging about 2 acres. Almost half of these farmers did
not use soil testing and none of them applied any nutrients
after planting. Plant populations averaged 5,000 plants
per acre.









In summary, the highest yields were obtained by
farmers who irrigated, applied at least part of their nu-
trients after crop emergence, and seeded to obtain at least
8,000 plants per acre.


D. ECONOMIC ASPECTS OF SQUASH PRODUCTION


As in the case of watermelon producers, there was no
attempt to collect detailed cost and return information as
part of the interviews of squash producers. Per acre bud-
gets were generated for each of the ten farmers utilizing
the production information together with reported prices
and yields. Existing budgets prepared by others (Brooke,
1979; Westberry, 1879; Prevatt and Pospichal, 1976; and
Fuller, 1978) do not apply to the Alachua area, but were
utilized as general guides. The results are presented in
Table 10.


Conventional analysis of costs and returns on a per
acre basis revealed major differences in net margins among
farmers (line H). Differences in yields per acre explained
a major part of the variation in net margins with large
scale commercial farmers achieving higher yields per acre
and higher net margins. Three of the small/medium size
farmers complained of disease or pest problems which con-
tributed to below normal yields by their standards. How-
ever, the analysis of cultural practices also showed major
differences in plant populations ranging from 2,400 to
13,000 plants per acre. In general, higher plant popula-
tions were associated with the use of irrigation systems.
In addition, all but one of the small and medium scale pro-
ducers also depended primarily or solely on family labor.
Three utilized old, (fully depreciated according to conven-
tional accounting methods) equipment with negligible sal-
vage value. In short, there is a serious question whether
the conventional calulation of the net margin, including
inputed charges for family labor, land and equipment on a
per acre basis is relevant for comparisons among farmers.


An alternate approach was utilized involving the cal-
culations of a gross margin equivalent to total revenue
less cash expenditures. Charges for family land, labor and
depreciation on equipment were excluded in the first in-
stance (see line C in Table 10). The relevant perspective,
particularly from the point of view of the small-scale
farmer may be the returns to cash expenditure or the gross
margin rather than the net margin. The gross margin repre-
sents a composite of returns to family land, labor and
equipment, as well as management and capital.




Table 10. PER ACRE COSTS AND RETURNS FOR SQUASH PRODUCERS, ALACHUA COUNTY, 1980
SMALL-SCALE PRODUCERS LARGER-SCALE PRODUCERS
(< 50 A.) (> 50 A.)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
A. GROSS REVENUE 480.00 350.00 360.00 285.00 525.00 00.00 700.00 1125.00 1176.00


B. CASH EXPENSES
1. Var. Costs, Machinery
-Maintenance & Repairs
-Fuel & Lubricants
2. Seeds
3. Fertilizer
4. Pesticide
5. Irrigation Var. Costs
6. Labor Mach. Operation
7. Land Rent
Subtotal


