Title Page
 Letter of transmittal
 Map: Gilchrist County, Florida
 Small-scale farms in Gilchrist...
 Small landholder farming systems...
 Agriculturally classified small...
 Gilchrist County sondeo report

Group Title: Small landholder livelihood systems in Gilchrist County, Florida : Sondeo reports from AGG 5813, Farming Systems Research-Extension Methods
Title: Small landholder livelihood systems in Gilchrist County, Florida
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00056166/00001
 Material Information
Title: Small landholder livelihood systems in Gilchrist County, Florida Sondeo reports from AGG 5813, Farming Systems Research-Extension Methods
Alternate Title: Sondeo reports from AGG 5813, Farming Systems Research-Extension Methods
Physical Description: 1 v. (various leaves) : ill., maps ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: University of Florida -- Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Publisher: Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville Fla
Publication Date: 1995
Subject: Agriculture -- Florida -- Gilchrist County   ( lcsh )
Agricultural extension work -- Florida -- Gilchrist County   ( lcsh )
Genre: government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Summary: Four Sondeo reports produced by AGG 5813, Farming Systems Research-Extension Methods class in Spring Semester 1995. A Sondeo is a rapid appraisal technique in witch multidisciplinary teams carry on conversations with farmers, then following the interviews make notes. These reports result from a class exercise begun on February 3 with an introduction to the method.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
General Note: "March 21, 1995."
Funding: Florida Historical Agriculture and Rural Life
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00056166
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: oclc - 70270834

Table of Contents
    Title Page
        Title Page
    Letter of transmittal
        Page i
    Map: Gilchrist County, Florida
        Map 1
        Map 2
    Small-scale farms in Gilchrist County, Florida
        Page A
            Page A 1
            Background on Gilchrist county
                Page A 1
                Page A 2
            Geomorphology and minerals - Soils
                Page A 3
            Objectives - Methodology
                Page A 4
                Page A 5
        Sondeo findings
            Page A 6
            Socio-cultural and economic factors
                Page A 7
                Page A 8
            Natural resources - Agriculture
                Page A 9
                Page A 10
                Page A 11
                Page A 12
            Agricultural classification
                Page A 17
                Page A 18
                Page A 19
        Recommendations for improvement for small-scale farms
            Page A 20
            Page A 21
            Page A 22
            Page A 23
        Appendix I: Map of Florida and counties
            Page A 24
        Appendix II: The geomorphic zones of Gilchrist County
            Page A 25
        Appendix III: Table of temperature and precipitation - Tabel of freeze dates in Spring and Fall
            Page A 26
        Appendix IV: State Constitution article VII
            Page A 27
            Page A 28
            Page A 29
            Page A 30
            Page A 31
    Small landholder farming systems in Gilchrist County, Florida
        Page B
            Page B 1
        Profile of Gilchrist County, Florida
            Page B 2
            Page B 3
            Page B 4
        Socioeconomic factors
            Page B 5
        Agricultural activities
            Page B 6
            Page B 7
            Page B 8
            Page B 9
        Agricultural classification
            Page B 10
            Page B 11
            Page B 12
            Page B 13
            Page B 14
    Agriculturally classified small part-time farms: Gilchrist County, Florida
        Page C
        Introduction - General profile
            Page C 1
            Page C 2
        Sondeo findings
            Page C 3
        Major crops - Livestock and pasture
            Page C 4
        Forestry - Aquaculture - Summary of small-scale farming systems - Constraints
            Page C 5
            Page C 6
            Page C 7
            Page C 8
            Page C 9
            Page C 10
            Page C 11
    Gilchrist County sondeo report
        Page D
        Location and history - Climate and soils
            Page D 1
        Topography - Social, demographic and economic characteristics
            Page D 2
        Sample demographics
            Page D 3
            Page D 4
        Activities and land use
            Page D 5
        Problems and constraints
            Page D 6
        Use extension? - Agricultural classification
            Page D 7
            Page D 8
            Page D 9
        Recommendations regarding agricultural classification
            Page D 10
            Page D 11
        Recommendations regarding extension
            Page D 12
            Page D 13
            Page D 14
Full Text
2r-" /AS


AGG 5813

University of Florida
March 21, 1995


Food and Resource Economics Department McCarty Hall
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences PO Box 110240
Gainesville FL 32611-0240
Fax (904) 392-3646
Fax : 904 392 8634
Phone: 904 392 5830


TO: Interested readers

FROM: Peter E. Hildebran b(

DATE: March 21, 1995

SUBJECT: Sondeo reports, Gilchrist County

Attached are the four Sondeo reports produced by the AGG 5813, Farming Systems
Research-Extension Methods class in Spring Semester, 1995. A Sondeo is a rapid appraisal
technique in which multidisciplinary teams carry on conversations with farmers, then
following the interviews make notes. Following each day in the field, the teams meet to
share information and process it in preparation for making the report or reports. Because
this was a class exercise, there are four reports included here. More commonly, only a
single report would result from a Sondeo.

These reports result from a class exercise begun on February 3 with an introduction to the
method. Field conversations with farmers were conducted on Saturday, February 11 and
Saturday February 18. Preliminary reports were shared in class on February 24 and the final
reports, along with oral presentations were made on March 3.

These reports are partially repetitive, especially regarding published information for
background on Gilchrist County. Some repetition occurs (as well as a bit of contradiction) in
discussions on the findings. This results from the class methodology and would have been
cleared up for a regular sondeo report. Of most interest to many readers will be the
conclusions and recommendations which are the aspects of the reports which most differ.

Some readers may wonder at the absence of statistical information from the conversations.
This is precisely because the methodology is conversational; the same questions are not asked
of everyone. The purpose is to obtain people's feelings rather than treat people as numbers.
The method is designed to describe and diagnose situations rapidly and inexpensively.
Should any reader be interested in further information I would be pleased to answer any

An Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Institution

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Small-Scale Farms
in Gilchrist County

Farming Systems Research and Extension
Dr. Hildebrand
Spring 1995
AGG 5813

Lokendra Dhakal
Ronaldo Weigand
Jodi Stewart

The Small-Scale Farming System
in Gilchrist County, Florida

Part I: Introduction

This report is based on the research findings of a sondeo

conducted in Gilchrist County, Florida, in February, 1995. Four

research teams interviewed a total of twenty-three informants who

hold land in Gilchrist County, nineteen of whom "did" agriculture

on their land. This investigation was done in collaboration with

Marvin Weaver, the agricultural extension agent for Gilchrist

County, Ray Harrison, the property appraiser for Gilchrist County,

and Peter Hildebrand, Professor at the University of Florida, and

farmers in Gilchrist County, as a requirement for the course AGG

5813, "Farming Systems Research and Extension Methods" under Dr.

Hildebrand at the University of Florida.

Background on Gilchrist County

Gilchrist County is located in North Central Florida and

consists of 903.6 km (348.9 miles sq.), or 223,279.56 acres

(Economics and Statistics, 1990). Gilchrist County was established

in 1925 out of a western portion of Alachua County. This relatively

small county is bordered on the West by the Suwannee River, Dixie

County, and Lafayette County, north by Suwannee County and Colombia

County, and east by Alachua County, south by Levy County

(Gainesville Sun, 1995).

The total number of households in the county as of 1993 was

3,636. Bell, Fanning Springs, Trenton, and the unincorporated

The Small-Scale Farming System
in Gilchrist County, Florida

Part I: Introduction

This report is based on the research findings of a sondeo

conducted in Gilchrist County, Florida, in February, 1995. Four

research teams interviewed a total of twenty-three informants who

hold land in Gilchrist County, nineteen of whom "did" agriculture

on their land. This investigation was done in collaboration with

Marvin Weaver, the agricultural extension agent for Gilchrist

County, Ray Harrison, the property appraiser for Gilchrist County,

and Peter Hildebrand, Professor at the University of Florida, and

farmers in Gilchrist County, as a requirement for the course AGG

5813, "Farming Systems Research and Extension Methods" under Dr.

Hildebrand at the University of Florida.

Background on Gilchrist County

Gilchrist County is located in North Central Florida and

consists of 903.6 km (348.9 miles sq.), or 223,279.56 acres

(Economics and Statistics, 1990). Gilchrist County was established

in 1925 out of a western portion of Alachua County. This relatively

small county is bordered on the West by the Suwannee River, Dixie

County, and Lafayette County, north by Suwannee County and Colombia

County, and east by Alachua County, south by Levy County

(Gainesville Sun, 1995).

The total number of households in the county as of 1993 was

3,636. Bell, Fanning Springs, Trenton, and the unincorporated


areas (in the Gainesville Sun listed as a city) constitute the

county's four cities. The major employers for county citizens are:

Employer # of Gilchrist
County Employees

Lancaster Correctional Institution............ 345
Gilchrist County School Board.................275
Medic Ayers Nursing Home ...................... 210
North Florida Holsteins...................... 175
White's Dairy................................ 147
Gilchrist County............................... 100
Olsten Kimberly Quality Care.................. 84
Buddha's Furniture............................. 73
GenFarm III & IV............................... 50
Lighthouse Restaurant.......................... 35

(Gainesville Sun, 1995)

Although the number of individuals involved in non-farm labor

outweigh the number of farmers, farming still constituted an

important segment of the population. According to the Florida

Statistical Abstract (1994), total acreage used for farmland in

1992 was 70,987, a decline of 16,513 acres from 1987. The average

size per farm is 216 acres. There are a total of 329 farms, 171 of

which the heads of households claim farming to be their principal

occupation. In this county, only six farmers have minority status

- three Black farmers and three of Hispanic origin. The major

farming operations in this county are cattle farming (dairy and

beef), pine plantations, watermelon, corn, and peanut growing

(Florida Statistical Abstract, 1994).


Gilchrist County has a moderate climate. During the summer,

it is hot and humid while the winter is usually mild with


occasional chilly winds during December and January. Data compiled

between 1951 and 1980 suggest that the monthly average for

precipitation varies from three inches (April) to seven inches

(July/August) with an extreme low occurring in November and

December. The mean annual precipitation is 52.84 inches. The

freeze date lies between November and February. Approximately 52%

of the annual rainfall occurs during the summer while the remaining

48% is distributed evenly in the spring and fall. Hail is not

common but occasionally falls during thundershowers (Soil Survey of

Gilchrist County, 1992). (See Appendix 3)

Geomorphology and Minerals

Gilchrist County is situated in the northern edge of the

Midpeninsular Zone. The Gulf Coastal Lowlands and the Central

Highlands make up the two subzones which fall within the boundary

of this County. Gilchrist County does not have vast mineral

resources. However, hard rock, colloidal phosphate, and high-

purity limestone have been mined in the past. Recently, there have

been no such activities on a commercial basis. A few sand pits are

minded for the purpose of fill-sand extraction (Soil Survey of

Gilchrist County, 1992).


Soils in Gilchrist County range from sand to clay with little

organic matter. Most of the soils have a sandy surface layer and

are light colored, many of which have a loamy subsoil. Few soils


have an acidic surface layer and, instead, are underlain by

calcareous limestone that is mildly to moderately alkaline. Thus,

many sites require applications of ground limestone to sufficiently

raise the pH level for good crop growth. Studies show that these

levels of nitrogen, potassium,, and available phosphorous are low.

Furthermore, soil drainage is a major constraint, affecting

approximately 30% of the land used for crops and pasture.

Additional constraints include the deep, drought sands which are

prone to wind blowing and water erosion (Soil Survey of Gilchrist

County, 1992).


