Historic note
 Front Cover
 Title Page

Group Title: Research Report - University of Florida ; 1984
Title: Sondeo report of Leon County, Florida
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00073350/00001
 Material Information
Title: Sondeo report of Leon County, Florida
Physical Description: 16 leaves : ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Anamosa, Paul
University of Florida
Publication Date: 1984
Subject: Agricultural systems -- Research -- Florida -- Leon County   ( lcsh )
Agricultural extension work -- Florida -- Leon County   ( lcsh )
Genre: non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: United States -- Florida -- Leon
Statement of Responsibility: Paul Anamosa ... et al..
General Note: "March 30, 1984."
General Note: Caption title.
General Note: "As presented to Dr. Peter Hildebrand and the Farming Systems Research and Extension class at the University of Florida, Gainesville."
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00073350
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 78237959

Table of Contents
    Historic note
        Historic note
    Front Cover
        Front cover
    Title Page
        Title page
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
Full Text


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

site maintained by the Florida
Cooperative Extension Service.

Copyright 2005, Board of Trustees, University
of Florida

ZL 065






MARCH 30, 1984

As presented to Dr. Peter Hildebrand and the
Farming Systems Research and Extension class
at the University of Florida, Gainesville.

Paul Anamosa
Neil Boyer
Cecilia Callejas
Thomas Dierolf
Richard Eckert
Kate Gieger
J. A. Krebs
Jorge Morales
Mark Peters
Bob Smythe
Toh Kee Mok

The following is a report of a sondeo conducted in

Leon County, Florida on March 10, 1984. The sondeo, which

was also a class requirement, was carried out at the request

of the Leon County Extension Service Director, Mr. Lawrence

Heitmeyer. Mr. Heitmeyer listed three objectives that he

wished to attain through conducting the survey. First, was

to get a better understanding of the nature of the farming

in the county. Second, was to help the County Extension

Service better serve the needs of the people. Thus, by

realizing the first objective, the second objective could be

attained. And third, was to determine the role that the in-

dividual members of the household, especially the women, played

in the farming operation or outside of it.

The survey team included eleven members from the class,

three Leon County Extension Agents, and a multi-county exten-

sion agent from northern Florida. The county was divided into

five regions. Five teams of three members each were formed,

with each team being assigned to a particular region. Farms

were randomly selected and the farmers were interviewed to

obtain information about their farming operation.

Before presenting the findings and recommendations,

a background of Leon County is given. Leon County is located

in the Florida Panhandle between 30040' to 30025' N latitude

and 84040' to 8400' W longitude. The Georgia state line

borders the county on the north. The major river of the

county, the Ochlocknee River, borders the county on the west.

The southern and eastern edges are bounded by Wakulla and

Jefferson counties respectively.

There are three main physiographic regions that the

county can be broken up into. The Northern Highlands, which

cover the northern half of the state; the Gulf Coastal Low-

lands, which cover the southern half of the county; and River

Valley Lowlands, which include the stream valleys of the

Ochlocknee and St. Marks Rivers. The main source of water

for the towns and communities is from underground wells that

are dug 100 to 300 feet into the limestone parent material.

Leon County is located in a warm humid climate. The

average annual rainfall is 57" (Table 1A). The wettest

months are from June to September. October and November are

the driest months. The average annual temperature is 680F.

The,months June to August are the hottest, averaging 810F.

From December to February, the coldest months, the temperature

averages 540F. The last spring frost occurs around February

26, and the first fall frost occurs around December 3. The

mean number of frost-free days between these dates is 280.

A brief history of the county helps to explain the

current situation. In ]823, the Tallahassee area was desig-

nated as the state capitol. Then in 1824, Leon County was

established with Tallahassee becoming the County Seat. In the

years following, cotton planters from other southern states

came to the area to establish their plantations. Then after

the Civil War, a depression forced the creation of a share-

cropping system. But lower agricultural prices near the turn

of the century forced many of the sharecroppers to sell their

land and move to the cities. The land was mostly bought up

by northern industries which reconverted thousands of acres

of cropped land into woodlands.

