Title: Gilchrist County sondeo report
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00095079/00001
 Material Information
Title: Gilchrist County sondeo report
Physical Description: 35 leaves : map ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Dehm, Bruce
Doig, Lisa
Cookman, Jan
Herbas, Juan
Venus, Manuel
Sappie, Ruth
LeCorps, Arlen
Romero, Francisco
Sedlicek, Jim
Gallerani, Jim
Swisher, Mickey
Publication Date: 1982
Copyright Date: 1982
Subject: Agricultural systems -- Research -- Florida -- Levy County   ( lcsh )
Agricultural extension work -- Florida -- Levy County   ( lcsh )
Genre: non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: United States of America -- Florida -- Levy County
Statement of Responsibility: team members: Bruce Dehm ... et al..
General Note: "April 2, 1982."
General Note: Caption title.
General Note: Typescript.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00095079
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 433605758

Full Text


April 2, 1982


Bruce Dehm
Lisa Doig
Jan Cookman
Juan Herbas
Manuel Vinas
Ruth Sappie
Arlen LeCorps
Francisco Romero
Jim Sedlicek
Jim Gallerani
Mickey Swisher

As a team of agronomists, anthropologists, agricultural economists, entomologists

and educators, we listened to several farmers in Gilchrist County, Florida; we looked

at what they grew, we asked them how they grew it and why they farmed. The purpose

of a sondeo is to hear farmers talk of their farms, listen and watch for unifying

patterns and systems and identify their problems and constraints. Using this information

as a base, attempts are then made to find solutions to the problems and to suggest

new technologies. The many possible solutions will later be field-tested and, if

proven successful, implemented on a large scale.

"Entering Gilchrist County"

If it were the year 1924 and a tourist in the state asked directions to

Gilchrist County, a native Floridian would not have known where to point. Gilchrist,

the youngest county in Florida, broke away from Alachua County in November, 1925.

Historically, many of the rural north Florida people have come from the hill

states, Tennessee, Kentucky or Georgia. Agriculturally, the area had been used

by the Spaniards for grazing cattle. Later, about the 1830's, indigo plantations

flourished in the region. Other important crops raised at that time included

maize, sweet potatoes, and some rice and sugar cane. Years later, tobacco and

cotton production would grow in importance.

Gilchrist County has historically been a cattle-centered production area.

Until 1947, the cattle grazed on common land. The Fence Act, passed in 1947,

limited grazing. Farmers were required to keep their herds confined. The passage

of this law led to marked changes in the level of management and amount of expenses

required to maintain a cattle herd.

Presently, Gilchrist County covers an area of 346 square miles. It borders on

the counties of Alachua, Columbia, Suwanee, Lafayette, Dixie and Levy. Two rivers


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mark the northern and western borders, the Santa Fe River and Stephen Foster's

amiable Suwanee River, respectively. The natural vegetation of the area include

swamp forests, upland pine and oak forests, pine flatwoods, hardwood forests,

and Northern and Central hardwood and pine forests.

The soils of Gilchrist County are generally sands to sandy loams, with

sandy, loamy or clay subsoils. The prevalent soil orders are Entisols and

Spodosols; Entisols being characteristically young soils with little or no

horizon differentiation, Spodosols being soils with a sub-surface horizon (spodic)

containing an accumulation of organic matter and aluminum, with or without iron.

Soil :series to be found in the county include Alpin Blanton (15%), Cambler-Apopka

(14%), Jonesville-Chiefland (36%), Hernando-Archer-Chiefland (4%), Chipley-Blanton

(3.5%), and Leon-Mascottle-Surrency (26%). Soil classifications, as outlined by

the Soil Conservation Service, that exist in the county are the following:

Class II Good land with few limitations, requiring moderate
conservation to maintain good yields. Total:
12,000 acres.

Class III Having more restrictions than Class II, but still
very productive when required conservation practices
are maintained. Total: 27,000 acres

Class IV Very limited capacity to produce most cultivated crops,
but under intensive management are moderately well
suited to some truck and flower crops. Total:
10,000 acres (estimated)

Class V With severe limitations, generally not suited to
cultivation though may be put in woodlands, pasture,
range or wildlife production. Total: 21,000 acres

Seventy-seven percent of the land falls under Classes II and III. Significant

constraints inherent to the sandy and sandy loam soils include low water-holding

and low nutrient-holding capacity. Required are larger amounts of fertilizer and

water inputs, as compared to silt or clay soils.

Climatic characteristics that need to be considered include temperature,

rainfall, and wind. The average annual temperature is 69.60F., ranging from

an average summer temperature of 81.40F. to an average winter temperature of 56.60F.

Temperatures above 900F. are expected 105 days out of the year. Below-freezing

temperatures occur approximately 22 days out of the year, rendering the area unsuitable

for the cultivation of tropical vegetation.

Average annual rainfall is 51.6 inches, with maximum rainfall occurring

in June and July, minimum rainfall occurring October-December. On the average,

one-half of the total rainfall occurs in the period June through September. High

levels of rainfall also occur in the spring. In either period of high rainfall,

the Suwanee River may be subject to flooding.