C. CROSS MARGIN
-% of Cash Expenses


D. FAMILY


E. FAMILY LABOR


F. FIXED COSTS
-Machinery Depreciation, etc.
-Irrigation Equipment


9.12
11.69
8.00
72.00


20.00


30.00
142.81

337.19
236


9.12
11.69
32.00
60.50


9.12
11.69
32.00
39.32


9.12
11.69
32.00
108.00


9.12
11.69
32.00
70.12


9.12
11.69
32.00
58.02


- 50.00


-- -
30.00
113.31 122.12


236.69
209

30.00


237.87
195


160.81

124.19
77


- 30.00


147.78 193.78 122.78 109.78


00.00
20.00


00.00 30.00 30.00


318.93

206.07
65


360.83

569.17
149


30.00 30.00

177.78 226.78


30.00 00.00
20.00


9.12
11.69
32.00
103.88


9.12
11.69
32.00
51.49


50.00
26.78
30.00 30.00
583.89 676.08


166.11
31


498.92
66


30.00 30.00
20.00


G. TOTAL COSTS


310.59 337.09 274.91 330.59


556.91 637.61 563.89 726.08 866.09


H. NET MARGIN (A-G)
-% of Total Costs


7.33 3.88 6.26 2.70


9.12
11.69
32.00
36.50


50.00
26.78
30.00
816.09

359.91
44


30.00
20.00


169.41
56


12.91
4


85.09
31


-45.59
-14


-31.91
-6


262.39
41


136.11
24


398.92
55


309.91
36


I. IMPLICIT WAGE RATE ($/hr.)


7.59









With reference to land, 4 small/medium scale operators
did not fully utilize their own land while others rented
additional land to supplement their own holdings or, in the
case of one producer, rented all the land. Those that
rented all or part of their land were charged a land rent
fee whether or not they actually utilized rented land for
the squash production. Conversely, farmers who did not
utilize all their own land and were not renting it out were
considered to have surplus land and no rental charge was
included. Farmers may opt not to rent out their land for a
variety of reasons. One elderly farmer indicated that he
once rented out a portion of his land, but felt that the
inconveniences and destruction of the landscape (and fences
for the cattle) was not worth the rental charges.


The analysis of gross margins reveals that nearly all
farmers are getting seemingly attractive returns, ranging
from 31% to 236%. Returns are higher for small-scale pro-
ducers using family labor as expected.


If the gross margin analysis more correctly reflects
the perspective of the small-scale producer, squash produc-
tion appears profitable in the sense that there is a posi-
tive return to cash expenditures. An additional factor
that may be relevant from the perspective of the small-
scale farmer using family labor is the extent to which the
implicit wage rate for family labor (gross margin divided
by hours of family labor per acre) compares favorably with
the minimum wage of $3.10 per hour. In all but one in-
stance the implicit wage rate exceeded the minimum wage,
usually by a significant margin. The one exception was a
grower whose crop had serious disease problems.

Aside from the use of irrigation, a major area of cost
variation was fertilizer. The fertilizer costs per acre
reflected both variations in practices, for example whether
or not a farmer side-dressed, as well as differences in
soil conditions.

Farmers who soil tested their land applied fertilizer
in accordance with the results of the tests. There was no
clear pattern of fertilizer costs between large and small-
scale farmers. If anything, larger operators tended to
spend less per acre on fertilizer than small producers.
The high costs of 3 of the small/medium producers were as-
sociated with the use of organic fertilizers. Despite fer-
tilization levels that were often equal or higher than
those of the larger farmers, smaller producers did not get
equivalent yields, which might be explained by inefficient
fertilizer utilization as well as low plant population as
discussed in the previous section.









E. MARKETING OF SQUASH


The farmers interviewed utilized a wide variety .of
market outlets for their squash .production including local
retail markets, wholesale packing houses, the state market
at Jacksonville,- the- auction market at Thomasville, and
brokers. Three producers using organic techniques and sold
all or most of their production through health food out-
lets, both locally and in other states. One large-scale
producer had a contract to deliver all his production to a
cannery


Four producers (3 small and 1 medium) sold to local
markets or health food stores and reportedly received
prices which were approximately twice these received by as
growers who market to other outlets, primarily because
they picked fancy grades or sold organic produce.


Given the limited size of the sample it is not pos-
sible to estimate precisely the relative importance of var-
ious market channels. Packing houses emerged as the most
common outlet in terms of numbers of producers, if not
volume. Packing houses supply containers and sort and
grade produce for farmers which has the advantages 'of re-
lieving the farmer of these tasks. They are easily acces-
sible and farmers normally are paid within 48 hours.
Farmers who do not have the time or knowledge of market
conditions and requirements find the packing house most
convenient. However, farmers using this outlet generally
received lower prices as a consequence of the additional
services (grading and packing) provided.

Only one farmer used the auction market at Thomas-
ville, Georgia for part of his production. Prices at
Thomasville are often (but not always) higher, with con-
siderable day-to-day fluctuation. Thomasville normally of-
fers a sufficient volume and enough buyers to assure a sale
within a short period of time, (often within one hour of a
farmers arrival at the market). However, sellers need to
carefully grade and properly pack their produce to avoid
heavy discounts (Fuller, 1978).