Today, 73% of Leon County is in woodland. Nine percent

is in cropland, eight percent in pastureland, and ten percent

is urban and other land uses. The state government owns 23%

of the 445,400 acres in the county. The majority of the

county's residents are urban dwellers (Table 2A), with 1970

data showing three urban residents for each rural inhabitant.

The total population of the county has increased from 51,590

in 1950 to 148,000 in 1980 (Table 3A), an increase of 188%.

The total number of rural residents showed a slight decrease

of 3.4% from 1950 to 1970. Of the total number of people

employed, 7.8% were employed on farms in 1950, and only 1% in

1970. Data on a number of other statistics is not included

(Table 2A). This is due to continual change in the definition

of a farm, thus data from different years is difficult to

correlate. It can be stated that the number of farms in the

county has been decreasing. There has also been a decrease

in the land in farms and in harvested cropland. A review of

the data reveals a decidedly urban county.

Although the following data is by no means a represen-

tative sample, it does reinforce the urban slant of the county.

From July 1981 to June 1982, the State Soil Testing Lab

received around 18,000 soil samples from residents around the

state. A total of 269 samples were sent in from Leon County

(Table 4A). Of these, 121 or 45% were from vegetable gardens.

20% were from lawns and ornamental plantings; 18% were from

pasture and forage land, and the rest included samples from

fruit orchards and land under grain production.

After the teams finished interviewing the farmers in

the county, they reviewed the information that was obtained.

In order to present the findings and recommendations, the next

section of the report is divided into two parts. The farm

operations in the county are separated into two categories

according to: a] If the farming operation is the sole source

of income, or; b] If there is a source of income outside of

the farm operation.


Those farming systems in which the farming operation

generates the sole source of family income have been divided

into two groups according to their apparent economic purpose;

profit oriented or subsistence.

Profit Oriented Farms

Those farm enterprises geared towards profit ranged

in size and technical sophistication. The smallest opera-

tion was a ten acre farm specializing in hydroponically grown

tomatoes, ornamental palms, sod and sheep. Two farms were

over 1000 acres. One of these, mono cropped corn and the

other had a cow calf and hay operation. Operations between

these extremes included a 100 acre tobacco and corn farm and

a 160 acre goldfish ranch, of which 120 acres were fresh

water ponds (Table 1C).

The level of education attained by these farmers was

generally unknown, however the farmer specializing in hydro-

ponic tomatoes had a B.S. in Horticulture. All of the farmers

appeared literate.

Although primary motivation of these farmers was to

turn a profit with their operation, several were considering

getting out of farming becuase of low or lack of profits. For

instance, the corn and tobacco farmer, with a 30 year career

on his own land cited a negative profit margin as the main

reason for shutting down the operation. The tomato specialist

enjoyed substantial profits, but could not find adequately

educated labor to decrease the 7 days a week work load in his

high technology operation.

Several factors were recognized as possible constraints

on the profitability of these farming enterprises. Apparently

low market prices for farm products are ubiquitous. Fluctu-

ating weather patterns annually threatened non-irrigated corn

crops due to the low water storage capacity of the light sandy

soils. Although labor was not a recognized constraint with the

less technologically advanced operations such as the corn, hay

and cow calf enterprises, it was a definite constraint to the

long term viability and expansion of the hydroponic tomato

enterprise. The gold fish rancher was content and registered

no constraints or major problems.

Most of these farmers did not believe the county

extension service to be potentially useful to their activ-

ities. They included extension service pamphlets with maga-

zines and seed store literature as valuable sources of infor-

mation, but generally agreed that the extension service could

do little to alleviate their major problems (low prices and

bad weather). With increases in land prices due to urban

encroachment from Tallahassee and the age of most of these

farmers (5 of 6 were older than 55), expansion and even long

term viability was considered unlikely. Most of the farmers

considered their days in the field numbered. Efforts by

extension service to better serve the needs of this type of

farmer will probably eventually prove fruitless.