The prevailing winds are southernly; they shift to northernly winds in the winter.

The month of greatest wind activity is the month of March. Wind speeds are generally

10 MPH during the day and slow to 8 MPH at night.


The current population of Gilchrist County is 6,027. The population density

is 17.4 people per sq. mi. The population has been increasing; the rate of increase

from 1970 to 1978 was 69%. Most of the increase has been due to migrations into

the area. The age-structure breakdowns of Gilchrist are:

under 15 22%
15-24 16%
25-54 34%
55-64 12%
65 and over 14%

The racial composition is 95% white, 5% non-white. There are 3 public elementary

schools and 2 secondary schools in the county, with 41.86% of the high school

graduates going on to colleges and universities. There are no hospitals in the

county, the nearest being in Gainesville.

Income in the county is generated by the following major industries (with

accompanying percentages):

Farm 43%
Construction 3.4%
Manufacturing 2.9%
Trade 10.4%
Government 27%

Agriculture is currently the most important income-generating activity and also

currently the most extensive land use category in the region. This situation

is expected to maintain itself over the next 20 years, as development and popu-

lation growth are expected to be only moderate.

The 1978 Agricultural Census of Florida provided somewhat of an overview of

farming in Gilchrist County. The total number of farms the census acknowledged

was 369, encompassing 118,813 acres. Of the 369 farms, the following percentages

of farms were counted as having some participation in the following activities:

Livestock Crops

any cattle and calves 72% corn (for all purposes) 13.6%
any hogs and pigs 36% sorghum 2.3%
any poultry 14% soybeans 2.4%
goats 3.5% hay crops 5%
all vegetables 1.9%
peanuts (human consumption) .2%

Although our concern was with small farms, we felt that it was important to arrive

at a general picture of the total agricultural situation of the farmers of Gilchrist

County. The census did treat separately two categories of farms those with income

above $2,500 (from total farm sales) and those with farm income below $2,500. They

grouped 235 farms in the first group and 134 in the second. In other words, 36%

of the total number of farms realize farm sales of less than $2,500 per year.

Current crop acreage background information was provided by the county

extension director, Mr. Martin Weaver. They are as follows:

Soybeans 3500 acres
Watermelons 4000 acres

Hay and pasture 15,000 acres
Field peas 2,500 acres
Millet (for cattle) 2,500 acres

Vegetables 500 acres
Canteloupe 1000 acres

Crop acreage allotment in the county amount to:

400 acres for peanuts
250 acres for tobacco

This data supports our suspicions that we are likely to find small farmers involved

with livestock production and related crops as their primary activity. Thus the

sondeo report proceeds from statistics to the actual encounters with the small

farmers of Gilchrist County.


Identifying and classifying the farming systems surveyed were perhaps

the most difficult parts of this exercise. While it was easy to see what

were the major features and relationships within each surveyed farm, delineating

and unifying features between farms were much more difficult to sort out.

Farmings systems were most readily distinguished most readily by a

dominant commodity around which other commodities were centered. In terms of

dominant commodities, we separated the surveyed farms into three groups:

I. Livestock-dominated with crop and forage associations

II. Crop-dominated with livestock associations

III. Subsistence

Implicit in this classification is that homogeneity (dominant commodities)

can be attributed to underlying sets of directive exogenous and endogenous factors.

Directive factors which we felt were important in characterizing Gilchrist County

farming systems were:

1. Capital commitment (high vs. low)

2. Time commitment (full-time vs. part-time)

3. Motivation (financial returns vs. sense of satisfaction)

4. Objectives (growth vs. stability vs. decline)

5. Family lineage (old vs. new)

Thus a Gilchrist County farm system, be it livestock, crop, or subsistence-

based, is a manifestation of what the farmer can do given the money and time

he has available and what he wants to do given his individual motivations and


We also hypothesized that there were perhaps biological factors which

characterize Gilchrist County farming systems. For example, the Trenton area,

where most of the vegetables are grown, has fairly rich, well-drained soils as

compared to those of the rest of the county. Goats, better leaf browsers than grass

grazers, were found in association with hardwood climax communities rather than

pine woodlands. A commercial-scale apiary was found bordering the pine flatwoods,

a continuously moist, poorly drained area with a mixed understory of flowering


Because insufficient supportive information was obtained in the sondeo, we

feel that the above-mentioned directive factors remain hypothetical. We do

feel, however, that they can provide a framework for future research aimed at

discriminating the logic behind a farmer's choice of a dominant commodity. We

would like to see continued research into possible relationships between farming

systems and natural climax and successional biological communities. This type

of research might not only provide insight into why farmers grow what they grow,

but might also suggest avenues for future research. This seems particularly

valid for forages, since there may exist exploitative native forages or closely

related introductions.

In addition to tests of the hypothesized biological and socio-economical

rationales behind farming systems, we would also like to suggest research into

possible historical rationales. One farmer we interviewed was growing a 100-

year-old variety of corn that had been handed down from generation to generation.