This project has several objectives, including:

1. to learn Sondeo techniques

2. to describe small-scale farms in Gilchrist County,
including (but not limited to) agricultural activities,
non-agricultural activities, resources, and socio-
economic dynamics

3. to identify the farmers' perceptions and knowledge about
their farms, including problems and constraints which
restrict the farmers' goals

4. to assess the general trend of land acquisition and use

5. to evaluate small-holders' land use in Gilchrist County
with regards to agricultural classification in Florida

6. to better understand the dynamics between the extension
agency and small-scale farmers as well as identify
possible ways to improve communication and assist the
small-scale farmer


The "sondeo" (or rapid rural appraisal) is a method which


employs informal discussions between inter-disciplinary teams and

members of a targeted population. The multi-disciplinary character

(i.e. agronomy, forestry, anthropology, sociology, horticulture,

etc.) enables teams to emphasize various facets of farm life.

Thus, the sondeo emphasizes farmer-participation in the

identification of problems as well as possible solutions. Compared

to the formal-style of interviewing, this method allows the

desires, needs, goals, and problems of the farmers to be identified

and assessed more accurately.

In this particular case study, twelve individuals were divided

into four teams of three individuals, each team drawing on the

diverse contributions its members. Each team was designated a

region of Gilchrist County: the "Southwest", the "Southeast", the

"Northwest", and the "Northeast". In a course session, lists with

the telephone numbers of small farmers in the various regions were

distributed and each team encouraged to telephone the small-holders

in their region to set up interviews. These lists were incomplete

and few farmers responded positively. Instead, teams chose mostly

to drive around their designated region hoping to find farmers

willing to converse briefly with them.

Twenty-three informal discussions resulted, representing

members from twenty-two households. Of these, only nineteen

households "did" agriculture on their land while two owned land but

let it go fallow. Of these twenty-three informants, eight came

from the Southwest region of the county, four from the Southeast

region, four from the Northwest region, and seven from the

Northeast region. In addition to conversations with these

informants, general observations of other small and large-scale

farms occurred, allowing for a better understanding of the overall

picture of farming activities in the county.

Part II: Sondeo Findings

The sondeo consisted primarily of small land holders.

Secondary information revealed few farmers (six) with minority

status, which was reflected in our sondeo. Of the twenty-three

informants, only one was of minority status, being of Hispanic


There were twenty-two households represented in this sondeo.

The landholdings ranged from five acres to 655 acres. The majority

of interviewed farmers were above the age of forty. All of the

farmers had either retired from off-farm jobs and are presently

farming because they "loved the country" or presently held off-farm

jobs in addition to their farming activities. Almost all mentioned

that off-farm labor was necessary since farming would not pay for

their livelihood.

Our sample revealed diverse agriculture products and animals

including: hay, pasture crops, pine, beef cattle, cattle for veal,

blueberries, tobacco, grape vines, garden vegetables, chestnuts,

ostriches, peacocks, chickens, sheep, goats, rabbits, race horses,

fish, and hunting dogs. Although formal statistics reveal that

peanuts, watermelon, and tobacco are extremely popular in the

county, this was not reflected in our study.

Socio-cultural and Economic Factors

The majority of farmers depended on off-farm income for their

livelihood. Some of this money came from off-farm jobs while

others depended on pensions from previous off-farm jobs. Several

of our informants worked in Gainesville while others worked up to

sixty-five miles away, commuting Monday through Friday. Most

explained that their off-farm jobs were necessary because farming

was not profitable enough to make a living. Many conversations

began with the farmer saying, "I don't really farm..." although

some of these individuals farmed several acres or raised livestock.

Many explained that farming was "just a hobby", a way to relax.

However, we found that their "hobbies" occupy large portions of

their land and involve intense labor activity. Usually, their

farming makes enough money just to pay for itself, leaving no

profit for the household. Apparently farming is a pleasant

activity and option for these people. It appeared that none of

these farmers was wealthy, but none was at the poverty level

either. When compared with the national level, most of these

farmers were probably lower-middle or upper-lower class. However,

most farmers' material possessions appeared to be typical of

Gilchrist County, which has few examples of extreme wealth or


The majority of interviewed farmers were male. Even among

women, most informants agreed that men were the farmers while women

assisted them. Men were usually responsible for the "heavy" work

such as tractor-driving and harvesting watermelon. Women often


care for the gardens, but also drive tractors and engage in other

activities. Only male youths were discussed as contributing to the

farm. Further research regarding the gender division of labor is

necessary because it is possible that women are "invisible

workers." During the peak season, labor is sometimes hired. One

farmer interviewed in the Southwest region previously employed high

school students to harvest watermelon during the months of May and

June. Watermelons were described as labor intensive by farmers.

Most of the farmers were over forty years of age, although

several mentioned having younger brothers, sisters, or children who

also engaged in farming. The high set-up costs of farming were

mentioned as a problem for children interested in farming. One

informant explained a situation in which his twenty-year old son

had a farm debt of $17,000-18,000, forcing him to abandon farming.

Most of the farmers interviewed on the Northeast region were

"newcomers" to this region while the majority of Southwestern

farmers interviewed inherited their farms and had grown up in the

area. The "new comers" tended to be more innovative, but suffered

from a lack of indigenous knowledge as well as a lack of

information from the extension service. People who have grown up

in the region tended to use traditional farming practices such as

the standard combination of hay, cattle and pine trees, and

sometimes watermelon. Few used the extension service, but instead

relied on indigenous knowledge, which included planting by the moon

and almanac.

Natural Resources

Most farmers complained about the soil quality, although one

farmer in the Southwest region commented that the land was "pretty

good around here." Many of the informants described the soil as

being sandy with high drainage, qualities which caused problems

even during the rainy season. Several others complained about an

opposite problem: that water logged their areas. Most farmers used

fertilizer in their fields, but only one or two mentioned use of

fertilizer in their home gardens.

Water availability was not addressed with any of the farmers.

However, in contrast with large-scale farmers whose irrigation

equipment was observed in an overview of the county, no irrigation

equipment was seen on the land of small-holders. One informant did

mention that rainfall was especially good this past year, aiding in

his ryegrass growth.

Most of the small farms were located on flat terrain. No

farmer commented on the topography of the land. Climate, too, was

not discussed to any great length. However, several informants who

were growing hay said that the winter weather has limited grass

production and they have chosen to plant frost-resistant ryegrass

which is needed to feed their livestock.


Agricultural inputs cited by the informants include

fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides. Manure is

used by at least one informant.


Most farmers had at least one tractor, and many had more than

one. Other machinery was also observed on farms. In addition to

farming machinery, one farmer commented that his truck enabled him

to haul up to ten bales of hay to sell near his workplace.

The main farm activities among Gilchrist County individuals were

crops and livestock, including hay, pine trees, watermelons, and

garden vegetables along with the less frequently occurring

blueberries and tobacco. Animals included beef cattle, hogs,

sheep, goats, chickens, fish, horses, dogs, and ostriches.

Hay is a common crop among many small producers. The main

grass species used were Coastal Bermuda and Pensacola Bahia grass,

both of which require fertilizer as well as herbicides. This crop

is highly mechanized. Farmers can cut hay up to three times per

year in intervals of six to eight weeks. Technical assistance for

this crop comes from fertilizer companies as well as the local

extension agent. Hay is sold (one farmer said he sold some for

$10.00 a bale), but also used to feed beef cattle. Native pastures

also are used for both forage and hay. Winter ryegrass was a

common substitute for hay during the winter months. This forage

was supplemented by "salt lick" and molasses-protein.

Pine trees were also very popular on small farms. Slash pines

and Longleaf pines were used to provide two products, pine needles

and pulpwood, and increase the farmer's income. The pine needles

are harvested once or twice a year with the first harvest occurring

between six and eight years after planting. Contractors act as the

harvesters, paying the farmer up to several thousand dollars per


harvest of pine straw, which is then sold to nurseries who use it

for mulching purposes. The tree itself is cut down after

approximately fifteen years, when it is twenty feet tall and has a

circumference of about twenty-five inches. These trees are sold to

pulpmills. One farmer explained that because the wood was fibrous,

it was good for nothing but pulpwood. Harvesting is done

gradually, taking one row of trees the first year and so on in the

following years.

One farmer called pine-tree growing a "great business" and

many others agreed, commenting on the economic importance of the

pine-straw and the pulpwood. The minimal labor required for this

enterprise was also cited as a reason for its popularity since an

outside agency frequently did the initial planting as well as the

harvesting of the products. However, one farmer did explain that

he himself had planted almost fifty-five acres of pine trees.

Pine-trees were seen as a long-term investment and a few farmers

planned to use this income for retirement.

Although many farmers explained that watermelon and tobacco

were common crops, our research indicates that watermelon is

decreasing in popularity. One farmer who previously grew

watermelon explained that the high cost of inputs and labor made

him abandon this endeavor. He also commented that the markets had

an advantage over the farmer because they could purchase the melons

at low prices from the farmers, knowing that the farmer could not

hold out hoping to sell for higher prices since the melons rotted

quickly. This same farmer also explained that farmers sometimes


rented land upon which to grow watermelon. Due to the high

intensity of the labor, one farmer explained that women were not

able to help in the fields: instead, watermelon-farming was

perceived to be a "man's job... there's no place for a woman in the

fields unless she is weeding."

Home gardens were popular in Gilchrist County. No matter how

large the garden, most believed that their gardens were small and

only mentioned them when asked whether they had a garden. Common

garden crops were potatoes, peas, beans, mustard greens, and corn.

Less frequent crops include green peppers, Idaho potatoes, carrots,

and sugar cane. Garden crops were used primarily for home

consumption. Surplus often rotted or was given to neighbors.

Trees and shrubs were also frequently found around the houses.

Blueberry bushes and chestnut trees were planted for commercial

use. A few unidentified trees existed on the farms, some fruit-


The most common animals among small farmers were beef cattle,

sheep, hogs, goats, and fish. Beef cattle are raised for sale.

Herds are rather small, ranging from twenty to one hundred head

including both cows and calves. In general, a calf is raised until

it is approximately six months old when it is sold to another farm

to be raised elsewhere. Herds are mixed breeds, combining brahma

and European breeds. Hereford cattle were commonly mentioned among

cattle-raisers and one informant asserted that white-faced cattle

sold better at the market because they produced better meat.

Some informants had fish ponds, hogs, and chickens for home


small-land holdings encountered in our sondeo. Those who own this

type of farm in Gilchrist County work on the weekends and a few

hours a day during weekdays. This type does not supply the

majority of income, requiring the farmer to rely on other sources

(i.e. pensions, off-farm income, etc.) Family labor usually is all

that is required to run the farm. Some of the main activities

associated with this are cattle-raising, pine trees, and hay


Family subsistence farms are also frequent. They demand

little labor, do not provide cash income, and are based on

vegetables and other crops for family consumption. Normally, these

farmers say that governmental policies and low profits kept them

out of the farming business.

Non-farming land is property without any agricultural

activity. Instead, the land provides a plot of land appropriate

for their house. Because our concentration was on farmers, this

type of enterprise was not included in our sample.

Agricultural Classification

There is a tendency to classify as agricultural for tax

purpose only the full-time enterprises and portions of the land

under part-time management. The subsistence farmer is excluded.

The law agrees with this. The Florida Statutes stress commercial

activities as the appropriate means of obtaining agricultural

classification. This is detrimental to the small farmer.

In Gilchrist County, commercial agriculture is practiced


mainly by full-time farmers. Although nearly all farmers are

experiencing an economic crisis, the agricultural classification

allotted to big farmers allows many of them to stay in business

(Barlett, 1993).