Brokers serving squash producers in the county are
located in Jacksonville, Citra, Brooker and other locations
inside and outside the county. Producers utilizing brokers
normally pack and deliver their produce to the broker.
Farmers and the brokers who have been doing business for
sometime may negotiate a "set aside" price over the tele-
phone. Most brokers are able to dispose of the produce and
pay the growers within one to two days of delivery.








Health food outlets and local specialty stores offer
the most attractive prices, but volume is rather limited.
Farmers fortunate to have 'regular' arrangements with local
retail outlets are few and largely limited to the organic
producers. Squash is not a particularly common item in di-
rect marketing outlets such as roadside stands and farmers
markets possibly because of its relative perishability.


Most producers grow squash in the spring and sell be-
ginning in March. In terms of price, the earlier the
grower can get his crop to market, the better the price as
the attached graph of average monthly Florida prices sug-
gests (Figure 2). Prices tend to peak in March and then
fall by nearly half in June. Growers trying to get on the
early side of the market may plant in February and hope
that a late frost does not occur. Conversely, growers who
plant later may experience low prices. However, in 1980 a
late frost in growing areas to the north of the county set
back production and prices remained strong through June.
In short, squash production in Alachua County (as with the
production of other spring vegetables) is faced with a mar-
ket "window", a period of a few weeks in March/April when
relatively good prices are expected prior to the time when
production from areas to the north reaches the market. Pro-
ducers who miss the "window" period may easily lose any
chance for a profitable year.


The harvesting of spring season squash in the county
is largely completed by mid-July. However, at least one
producer was contacted who grew squash right through most
of the summer and this year was able to get better prices
than during the spring marketing period. During the summer
season he experienced lower yields and disease problems but
expansion of local demand in recent years has created op-
portunities for local producers in the off-season when most
supplies have traditionally been imported from northern
markets.


F. IMPLICATIONS FOR RESEARCH AND EXTENSION


The survey of 10 squash producers in Alachua County
demonstrated the existence of substantial differences in
yields per acre ranging from 35 to 400 bushels per acre.
Part of the differences are explained by the presence or
absence of disease problems. However, producers with high
yields tended to follow IFAS recommended practices for
squash production involving high plant population, high
levels of fertilization, splitting of fertilizer applica-
tions, and use of irrigation. Farmers with lower yields
per acre tended (with some exceptions) to have lower plant














Ld
a_
Id



-J

w
CL



ar
wL


0 N D J FM


AM J J


MONTH
Figure 2.
Average monthly prices for squash, Florida


(From Florida Farm Prices, Brooke, 1978.)


I I I I I I I I I I I I


7.00
6.00
5.00
4.00

3.00
2.00
1.00


1966-76.









populations, one application of fertilizer and no irriga-
tion. Smaller farmers tended to have lower yields and no
irrigation systems.


Smaller operators did not have irrigation systems for
a variety of reasons, but small acreage and the high cost
of systems were among the considerations. In addition, the
operations of systems which might be technically suitable
for small acreages such as portable pipes require a fair
amount of labor and have high per acre fixed and variable
costs.


In view of the apparent low returns to squash produc-
tion grown without irrigation (tabulation of cost and re-
turn information suggest low or negative returns depending
on the treatment of fixed costs for equipment and compensa-
tion of family labor) it seems inadvisable for farmers to
grow the commodity under non-irrigatied conditions. Yet
small-scale production of squash without irrigation con-
tinues to be part of some farming systems in the county, in
part because it can be incorporated into the agricultural
calendars of some producers in terms of equipment and labor
utilization during relatively slack periods.


Research efforts might include the field testing of ir-
rigation systems which are low cost, low energy and suit-
able for small acreages such as drip irrigation systems
(one grower currently uses such a system). Where only 2 or
3 acres are involved, drip irrigation might be operated
from existing water sources. Further research on innova-
tive techniques of soil moisture conservation such as re-
duced or minimum tillage with or without mulch might be
pursued by IFAS.