It may be fruitful to determine other old varieties grown, how they were grown,

and why production practices changed.

In conclusion, tests of our hypotheses could provide information needed to

establish sub-categories of farming systems, i.e. recommendation domains.


Livestock production in Gilchrist County is predominantly beef cattle-centered,

with some production of hogs, goats and poultry. Within the beef cattle system, we

find the cow-calf operation to be the most common.

The cow-calf livestock system that has evolved in Gilchrist County can be seen

as a response to the existing environmental and socioeconomics constraints. As

discussed earlier, a majority of farmers in Gilchrist County are part-time, low re-

source farmers. Both labor and capital are therefore included among the constraints

limiting agricultural production. Intrinsic characteristics of livestock serve to

provide an optimum production alternative to crops when efficiency in the use of

labor and capital is considered.

Labor requirements for cattle on pasture land are low when compared to crops or

other more intensive animal operations. In Gilchrist County, cattle are handled

only twice per year and relatively small pastures make them highly accessible.

Further reductions in labor requirements have been made with the introduction

of the large hay bailing systems.

Capital requirements in cattle enterprises are flexible and of the long-run

nature. Land clearings, pasture establishment, fences and breeding stock are

investments that part-time farmers can invest in and expand upon when financial

resources are available. When financial resources are tight, expansion of the

enterprise can slow without the risk of credit foreclosures, as would be the

case when machinery is purchased on credit.

The degree of risk is smaller in livestock production systems when compared

to crops because of the higher tolerance levels animals have over plants in harsh

climatic conditions. A short-term drought that would destroy a crop might only

stress a livestock system, leaving it intact.

The physical environment in Gilchrist County imposes constraints upon the

type of livestock operations found there. Poor soil quality and frequent drought

conditions are impediments to the production of high-quality feed. Cattle

fattening operations and dairy operations both require large inputs of high-

quality feed. Cow-calf operations, however, do not.

The physical and socio-economic constraints combined thus provide an explanation

of the prevalence of the cow-calf system in Gilchrist County.

The cow-calf system can be divided into three principle components to

facilitate comprehension: forages, livestock and infrastructure.

Forage production: The forage component is highly related to the soil fertility

and climatic conditions found in Gilchrist County. We can divide forage production

into grazing and complementary pastures.

In the grazing pasture system, bahiagrass (Paspalum notatum) is the most

frequently utilized pasture grass in Gilchrist County. Generally speaking,

bahiagrass is low-yielding, has a slow rate of growth and is poor in quality

when compared to other pasture grasses. However, there are several characteristics

that allow bahiagrass to remain important on farms in Gilchrist County. Bahiagrass

does not require high levels of fertilization and is well adapted to sandy soils.

It is drought resistant and grows persistently during the frequent drought conditions.

Bahiagrass also withstands close grazing so that it is virtually impossible to

outgraze. These characteristics provide the farmer with a source of feed that is

dependable and relatively inexpensive albeit low-yielding. Bahiagrass pastures

are established by broadcast seeding at the beginning of the summer rainy season.

They can be grazed by October if growing conditions are adequate. Farmers in

Gilchrist County typically fertilize their bahiagrass pastures twice a year,

splitting an application of $200/acre of 28-0-10 or similar mixtures. The first

application is in early March, followed by a second application in July. It

should be noted that not all farmers choose to fertilize their pastures because

of the high cost involved.

Bermudagrass (Cynadon dactylon (L) Pers) is an improved pasture grass that is

used mainly for hay production. Coastal Bermuda is the most common variety

found, although Callie Bermuda is also utilized with good results. Bermudagrass

is normally established by vegetative seeding in June. It can be lightly grazed

by the following October or November. Following a dormant period during the

winter months, new growth starts in March. Most farmers use fertilizer mixes

of 20-0-20 or 28-0-10, and apply 200-600 pounds per acre per year. Dry matter

yields range from three to five tons per year. Three cuttings are normal and

the quantity harvested decreases with successive cuttings. It is interesting to

note that the farmer who grows the Callie variety makes 5-6 cuttings per year.

He also applies 75 pounds of ammonium nitrate per acre three weeks after cutting.

Current prices for 30 kg. bales of hay were given at $2.25 $2.50.

Rye is a crop that it utilized as a winter forage although it can be used

for grain and hay. Most farmers drill plant to obtain good stands, but some

broadcast seeding is practiced. Rye is usually planted in October and can be

grazed as early as December. Grazing may continue until April or May if no

grain or hay crop is needed. Farmers commonly fertilize their rye crop and use

approximately 300 pounds per acre of mixes similar to 20-0-30. Rye also serves

as a cover crop and is turned under to enhance soil fertility before such crops

as corn, peas or watermelon are planted.

Millet is a summer grazing crop that often is planted behind watermelon.

When planted in this fashion, it utilizes the excess fertilizer in the soil.