Many Gilchrist County farmers engage in part-time enterprises

because agriculture fails to provide the necessary income to

maintain a livelihood. Part-time farmers choose crops and farming

activities which they believe will be manageable while maintaining

an off-farm job. Owners of part-time enterprises seem to be the

most stable small-scale farmers in the county in the sense that

they are less affected by agricultural prices than are individuals

who rely solely on their farm income. With the rising costs of

inputs, agricultural classification will help to ensure part-time

farmer's ability to continue agricultural activities.

Gilchrist County's "subsistence farmers" have little economic

dependency on the farm for their livelihood. Instead, they plant

vegetables because they enjoy the "outdoor life" and hope to better

house a food supply. A few farmers wanted agricultural

classification on this agricultural portion of their land. Due to

the small size of agricultural portion of the land and the farmer's

use of its products for home consumption, appraisers tend not to

assign agricultural classification.

This has important theoretical implications. The spirit of the

statutes is apparently to prevent land speculation and urban

development, instead encouraging agriculture and a rural lifestyle.

Webster's dictionary defines agriculture as "the science, art, and


business of cultivating the soil, producing crops, and raising

livestock useful [italics ours] to man; farming; cultivation." It

is only logical to assume that the portion of land used for home

consumption among Gilchrist County's "subsistence farmers" produces

products which are useful to the farmer. Not receiving

agricultural classification on these cropfields may stimulate these

farmers to subdivide their property and sell part of it to urban


In summary, we feel that every cropfield, productive pasture,

fish pond, or planted forest plot [that is, every plot of land

"doing" agriculture] should receive the agricultural

classification. This is in accordance with the Florida statutes

which read that property should be assessed according to its full

value. Value, though, is subjective and changes according to the

system of rationality under which a particular culture or social

group acts. Because an outsider has a different set of values than

does an individual of the targeted population, property appraisers

and extension agents should attempt to see life through the small

farmers' eyes.'

With this in mind, the typical notion of "use assessment" in

which the same plot of land will receive a higher assessment if

used for home consumption rather than for the market does not take

into account the small farmer's values or needs. The system should

not penalize farmers because they are small and have few resources.

'For further information on the rationality of small-scale
agriculturalists, see James C. Scott's The Moral Economy of the


The consensus among farmers in Gilchrist County is that a lack of

money explains the decreasing number of farms over the past several

years and the increasing "urban" growth. If small-scale farmers

are to continue using their land for agriculture instead of selling

it to developers, there must be reasons for them to continue using

their land for agricultural purposes. For the benefit of both the

small-scale farmer as well as others who wish to avoid haphazard

urban development in rural Gilchrist County, agricultural

classification is necessary on the portion of land which is being

used for agriculture.

Part V: Recommendations for Improvement for Small-Scale Farms

We have divided the recommendations for improvement on small-

scale farms into two categories. The general suggestions are

simply principles which we believe would enhance agricultural

productivity and/or increase profit. This list is not exhaustive:

1) To improve communication between extension service and
small farmers

2) Improved outreach for: veterinary services, soil testing,
and improved information (fertilizers, animal husbandry,
minor products, and main crops)

3) To stimulate small farmers organizations and networking
(the idea is that farmers will exchange information and

4) Research and information on new crops and animals, such
as fruit trees, to improve income

More specific suggestions include:

1) a relocation package for those interested in beginning
farming in the county which includes information about
the natural resources, farming techniques, and marketing


2) for those who wish to produce for the market, a list of
average costs and profits to ensure that farmers
understand potential situations before they undertake an

3) extension literature table at willing Seed and Feed
Stores, the Farmer's Market in Trenton, and various areas

4) personal visits and phone calls by the extension agent to
farmers as well as publications on the latest research
findings for improvements regarding pest control,
fertilizer, and marketing techniques

All recommendations should be discussed with farmers in

participatory meetings and processes. For example, if a

recommendation to combat the county's sandy soils is to improve

soil fertility by using manure from nearby dairy farms, the

extension agent should be aware of the farmer's need for a way to

transport the manure and necessary farm machinery. If these are

not taken into consideration, this strategy will fail to help

farmers who lack the necessary equipment. Thus, participatory

planning will increase extension effectiveness.

Part VI: Conclusions

Gilchrist county farmers engage in a wide variety of

agricultural activities. Although there is a large range in the

size of farms, problems and constraints affecting increased

productivity are similar. A poor natural resource base, low

profit, limited knowledge, and a lack of time all negatively affect

small farms. Farmers new to the area are especially vulnerable

since they suffer not only from the problems listed above, but also

from a lack of indigenous knowledge.


Few farmers in our sample made their livelihood solely through

the farm. Rather, most mentioned a love for the rural life as the

motive of agricultural activities. Still, many who used to farm

have abandoned commercial agriculture (they continue to garden)

because the costs outweigh the benefits. We recommend that

extension services diffuse information regarding farming and

marketing techniques in efforts to improve yield and (for those

interested in income) profit. We further recommend that all

farmers be granted agricultural classification on any portion of

land used for agricultural purposes.


Barlett, P. American Dreams, Rural Realities. USA: The University
of North Carolina Press, 1993.

Economics and Statistics Administration. 1990 Census of
Population and Housing. Washington D.C.: United States Department
of Commerce, 1990.

Florida Statistical Abstract, 1994.

Gainesville Sun. L. Guevara-Castro, ed. Almanac '95: The Fact
Book for North Central Florida. February 19, 1995.

Morris, W., ed. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English
Language. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1981.

Scott, J. The Moral Economy of the Peasant: Rebellion and
Subsistence in Southeast Asia. New Haven: Yale University Press.

United States Department of Agriculture. Soil Survey of Gilchrist
County, Florida. Soil Conservation Service. September, 1992.

Appendix I

Map of Florida and Counties





Appendix II

The Geomorphic Zones in Gilchrist County

SUWANNEE 0 1 2 3 4 5 MILES


S. l............... ...... HIGH SPRINGS GAP

(Source: Soil Survey of Gilchrist County of Florida, Soil-
conservation Service, United States Department of Agriculture,
Sept. 1992)

Table of Temperature and Precipitation

(Recorded in the period 1951-80 at Gainesville, Florida]

Temperature I Precipitation
Month Monthly I Monthly I Monthly I Monthly I Extreme I Extreme
I mean I maximum I minimum I mean I high I low
Smean I mean I I I
o o o
F F I I In In In

January-------------- 56.1 I 68.3 I 43.8 I 3.27 I 8.87 I 0.25
February-------------- 57.8 I 70.6 I 44.9 I 3.91 I 7.92 I 1.05
March----------------- 63.6 I 76.6 I 50.6 I 3.67 I 10.48 I .84
April---------------- 69.9 8I 2.9 I 56.9 I 2.94 I 8.43 I .18
May------------------ 75.5 1 87.8 I 63.1 1 4.18 I 9.25 I .46
June----------------- 79.9 I 90.4 I 68.8 I 6.63 I 15.74 I 2.26
July-----------------I 81.3 I 91.4 I 71.1 1 7.09 I 10.86 I 1.44
August---------------I 81.3 I 91.4 I 71.1 I 7.09 I 14.15 I 2.84
September------------I 79.3 1 89.1 1 69.5 I 5.60 1 13.04 I .25
October--------------- 71.5 82.7 I 60.2 I 2.33 I 6.12 I .11
November..------------- 63.5 I 85.7 I 51.2 I 2.04 I 7.27 *
December-------------I 57.8 I 70.1 I 45.5 1 3.19 I 7.62 1 .02

Annual mean---------i 69.7 --- -- 52.84 I ---


Table of Freeze Dates in spring and Fall
[Recorded in the period 1951-80 at Gainesville, Florida]


Last freezing
in spring:

1 year in 10
later than--

2 years in 10
later than--

5 years in 10
later than--

First freezing
in fall:

1 year in 10
earlier than--

2 years in 10
earlier than--

5 years in 10
earlier than--

I 24 F
I or lower

I Feb. 7

Jan. 30

Jan. 12

Nov. 22

Dec. 17

I Dec. 27

28 "F
I or lower

I Mar. 2

Feb. 19

SJan. 22

SNov. 17

Nov. 25

SDec. 11

(Source: Soil
Sept. 1992)

Survey of Gilchrist County of Florida, Soil-
Service, United States Department of Agriculture,

32 "F
or lower

Mar. 19

Mar. 13

Feb. 24

Nov. 10

Nov. 17


Appendix IV
(Colette 1978) Pag

'State Constitution'Article VII

Section 4. Taxation; assessments.--By general law regulations shall be
prescribed which shall secure a just valuation of all property for ad
valorem taxation, provided: -.
(a)-Agricultural land or land used exclusively for non-conmercial recre-
ational purposes may be classified by general law and assessed solely or.
the basis of character or use.
(b) Pursuant to general law tangible personal property held for sale as
stock in trade and livestock may be valued for taxation at a specified
percentage of its value.



193.461 Agricultural lands; classification and assessment.
193.507 Lands within areas of critical state concern; reassessment.
193.623 Assessment of building renovations for accessibility to the
physically handicapped. (new)

193.461 Agricultural lands; classification and assessment.--
(1) The property appraiser shall, on an annual basis, classify for
assessment purposes all lands within the county as either agricultural or
1(2) Any landowner whose land is denied agricultural classification by
the property appraiser may appeal to the property appraisal adjustment
board. The board may also review all lands classified by the property
appraiser upon its own motion. The.property appraiser shall have available
at his office a list by ownership of all applications received showing the
acreage, the full valuation under s. 193.011, the valuation of the land
under the provisions of this section, and whether or not the classification
requested was granted.
(3)(a) No lands shall be classified as agricultural lands unless a re-
turn is filed on or before March 1 of each year. The property appraiser,
before so classifying said lands, may required the taxpayer or his repre-
sentative to furnish the property appraiser such information as may reason-
ably be required to establish that said lands were actually used for a bona
fide agricultural purpose. Failure to make timely application by-March
1 shall constitute a waiver for 1 year of the privilege herein granted for
agricultural assessment. The owner of land that was classified agricultural
in the previous year and whose ownership or use has not changed may reapply
on a short form as provided by the department.
(b) Subject to the restrictions set out'in this section, only lands
which are used primarily for bona fide agricultural purposes shall be
classified agricultural. "Bona fide agricultural purposes" means good faith
commercial agricultural use of the land. In determining whether the use of
the land for agricultural purposes is bona fide, the following factors may
be tak-.a into consideration:
1. The length of time the land has been so utilized;
2. Whether the use has been continuous;
3. The purchase price paid;
4. Size, as it relates to specific agricultural use;

Page 2

5.- Whether an indicated effort has.been made to care sufficiently and
adequately for the land in accordance with accepted commercial agricultural
practices; including, without limitation, fertilizing, liming, tilling,
mowing, reforesting, and other'accepted agricultural practices;
6. Whether'such land is under.lease and, if so, the effective length,
terms, and conditions of the lease;'and
7. Such other factors as may from time to time become applicable.
(c) The maintenance of a dwelling*on part of the lands'used for agri-
cultural purposes shall not in itself preclude an agricultural classifica-
tion. .
S(4)(a) *The property appraiser shall reclassify the following lands as
1. Land diverted from an agricultural to a nonagricultural use;
2. Land no longer being utilized for agricultural purposes;
.3. Land that has been zoned.to a nonagricultural use at the request of
the owner subsequent to the enactment of this law; or
4. Land for which the owner has recorded a subdivision plat subsequent to
the enactment of this law.
(b) The board of county commissioners may also reclassify lands class-
ified as agricultural to nonagricultural when there is contiguous urban or
metropolitan development and the board of county commissioners finds that
the continued use of such lands for agricultural purposes will act as a de-
terrent to the timely and orderly expansion of the community.
(c) Sale of land for a purchase price which is three or more times the
agricultural assessment placed on the land shall create a presumption that
such land is not used primarily for bona fide agricultural purposes. Upon I
a showing 'of special circumstances by the landowner demonstrating that the
land is to be continued in bona fide agriculture, this presumption may be
(5) For the purpose of this section, "agricultural purposes" shall include
horticulture; floriculture; viticulture; forestry, dairy; livestock; poultry;
bee; pisciculture, when the land is used principally for the production of
tropical fish; and all forms of farm products and farm production.
(6)(a) In years i-which proper application for agricultural assessment
has been made and granted pursuant to this section, the assessment of land
shall be based solely on its agricultural use. The property appraiser shall
consider the following use factors only:
1. The quantity and size of the property;
2. The condition of said property;
3. The present market value of said property as agricultural land;
4. The income produced by said property; -
5. The productivity of land in its present use;
6. The economic merchantability of the agricultural product, and
7. Such other agricultural factors as may from time to time become
(b) In years in which proper application for agricultural assessment
has not been made the land shall be assessed under the provisions of s.193.011*

Histcry,--s. 1, ch 59-226; s. 1. ch. 67-117; ss. 1,2. ch. 69-55; s. 1,
ch. 72-18i; s. 4. ch. 74-234; s. 3. ch. 76-133.
IKote.--As amended, effective October 1, 1976.


