SSmall Farm Extension Programs
Vegetable Crops Department
R. D. William* March, 1979
SMALL FARM DEVELOPMENT AND CROPPING SYSTEMS
-*RESEARCH FOR FLORIDA'S VEGETABLE INDUSTRY
Many small farmers in Florida produce vegetables in spite of
various resource constraints including land or farm size, equipment,
and management skills or a general lack of education. These small
market gardeners are comprised of black and white ethnic groups, and
recent Cuban immigrants. They produce a multitude of vegetables on
2 to 20 acre plots throughout the state for both local and national
fresh market sales. Most of the fresh market sales of Southern peas,
butterbeans, collards and greens, okra, sweet potatoes, Cuban vege-
tables, and other crops that require hand harvesting are produced on
small farms in Florida. Unfortunately, poor management often results
in inefficient production with low yields and reduced profit.
To improve the management and educational skills of Florida's
small market gardeners, crop production research and adult education
programs have been designed and implemented in cooperation with small
farmers, county extension agents and specialists from IFAS and Florida
A & M University (FAMU).
Extension Adult Education Programs
Tp meet the educational needs of these adult rural citizens,
both county and state Extension personnel from FAMU and IFAS have
designed educational programs and developed materials to improve the
economic and social stature of these small farmers within their com-
munities. Our educational theme has been "Growing and marketing
quality vegetables for profit".:
"Kick-off" meetings held at vegetable market Based on recog-
nized needs for alternative crop enterprises for some North Florida
farmers and the need to increase production efficiencies of other
poorly managed vegetable enterprises, the County Extension Agents were
asked to invite several local growers to meet at the Thomasville
Farmer's Market in Thomasville, Georgia. In a winter meeting, horti-
cultural and marketing specialists from both the Georgia and Florida
Cooperative Extension Services and market managers from the Georgia
Department of Agriculture presented information pertaining to produc-
tion, harvesting, and grading and marketing quality vegetables. Later
in the spring, the group met again at the market to observe the market
operations and quality-price relationships.
Development of new educational materials Florida's small
farmers often have limited reading and comprehension skills. In
fact, these skills range from citizens speaking only Spanish to
rural family members having grade school to college level educa-
tions. To communicate basic crop production information to this
diverse group of residents, a new series of vegetable production
guides and slide/tape sets have been developed and evaluated with
a readability score beginning at the 6th grade level.
Both, county residents'and a class of college students eval-
uated the slide/tape series on sweet potatoes. We found that both
groups improved their comprehension by approximately 20% based on
a pre- and post-test evaluation. In addition to measuring the par-
ticipant's improved knowledge, we evaluated individual answers to
identify and correct difficult concepts or misunderstandings. Based
on County Agent's request for a limited series and the development
of our skills in preparing such information, we plan to complete
the following Extension Production Guides and Slide/Tape Series this
Year (Appendix A):
Title Prod. Guide Slide/Tape
Growing Quality Vegetables for
Profit An Introduction x x
Growing Sweet Potatoes for Profit x x
Growing Southern Peas for Profit x x
Growing Okra for Profit x x
Small farm emphasis within county programs Sixteen county
programs 7Appendix B) having a small farm emphasis in growing quality
vegetables for profit are currently underway throughout Florida. To
support these county educational programs, extension specialists re-
presenting several disciplines from both FAMU and IFAS have assisted
Extension Agents, Program Assistants, and Paraprofessionals in develop-
ing concentrated programs involving these new educational materials,
farmer participation or demonstration trials, and regular contact be-
tween growers and their neighbors.
Results to date indicate that a few thousand vegetable growers
having limited to moderately limited resources and/or educations have
been contacted directly through grower meetings and regular farm visits
by county and state extension personnel. More specifically, fifteen
growers in seven counties have improved their vegetable production skills
by growing vegetables in demonstration plots or farmer participation
trials. In many cases, yields and profitability of crops grown by these
small farmer cooperators were doubled or tripled and in one case, sweet-,,
corn yield was increased from 3 crates to 250 crates.
We also have noted in five counties that many friends and
neighbors of the cooperators have improved their vegetable pro-
duction knowledge and changed their attitudes as a result of the
extension rural development programs in Florida. For example,
two neighbors and several family members of a cooperator in Columbia
County were' identified as non-participants in extension programs
prior to 1978. However, reports by the cooperator have indicated
that these people have changed their attitudes about several prac-
tices such as fertilization and fumigation for nematode control in
vegetable and other crops.
Future Program Emphasis
Although quantifiable results other than vegetable yields and
profitability for a few growers is difficult to assess, indications
after 2 years of concentrated efforts by county and state extension
faculty suggest that significant changes in both attitude and produc-
tion skills have occurred among many of these small, limited resource
farmers and their neighbors. However, only a few social and agricul-
tural scientists can claim much actual expertise both nationally and
internationally in working with or understanding some of the constraint
of small, limited resource farmers. Therefore, as a part of the Uni-
versity of Florida's international and domestic activities, we propose
continued and increased research and extension program efforts in the
following areas of specialization:
(1) Surveys and modifications of existing survey methodo-
logies by anthropologists and economists to increase
our knowledge and skills of understanding and effect-
ing change in the constraints, attitudes, and manager-
ial skills of small, limited resource farmers and to
improve the development of appropriate vegetable pro-
duction research and extension programs.