Quite aside from irrigation, it appears that all pro-
ducers can benefit from splitting application of fertil-
izer. A side-dressing of fertilizer 4 weeks after planting
should significantly improve yields for farmers not pre-
sently utilizing this practice. Farm level demonstrations
might be organized among small farmers comparing single and
split levels of fertilizer application to demonstrate the
advantages of applying a side-dressing.


It is suggested that consideration be given to a mod-
est program of farm level trials involving the following
components:








1. Variety tests for performance under less than optimum
production conditions, especially without irrigation. Cur-
rent IFAS variety recommendations are derived from irri-
gated trials under the best possible circumstances.


2. Fertilization technology trials to include evaluation
of such factors as source of nutrients and rate, timing and
methods of placement, also under non-irrigated conditions.


3. Population and spatial arrangement studies to determine
the relationships of these elements to some yield and qua-
lity determining parameters as irrigation, fertilizer-use
efficiency and disease, weed and insect infestations.


IV. CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS/FUTURE DIRECTIONS


The preceding review of production and marketing prac-
tices for watermelons and squash in Alachua county is in-
tended as a first step in the process of identifying pro-
mising research and extension approaches for these commodi-
ties with specific reference to the problems of the small/
low resource farmers. The time and resources available did
not permit a thorough investigation of each aspect of the
production and marketing activities, but as indicated the
intention was more to see what could be done with very
limited resources in a few months.


In many respects the report is a working document
which illuminates gaps in our understanding of the farming
systems as much as it points the way toward their improve-
ment. It is expected that the report in its present form
will generate comments designed to improve its accuracy
depth breadth and relevancy as well as stimulate action or
investigation of the specific recommendations. This con-
cluding section first reviews what we learned in both a
general and specific sense with reference to the two com-
modities. Second, the methodology is critically reviewed
and possible improvements suggested. Finally, follow-up
activities are proposed to enable farmers in the county to
more fully benefit from the effort.

What did we learn?

The most striking feature emerging from the survey of
watermelon and squash producers is the wide variations in
yields and returns per acre. Since both crops must be
rated as relatively risky and sensitive to an array of dis-
eases and pests as well as extremes in temperature and









moisture, these differences are not surprising. However,
the review of production practices strongly suggests that a
significant portion of the variation may be traceable to
differences in practices. In the case of squash, fertili-
zation levels and practices (specifically single versus
split application) and irrigation emerge as critical fac-
tors affecting yields. For watermelons, the use of good
quality land, namely newly cleared land or land that has
been in Bahia grass pasture for a number of years is re-
garded as a key ingredient to successful production.

Differences in practices and hence returns per acre
correlate roughly with farm size with larger farmers gen-
erally achieving higher net returns per acre than small
scale producers. Large commercial farmers generally adhere
more closely to IFAS recommendations and utilize higher
levels of inputs (irrigation, fertilizer, pesticide and
equipment). Such differences are not simply a matter of
lack of knowledge on the part of the small/low resource
farmers, but also of different perspectives on the respec-
tive farming systems. Most small/low resource farmers pos-
sess full or part-time off-farm jobs (or are retired) acti-
vities which consume a major portion of their time and pro-
bably generate much of their cash income. Farming activi-
ties are performed on a time available basis. Less time
and energy are devoted to the day to day management of farm
enterprises and there is also a tendency to limit cash ex-
penditures on inputs. At the same time, there is more ex-
tensive use of family labor for such operations as harvest-
ing.

In view of the differences in practices, notably plant
population, fertilization levels and the presence of ab-
sence of irrigation, there is serious question whether dif-
ferent classes of farmers should be compared on the basis
of net returns per acre. Clearly, some farmers, particu-
larly small, low resource farmers, are not concerned pri-
marily with maximizing returns to land especially in situa-
tions where they own farms, but are either unable or un-
willing to utilize alkl their land or to rent out surplus
land. The more relevant consideration from the perspective
of the small farmer may be returns to cash outlays subject
to a family labor constraint imposed both by family size
and the non-farm activities of family members. Non-farm
activities appear to have become increasily important over
time both in terms of employment and the tendency for farm
owners to become more integrated into the social and econo-
mic activities of adjoining urban and semi-urban areas. The
gross margin analysis presented in this report are an
admittedly imperfect attempt to better understand the per-
spective of the small farmer in assessing the profitability
of farming activities, in this case, squash and watermelon
production. The fact that there are many farmers at all









still using a "low cost" package of practices suggests that
for this group net returns per acre is probably not the
critical concern.