Page 3


12D-5.01 Agricultural Classification, Definitions
12D-5.02 Purchase Price Paid as a Factor in Determining
Agricultural Classification
12D-5.03 Dwellings on Agriculturally Classified Land
12D-5.04 Other Factors That May Become Applicable
12D-5.05 Outdoor Recreational or Park Lands

12D-5.01 Agricultural Classification, Definitions

(1) For the purposes of Section 193,461, F.S., agricultural purposes
does not include the wholesaling, retailing, or processing of farm products,
such as by a canning factory.

(2) Good faith co-=ercial agricultural use of property is defined as
the pursuit of an agricultural activity for a reasonable profit or at least
upon a reasonable expectation of meeting investment cost and realizing a
reasonable profit. The profit or reasonable expectation thereof must be
viewed from the standpoint of the fee owner and measured in light of his

General Authority: Section 195.027,F.S.
Law Implemented: Section 193.461,F.S.

12D-5.02 purchasee Price Paid as a Factor in Determining Agricultural

The Property Appraiser may determine that the "purchase price paid"
for land is inconsistent with agricultural use. A purchase price in excess
of the agricultural assessment can be indictive of lack of a "good faith
commercial agricultural capitalization of the income to be produced by land
in such a use and thus approximates the amount that could be invested con-
sistent with a reasonable return.

Additionally, should the purchase price paid exceed the agricultural
assessment by three or more times a presumption that the land is not used
primarily for good faith commercial agricultural purposes is created by
Section 193.461 (4)(c), F.S. The mere filing of a return is not sufficient
to overco=a this presumption created by the purchase price. Instead, the
landowner must make a showing of special circumstances such as but not limited
to: 1) need of the acquired property to expand a previously owned agricul-
tural operation; 2) need of the acquired property to facilitate proper
drainage of a previously owned agricultural operation; 3) need of the ac-
quired property for engress or egress related to a previously owned agricul-
tural operation; 4) the need of the acquired property to reestablish an
agricultural operation after the owner's previous agricultural operation was
terminated due to eminant domain proceedings or other similar circumstances;

Page 4

and 5) when the purchase price includes payment for other than real pro-
perty, such as improvements on or to the land or deferred income, e.g.

Furthermore, the presumption created'by Section 193,461 (4)(c), F.S.,
may be defeated by overcoming the'appraiser's presumption of correctness
as to the agriculturally classified value and demonstrating that the'pur-
chase price paid was not three or more times what the agriculturally class-
ified value should be. However, such a showing while defeating the pre-
sumption would not prevent a denial of the classification if the purchase
price paid was nonetheless indicative of a lack of good faith commercial
agricultural use.

General Authority: Section 195.027, F.S.
Law Implemented: Section 193.461, F.S.

12D-5.03 Dwellings on Agriculturally Classified Land

The Property Appraiser shall not deny agricultural classification
solely because of the maintenance of a dwelling on a part of the lands
used for agricultural purposes, nor shall the agricultural classification
disqualify the land for homestead exemption. So long as the swelling is an
integral part of the entire agricultural operation the land it occupies shall
be considered agricultural in nature. However, such dwellings and other
improvements on the land shall be assessed under Section 193.011, F.S., at
their just value and added to the agriculturally assessed value of the land.

General Authority: Section 195.027, F.S.
Law Implemented: Section 193.461, F.S.

12D-5.04 Other Factors That May Become Applicable

(1) Other factors enumerated by the court in Greenwood v. Oates, 229
So. 2d 665 (Fla. 1971), which the property appraiser may consider but to
which he is not limited are:

(a) Opinions of appropriate experts in the fields;
(b) Business or occupation of the owner. (Note that this cannot be
considered over and above or the exclusion of the actual use of the property.
(See AGO 72-123);
(c) The nature of the terrain of the property;
(d) Economic merchantability of the agricultural product; and
(e) The reasonably attainable economic salability of the product
within a reasonable future time for the particular agricultural product.

(2) Other factors that are recommended to be considered are:
(a) Zoning (other than b 193.461, F.S.), applicable to the land;
(b) General character of the neighborhood;
(c) Use of adjacent properties;
(d) Proximity of subject properties to a metropolitan area and services.
(e) Principal domicile of the owner and family;
(f) Date of acquisition;


Page 5

(g) Agricultural experience of the person conducting
agricultural operations;
(h) Participation in governmental or private
agricultural programs or activities;
(i) Amount of harvest for each crop;
(j) Gross sales from the agricultural operation;
(k) Months of hired labor; and
(1) Inventory of buildings and machinery and the
condition of the same.

General Authority: Section 195.027, F.S.
Law Implemented: Section .193.461, F.S.

12D-5.05 Outdoor Recreational or Park Lands

The recreational use must be non-commercial. Although
public access is not necessarily a prerequisite to classification
and tax treatment under Section 193.501, F.S.,'nevertheless,
in their discretion, the trustees of the internal improvement
trust fund or the governing board of a county or delegated
municipality, as the case may be, need not accent an instrument
conveying development rights or establishing a covenant .
under the statute. In all cases, the tax treatment provided
by Section 193.501, F.S., shall continue only so long as the
lands are actually used for outdoor recreational or park
purposes. Since all property is assessed as of its status
on January 1 of the tax year, if the instrument conveying
the development rights or establishing the convenant is not
accepted by the appropriately authorized body on or before
January 1 of the tax year, then special treatment under
Section 193.501, F.S., would not be available for that tax
year. When special treatment under the statute is to be
granted because of a convenant such special treatment shall
be granted only if the convenant extends for a period of ten
or more years from January 1 of each year for which such
special treatment assessment is made.

General Authority: Section 195.027, F.S.
Law Implemented: Section 193.501, F.S.

PPROVteD getov"Ort o00 CAgOINT -**21*7
UItc -T, t'ChtI' Of STATI **&3*8*
A#tgTyrC SAT< -.12*31


AGG 5813
Spring 1995

Janet Puhalla
Osvaldo Balbuena
Kevin Veach

TEAM 3 1


A. Background
This report is a result of a two day sondeo completed during the month of
February, 1995 in Gilchrist County, Florida. The sondeo was conducted in collaboration
with Mr. Marvin Weaver, the Gilchrist County Agricultural Extension Agent, and Mr.
Ray Harrison, Gilchrist County Property Appraiser. The county was divided into four
sections and a three member multidisciplinary team was assigned to each section. This
report is the finding of team three which covered the northeast region, from state
highway 232 north to the county line and from a rough north-south mid-line to the
eastern county line, and augmented with information provided by the other three teams

B. Methodology
The "sondeo" methodology is used to obtain information quickly without the use
of a formal survey. It provides a way to gather information about life in a farming
community, how farmers, extension workers and others perceive their conditions and
make decisions. It can be used to describe, diagnose and interpreting farmers'
constraints without spending several months to obtain information as would be needed
with a formal survey. The idea is for the farmer to play the role as teacher and the
researcher play the role of student. Since the sondeo is not based on a set agenda of
questions, it is possible for the researcher to obtain information on a variety of subjects
without pigeonholing the farmer into giving information concerning a preselected topic.
This way farmers are most likely to talk about what is important to them. Because of this
methodology, statistical data are not a part of the outcome of the sondeo.

TEAM 3 2

C. Objectives

The objectives of this sondeo were to determine:
what the small land holders currently do with their land;
what the small land holders would like to do with their land;
how they view what they are doing (explicitly or implicitly);
how much experience and knowledge do the landholders have in agriculture;
the problems and constraints the landholders are experiencing;
how can the county extension help them;
if the agricultural classification tax status has an impact on what they do
with their land

A. Location and History of Gilchrist County
Located in north-central Florida, Gilchrist County was established in 1925 by the
Florida Legislature from a part of western Alachua County. It was named after former
Florida Governor, Albert Waller Gilchrist. It covers 226,413 acres which is mostly rural
farmland with the swampy Waccasassa Flats occupying the length of a five mile stretch
in the center of the county. Gilchrist County is bounded on the south by Levy county and
on the east by Alachua County. It is separated from Columbia County and Suwannee
County to the north by the Santa Fe River, and is separated from Dixie County to the
west by the Suwannee River.
Early established towns included Fanning Springs, Yular, Wannee, Willeford,
Bell and Trenton. With the establishment of a railroad line through Bell, it became a
major commerce town in the region. However, with the development of improved roads,
it lost some of its importance. Today, Trenton, named after the Tennessee hometown of
Confederate soldier, Ben Boyd, is the county seat.. Presently, other towns in Gilchrist
county include Bell, Fanning Springs and Wannee. The last two are situated on the banks
of the Suwannee River. Ginnie Springs, located on the banks of the Sante Fe River, is a

TEAM 3 3

popular camping park. Its clear water and underwater caves attract divers from around
the world.

B. Climate
Gilchrist County experiences a mild climate accentuated by long, hot and humid
summers. Winters are usually mild with periodic cold or cool temperatures. The mean
annual precipitation for Gilchrist County is 52.8 inches with about half of this occurring
in the summer. Most of this rainfall occurs in the form of afternoon thunderstorms from
June through October. Temperatures vary from an average of 560 F during January to
810 F during July. The average relative humidity is about 75% (Soil Conservation
Service, 1992).

C. Soils
Gilchrist County is divided into two geomorphic subzones, the Central Highlands
and the Gulf Coastal Lowlands. The soils are sandy on the surface throughout the county
with a sandy subsurface layer and either a sandy or loamy subsoil. The soils are
generally well drained with the areas surrounding the Waccasassa Flats having poorly
drained soils. Elevations range from 20 to 100 feet above mean sea level. The soils
throughout the county are susceptible to wind and rain erosion (USDA, 1992).

D. Topography
The Gulf Coastal Lowlands consists of broad, flat marine plain underlain by
Eocene limestone. The Central Highlands area includes local highlands and ridges with
intervening lowland valleys. Gilchrist County contains an underlying limestone layer
with freshwater aquifers overlying it (USDA, 1992). Most of the ground water consumed
in the county is drawn from this.

