SMALL FARMS VEGETABLE PROGRAM
VEGETABLE CROPS DEPARTMENT, IFAS
DECEMBER 20, 1979
The thrust of the Vegetable Crops small farm program is in North and
West Florida. Small market gardeners and vegetable growers, usually growing
20 acres or less, predominate in this area of the state. In addition, watermelons
and tomatoes are grown on a more extensive scale.
The ten most important vegetable crops in North Forida are grown on
about 25,000 acres and have an estimated value of $23 million.. Tomatoes
and watermelons represent 68% of the acreage and 73% of the value of North
Yields of most crops are average, but vary among growers and geographical
areas. Harvested yields of Southern peas and okra, on the other hand, are
below profitable levels.
Vegetables are marketed through local, direct-to-consumer markets or
through brokers at State Farmer's Markets in Quincy, Bonifay, Jacksonville
or Thomasville, Georgia.
North Florida farmers produce vegetables under numerous resource con-
straints including small farm size, inadequate equipment, and insufficient
market outlets. In some cases, scant crop and business management skills
and restricted general educational levels are additional resource constraints.
County and state Extension staff have provided leadership in assisting
Jefferson Counfn watermelon growers achieve their goal of producing 40,000
lbs/acre. A three to four year program is underway to identify production
constraints and improve grower's understanding of efficient watermelon pro-
Production meetings, demonstration plots, minifield days, newsletter
articles, and regular visits by county and state staff are the main educational
thrusts. Production technologies such as subsoiling, liming, use of low salt
fertilizers, and wide-band fertilizer application are being emphasized.
Tomato production technology has been successfully transferred through
Extension educational programs to Gadsden County growers from other production
regions in Florida. Initial success in the spring 1977 season was dramatic.
However, production problems such as soil moisture, weed management, fertilizer
placement, pest control including nematicide application and control of the
tomato fruitworm, and maintaining product quality during the grading and
handling process have continued to plague the industry. Educational programs
continue to emphasize correct pesticide usage, improving weed management
strategies, increasing use of effective irrigation practices, and maintaining
quality during harvesting and handling procedures through grower meetings,
problem solving, regular newsletter articles, and frequent visits by county
and state Extension personnel.
Small farm Extension educational activities include County Agent training
in vegetable production and marketing. A slide-t-e set "Growing Quality
Vegetables for Profit" and a circular "Growing Quality Vegetables for Profit -
An Introduction for Small-scale and Part-time Market Gardeners" were developed
for use by County Agents in their educational programs and for use by growers.
Particular attention has been devoted to those vegetable crops that have
had lower than average yields. Slide-tape sets and circulars were developed
specifically for the audiences representing the majority of growers on okra,
Southern-peas, and sweet potato production.
Small-farm research has focused on development of schemes for production
that take advantage of hi tri ate or regional market shortages. The
vegetable market s characterized by gluts and shortages, and when developed
this scheme should obviate this problem. Emphasis is on nearly year-round
production of vegetables of regional importance. Twelve cultivars of broccoli,
cabbage, and cauliflower are grown in a winter sequence and sweet corn, Southern
peas, and sweet potatoes are grown in a summer sequence. Because of market
fluctuations, maximum profitability does not always coincide with maximum yields.
Another small farm vegetable research project is aimed at maximizing
land, labor, and equipment resources by multiple cropping tpedS airrTd erent
vegetable crops. The objective of this research is to increase profitability
of small vegetable farms by full utilization of resources.