In short, the farmers interviewed represent at least
two rather different farming systems, namely systems oper-
ated by individuals who are dependent upon farming for a
fair portion of their incomes and those that are not. The
former tend to be medium or large scale operations while
the latter are usually small scale operations. Research
and extension efforts have been primarily directed toward
the former group who are regarded as more likely to accept
innovations which are clearly profitable even though addi-
tional management time and cash expenses are required. On
the other hand, management time and finance are major con-
straints facing the smaller, part-time farmer. This is per-
haps best illustrated in the case of squash where virtually
the entire set of recommended practices developed by IFAS
encourages the use of an irrigation system, yet only one of
the small farmers interviewed used irrigation.

The investigations further revealed major differences
in the position of the two commodities in the farming sys-
tems of the farmers interviewed. Both crops are members of
the cucurbit family and have similar cultural requirements,
yet watermelons occupy a sole or dominant position in the
farming systems of virtually all the farmers interviewed
while squash was a decidedly secondary or tertiary commod-
ity for all but one of the farmers. Even where farmers
were not primarily dependent upon watermelons as a source
of income, the commodity still held a special position in
their minds. During the growing season for the crop (and
in the course of trying to locate suitable land prior to
planting) farmers were likely to devote major attention to
the operations. Squash, on the other hand, was included in
the farming system because it is regarded as easy to grow
and fits in well in the agricultural calendars in terms of
utilization of equipment and labor.

As a general observation large scale operators use
practices and obtain returns which are roughly in line with
those developed and recommended by IFAS. Large farmers
often engage in some experimentation on their own and have
further adapted production practices to fit their specific
circumstances. One watermelon grower used plant popula-
tions significantly higher than that recommended by IFAS
and was experimenting with shortened rotations with fallow
land, both with promising results. It is clear that larger
farmers are a major source of information not only about
the performance of existing recommended practices, but also
of new ideas that may represent improvements upon existing
recommendations.









Small, part time farmers are often more concerned
about minimizing time, risk and expense per unit of output.
They are often aware of the practices utilized by larger
farmers, but may not feel that such practices are appropri-
ate for their circumstances and management style. The ex-
ample of irrigation for squash has already been noted.
Small producers are less inclined to take risks and to ex-
periment with improved practices on their own although they
are certainly receptive to improving the profitability of
their activities provided the improvements do not require
major outlays of time/money or involve additional risks.
As such a number of research and extension activities for
the 2 crops primarily address the objectives and problems
of the larger farmers as compared to the small/part-time
farmers.


The low yields among small farmers is at once a cause
for concern and an opportunity. In contrast to large scale
farmers, the technology exists to significantly increase
productivity. The problem is one of adapting the existing
technology so as to conform more to the circumstances of
the small farmers rather than mounting major new research
efforts. This is particularly true in the areas of pest
control and fertilizer application for both the crops under
study. In addition, attention might be given to developing
low cost irrigation systems for small acreages and/or re-
fining recommendations for squash for nonirrigated condi-
tions.


Since the major focus of the investigation was on var-
iations in cultural practices for the 2 commodities, only a
very modest effort was made to explore marketing condi-
tions. As expected it was found that large operators were
getting better prices and tended to have fewer problems
than small-scale producers. Large-scale farmers had regu-
lar outlets either on a contract basis or brokers with whom
they dealt regularly every year. Small farmers are faced
with a number of problems including low volume, a mixture
of grades and often the absence of regular outlets.Reports
of experiences with cooperative marketing arrangements were
mixed at best.

Organic farmers who produce for a small, specialized
but possibly growing market constituted an exception to the
general pattern. Organic producers were small and received
significantly higher prices for their product. The scope
for expansion of production in this market is questionable
in the short run, although it is an example of an area
where small-scale farmers have been able to successfully
compete with large-scale producers, and to make satisfac-
tory returns to their farming activities.