E. Social, Demographic and Economic Characteristics
The population of Gilchrist County in 1993 was 10,722 with the majority (82%)
of this being rural. This is up from 10,196 in 1992. In 1993, there were 3,636

TEAM 3 4

households in the county, which is an increase of 10.7% increase from 1990. Migration
from other areas in Florida and other states accounted for 94.2% of this increase.
Residents between the ages of 25-44 represent 26.4% of the population in Gilchrist
County. Resident between the ages of 45-64 account for an additional 22.4%, with the
other age groups about equal in the remaining percentages. The per capital personal
income in 1992 was $12,866 which puts Gilchrist County in the midrange for the 14
counties that constitute North Central Florida (Gainesville Sun Almanac, 1995).
Although Gilchrist County is mostly rural, agriculture does not employ a majority
of the working population. According to the Gainesville Sun Almanac (1995), industry,
government and service employment provide the bulk of jobs in the county. Government
jobs at both the State and Federal level are important in the county with Lancaster
Correctional Institution employing the largest number of workers followed by the
Gilchrist County School Board. Agriculture is ranked third in providing jobs in the
county with two of Gilchrist County's dairies accounting for a majority of this.
In 1993, there were 336 farms in Gilchrist county with the 216 acres constituting
the average size farm. This is down from 260 acres in 1987 according to the Florida
Statistical Abstract 1994. The total number of farm operators in 1992 was 329, with 171
saying farming was their principal occupation and 158 listing an occupation other than
farming as their principal occupation. Of the total number of farm operators, 3 were
Black and other races and 3 were of Hispanic origin. There were 47 female farm
operators in Gilchrist County in 1992 (Florida Statistical Abstract, 1994).
Agricultural production in Gilchrist County is headed by dairy production in
which it is ranked fourth in the State with a production value of $24,180,000.
Watermelon was often stated by farmers as a major crop in Gilchrist County where
$3,649,000 worth of watermelon was produced in 1992. Corn valued at $149,000 was
also produced in 1992 (Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer services, 1993).
Many farmers said tobacco is an important crop in the county, yet the county was not
listed among the top six producer counties in the state according to the Florida
Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. However, with 158 acres it ranked
8th among individually listed counties in the 1994 Florida Statistical Abstract.

TEAM 3 5

From the sample of 23 rural landholders whom were interviewed, some general
conclusions may be made about the social and economic condition of small holders in
the county. Most of the landowners interviewed are over 50 years old, and most of those
who are under fifty are between forty and fifty. There were very few younger farmers.
Most of the landholders were married couples and productive work on the land was done
by both the men and the women. In at least three cases farming was done either with a
sibling or a child. In two of our cases, women were the sole or major source of
agricultural labor.
Almost all informants work off the farm or have supplemental income, usually in
nearby cities. Several have made working the land their major activity after retiring or
intend to when they do retire. None of these, however, expressed a desire to simply live
on the land without producing a marketable crop. For these people, then, after retirement,
production from the land will become, if not their major source of income the major one
over which they can exert some control.
The majority of the informants have moved here from elsewhere. Only a small
minority are second generation farmers in Gilchrist County. For those who came from
elsewhere, a major motivation was to enjoy a rural lifestyle or to leave the city rather
than for economic reasons. Most of the relative newcomers to the area came from within
Florida, frequently from the Tampa area. For those who were from the area, remaining
close to family was occasionally mentioned as a factor in remaining in the area.
The county appears to be undergoing growth of rural residential areas. In the
northeast quarter of the county one can note several recent housing subdivisions on
previously rural land. One informant mentioned that the low prices of land and low taxes
in Gilchrist county are a factor motivating the recent immigration of people to the county.
This opinion seems borne out by the Florida Statistical Abstract for 1994 which shows
Gilchrist County land prices as being in the lowest half of per-acre land prices for all
counties in the state and also shows that the average size of the farm decreased by 17%
from 1987 to 1992.

TEAM 3 6

A. Common agricultural products
Small holders in Gilchrist produce a wide diversity of products with over 15 crops
or kinds of livestock mentioned in our interviews in addition to home gardens. The most
common agricultural activities or products mentioned from our sample were pasture and
cattle raising. The most commonly used grass for summer pasture was Pennsacola Bahia
grass. Winter rye was planted for winter forage in the majority of the farms that had
cattle. However, purchased hay and commercial feed and molasses were used as
supplemental feed throughout the winter. Nearly all of the cattle raised were beef cattle.
Pine trees, watermelons and sheep were the next most common products
mentioned, but were raised by less than 20% of the informants in our sample. Farmers
often grow slash pine with the help of private companies which both plant and harvest
the trees. In one case the government paid the farmer to plant the trees eight years ago.
Trees are generally sold for pulp during thinning operations at 8-15 years and harvested
at 15 years also for pulp. Pine needle mulch is harvested 3-4 times a year and sold as to
The frequency of sheep in our sample is biased on the high side, because one of
the sheep farmers was recommended by a neighbor who also raised sheep. Despite the
opinion that tobacco was one of the most common crops in the county, this was not
confirmed from our sample. Only one of our respondents grew tobacco and that was on a
farm with over 600 acres. Nearly all informants mentioned that they had a home garden
for supplying the family.

B. Non-traditional crops
Farmers in Gilchrist County appear quite willing to experiment with non-
traditional crops. Examples include turnips as winter forage, blueberries, aquaculture for
home consumption, sugar production and home processing, chestnut trees, rabbits, goats,
veal calves, sheep and ostriches. Goats were believed to be of increasing popularity,
especially to supply Cuban restaurants, but only were being produced by one informant.

TEAM 3 7

C. Technology and inputs
The farms varied widely in their level of technology and inputs but in general the
cropping systems, such as pasture and a few beef cattle, required less equipment
investments than typical large-scale row cropping. Farmers generally had their own
tractors and cultivating equipment and only needed outside help for specialized
operations like tree planting or harvesting. Capital, therefore, did not seem to be the
primary constraint. The management systems and crops chosen, such as pasture or tree
farming, were frequently ones compatible with the labor constraints imposed by off-farm
labor. Several farmers fertilized with manure from their animals and a small minority use
commercial fertilizer or pesticides. The chestnut trees were the only crop which received
irrigation with the exception of one watermelon crop and the home gardens.

D. Expressed problems
The most common complaint expressed by the farmers in our sample was a
frustration with low soil fertility due to the low organic content of the soil. Other soil
problems mentioned included high acidity and poor moisture retention. The main
difficulty caused by this combination of soil problems was inability to produce an
adequate pasture crop to provide winter feed for animals and a limitation on the choice
of crops which would produce well. For the new farmers especially, a lack of knowledge
on how to improve the soil fertility was a major concern.
Several farmers felt that low prices for many commodities combined with high
input prices made several products such as pigs or corn uneconomical to raise.
The farmers producing the tree and berry crops and the sheep and goats did not
feel that the county extension services had been able to offer much useful information on
their products. Several of the less-experienced producers of these non-traditional crops
felt that the extension services had not been able to provide them with much useful
information about their crops. However they had effectively sought out other sources of
technical assistance such as manuals, associations, or local experts.

TEAM 3 8

The major constraints identified by the farmers can be characterized as follows:
A. Natural resources
Low soil fertility. The soils of the area are sandy, with low pH, low organic matter
content, and low water holding capacity. At the other extreme, some soils are
waterlogged with poor drainage. A few farmers have tried some soil amendments to raise
pH, and some are using fertilizer. The effects of poor soil fertility are: a) low production
and/or b) a need for high input (fertilizer, amendments, irrigation).

B. Knowledge and information
Insufficient knowledge and information were noted, specially in the following
circumstances: a) farmers who are new in the area and farmers who are new in the
farming sector tend to need information about soil characteristics, techniques of
increasing soil fertility and livestock management techniques; b) farmers who are starting
new enterprises need more specific information about production and marketing (this is
specially true for non- traditional products).
Farmers have mixed feelings about Extension Services. Some have positive
opinion, some have a neutral opinion, and a few feel that they are not getting the help
they need. The latter were more related with new enterprises or non-traditional crops in
the county.
Most small farmers want to know the right kind of pasture or crops for their land.
There is a specific demand for information about winter pasture, veterinary services for
goats and sheep, and market information on non-traditional operations.

C. Time
Most of the farmers have off-farm work or are retired. Both, time devoted to off-
farm work and insufficient physical stamina result in little time devoted to agricultural
activities. Often they expressed the desire to work more time on the farm.

TEAM 3 9

D. Labor
Most farmers do not employ external labor. In watermelon operations, there are
times of the year in which they need to hire labor. Labor availability and/or labor
regulations induce the farmers to work by themselves, not relying on hired labor.
Exceptions are some practices (pine tree planting, land preparation) which are carried out
by people offering those services.

E. Others constraints
Small farmers have low incomes from their farming activities due to small
enterprise scale. Some farmers do not appear to have as primary objective to generate
large profit from their farming activity. The general perception was that they want to
cover their expenses and from time to time have extra income generated by their farming

Not all the constraints listed offer the same possibilities of intervention. Many of
those that can be overcame are related to knowledge and information. The following are
some possibilities:
Improve the communication between the sources of information (University,
Extension Service) and the farmers. An effort to make the farmers aware of what
types of help are available through the Extension Service, and other services like
soil testing, forage testing, should be made. This information could be mailed to
new farmers in the area.

Recommendations for pasture and cattle management may need to be
adapted for small scale farming. New material may need to be produced about
problems with goat raising and marketing. Specific information about advantages,
constraints and production techniques of various crops and livestock for small
farmers could be distributed in feed stores.

Perhaps the Extension Service can work with the University to use models to
assess the feasibility of the products which small farmers are experimenting with.

TEAM 3 10

Specific recommendations may include the use of perennial peanut as a high
quality forage for summer and high quality hay for winter feeding. Advice and
help to set up a farmer network and/or organization may be useful.

One of the objectives of the sondeo was to determine if the state agricultural
classification has had an impact on what the small land holders do with their land.
Gilchrist County is small and predominately rural. It relies on tax revenue for a portion
of its income. In the State of Florida, as in many states, land classified as agricultural is
assessed at a different tax rate than other lands. This rate is usually lower and was
established to ensure that land is preserved for agricultural and recreational use and also
allows areas of open space. This is a method of discouraging urban expansion and land
subdivisions (Colette, 1978). In determining the assessment of a land, the Florida Statues
use the term "bona fide agricultural purposes" to determine how to classify land as
agricultural use. The term "bona fide agricultural purposes" means good faith
commercial agricultural use of the land. Furthermore, the State of Florida defines good
faith commercial agriculture as

"the pursuit of an agricultural activity for a reasonable profit or at least upon
a reasonable expectation of meeting investment cost and realizing a
reasonable profit. The profit or reasonable expectation thereof must be
viewed from the standpoint of the fee owner measured in light of his

The Florida law goes on to define agricultural purposes to include "all forms of
farm products and farm production." In view of the use of the terms agriculture and
farm, it brings up the question of what are the definitions and differences between the
two terms. From our perception, we define agriculture as any activity which produces
animal or plant crops using the land as its resource base and oriented toward producing
income. The intent of most farmers is to provide for a basic family livelihood for
themselves. Selling products to the market can accomplish this. But, using the products

TEAM 3 11

directly from a home garden can also accomplish this. In that sense, we believe that
home gardens should be included in the agricultural class.
Since the statues were passed, there have been several court decisions eliminating
some of the listed criteria for determining agricultural classification on a land. These
include the size, profit, purchase price, accepted agricultural practices, primary use,
zoning and bona fide commercial agricultural use as criteria for establishing agricultural
classification. Currently, the criteria used for determining agricultural lands seems to be
the actual physical use of the land. This allows for individual interpretation of the statute
by the county property appraiser and thus making an agricultural classification vary from
county to county. This ambiguity can be seen as an important issue in Gilchrist County
as it makes it difficult for the county to obtain much tax revenue from agriculturally
classified land holders.
From our conversations and observations of small land holders in Gilchrist
County, we found that most people were working their land productively and intending to
produce for income. There seems to be a genuine interest in obtaining a product or even
a small profit from the land and the issue of agricultural classification did not appear to
be of major concern to those we spoke with. We found no evidence of people holding
land for speculative purposes. In reference to the above definition of good faith
commercial agriculture, we feel that most of these farmers have an agricultural activity
that meets this definition and should receive the agricultural classification for the
portions of their land which are in this kind of activity.