In contrast to the formally educated profit oriented

farmers, the three subsistence farmers interviewed were not

formally educated as such. Two of these farms were 20 acres

and the other was 40 acres. These farms had cow-calf, hogs,

vegetables, laying hens, corn, sugar cane and pine enterprises.

All of these farmers were elderly ( 60 years) and had spent

their entire life farming on or around the same area (Figure


The primary farming motivation for these men was subsistence

for themselves and their families. The major constraints to these

farming operations were lack of education and age. The cow calf

operator was 84 years old and suffered from arthritis and poor

vision. He had been forced to reduce and cease other farm oper-

ations (dairy cows, vegetables) due to inability to physically

manage them. He complained that even the small egg operation

he ran now presented problems due to hens laying eggs in places

inaccessible to him. .The 20 cows he ran presented few problems

and required little attention.

All of the farms appeared to be in a state of gradual over-

all depreciation. The 60 year old corn and hog farmer recently

had to take off farm work due to the inability to support his

family from farm activities alone. His corn average had been

declining for the previous four years because he was unable to

provide the cash necessary to purchase fertilizer for all the

acreage he had planted the year before. The county extension

agent had helped this farmer establish a small plot of cauliflower

and broccoli last year. All of both vegetables were easily

marketed locally. However, the farmer was very leary of expand-

ing his operation of these vegetables in the up coming season.

The apparent investment of time and some money into this new and

unfamiliar enterprise was more risk than the farmer wanted to


Because of their inability to read or write, these farmers

were limited in their ability to learn new or improved farming

methods without close extension service attention. Although

they knew who their extension agent was, we still noted a lack

of communication. The extension agent mentioned these farmers

were reluctant to assume farm loans for fear of default and

subsequent loss of their farm.

In all of these farm operations, the farmers were most

likely to be the last of the family to farm the land. One of

the farmers had no immediate family (or farm help) and the others

had no relatives interested in continuing the farm operations

following the farmers departure. As with the profit oriented

farmers, it appears these farms will also cease operations with

the current farmer. It appears this is the result of socioeconomic

pressures (urban encroachment, migration of children to off-farm

labor sources). Therefore farm disappearance cannot be appreci-\

ably retarded by an increase in extension services.


This category of farm operation includes those farms whose

proprietors receive income from sources off the farm. Most

interviewees pursue farming as a hobby or retirement supplement.

A smaller proportion find the farm an essential source of income.

Tables 1B and 2B summarize survey data for these three part-time

farm types: Retiree, Hobby and Income.

Retiree farms are those operations whose proprietors supple-
ment pension income with farm income. Hobby farms are those

operations which provide surplus income and enjoyment. Income

farms are those operations which provide income for essential


The number of activities on Hobby farms tended to be fewer

than the number of activities on Retiree or Income farms. This

stems from the smaller average size of Hobby farms as well as

from lessor dependence on farm income. It appears, in fact,

that dependence on farm income rather than farm size is the major

determinent of enterprise diversity. The average number of

enterprises on Income farms, for example, was about the same as

on Retiree farms even though Income farms, on the average, were


The majority of Retiree farmers received pensions as an

outside source of income. To the extent such income is fixed,

Retiree farms may be viewed as similar in function to Income

farms. Indeed, Retiree farms are diversified similar to Income

farms. Small family size, progressed age and developed savings

plans among other factors, however, likely reduce Retiree depend-

ence on farm income relative to Income farm dependence on such.

Consequently, there was a tendency for these farmers to not

readily identify problems in operation. Inputs seemed available

as were marketing structures and management time. It was theorized,

however, that this lack of concern was due to a tendency for

retirement age farmers to forgo known farm improvements because

of a reduced perceived value of future return on these investments.