Since the investigations were conducted during a year
in which prices for both squash and particularly water-
melons were good, relatively few farmers felt that market-
ing constituted a serious problem. There was concern over
a perceived cost/price squeeze accompanied by a decline in
the availability of labor of satisfactory quality, particu-
larly from the perspective of the small/part-time farmer.
Farming operations were increasingly being tailored to what
could be managed by family labor with minimal reliance on
outside assistance.


Adequacy, Relevancy and Replicability of the Methodolgy


The investigations of production and marketing prac-
tices for squash and watermelons were carried out concur-
rently with a more formal survey of farmers in the county
which assisted in delineating the major types and char-
acteristics of farming systems in the county (see Hansen et
al, 1981). Ideally, the general survey should preceded the
commodity investigations to provide a basis for selecting
the target commodities and groups and provide a context in
the form of a detailed overview of the types of farming
systems involved to which the production and marketing
practices for specific commodities should be related. In
fact, some of the farmers interviewed in the course of the
commodity survey were drawn from the general survey of
farming systems, but this was not possible in all instances
because of the small number of watermelon and squash pro-
ducers included ih the original sample. The commodity in-
vestigations are examples of "farming systems research in
the small" which start from a broad overview of the systems
involved, but quickly focus upon the specifics of the se-
lected commodities. It is our view that both perspectives,
the broad overview as represented by the survey of farming
systems and the commodity surveys, are necessary components
of a farming systems research approach. They need to be
linked together with the overview proceeding and providing
the basis for the more detailed investigations of specific
commodities.


There are numerous areas in which the review of speci-
fic practices might be improved, some of which have already
been noted. First, there is a significant amount of infor-
mation on virtually all major commodities available in the
IFAS system. However, it is not easy to locate information
on a specific commodity that is relevant to a specific part
of the state. Future efforts of this type would be greatly
aided by some system that can readily identify available
sources by commodity and region in the state without having
to undertake a lengthy search of the literature.








Second, it would be desirable to routinely plan an
additional follow-up session with each of the farmers in-
terviewed as a matter of course to both check the accuracy
of the information received in the first session, and more
importantly, to review the major findings and recommenda-
tions with the farmers. This was done but not as systemati-
cally and comprehensively as might have been. Farmers in
general were very cooperative and willing to spend time
talking with interviewers, but time constraints did not
permit as much interaction as would have been desirable,
especially after the preliminary results were available.


Our experience strongly endorses the use of multidis-
ciplinary teams involving both social and technical scien-
tists in the interviewing. As noted, graduate students
from various disciplines conducted the interviews and par-
ticipated extensively in the preparation of the report. At
the same time, the problems involved in coordinating the
movements of 2 or more interviewers together with those of
the farmers should not be underestimated. Often it was not
possible to complete more than 3 interviews in 1 full day,
despite the fact that efforts were made to set up appoint-
ments in advance by telephone in nearly all instances.
Ideally, a team of researchers would be able to spend a
full week in the target area working full time on inter-
viewing, a process which it is felt would be much more ef-
ficient in time and travel expense than trying to coordi-
nate field interviewing with normal course work.


As noted in the introduction, standardized analytical
procedures in such areas as enterprise budgets, determin-
ants of yields, price and production trends would greatly
facilitate and enhance the quality of the report. At the
same time, the report represents an interim step which is
intended to produce recommendations for further testing and
analysis at the farm level. As such speed and low cost are
of critical importance and the analytical procedures and
the accompanying data collection requirements should not be
allowed to become complicated simply to satisfy profes-
sional standards. Satisfying these professional standards
in the context of multidisciplinary research will remain a
difficult task that should be given attention, but not al-
lowed to so dominate the investigations as to lose sight of
the principal objective namely, to understand the exist-
ing systems as a basis for designing improved strategies.


Some of these strategies will undoubtedly prove to be
deficient in the course of the farm level trials and tests
which follow, but they provide an informed/educated guess
of where one might start.