Although we had a small sample of only 23 landholders, we found a wide variety
of agricultural products and practices. The commodities produced by the small holders
ranges far beyond the traditional crops for the county. These small holders were mainly
from out of the county and often were inexperienced either with the crops they chose or
the conditions in Gilchrist County. Despite this they were responding creatively to the
challenges of poor soils and lack of knowledge and time. Although most were to some

TEAM 3 12

extent supporting their agricultural activities with outside sources of income and
appeared to be more motivated by the desire to have a rural lifestyle than to generate
large profits, all who had the agricultural classification were producing for income. Thus
all met our criteria for "bona fide" agricultural activities needed to justify the agricultural
While none of these farms appeared highly profitable, two non-traditional crops -
chestnuts and ostriches were expected to generate excellent profits when they matured.
A focused effort by the county to provide basic information to new small holders
about extension services, common constraints to farming in Gilchrist county, and non-
traditional but promising crops could be a significant help to improving the livelihood of
this growing segment of the Gilchrist County population.

TEAM 3 13


Colette, W. Arden. 1978. Ad Valorem Taxation of Agricultural Land in Florida. Staff
paper #104. Food and Resource Economics Department, Institute of Food and
Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.

Florida Agricultural Facts. Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services,

The Gainesville Sun Almanac, 1995. The Fact Book for North Central Florida (February
19, 1995).

USDA, Soil Conservation Service. 1992. Soil Survey of Gilchrist County, Florida.
Soil Conservation Service, Washington, DC.

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3 1 XI

Agriculturally Classified Small Part-Time Farms
Gilchrist County, Florida

Farming Systems Research and Extension
March 1995

Debbie Roos
Atsushi Koyama
Ali Ustun

Gllchrist County Sondeo
Farming Systems Research and Extension
February 1995
Debbie Roos, Atsushi Koyama, and Ali Ustun

This report is based on a sondeo conducted over the course of two weekends in
Gilchrist County by multidisciplinary teams during the month of February, 1995.
Twenty-two families were interviewed at their farms in order to develop a clearer
picture of current land use practices, farm layout, and the general household
functioning of small farms. All of the families interviewed are part-time farmers, holding
off-farm jobs or receiving some sort of retirement benefits, and with the exception of
one Hispanic family, all are white.

A sondeo is a survey technique designed to rapidly assess the needs, constraints, and
goals of farmers in the area, and to define the parameters of a homogeneous system, if
it exists. It is also an excellent way for the researchers to become acquainted with an
area. The sondeo adopts a participatory approach to farmer-researcher interaction,
and aims to discover the farmer's perspective in order to orient future research and
extension. The multidisciplinary teams are used to ensure a wider range of expertise
and insights into specific strategies, so that all concerns, and not just those of a
specific field, can be addressed.

For the purposes of this sondeo, Gilchrist county was divided into four quadrants and a
three-person team was assigned to each area. The sample of farmers was compiled
from a list provided by the Gilchrist County Property Appraiser of property owners with
land-holdings of 20 acres or less who already had an agricultural classification on
their land.

General Profile:
Gilchrist county, which curves around both the Suwanee and Santa Fe rivers in north
central Florida, is an agricultural county (Marth et al., 1992). Its total population is

9,667 according to the census in 1990. There are three cities: Trenton, Bell, and
Fanning Springs, but most of the population in Gilchrist county live in the rural
areas.The climate of Gilchrist county is hot and humid in long summers and mild in
winter because the county is located in the southern latitudes and is a short distance
from the relatively warm ocean waters. Mean annual precipitation is 1,342 mm.
October and November are the driest months (USDA, 1992).

According to the Census of Agriculture in 1992 and the Florida Statistical Abstract,
land in farms in 1992 was 70,987 acres, out of which 43,487 acres were crop land,
14,463 acres were wood land and 11,378 acres were pasture land. The number of
farms was 329. Out of these 329, 171 answered that their principal occupations were
farming. Farms by size are as follows:

farm size (acres) number
1-9 12
10-49 98
50-179 117
180-499 69
500-999 23
more than 1000 10
329 total

Average farm size is 216 acres. The common crops over 1000 acres in the county are
hay (5,510 acres, 111 farms), watermelons (4,048 acres, 69 farms), bahia grass seed
(1,121 acres, 13 farms) and corn (1,113 acres, 23 farms). Watermelons exceed all
other food crops in terms of number of acres planted in Florida. Peanuts (328 acres by
12 farms), orchards (303 acres, 25 farms), pecans (276 acres, 23 farms), rye (183
acres, 3 farms) and tobacco (147 acres, 6 farms) are planted. Some fruits and
vegetables such as squash, pear, peach and grapes are grown on several farms. The
most popular livestock is cattle and calves (for sale by 216 farms). Swine (30 farms)
and horses and ponies (13 farms) are common, though not as popular as cattle
(USDC, 1992; UF, 1994).

Soils are sandy and soil reaction in water generally ranges from a pH of 4.0 to 5.5 in
the county. Most of the soils used for agricultural purposes are deep, drought sands
that are subject to soil blowing and water erosion. Gully-control structures, grass
waterways, windbreaks and a permanent vegetation cover are needed to control

Sondeo Findings:
Although agricultural production by these farmers is very diverse, livestock, forestry,
hay, and vegetable production occur on most farms to some degree or another. Most
farms have at least some land in pasture, although not all produce enough hay to feed
their cattle and so are forced to supplement their stores with hay purchased off-farm.
Most of the farmers maintain a small "kitchen garden" that varied in size from a couple
of rows to one acre plots. Fruit and nut trees are often planted around the house and
near the vegetable gardens. Some of the farmers have constructed and stocked their
own fish ponds for home consumption.

Farming is a family affair in Gilchrist county, with men, women, and children
participating as needed. Both husbands and wives work off-farm, usually one or the
other but not both (or at least not full-time). Many of the families have distributed land
to their children, though it was not determined if this was a gift or if it involved an
exchange of money. The children, with their own families to support, often continue
the tradition of part-time farming, and more than one farmer was heard to complain that
the younger generation was not as enthusiastic about the task as they had been.

One outstanding characteristic of these small farms is the independence and
innovativeness of the operators. For a variety of reasons, many farmers tend to bypass
the county extension service, relying instead on their own contacts and resources
when information is needed. Some expressed concern that the needs of small farmers
were not being addressed by the extension agent, who focused primarily on livestock
production and was not as helpful on matters concerning fruit and vegetable crops.

Major Crops:
For Gilchrist County as a whole, corn, watermelon, peanut, and hay are the
predominant crops. Peanut is the only one of these which did not play a significant role
in the cropping systems of the farmers in the sondeo. Watermelon and hay are the
most important crops economically to these farmers. A few of the larger operations rely
on hired labor, especially during the harvest. One farmer grows blueberries
commercially, and hires someone to run a U-pick operation in the summer. Fertilizers
and pesticides are applied to commercial crops. Home vegetable gardens play an
important role in family nutrition, and much of this produce is grown organically, as
families expressed a desire to avoid dangerous chemicals when the food was to be
consumed directly by the household. Sugar cane is sometimes grown and processed
at the home, to be given to friends or consumed. Fruit trees and muscadines are also
grown but play a small role in the household diet. Many farmers plant by the signs and
the moon, relying on local almanacs for planting times.

Livestock and Pasture:
Most of the farmers included in the sondeo raise livestock and maintain pasture. Beef
(and, to a lesser extent, dairy) cattle, pigs, goats, sheep, chickens, rabbits, and horses
were observed. Most of the farmers who raise cattle have more than 20 acres. There
are a few ostrich farms in the area.

Rotational grazing is practiced on native grasses or improved grasses, such as
Pensacola Bahia or Coastal Bermuda grass. Rye and millet are sometimes planted to
supplement forage. Salt, minerals, and molasses may be given to improve nutrition.
Hay is often sold off-farm, but on the other end are farmers who must purchase hay to
feed their own herds. Some farmers talked of difficulty in hiring people to cut hay when
they were busy cutting their own.

Disease did not seem to be a big problem with the livestock. Hogs were mostly kept for
home consumption, and some farmers were experimenting with sheep and rabbits.
Farmers expressed satisfaction with butchering their own meat and having the security
of a full freezer.

Due to incentives offered by the state forestry service, many farmers have planted
acreage in pine, which allows them to maintain agricultural classification on their land
at relatively low cost, and also provides a good source of income at harvesting time.
The stands can be harvested peroidically for pine straw, and finally for pulp wood
(after a period of 10-25 years). The timber industry relies increasingly on the efforts of
small farmers to produce their timber. The pine stands also served as a valuable
wildlife habitat, and provided local hunting territory in-season. Some farmers maintain
small commercial orchards such as chestnut or fig in order to diversify their production.

Some farmers have constructed fish ponds on their property to serve as a source of
recreation and subsistence. Bream and catfish are the most frequently mentioned
species exploited. None of the farmers were selling their harvest commercially.

Summary of Small-Scale Farming Systems:
The families included in the sondeo were generally older, often retired, and satisfied
with their part-time farming duties. Some were planning for retirement, setting up
farming enterprises to hopefully maintain them through their later years. Most had
grown up in the area and so were not new to the business. Others immigrated to the
area and were looking to set up a farm as a part-time venture, in order to maintain an
idealistic, rural lifestyle. The newer people had more difficulty in selecting agricultural
practices and species appropriate to the area. Most of the farmers seemed content
with their fortune, but expressed a willingness to listen to new ideas (though the
younger ones were more willing to do so).

The primary constraints identified by the farmers include:

* Availability of labor. This held true mainly for the larger operations that relied on
outside labor during the harvest. Small farm operators relied primarily on the family for
labor. Several farmers had difficulty finding people willing to work during harvest

times. Also, when crews were hired, mandatory insurance policies presented a
financial and logistical burden to the small growers who worried that they could no
longer afford to be in business.

* Lack of information. Some farmers were having problems identifying potential
markets for their products, such as blueberry and goats. Others needed help selecting
appropriate improved grasses to plant. According to many farmers, extension agents
seem to spend more time with the large farm operators, leaving the small farm
operators to fend for themselves.

* Wildlife damage. Coyotes, birds and rodents can cause problems to livestock, newly
planted seed, and ripe crops, and stored grain.

* Limited natural resource base. Poor soil fertility was a problem in some areas, and
some farmers demonstrated an incomplete knowledge of fertilizer use. Follow-up
interviews must be done in order to assess farmer knowledge concerning fertilizer use
before any intervention is planned. Availability of winter pasture and fodder was an
ongoing constraint for everyone that had livestock.

* Lack of cooperation between growers. Some growers had a hard time selling their
produce at fair prices because others were selling the same produce at very low
prices. Blueberries sell for as much as $4.99/pint in the rest of the southeast but
Florida growers sell for only $1.00/pint, in spite of the jump on the season.

Many farmers relied on their own knowledge and networks for information about
pasture improvement, soil amendments, and livestock care and management. They
had less success uncovering information concerning labor and marketing strategies.
Many were experimenting with fruit trees and vegetable crops, and were receptive to
suggestions from a knowledgeable source. Some had low yields but were not
concerned, perhaps because land was not a constraint and production met their

Because all of these farmers have time and labor constraints resulting from off-farm
work (or from retirement), very few seemed willing to drastically modify their practices
in order to increase production.