Surveyors were concerned, nevertheless, that advanced age of those

interviewed might place a constraint on effective farm labor.

Presently many of these older aged farmers participate in recip-

rocal group labor.

Suburbanization was considered a possible pressure on these

farmers' fixed incomes; through increased population pressure

and land taxes. Suburban construction might in the future

increase the temptation to sell the farm to developers. This

further reduces incentive to invest in long term productive


Income farms differ from Retiree farms not only in size

and dependence on farm income, but also in that off-farm income

primarily comes through active employment rather than from past

employment. There is also a longer possible period of return on

investment in improvements. Not surprisingly, the major problem

identified by these farmers was insufficient time. The need to

work off the farm reduces on-farm management and creates a labor

shortage during planting, weeding, harvesting and marketing.

Several farmers indicated there was not time enough to take

produce to local Farmers' Markets. Much marketing was done

simply by sporadic phone request. Much of the produce appeared

to be for home consumption, thus releasing part of family income

from food expenditures. Still significant mention was made of

time limitations in marketing.

In terms of enterprises, time limits also constrained

income. For this reason, for example, one farmer said he had

to forego hog production.

Income farmers mentioned agronomic problems such as

nematodes, army worms, fire ants and thorn-type weeds.

Hobby farm proprietors obtain the majority of income

through off-farm employment. As such the farm does not represent

essential consumption as it would for Income farms. Any depend-

ence on Hobby farm income would rather be for enjoyment, surplus

income, a tax shelter, etc.... The majority of these farms

consequently have one to two enterprises, compared to two to

six enterprises on Retiree and Income farms. Despite their

limited dependence and size, however, several Hobby farmers did

identify problems. One farmer desired more time to add a crop.

Another proprietor, motivated by profit, clearly identified

difficulty in securing extension information on Christmas tree

growth. In terms of these farmers' specific goals, there was

desire for improvement. As a group, however, Hobby farmers

generally do not appear overly concerned about problems. Surveyors

observed, nonetheless, that agronomic and marketing problems of

Income farms might equally apply to Hobby farms.

Retiree, Hobby and Income farmers, although differing in

some respects, nevertheless exhibited common traits in terms of

specific enterprises and management practices. Some of the

farmers bought feed for their animals while others grew it on

their farms. Farmers bought potatoes, apples, corn or corn-

finisher to feed hogs. Others grew vegetables or corn right on

the farm. Chickens were fed with egg mash and bread bought at

the market. The farmers bought pellets and hay for the goats

and cattle. These animals were also fed with corn, greengrass

or pasture cultivated on the farms.

Gardens had various products. Vegetables planted were:

peas, broccoli, beans, cauliflower, okra, beets, carrots, corn,

strawberries, grapes, watermelons, sweet potatoes, turnip greens

and soybeans. These vegetables were usually produced for home

consumption. However, some fed them to hogs, gave them away for

social purposes or in exchange for vegetables they did not plant.

In larger enterprises, vegetables were also produced for sale.

Usually both men and women worked off-farm in the cases of

hobby and income farms. Sometimes men worked on the farm and

amanged larger gardens to produce for sale, while women worked

off-farm. The gardens for home consumption commonly ranged from

1/4 to 3/4 acres and were managed by women. Women were also

responsible for storing the vegetables either by canning and/or


Some farms also had trees. These were pecan trees, pears,

and plums. The prevalent type planted was pecan.

Considering all of the aforementioned factors, it is

recommended that extension efforts give priority to the hobby

and income farmer groups since it would seem that they have

greater incentive to improve their farms. As for the retired

people working farms, more information on their motivations is

needed to devise possibilities of helping them specifically.

Among the Hobby and Income farmers, the major problem iden-

tified was lack of time, largely due to off-farm activities. There-

fore, extension efforts should concentrate on reducing time con-

straints, or at least, take them into consideration when searching

for solutions to the problems encountered.