Procedures utilized during the investigations together
with selected improvements constitute an approach which
can be carried out at the county level by extension staff,
assisted by teams of graduate students with limited back up
from IFAS researchers. However, the suggested improvements
need to be incorporated into the methodology prior to at-
tempting a similar effort with other commodities or in
other counties.

Future Activities


In addition to refining the methodolgy as suggested
above and testing it in other areas with other commodi-
ties, a high priority should be given to taking the speci-
fic recommendations that emerged from the study in such
areas as fertilizer levels and application practices and
putting them through trials and tests at the farm levels.
Through this process our understanding of the existing sys-
tem, both its constraints and areas of flexibility, can be
considerably enriched. Those practices that emerge from
the on-farm testing successfully might then be formally ex-
tended to farmers. The recommendations might be roughly
classified into three categories. First, there are those
where the technology and evidence already exists such as
in the area of split fertilizer applications that might go
directly into farmer tests or demonstrations. Second,
there are recommendations which require some modification
of existing technology, such as the development of low cost
irrigation systems for small acreages. Third, there are re-
commendations which may require additional research.


Our investigations have shown that small/low resource
farmers are often not realizing profits from their farming
activities as a consequence of not having access to tech-
nologies which they regard as appropriate to their circum-
stances. In many instances the knowledge exists to signi-
ficantly increase productivity among this group of farmers
through the modification of available technology. Such
modifications need not require a major commitment of re-
search and extension resources. The investigations report-
ed on here provide a means of identifying what approaches
might be fruitful in that regard.








SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY


1. Anon, 1972. 'Mimeo Report on Watermelon and Grapes',
Agricultural Research Center, Leesburg, Florida.


2. Anon, U.S.D.A. Agricultural Census 1925-1974.


3. Anon, 1979. 'Marketing Watermelons, 1979 Crop', Federal
State Market News Service.


4. Anon, 1980. Florida Agricultural Statistics, Vegetable
Summary, 1979. Florida Crops and Livestock Reporting Ser-
vice, Orlando, Florida.


5. Brooke, D.L., 1956. Statistics on Production and Prices
of Florida Watermelons. University of Florida Agriculture
Economics #57-1, Gainesville, Florida.


6. Brooke, D.L., 1978. Florida Farm Prices. Economic In-
formation Report #84, Food and Resource Economics Depart-
ment, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.


7. Brooke, D. L., 1978. Florida Farm Prices. Economic Re-
port #89. Food and Resource Economic Department, IFAS,
University of Florida, 1978.


8. Brooke, D.L., 1979. Changes in the Structure of Florida
Vegetable Farms, 1945-1974. Staff Paper Series, Paper #138,
Food and Resource Economics Department, University of
Florida, Gainesville, Florida.


9. Cose, E.G., 1962. Some Organization and Functional As-
pects of the Florida Watermelon Industry. M.S. Thesis, De-
partment of Food and Resource Economics, University of
Florida, Gainesville, Florida.


10. Covey, C.D., 1965. Marketing Florida Watermelons.
Florida Agricultural Extension Service Economic Series 656,
Gainesville, Florida.


11. Fuller, A., 1978. Local Market Feasibility for Fresh
Vegetables Produced in Columbia, Hamilton, Madison, and
Suwanne Counties. M.S. Thesis, University of Florida,
Gainesville, Florida.








12. Gallaher, R. M., 1977. Soil Moisture Conservation and
Yield of Crops No-till Planted in Rye; Soil Sci. Soc. Amer.
J. 41(1):145-7.


13. Halsey, L. H. and S. R. Kostewicz, 1976. Seasonal Re-
sponses of Vegetable Crops for Selected Cultivars in North
Florida, Cucurbits., Vegetable Crops Research Report VC476,
University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.


14. Hansen, A., D. Griffith, J. Butler, S. Powers, E.
Gilbert, R. Lauriault and M. Downie. 1981. Farming Sys-
tems of Alachua County, Florida. An overview with special
attention to low resource farmers. Center for Community
and Rural Development.


15. Hightower, T., 1972. Hard Tomatoes, Hard Times: The
Failure of the Land Grant College Complex. Washington Agri-
business Accountability Project.