The prevalent breeds of beef cattle in Gilchrist County include Angus, Hereford

and Brahman. Most of the farmers have crossbred animals which exhibited hybrid

vigor by having produced heavier than expected calves. The cows are crosses of

Hereford, Angus or Brahman. Each farmer has his own preferences as to the degree

of breed mixing, but it is interesting to note that some farmers believed that

cattle with a white face brought higher market prices.

There is no definite breeding season on most farms, but it was noted that calves

are healthier in the early spring months. With no definite breeding season, the

cow/bull ratio is higher than would otherwise be the case. Low calving rates

(around 60%) are attributed mainly to poor feed quality and inadequate breeding


Calves are usually sold at weaning age (400-500 Ibs.), but may be marketed

earlier if the farmer has cash flow difficulties. Calf management seems adequate

with most farmers practicing dehorning, deworming and regular vaccinations. Common

pests and diseases include brucellosis, black leg, bangs, internal parasites and

bott worm flies.


It is very common to encounter goats on some small farms. The average size of

a herd is between 7 and 30 head.

Two categories of goats are found on Gilchrist County farms. The first

category include various dairy goats such as Alpine or Nubian goats. Some of them

may yield as much as 2 gallons of milk per day. However, they are not always

milked. "Wood" goats are found in other exploitations. These goats are principally

raised for meat and the young are used for barbeque. The breeds found in this

category can be characterized as dual-purpose, relatively non-specialized breeds.

Goat milk cannot be sold commercially. It is against the law. It can only

be a product for home consumption. In terms of the utility of "wood" goats,

they have been found useful in pasture management for controlling bushes.

Goats can be sold at the Gainesville Livestock Market, from where they

are shipped to Miami. They are sold at about $45 for an adult. There is no

specific age when they are marketed, but it is usually around months of age.

The constraints that exist for farmers relative to their goat herd are that

goats can be eaten by predators and they are sensitive to intestinal parasites.

Farmers use vermifuge and rotate the herds through the pastures as control measures.

Sometimes the mother does not have enough milk to feed her offspring when she

has more than two. The farmer uses a bottle-feeding technique, which is costly

and not necessarily efficient. Goats are bought from neighbors or provided by

youth leaders (as in the case of dairy goats). They are raised in the same pastures

as the farmer's cows. Soybean meal is sometimes given as a supplemental feed

to dairy goats.

Goats don't appear to occupy an important place in the system. However, we

feel that, as prices and environmental conditions continue to deteriorate,

they could become an interesting alternative against the risks involved in

cattle production.


Sondeo findings indicate that swine operations in Gilchrist County are limited

mainly to small, backyard production. Herd size ranged from 3 to 15 sows with one

boar per farm for breeding purposes. Excess hogs were sold at the market, while

hogs for home consumption were slaughtered at local butcher shops.

At one farm, the average litter size was 12 piglets. This farmer found 10

to be an optimal number and would destroy two piglets to bring the average number

of weaned piglets to ten. These animals were sold as feeder pigs at the market.

Some farmers purchase commercial hog rations while others grow most of the

feed needed to support their herds. Corn and peanut intercropping as a source

of feed was observed.

The housing of hogs was not capital-intensive. Simple, open-sided structures

without cement floors were typical. Both electric and the traditional "hog-wire"

fences were employed to keep hogs restrained.

No severe diseases or nutritional deficiencies were noted on any of the farms.

The constraints associated with hog production that farmers most commonly

referred to were the high cost of feed and feed production and low market prices.

Break-even figures given by hog producers were around $.52 per pound of liveweight.


Most of the farmers involved in this system in Gilchrist County generate their

income mainly from off-farm jobs or are retired and receive a steady fixed income.

They grow crops mainly as a way of increasing their total income.

The major constraint of this region is water availability. Given the sandy

texture and low water-retention properties of the soils, this factor becomes very

important. The main crops produced in the county are watermelon, soybeans, corn

and tobacco. A description of each of the crops and their practices will be given

as follows:


After the land preparation that takes place at the beginning of the winter, most

of the farmers plant a strip of some grass, mainly rye, in.order to prevent

severe wind erosion that could adversely affect the watermelon seedlings.

The planting begins after the grass is sufficiently tall. When the plants cover

the ground, the farmer incorporates the green material back into his field. The

variety most often planted is Crimson Sweet, which has small seeds and gives them

more plants per pound of seed. Another variety grown is Johnson Grey which produces

a medium-sized watermelon.Some farmers plant their watermelons in mid to late

February so that they can jump ahead of producers in other states (Georgia, for

example) and get a better price in the market. But in doing so they are taking

the risk of losing their entire crop to a late frost.

With respect to fertilization, they add from 600 to 1,000 pounds of different

formulas of fertilizer to the soil, the most popular being 8-12-12. They also

apply potash, but not when they use liquid fertilizer.

Farmers most often apply only one application of pesticide in the whole cycle

of the crop.

Most of the labor on the farms we visited is done by the family members.