* A re-introduction to the services of the county extension agency may help to re-
establish contact (or initiate contact) between small farm operators and extension
agents, in order to facilitate interaction and communication. This could be done
through a mass mailing, or an "open house" kind of day at the extension office to
increase awareness of constraints and interventions. This could possibly alleviate
some of the ambivalence between small farmers and the extension service. It is not
only the responsibility of the Extension Service to aid farmers, but the responsibility of
the farmers to seek out help when needed. They need to be aware of the resources
and limitations of the Extension Service, and also feel that the Service is committed to
all farmers, not just the big, commercial growers. A list of all the relative newcomers to
the area would provide a good starting point, as these farmers were identified as being
less knowledgeable about appropriate site-specific practices.

* The Extension Service could use university networks and contacts to try and address
some of the non-technical concerns of the farmers, such as labor shortages and
marketing strategies. Because the small farms produce in modest quantities, many
have not established strong links to the proper markets which they feel are more
accessible to the big growers. Follow-up work needs to be done on new crops such as
blueberry, which were promoted heavily by the Extension Service seven years ago but
now some farmers feel abandoned and have unanswered questions and rotting

* The Extension Service could also work on disseminating information on safe and
humane methods of repelling wildlife, in order to minimize crop and livestock damage.
Perhaps this information is already published but needs to get to the farmers.

* More information about different seed varieties, such as composite vs. hybrid, and

the advantages and disadvantages of each, should be available to farmers so that
they are aware of the options. Also, information concerning soil analysis and
subsequent fertilizer interventions needs to be more available. All this can be
achieved through pamphlets available at the extension service (or made accessible if
already published).

* Cooperatives headed by small farm operators would perhaps better serve the
interests of this special group. At the least, coops headed by big growers should work
towards addressing the concerns of big and small growers. The smaller growers are
feeling squeezed out by virtually everyone, including NAFTA laws and big growers.

More information is needed in order to evaluate the degree of interaction between
farmers and extension agents. Some farmers were helped, others felt ignored, and
some didn't want to be helped. Obviously, one extension agent working for the entire
county cannot please everyone, but can instead serve as a link to other resources if
outside expertise is deemed necessary. A little public relations work can go a long


Small farms, in spite of their dimunitive size and part-time nature, contribute
significantly to the local economy and generally raise the living standards of their
operators through subsistence production and other benefits directly associated with
farming. By far the majority of the farmers are farming for their own personal reasons,
and not just to maintain agricultural classification status on their land. Their activities
are crucial to maintaining rural areas and discouraging urban industrial expansion. If
the Greenbelt Law remains a priority to the state of Florida, then small farms need to
be protected because their survival ensures the success of the Greenbelt goals.

Part-time farming is not just a characteristic of small farms. According to a study by
Peggy Barlett (1989), 1/3 to 1/2 of family farms get most of their income from off-farm
work. Part-time farmers are able to diversify their production because they are often

not under as much financial stress as bigger farms since they have another source of
income. Also, small farms tend to be less capital-intensive, relying instead on their own
labor or sometimes hired labor. Because of their part-time nature, they are more
resilient during "agricultural slumps" such as droughts, poor prices, etc. (Barlett 1989).
Another factor to consider is the community impact of small family farms: they have
been found to produce more "vital and economically healthy rural communities" since
they generate a higher average family income and standard of living (and the wealth is
less concentrated in a few hands) than corporate farms (Barlett 1989).

If this country is to move forward on the sustainable agriculture front, it is crucial that
these small farms be given encouragement and incentives to survive in the face of
industry takeover by large-scale corporate farms. Agriculture as a business is being
rapidly reduced to production by fewer and larger farms, while the small farms are
squeezed out at the rate of 2,000 farms a week since the 1950s (Barlett 1989). The
loss of these farms of course has repercussions for the economies of rural
communities, as they suffer from an eroded economic base. It is primarily the large
corporate farms that depend most heavily on complex technology and chemicals, the
substitution of capital for labor, and increased use of non-renewable resources (Barlett

Agricultural classification is important, because with the proper incentives, smaller
part-time farms are in a better position to experiment with alternative agricultural
methods such as organic and no-till. These small farms are not as tied to expensive
capital that they must continue to use in order to repay larger debt loads, and already
have a diversified agricultural production system. Many are willing to experiment,
though this often depends on the age of the farm managers. The participation of these
small farms is needed in order to maintain some semblance of diversity in production
at lower input levels, as well as for their positive impact on rural communities. Small
farms can play a strong role in sustainable production and work to overcome the
current reliance on non-renewable resources and expensive capital. Whether they are
actively producing agricultural crops or working to restore fertility to their land, they
need as much help as they can get, including the tax break for agricultural


The whole issue of agricultural classification for tax purposes is now being examined
in order to reduce tax breaks and minimize wrongful claims of agricultural
classification status. Since Gilchrist county has a very small tax base, the county
depends on property taxes for revenue and so agricultural classification is rightfully
taken very seriously. No one in Gilchrist county wants to punish farmers who are
practicing legitimate agricultural activities on their land. Problems arise when people
who are not legitimately farming get the agricultural classification and the subsequent
tax break. If everyone in the county has the agricultural classification, then no tax
revenue is coming in. Since the county would like to maintain its rural nature, and
does not wish to be forced to depend on taxes from commercial businesses that would
forever alter the landscape (both physical and ideological) of the county, then strict
attention must be paid to the allocation of agricultural classification status.

What exactly determines "legitimate farming practices"? If a person chooses to initiate
some form of agricultural production solely for the purpose of acquiring agricultural
classification status, should that preclude them getting that status? How does one
measure sincerity? It seems that motive should not figure in to the equation, since a
crop of corn planted for whatever reason is still a crop of corn, as long as it is not
planted and then abandoned. Follow-up visits by county personnel to verify the
seriousness of any new agricultural project should be an important part of the
process. If a person reports that they maintain livestock on their property and a visit by
the property appraiser reveals that they have no fenced pasture, then agricultural
classification status should be revoked. Unfortunately, this verification process is not
always pleasant, as it may generate fear and hostility on the part of the farmer who is
feeling "tested". For this reason, it is probably a good idea that the county extension
agent not be involved in the verification process, since it could endanger future work
relationships. If the process is carefully explained to all farmers, then support is more
likely to be won, since they will understand that illegitimate claims of agricultural
classification status hurt the county, and ultimately them, as the county searches for
ways to raise taxes.

A final word on the sondeo methodology. Our team felt that, in a truly participatory
approach to a sondeo, the farmers should be allowed more say in the written report
and indeed on the purpose of the sondeo. If the purpose of the sondeo was to
determine the suitability of the present laws governing agricultural classification status,
then the team should have addressed this openly with each and every farmer in order
to understand more fully their individual concerns and opinions (only a few interviews
included outright dialogues about agricultural classification). Of course this was not
possible due to our inexperience in the area and the sensitive nature of the topic, so
we were forced to skirt the issue, and make recommendations according to our indirect
questions. We felt that a true sondeo would not have the team entering the field with a
pre-determined, ambiguous "goal", but would instead go in "empty but open-minded".
In order for a sondeo to be optimally effective, it must be divorced from political
agendas, or at least have these agendas made explicit to everyone involved.


Barlett, Peggy F. 1989. Industrial Agriculture. Economic Anthropology. Stuart
Plattner, ed. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Marth, D. and Marth, M. J. eds. 1992. The Florida Almanac. Pelican Publishing
Company. Gretna, Lousiana.

United States Department of Agriculture. 1992. Soil Survey of Gilchrist County,
Florida. USDA.

United States Department of Commerce. 1992. Census of Agriculture. USDC.

University of Florida. 1994. Florida Statistical Abstract. University Press of Florida,
Gainesville, Florida.

Gilchrist County
Sondeo Report

Amey L. Adams
Abib Araujo
Allan Wood

AGG 5813

March 3, 1995


Sondeo Report

Location and History

Gilchrist County is located in north-central Florida. It

extends south more than 23 miles from the Santa Fe River to the

Levy County line. Gilchrist County is bounded on the east by

Alachua county, on the south by Levy County, on the north by

Columbia County and Suwannee County, on the northwest by Lafayette

County, and on the west by Dixie County. The total area of

Gilchrist County includes 226,413 acres, or 340 squares miles (Soil

Survey, 1992).

Gilchrist County was established on December 4, 1925, by the

Florida Legislature from a part of western Alachua County. Early

established towns included Fanning Springs, Yular, Wannee,

Willeford, Bell, and Trenton. Other settlements in the county were

Blitchville, Frankland, Lottievillle, and Tyler (Soil Survey,


Climate and Soils

Gilchrist County has a moderate climate. Annual precipitation

in Gilchrist County is 52.84 inches (Soil Survey, 1992).

Most of the soils in Gilchrist are sandy and well-drained,

except for a large strip of land, the poorly-drained Waccasassa

Flats, which runs through the center of the county from north to

south. There are small areas of soil which have only slight

restrictions on farming crops; these lie in the southwestern part

of the county, west of Trenton and south of Bell. Generally

speaking, the soils are more suited for growing pine forest or for

pasture than for crops. Most of the soils that are used for crops

are deep, drought sands that are subject to wind and water erosion

(Soil Survey, 1992).


Gilchrist County is divided into two subzones: the Gulf

Coastal Lowlands and the Central Highlands. The Gulf Coastal

Lowlands is characterized by broad, flat marine plains underlain by

Eocene limestones and blanketed by a thin layer of sandy material

of Pleistone age. The Central Highlands area includes a series of

local lowlands and ridges and intervening lowland valleys, which

generally run parallel to the coast along the central peninsula

(Soil Survey, 1992).

Social. Demographic and Economic Characteristics

According to the Gainesville Sun Almanac (1995), the

population of Gilchrist County is 10,722. Almost forty percent of

the population is under the age of 25; 26.3% is between the ages of

25-44; 22.4% is between the ages of 45-64; and 14.0% is 65 and

older. The population of Gilchrist County has increased at a low

rate. Between 1992 and 1993, the population increased 5.1%.

The main economic enterprises in the county are the production

of field crops, specialty crops, and timber; and cattle ranching;

horse breeding; and recreational facilities (Soil Survey, 1992).

According to Florida Statistics Abstract (1994), almost all of

the population live in farm residences. There are 519 farms in

Gilchrist County.

In 1992, $28,216 million dollars worth of agricultural

products were sold in this county. Of that amount, $6,943 was from

crops and $21,276 was from livestock and poultry. The farmers

earned from the farms an average of $85,770.

Gilchrist County is generally used as cropland or woodland.

The main crops are corn, tobacco, soybeans, peanuts, watermelon,

small grains, and a few vegetables.

Sample Demographics

Twenty-two farmers were interviewed. The majority of farmers

interviewed were white, with only one Hispanic farmer contacted.

The majority of those interviewed were male, although three female

farmers/land owners were also interviewed. Of those who indicated

their age, all were 45 years old or older. Many had lived in the

county for several decades; most were older than those who had

moved to the county in the past decade.

There is a general sense among the long-term residents, that

the county is being "invaded" by people from both the north (out-

of-state) and from the south (South Florida). The migration from

the south appears to be the greatest concern. Few of the new

residents go into farming. Another general trend commonly remarked

upon was that the small scale farmers were being squeezed out by

the larger holders. Some resentment seemed to be directed to the

large scale dairies that had moved into the area or expanded in

recent years. Small holders accused the large holders of not

caring how the small farmers fared. One farmer also indicated that

even the cooperatives did not care.

Most of the small farmers interviewed lived on their own land.

However, the sondeo was probably skewed towards those who had

houses on their land, especially the impromptu interviews.