16. Hildebrand, P., 1979. "Summary of the Sondeo Methodo-
logy used by ICTA", paper presented at a Conference on
Rapid Rural Appraisal, Institute of Development Studies,
University of Sussex.


17. Kostewicz, S. R., 1976. Preparation of Land for Vege-
table Production, Vegetable Crops Extension Report VC 8,
University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.


18. Lal, R., P. R. Maurya and S. Osci-Yeboh, 1978. Effect
of No-tillage and Plowing on Efficiency of Water Use in
Maize and Cowpea, Exper. Agric. 14(2):113-20.


19. Mizelle, W. 0. Jr., 1971. 'Overview of Commercial Mar-
keting Alternatives for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables' in
Marketing Alternatives for Small Farmers: Fruits and Vege-
tables, National Fertilizer Development Center, TVA, Muscle
Shoals, Al.


20. Montelaro, J., 1977. Watermelon Production Guide, Cir-
cular 96F, Fl. Coop. Ext. Service IFAS, Gainesville,
Florida.


21. Montelaro, J., 1978. 'Squash Production Guide', Circu-
lar 103-D, Coop Extension Service, IFAS. Gainesville,
Florida.








22. Moody, J.E., J. N. Jones Jr. and J. H. Lillard, 1963.
Influence of Straw Mulch on Soil Moisture, Soil Temperature
and the Growth of Corn, Proc. Soil Sci. Soc. Amer. 27(6):
700-3.


23. Polopolus, L., 1977. "Farm Labor in Florida" in
Florida's Farmworkers Toward a Responsible Public Policy.
Institute for Social Policy Studies, Tallahassee, Fl.


24. Ready, E. 0., 1973. 'Allocation of Colleges and Eco-
nomists' Amer. J. of Agr. Econ. 54(5):934-44.


25. Rose, N., 1977, Florida Vegetables, Melons, Irish Po-
tatoes, and Strawberries. A Historic Data series Economic
Report 85, Food and Resource Economics, University of
Florida, Gainesville, Florida.

26. Ruchenstein, E., 1928, Economic Aspects of the Water-
melon Industry. California Experimental Station Bul. 449.


27. Schertz, L. P., 1979. Another Revolution in U.S. Farm-
ing? USDA, Washington, D.C.


28. Trowbridge, J., 1933. Origin, Distribution and Market
Price of the Commercial Watermelon Crop. U.S.G.P.O.
Washington.


29. Wall, G.B., 1978. Production and Shipping of Florida
Watermelons, Proc. Fla. State Hort. Soc., 91:259-261.


30. Wall, G. B., 'Marketing Alternatives for Fresh Vege-
tables', Florida Cooperative Extension Service Fact Sheet
No. 5., Food and Resource Economics, University of Florida,
Gainesville, Florida.


31. Whitaker, T. W. and G. N. Davis, 1962. Cucurbits.
Leonard Hill Limited, London.


32. William, R.D., 1979. Fundamentals of Fertilizing Vege-
tables in North Florida, Vegetable Crops Extension Report
26, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.


33. Young, H. W., 1961, Production of Spring Vegetables
Under Shade. Proc. Fla. State Hort. Soc. 74:209-216.



























































































COOPERATIVE EXTENSION SERVICE, UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA, INSTITUTE OF FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL
SCIENCES, K. R. Tefertller, director, In cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture, publishes this Infor-
mation to further the purpose of the May 8 and June 30, 1914 Acts of Congress; and Is authorized to provide research, educa-
tional Information and other services only to Individuals and Institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex or
national origin. Single copies of Extension publications (excluding 4-H and Youth publications) are available free to Florida
residents from County Extension Offices. Information on bulk rates or copies for out-of-state purchasers Is available from
C. M. Hinton, Publications Distribution Center, IFAS Building 664, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611. Before publicizing this
publication, editors should contact this address to determine availability.




University of Florida Home Page
© 2004 - 2010 University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries.
All rights reserved.

Acceptable Use, Copyright, and Disclaimer Statement
Last updated October 10, 2010 - - mvs