The yields for non-irrigated fields are from 25 to 35 thousand pounds per

acre. Under irrigation the yields could be from 5 to 10 thousand pounds greater.

The expected gross revenue is between $1,000 and $2,000 per acre.

The main problems of watermelon in the area wind and drought periods and

nematodes. This crop is valued by the farmers because of the high net returns

per acre and also because it can be a source of non-taxable income, especially

if the sales transaction is done in cash and the farmer later neglects to report

this source of income on his tax return.


Many farmers who cultivated tobacco in the past now rent out their tobacco

allotments due to a labor constraint. Tobacco is a labor-intensive crop and the

harvest is done mainly by hand. The labor supply in the peak periods is very low.

At least 15 workers are needed during these periods to cover only 35 acres of

tobacco. A full-time laborer on one of the farms we visited told us that good

labor is worth $6 to $7 per hour, but none of the farmers can afford to pay

that much.

Tobacco must be sprayed weekly to control the hornworm.


In Gilchrist County, soybeans are grown in rotation with field crops such

as corn, wheat, oats, or when any spring crop is removed in time to prepare the

land for a June planting. Soybean seedbeds are prepared by the conventional

method, which consists of plowing, applying fertilizer and planting the crop in

June. The most important cultural practices are weed control by cultivation

and the control of insects and diseases through the application of pesticides

and fungicides.

Once the crop is mature, it is mechanically harvested and it is sold to a

broker. Most farmers feel that soybeans are not a profitable crop when grown

on a small scale.


Until 1976, corn was an important crop in the area. But the high costs of

production and the low market prices have forced farmers to abandon it because

they could no longer break even.

There are some farmers who grow corn under irrigation and some also grow

corn as feed for their own livestock operations.


This crop was promoted at one time and many farmers tried it, but the plants are

susceptible to a disease and many lost a major portion of their crop. In addition,

the nearest market for a sunflower crop is Valdosta, Georgia, inaccessible to most

Gilchrist County farmers. It is doubtful that sunflower will ever become an

important crop in this region.


The subsistence farming system is characterized by small land holdings and

a diversity of farming enterprises. Subsistence farm-size ranged from 1.0 -

40.0 + 14.4 acres. Farming enterprises are home vegetable gardens, locally

adapted fruit and nut trees and pasture grasses. Livestock are goats, chickens,

rabbits, hogs and cattle. One farmer kept honey bees and another raised and

sold earthworms(!) Because one of the characteristics of the subsistence farmer

is a diversity of enterprises, only a general description of system components

and how they are related will be given.

The home vegetable garden is generally planted to a wide variety of vegetables

and small fruits. Selection of varieties is guided by the family's preferences.

Fruit trees (peaches, apples, apricots) and berry bushes (raspberries, blackberries,

blueberries) and grapevines are kept close to the homestead. Produce is either

canned or frozen or both. Meat is either slaughtered and butchered on-farm or


Various degrees of food self-sufficiency can be found. Deficits are more

common to fruits; surpluses more common to livestock. Surplus farm produce may be

sold but sales are generally more by speculation than by design. Surplus farm

produce might also be shared amongst neighbors. This is a part of the Gilchrist

County neighboring tradition."

The economics of home vegetable gardening or raising meat for home consumption

on a small scale are unknown. Although some farmers interviewed stated that they

preferred to grow all the vegetables and meat that they consumed, others indicated

that it was more expensive to raise food than to buy it. Since many of the

subsistence farmers we encountered could be classified as low-income, and because

some farmers expressed interest in technologies which would reduce the cost of

producing food for home consumption, we feel that future researchers should

investigate technologies which would minimize cash inputs for home gardeners.

Subsistence farming is a part-time operation; the majority of the farmer's

income is derived from off-farm labor or retirement benefits. Monies derived from

land use tax exemptions may contribute to the subsistence farm income but, in terms

of overall income or as a directive influence, tax exemptions are relatively

unimportant. One reason for this may be that maintaining records needed to

qualify for tax exemptions and filling out necessary forms are time-costly

activities to the farmer who also holds down a full-time off-farm job.

Farm wives play important roles in subsistence farming. They provide not

only income and labor, but also important management skills. One of the major

enterprises of the subsistence farm, food processing and storage, is done almost

entirely by farm wives. In cases where the wife does not work off-farm, she may

assume all the daily farm maintenance chores such as tending the garden and

feeding the animals. Children may also contribute significant amounts of time

to farm maintenance activities.

Diversity within the subsistence farming system is probably related to the

farmer's goals. We felt that the main objectives of the subsistence farmer were:

(1) to provide food for home consumption and (2) to derive feelings of satis-

faction from farming activities.

Regarding food, as the system becomes more diverse in its' component parts,

a more varied diet is provided.

Regarding "feelings of satisfaction", all farmers would probably agree

that they derive gratification and fulfillment from their farming activities.

We also felt that, to the subsistence farmer, capital gains, insurance against

risk and reduction in labor demands were subordinate priorities. Thus, a

subsistence farmer seems to allow himself more freedom for experimentation

with new or unique species, breeds and markets. This kind of variation

contributes to the overall diversity of the subsistence farming system.