There were a fair number of absentee landlords, living at least out

of county and often out of state. A few farmers rented additional


Some of the preselected "small farmers" turned out to be large

land holders farming smaller parcels in the same area (about 25% of

those interviewed had 100+ acres, up to 655 acres). These farmers

were included in the sample, however, as they shared many

characteristics and constraints with small farm owners. Half of

the farmers interviewed had between 10 and 20 acres. Small farms

were more commonly seen on back roads, whereas from main roads

usually only large farms and new subdivisions were observed.

The majority of those interviewed did not farm as their main

form of employment (two might have been able to make most of their

income from farming, but it was not their only source of income).

Few of the older residents are able to earn a living from farming

alone, although they apparently had in the past. Likewise, not

many of their children seem to be as interested in farming as are

their parents.

Most of those interviewed used only their own and their

family's labor to work their land. Two of the farmers interviewed

used hired labor, and one resorted to friends and neighbors for

additional help.

Activities and Land Use

Ten percent of those interviewed said they did no agriculture

or farming on their land. However, several had initially said

this, but it was discovered later that they did indeed practice

some kind of agriculture on their land. Most had a garden in which

they grew vegetables.

Field crops were rare (1 each of corn, tobacco, and potatoes);

peanuts were cited as a common crop, but we found no small farmers

in our sample who cultivated them. However, in the past, field

crops were grown more frequently (corn, soybeans, wheat); these

were given up primarily because of a fall in prices. One farmer

stopped corn production because of lack of sufficient


Other kinds of crops grown were watermelons (the crop

appearing with the highest frequency), grapes, blueberries,

raspberries, and sugar cane. A few farmers were going into tree

crops: fruit trees, figs, and chestnuts (one case each). A few

farmers also grew pine for pulp; much of the pine seen was planted

seven or eight years ago. These farmers also sold the pine straw

a few times a year.

Pasture (bahiagrass, bermudagrass and winter rye) was held by

over half the farmers interviewed. Many additionally grew

bermudagrass for hay. Most pasture was used by cattle (about 1/3

of all farmers interviewed). Some pasture was used for sheep,

horses, or goats (3, 2, and 1 cases, respectively). Hogs were

owned by some farmers, although one had gone out of hogs due to low

profitability. A few farmers also kept fish (brim, bass and

catfish) in ponds. Aside from these more common animals, one

farmer each raised rabbits, ostriches, chickens, peacocks, and

hunting dogs. Chickens and quail were also cited as being


Twenty percent of those interviewed stated that they grew by

the signs (lunar, zodiac, almanac). About a quarter of the farmers

interviewed owned tractors. More than half of those owning

tractors had more than one tractor, although these were the larger

land holders. Some of those involved in haying also owned mowers

and balers. A few farmers had irrigation systems for some of their

crops (tobacco, blueberries, watermelons).

Problems and constraints

The most commonly cited problems were lack of labor,

especially at peak periods (but also a general difficulty in

finding reliable workers) and pests (nematodes, army worms,

wildlife). Next in frequency were problems in profitability of

agriculture, especially since costs of inputs and capital goods

constantly increase, while prices for crops and livestock fall.

Government regulation was also cited as a serious obstacle to

profitability. Problems with animal production included diseases

blacklegg, pneumonia) and the lack of sufficient forage in the

winter. Those who were new to the area and/or to farming cited a

general lack of knowledge of appropriate agricultural practices for

the area (eg. crops, pastures, fertilizer application). Other

problems commented on included poor and drought soil, poor

markets, insufficient time for farm management activities, and the

lack of farmer cooperation. One farmer thought there was a general

lack of knowledge about sheep, which hindered efficient sheep


Use extension?

Most farmers stated they learned from experience, either their

own or that of family, friends, and neighbors. There is not much

contact with the extension agent, and not much contact seems to be

expected or even desired. Skepticism expressed about extension in

Gilchrist County includes a bias towards commercial operations and

large growers, a tendency to help only in crises, and a

specialization in livestock (not crops). One farmer said extension

was "all political."

Agricultural Classification

Gilchrist County is still primarily an agricultural county.

However, under the influence of in-migration, there is considerable

pressure to convert what traditionally has been agricultural land

into land used for other purposes.

The Florida Legislature has established a dual system of land

valuation for tax purposes specifically to alleviate the pressure

on farmers (and other agriculturalists) either to sell their land

to non-farmers or to abandon their agricultural operations in favor

of some other activity (Colette 1978). It does so by granting

agricultural land a preferential tax assessment procedure, based on

income-earning potential from agriculture, rather than on market

value of the land, so as to reduce the tax burden on farmers and to

help keep their land in farming (Colette 1978). The actual means

by which agricultural classification is managed are provided for in

the "Greenbelt Law" (Florida Statutes Chapter 193.461), the primary

goals of which are to preserve agricultural lands, to prevent

disorderly and over-rapid urban sprawl, and to ensure the

maintenance of open spaces (Colette 1978).

Unfortunately, the special tax assessment provisions granted

to agricultural lands also provides a means for non-

agriculturalists to obtain preferential tax assessment. The

problem for property appraisers is to distinguish those people

engaged in agriculture with the intent to develop for other uses

from those people genuinely engaged in agriculture. Although the

Florida Statutes and rules of the Department of Revenue provide

means to make this distinction, the problem is compounded both by

the increase in applications for agricultural classification (as

land values and thus taxes increase) and by the various

reinterpretations of the Greenbelt Law by the judicial system.

This is becoming a greater problem over time. Using 1979

data, abuse levels of the agricultural classification system were

found to increase across counties according to two factors: 1) as

the relative proportion of the tax base coming from agricultural

land decreased, abuses increased; 2) as the market value of land

increased relative to the income-generating capacity of the land in

agriculture (Colette, 1983). For Gilchrist County in 1979, the

market value of agricultural land (which reflects potential non-

agricultural uses) was over four times higher than the value of

that same land under agricultural use (which reflects how much

income that agricultural activity generates). As the market value

for land increases, more owners attempt to reduce their taxes by

applying for an agricultural classification.
Court cases, which determine the "final interpretation and

meaning of a statute" (Colette, 1983), have in particular overruled

many of the Florida Statutes' criteria as preponderant in the

determination of agricultural classification (i.e., one can no

longer base an agricultural classification designation primarily on

the size of holding, purchase price, profit motive, bona fide

commercial agriculture, accepted agricultural practices, primary

use, zoning, or even platting for subdivisions). Instead, the

courts rely most heavily on current and historical physical use of

the land as the primary indicator. However, property appraisers

tend to rely more on the "bona fide commercial agriculture"

criterion stipulated in the statutes, since they see this as

indicative of the intent of the legislation. It should be noted

that "the designation of an abuse is a subjective opinion comparing

an observation of fact or circumstance with a perception of the

intent of the original legislation" (Colette, 1983). County

property appraisers have expressed the opinion that the legislature

needs to better clarify "bona fide agriculture" and to define which

agricultural activities qualify for agricultural classification

(Colette, 1983).

Some may state that, if the original intentions of the law are

to preserve agriculture and open spaces and to prevent unplanned

urban sprawl, then merely having the land in agriculture,

regardless of underlying intent, is conforming with the goals of

preserving agriculture, providing open space, and preventing urban

encroachment. One could also say that "genuine" agriculturalists

also have an interest in preserving agriculture and the

agricultural way of life; the lower taxes merely help them in

maintaining their current lifestyle. On the other hand, land

developers are neither interested in preserving agriculture nor the

agricultural way of life.

Recommendations Reaarding Agricultural Classification:

Our group concurs that the legislature needs to revise much of

Chapter 193.461 of the Florida Statutes, in particular those

sections defining "bona fide agriculture" and how the determination

of such is to be made. In doing so, the legislature should pay

particular attention to the problem areas indicated by the courts

and by the property appraisers, both being those agents

particularly involved in the interpretation and implementation of

the statutes.

The group defines agriculture as the "production of plants or

animals (or their products) for the purpose of consumption, either

by the producers or the market." As such, the group makes the

following recommendations with regard to future interpretations of

agricultural classification:

1. Elimination of "commercial" aspects of "bona fide
agriculture." Acknowledging that profit incentives can be

indicative of "bona fide agriculture", we find profit motive

to be neither necessary nor sufficient to conduct "bona fide

agriculture" over the long term. We do not see how not-for-

profit agriculture indicates in and of itself the absence of

"bona fide agriculture." Keeping in mind the end goal of

preserving agricultural lands, it seems that non-profit

agriculture can also continue indefinitely (possibly longer

than profit-oriented agriculture), thus preserving

agricultural land.

2. Elimination of "primary use" aspects with regard to their

application to deny agricultural classification to those who

appear to be using the parcels for residence and/or "hobby

farming." Especially with regard to the maintenance of a

residence on agricultural land, it would seem difficult to

establish which use was "primary"; indeed, we wonder why

residences and agricultural land should be mutually exclusive

categories, with only one being assigned "primary use." We

note that the general intent behind the Department of Revenue

Rule 12D-5.03 is not to deny agricultural classification

because of maintenance of a residence on the land. As for the

disqualifying aspects of "hobby farming," they would seem to

be similar to that of non-profit agriculture mentioned above.

In any case, the group again does not see how either the

maintenance of a residence or the conduction of "hobby

farming" necessarily excludes the land from being used in

"bona fide agriculture", especially since both can easily be

in adherence to the general intent of the law to preserve

agricultural land.

In sum, under current legislation, the burden of the decision

ultimately rests with the property appraisers and the courts.

Clearly, intended use of the land must be established in order to

determine whether agricultural classification is warranted. The

two indicators which have been used and which seem to be most

appropriate are current and historical land uses.

Recommendations Regarding Extension:

The expressed interests and concerns of farmers in our sample

focused not only on technical assistance, but also on issues of

organization and marketing. Following are some suggestions made by

farmers to the investigating teams:

-formation of farmer associations, perhaps specific to small

holder needs, to address issues related to competition and


-information on markets and marketing strategies.

-information on soil testing services.

-information on raising small ruminants.

-information on pastures appropriate to Gilchrist County

climate and soils, particularly for winter grazing.

Considering farmer opinions regarding extension service, it is

our opinion that extension must focus first on public relations.

The farmers interviewed seemed disinterested in extension services

or were unaware of the services available to them. Direct contact

with farmers is recommended. While personal contact is preferable,

obviously this would be difficult to accomplish with only one agent

in the county. Mailing information fliers and holding a series of

interest meetings at various locations in the county could also be

effective. However, when all is said and done, there is no

substitute for the on-farm visit to reassure farmers of extension's

commitment and to encourage two-way communication.


Colette, W.A. 1983. Results of a survey evaluating abuses of
agricultural classified use assessments in Florida. Staff
paper #242. Food and Resource Economics Department, Institute
of Foor and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida,
Gainesville, FL.

Colette, W.A. 1978. Ad valorem taxation of agricultural land in
Florida. Staff paper #104. Food and Resource Econnomics
Department, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences,
University of Florida, Gainesville, FL.

The Gainesville Sun Almanac. 1995. The Fact Book of North Central

Pierce, A.C., S.S. Floyd, C. McLarty, G.H. Thompson, and D.A. Evans
(eds.). 1994. Florida Statistical Abstract. University of
Florida Press. Gainesville, FL.

Soil Survey of Gilchrist County, Florida. 1992. United States
Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service.
Washington D.C.

State of Florida. Department of Revenue, Division of Ad VAlorem
Tax. Rules of the State of Florida. Chapter 12D-5.

State of Florida. Florida statutes. Agricultural lands;
classification and assessment. Chapter 193.461.


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