Many farmers expressed frustrations with marketing their

produce--aspects such as low price, insufficient time, and lack

of transport. Efforts to increase awareness of marketing alter-

natives in the Tallahassee area might prove particularly helpful

to the newer part-time farmers who are less familiar with the

business. One such specific idea might be to establish a sort

of "shopper's guide" of farm produce in the area. Just before

harvest time farmers could advertise their produce to sell by

phone-in orders, "you-pick" deals, etc., and the publication would

be distributed to the community weekly or bi-weekly.

Lack of technology information was also a problem identified

by both farmers and surveyors. Simple "How to...." booklets might

prove most time efficient in relaying present knowledge of specific

technologies. Suggested topics might include: food preservation,

methods, animan husbandry, and pest/disease control. The latter--

insect/disease pests--was a frequently mentioned problem involving

such pests as army worms, fire ants, tip moth, and nematodes.

This might be a target study for on-farm research.

Other possible extension efforts might be directed toward

developing record-keeping systems especially designed for the part-

time nature of these farms. Finally, coordinating services such

as machine-share or matching of experienced elderly farmers with

youth (eg. 4-H members) who wish to learn farming skills might

prove fruitful.


I. Sole Source of Income

A. Profit oriented farms:

They seem to have some education and are considering

to abandon farming because of low prices, bad weather

and urban encroachment. (Resulting in higher land sales

and land taxation). Since most problems concerning the

profit oriented farmers lay outside the realm of the

county extension service, assistance to these farmers

seems to be of limited value.

B. Subsistence income farmers:

Farmers in that grouping are marked by lack of formal

education, old age and an increasing incidence of med-

ical handicaps. Major problems of these farmers were

maintaining an adequate cash flow, and inability to change

enterprises, with associated techniques, due to higher

risks. Their days in farming are numbered because of

old age and lack of interested family members in farming.

Thus for the extension service to be effective there

would be a need for personal one to one guidance to

farmers in order to utilize the farmer's fullest potential.

II. Supplemental Income Family

A. Retiree farms;

The major problems facing this group are the urban

spread, increasing land prices with associated higher

property taxes. Since the majority of these folks are

on pensions or other forms of fixed limited incomes,

suburban construction might in the future increase

the temptation to sell the farm to developers. This

further reduces incentives to invest in long-term

agronomic commitments. In conclusion, we feel the need

of further investigating the subject.

B. Income oriented farms:

Major constraints for these farmers is lack of time.

Therefore, limited time is a major factor in production

and marketing efficiency. Pamphlets and technology on

how to reduce labor inputs in production and marketing

aspects might be worthwhile.

C. Hobby farms:

These groups maintain one to two enterprises, which could

be improved. Generally they are not overly concerned

about problems. Extension Services however may be

beneficial in resolving specific farm problems.

III. General conclusion

As an overall conclusion, more efforts should be placed on

supplementary income farmers, specifically focusing on urban

agriculture. Because of the limited focus of this sondeo,

the following areas should be investigated further:

1. Greater understanding of the womans role in farming;

2. Specific agronomic practices currently being employed

by clientele, such as horticulture and field crops;

3. Tenure in order to determine long term land use trends,


4. Marketing potential for the supplementary income category.

If the intention is to encourage land use in Leon County

towards supplemental farming, policies which encourage supple-

mental farming should be pursued.

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1950--------- 51,590
1990------ 190,000*

BY CROP FOR 1981-82



OTHERS 47 17.5
TOTAL 269 10. U-



10 / 30 / w

1000 / 60






20/ 84 / B
40 /60 / B
20 /70/ B





RETIRED 45 9-140 2.7 2-5 65 50-70 7 35
HOBBY 7 1- 16 1.6 1-2 48 30-65 8 40
INCOME 12 10-20 2,4 1-6 43 40-50 5 25






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