Planting, production and harvest are all important aspects of any agricultural

enterprise, but the selling of a commodity is the final step before a farmer realizes

any gain. In Gilchrist County, we found many different marketing schemes for the sale

of farm products.

Farmers selling livestock have many outlets for their animals. The Gainesville

Livestock Market auctions feeder pigs on the first and third Friday of each month;

slaughter hogs go every Wednesday. Farmers wishing to sell catlle can do so each

Monday and Wednesday. Goats and sheep are sold at the same time as feeder pigs.

Approximately 44% of our respondents who marketed cattle and hogs used the Gains-

ville outlet for this purpose. The animals were transported by personal trucks,

borrowed trucks or hired transport. Most of the purchasers of these animals are

buyers who represent various packinghouses in south Florida and other states.

The Trenton Livestock Market seems to be the one closest to the producers in

Gilchrist County. It has recently reopened under new management but some farmers

are reluctant to use it. Many of them experienced cash flow problems when the

market folded. They did not receive final payments until the market's financial

affairs were legally complete. This took several months. Other outlets for area

farmers include markets in Lake City, Chiefland, Ocala, Live Oak and Branford.

Not all livestock producers grow enough feed to satisfy their animals requirements.

They rely on neighbors or other area farmers to provide them with hay for this purpose.

Marketing of hay is usually done by newspaper ads or previous arrangement.

Producers of vegetables have access to Trenton Market in springtime. This

market is closed in the fall. A single buyer operates out of the market to purchase

vegetables and small lots of watermelons from area growers. Some farmers we talked

to told us they were disappointed with some marketing brokers. In the past,

brokers had come into the area and purchased melons and produce and, after a couple

of years, suddenly left. The farmers were then forced to find other outlets on their


Many farmers in the county grow watermelons. From 1974-1980, Gilchrist farmers

averaged 7.6% of all watermelon acreage harvested in the state. Most of the crop is

transported out of the area, some going as far as New York. In 1979, New York City

received more Florida-grown melons (approx. 14 million pounds) than any other city

in the country. Virtually all of these are trucked to their destination. Some

farmers rent trucks from friends and relatives and market their melons themselves.

The Atlanta Farmers' Market is one outlet, and Atlanta accounted for the second-

largest amount of Florida-grown melons in 1979. Other producers sell their produce

to buyers who drive by the fields and make cash purchases at the gate. Since the

buyers will buy in small lots, this is an important outlet for the small-acreage



The institutions that offer credit to farmers within Gilchrist County are:

1. Farmers' and Merchants' Bank (the only commercial bank in the county)
2. Mid-Florida Production-Credit Association
3. Federal Land Bank
4. Farmers' Home Administration

Farmers' and Merchants' Bank offer a 16.5% interest rate to their "very good

customers", but 90% of their farm loans are contracted at 18%. Demand for farm loans

has dropped in the last 2-3 years. Potential clients are generally only seeking

short-term loans to cover their seed and fertilizer costs.

The Mid-Florida Production-Credit Association will provide short-term and

intermediate loans (up to 7 years). As of April first, they offer a 14% interest

rate on all their loans. Ninety-five percent of the farmers dealing with the PCA

have put up their real estate as collateral. There are no restrictions on the use

of funds granted if you are a full-time farmer, but limited restrictions exist for

part-time farmers. The largest number of applications are for loans to cover

operating expenses. The volume of loan applications to the PCA has been increasing

over the past several years, because their interest rate is the lowest of any other

credit institution in the county.

The Federal Land Bank offers long-term loans of up to thirty and forty years

for the purchase of land to be used for agricultural purposes. If neither the

PCA nor the FLB will extend credit to a farmer, his next recourse is the Farmers'

Home Administration.

The FHA of Gilchrist County will only lend to established farmers. They will

not lend money to individuals who are seeking to set themselves up as farmers.

Their criterion for loan qualification are: (1) a large portion of your total income

must be derived from the farm (2) you must own (or hope to own) no larger than a

family-sized farm (3) you must have a good credit rating and (4) you must demon-

state good managerial ability (subject to varying interpretations). Since the

objectives of the FHA are to provide credit to farmers who cannot obtain credit

from any other sources, the farmer must also show documentation that he has applied

to other banks and credit institutions, and has been repeatedly refused. The

types of loans that the FHA offers and their corresponding interest rates are:

1. Farm ownership loans 13.25%
2. Soil and water loans (irrigation) 13.25%
3. Operating loans (including 14.25%
machinery loans)

The number of applications to the FHA has also been increasing over the past several

years due to the drought-like conditions that have prevailed in Florida since 1977.

The FHA has recently imposed a moratorium on foreclosures. Given the very high

loan default rate in Florida (70%), continued foreclosure activity would result

in flooding the market with land, thereby lowering prices. We encountered a

reluctance on the part of many Gilchrist farmers to deal with the FHA. Reasons

given were the long waiting periods before loans are approved and the huge volume

of paperwork and "red tape" the farmer must comply with at every step of the

loan process.