(2) Vegetable production and year-round cropping systems
research conducted at various levels of ordinary con-
straints exhibited by small, limited resource farmers.
(3) Evaluation of modified extension methodologies, educa-
tional media, and personnel requirements needed to ef-
fect changes in attitudes, skills, and managerial abili-
ties associated with growing and marketing quality vege-
tables for profit. Activities will include:
a) Evaluation of methodologies involving demonstration
plot vs. farmer participation trials.
b) Evaluation of educational media designed to communi-
cate at varying levels of readability beginning at
the sixth grade levels. Media and educational pro-
gramming will include extension circulars (vegetable
production guides), slide/tape sets, telelecture
presentation, county audio-tutorial or "self-help"
c) Developing farm management skills and understanding
of marketing quality vegetables through local dircct-
to-consumer and national markets will continue to be
emphasized among these small, limited resource farmers.
By continuing to develop and strengthen these small farms pro-
grams in Florida, professional faculty of the University of Florida,
Florida A & M University and other associated institutions will be
able to provide more relevant information, expertise and modified models
for small farms programs throughout Florida and the world.
1. IIalsey, L. II. and S, R. Kostewicz, 1975. Extending the production
season of Vegetables in North Florida. Proc. Fla. State Hort. Sock,
2. and S. R. Kostewicz. 1976. Seasonal response of vege-
table crops for selected cultivars in North Florida. I, Legumes.
U.F., IFAS, Vegetable Crops Research Report VC1-76.
3. and S. R. Kostewicz. 1976. Seasonal response of vcge-
table crops for selected cultivars in North Florida. II. Solana-
ceous Crops. U.F., IFAS, Vegetable Crops Research Report VC2-76.
4. and S. R. Kostewicz. 1976. Seasonal response of vege-
table crops for selected cultivars in North Florida. III, Okra,
Sweet Corn, Sweet Potato. U.F,, IFAS, Vegetable Crops Research
5. and S. R. Kostewicz. 1976. Seasonal response of vege-
table crops for selected cultivars in North Florida. IV. Cucur-
bits. U.F., IFAS, Vegetable Crops Research Report VC4,76.
6. and S, R. Kostewicz. 1977. Seasonal response of vege-
table crops for selected cultivars in North Florida. U.F., IFAS,
Vegetable Crops Research Report VC5-77.
7. 1978. Seasonal response of vegetable crops for se
elected cultivars in North Florida. U.F,., IFAS, Vegetable Crops
Research Report VC6-78.
8. 1978. Seasonal response of vegetable crops for se-
lected cultivars in North Florida. U.F,, IFAS, Vegetable Crops
Research Report VC7-78.
9. and J. M. White. 1979. Influence of Raw and coated
seed on production of carrots in relation to seeder device. Jour.
Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 104: (MS: in Review).
Vegetable Crops Department (Extension Publications, Audio-Visual Mat-
erials, and Reports at Scientific Meetings)
1. William, R. D. and N. J, Tielkemeier. 1978. Growing sweet pota-
toes for profit. Ext. Cir. 440. Florida Coop. Ext. Serv.,
2. F. A. Johnson, G. W. Simone, and R. A. Dunn. 1979.
Growing Southern Peas for profit. Ext. Circ. Florida Coop.
Ext. Serv., Gainesville. CIn preparation)
5. William, K. U., Ki. A. uunn, 1F. A. Johnson, and G. VW. Simone.
1979. Growing okra for profit. Ext. Circ. Florida
Coop. Ext. Serv., Gainesville. (In preparation--.
4. ___1979. Growing quality vegetables for profit -
An introduction. Ext. Circ. Florida Coop. Ext. Serv.,
Gainesville. (In initial preparation).
5. and P. C. Ekstrand. 1979. "Growing quality vege-
tables for profit An introduction". Ext. Slide/Tape Set No.
ST- IFAS Editorial Film Library, Florida Coop. Ext. Serv.,
6. Tielkemeier, N. J. and R. D. William. 1979. Growing Sweet
n- -. - J~_- -- ^ZZ I I I-- C'n I -1 -^ / ,P- 1- *- XT- r"n I A A _- 1 17 r,
', Appendix B: County Program Involvement in Small Vegetable Farming
Counties positions Degree of Involvement
Alachua Small farm keeping and sweet potato
production in '79.
Requested educational series for meet-
ing in '79.
Four demonstration plots and/or farmer
participation trials in '77-78. County
small farms vegetable tour in '78 and
continuation of program in '79.
Requested educational series and plans
underway to assist market gardeners in
Southern pea and okra demonstration plots
in '77-78 and continuation of program in
Regular contact with numerous small vege-
Numerous demonstration plots and/or farmer
participation trials for watermelons in
'77-78 and planned emphasis in Southern
pea production in '79.
Development of community vegetable market.
Farmer participation trial for sweet potato
weevil control in '78 and planned emphasis
in Southern pea in '79.
Sweet potato demonstration plot in '78 and
planned emphasis in Southern pea and per-
haps strawberry plant production in '79.
Southern pea demonstration plots in '78 and
plans to continue program in '79.
Demonstration plots and regular contact with
small vegetable growers.
Requested educational series for sweet pota-
toes in '79.
Demonstration plots and regular contact
with small vegetable growers.
Requested educational series and plans
underway to assist sweet potato, Southern
pea, and collard and greens growers in '79.
Agent participated in educational programs
designed to assist small farmers in county.