Finance programs through the various farm machinery companies (Ford, Massey

Ferguson, Allis Chalmers) are available to the farmers, but the interest rates

are high (around 18-19%). The Commodity Credit Corporation will store grain

crops and extend short-term loans. When the market price increases and the

grain is sold, the C.C.C. collects on its loan plus accumulated storage costs.

However, very few farmers take advantage of this option.

The high cost of capital is a major constraint to all the systems we have

identified. In response to the high cost of borrowing money, Gilchrist County

farmers have cut back on production, thus reducing their operating costs and

credit needs. Upon contacting several farm machinery companies in Trenton,

we were told that farmers have also cut back on their purchases of new farm

equipment, preferring to patch and make do with what they have, rather than increase

their total farm debt. This universal response is also linked to a general uncer-

tainty on the part of the farmers as to their continued ability to meet large loan

payments, given the present slump in commodity prices and the continual increase in

production costs.


The yearly revenue of Gilchrist County in taxes is approximately one

million dollars. According to the local tax assessor, substantially more

than 50% of the revenues come from taxes imposed on agricultural land.

A tax exemption available to all legal residents of Gilchrist County

is the Homestead Exemption. This is available to all homeowners, regardless

of income or acreage owned.

An important tax exemption available to farmers is the GreenBelt Provision.

The county tax assessor classifies all county land as either agricultural or

non-agricultural, all land supporting a commercial agricultural operation

considered to be agricultural and therefore eligible for the preferential

tax assessment available under the GreenBelt Law. The value of the farmer's

land is appraised on the basis of its "classified use" value (value of the

land in its present use in agriculture) rather than its "just" value (what

it would sell for on the open market). Gilchrist County has a ratio of

"just" use value to "classified use" value of 4.25, meaning that commercial

agricultural producers pay taxes on less than a quarter of the market value

of their farmland. The GreenBelt Law is thus a preferential tax assessment

originally enacted to preserve and protect agricultural land. Establishment

of a "classified use" value system results in a lower tax liability for

lands maintained in a bonafide agricultural use, thus lowering the cost of

holding on to the land. The only stipulation is that you must have lived

in the county for at least five years before you qualify for this exemption.



Wind (causing soil erosion and crop damage)

Lack of water

Poor soils


Poor feed quality

Forage unavailable at times


Usage of wind breakers, such as bamboo, rye, corn down in'furrows

Encouragement of better soil protection practices, such as wind breaks,
sod crops and cover crops, and minimum tillage vs. conventional
tillage practices

Incorporation of high biomass crops into soils to increase organic matter content

Cultivation of legumes (use of inoculated seed, introduction of new varieties,
investigation into potential use of native legumes)

Cultivate new varieties of forages in order to combat the problem of poor
feed quality (for example, the perennial peanut)

Experiment with combinations of improved forages in order to increase
nutritional content and dry matter content of pastures (for example,
bahiagrass and perennial peanut or bahiagrass and white clover)

In the area of water management, use foresight and develop good zoning laws

Environmental constraints found in the area included winds, lack of water,

poor soils and frost. March is the month of problematic winds that cause crop

damage and soil erosion. Some farmers already protect watermelon crops from a

wind-blown sand-induced disfiguration by interplanting watermelon with rye.

This is a recommendation an FSR/E team could probably better disperse. Though

not original, it is an adequate solution to the problem. A farmer might, however,

want to weigh carefully the benefits of planting rye to prevent wind damage,

as this practice may take another limiting in-put, water, away from his

watermelon crop. The FSR/E team may do little more than a native rain dance

to combat the problem of lack of rainfall, but solutions to the constraint of

water could be suggestions for efficient irrigation systems such as drip or

seepage for appropriate soils. Irrigation, however, incurs large capital

investments, another area of constraint to the farmers. One cattle farmer

believed digging a pond on his land could ease his water pressures, but the

problem was compounded when he could not obtain permission from the county

to do so. Notably, although farmers complained of being in a "dry pocket",

weather data indicate that there is sufficient rainfall if only the soil had

greater water-holding capacity. Poor soils, sands and sandy loams that hold

little water or nutrients, might be improved by incorporating into the soil

high biomass crops. Another suggestion would be to plant leguminous forages,

innoculating the seeds and thereby encourage the production of useable nitrogen

in the soil. Such legumes could be expensive to establish. However, the farmer can

weigh the advantages of an improved clover pasture (higher nutritional content,

calves reach higher weaning weights, cows realize better reproduction rates,

fertilizer costs decrease) against its added cost. New varieties or species

of plants that might do well under Florida's stressed water and soil conditions

should also be sought. A final consideration for future research efforts

could be the investigation of native vegetation and ecosystems of the area

for different grasses and legumes to plant and ways to plant them, thus

immitating the successful natural systems.


Constraints (pests and diseases)

Crops Livestock
Horn worm horn flies and bott flies
army worm Cattle: bangs
mole crickets tuberculosis
nematodes black leg
peach beetle pink-eye
velvet bean caterpillar Hogs: hog mange


Nematodes: New varieties

Home garden nematode control: plastic covering before planting

Strict enforcement of quarantines and sanitation practices in order to
keep uninfested areas pest-free

Perhaps there is a reason for flies, mosquitos, tobacco horn worms, army worms

and many other pests that disturb the beasts, plants and peace humans attempt to

establish; we are not yet convinced. The list of crop pests and livestock pests

continue to plague Gilchrist County as researchers continue to look for ways to

combat them. Biological controls are currently available for velvet bean cater-

pillars and other caterpillars. Bacillus thurengiensis, a natural bacterial

pathogen to many caterpillars, is available and may be sprayed onto crops. General

use of BT could be recommended. The comparative high cost of the BT may restrict

its wide-spread use at this time, though an additional consideration is that the lack

of resurgence problems associated with the BT use may actually reduce total seasonal

insecticide costs.

Recommendations to outwit the nematodes might be to confuse their appetites

by planting new and distasteful varieties of their favorite crops. Some home

gardeners have had success in spreading plastic covers over fields before planting.

The slow solar bake then fries the nematodes. Controlled burn could have the

same effect. Very sandy soils offer prime conditions for nematodes, therefore,

the incorporation of organic matter into the soil could also lessen the problem.

Quarantines and sanitary procedures should be implemented and enforced to

keep out new pests and to minimize the spread of those already there. Tilling

machinery and new crops are the vectors for augmenting pest problems. Tilling

equipment should be cleaned adequately after use in the field and new crops should

be checked and monitored for any new problems they might bring into the system.

Livestock diseases are more than likely being adequately dealt with at present.

Nearly all of the cattle farmers we spoke with are vaccinating for black leg

and bangs. Goats are often pastured with cattle to control fly populations that

are the vectors of other pathogens to cattle. Pink-eye can be regulated by

eliminating breeds that are susceptible to it.

Hog mange can easily be treated by rubbing motor oil over the infected area.


The market window for one of the area's major crops, watermelons, appears

to be very small. Farmers have to get crops planted and harvested as soon as

possible because the price drops rapidly as supplies increase. One solution

to this problem would be to research the possibility of a melon adapted to the

area which also had a shorter growing cycle. This could increase the duration

of the marketing period and the resulting income.

As previously noted, farmers have to travel to neighboring areas in order

to market livestock and vegetables. The recent re-opening of the Trenton Livestock

Market may offer a solution to this problem.

The high cost of inputs and the low commodity prices have combined to

squeeze the farmers profit margin tighter and tighter. Little, if anything,

can be done to influence the prices the farmers receive. We feel the only

course is to attempt to minimize input costs. The Florida Farm Bureau and

the Farmers' Mutual Exchange do offer discounts to farmers and may extend some

credit, but they don't seem to be meeting the financial needs of the area's

farmers. A "real" cooperative, established at the grass-roots level, could

be a viable solution, in light of the sharing of machinery and farm equipment

between neighbors and friends that already exists in the county.

As previously mentioned, farm families have expressed a desire to minimize

the expense of providing food for home consumption. Areas such as optimum

fertilizer use, companion planting, integrated pest management programs and

a more intensive compostbuilding schedule are suggestions that offer great

potential for further research. Increasing yields on small plots and finding

the most economical and efficient ways of preserving the food that is harvested

are also areas of concern. Research geared to developing technologies appropriate

to small home gardens should help to increase the cash available for meeting

other farm expenses.


Farmers of Gilchrist County, like most farmers everywhere, are affected by

the lack of capital. Loans are available, but at a high rate of interest. Credit

is difficult to obtain and comes in limited amounts. In severe situations,

farmers are encouraged to sell land to developers who offer attractive prices.

For the first and second cases mentioned above, we can offer no solutions.

The loss of farm land to "development" could perceivably be halted by a change

in local zoning laws. However, we consider capital to be an exogenous constraint,

one that the farmer will not be able to change through his individual efforts.



Lack of good agricultural information aimed at the problems of the small or
part-time farmer

General inaccuracy of information the farmers do receive


More FSR/E funding

Combined cooperative efforts of FSR/E team and local extension agents to help
build better rapport between farmers and researchers

Several farmers expressed the opinion that the lack of and inaccuracy of

agricultural information was a problem for them. One farmer even felt that

the University of Florida should conduct research on poor soils like his so

that the recommendations made would be more realistic to his situation. It

seems to us, given the general thrust of agricultural research towards large

commercial farm operations, that the only way small farmers will receive accurate

information is for the University of Florida to expand its financial support

of the FSR/E program.

More accurate information alone will not remove the distrust felt by the

small farmer for the agricultural research establishment. .An expanded FRS/E

program in cooperation with the local extension agents could help to foster

better rapport through the expanded personal contact that would result.) More

confidence in and acceptance of information should become a reality.

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