by Geoffrey Sagrans
President – Localecopia, Inc. / Localecopia Marketplace

Whether the discussion is about population growth, climate change, or other major areas of changing landscapes, the mid-century mark seems to be a common “mile marker” for any discussion. I think we can all agree that population growth and the changing demographics of that growth will impact everyone of us. We are now at a point where everyone realizes that climate change is no longer “media hype” but, a real thing.

What about the Florida agriculture? Have we stopped to consider what the mid-century mark will hold for our great state? Have we considered how the changing landscape of farms will impact our daily lives (the source of your food, the economic impact to the state, the preservation of the lands, etc.)?

According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, in 2017 Florida Agriculture in the state of Florida amounted to almost $7.5 billion dollars in cash receipts on commodities. Cornell Ag Census Data reported that Florida farms covered roughly 14 million acres in 1969. Today Florida farms occupy about 9.5 million acres. Due to failed crops, the economic viability of farming, changing climates, urban sprawl, the desire of younger generations to move away from farming the land like their previous generations have done, or the pure enticement of development company dollars, we have seen a shift away from family farms. In some recent cases we have witnessed multi-generation operations shutter their doors.

The Florida agriculture landscape, which was ones dotted with family farms as far as the eye could see, has now shifted to consolidated ownership and control by major companies. Ever heard of companies like Dole and Del Monte? Through partnerships with Florida growers and land aquisitions, they are a major agricultural player across the state (not suggesting that this is an issue but, pointing out the changes). You can see the significance in land held for agriculture. Our state population fifty years ago was about 6.8 million people. As of 2018, there were over 21 million people in Florida. It is estimated that the state population will be over 31 million residents by 2050.

The real question for 2050 is how this change in the agriculture landscape will impact us. The discussion of changes in sea level rise, increases in average temperatures, and inflation impacting Florida are beyond the scope of this article. What is within the scope of this discussion are the changes to the landscape of Florida produce growers, cattle producers, non-edible/ornamental growers, and other ag-related entities.

For me personally, I would love to see families going back to agriculture. When you consider that the cattle industry alone dates back to the 1500’s, the fabric of Florida has been woven by a rich tradition of agriculture. Even to this day, agriculture, along with the hospitality industry, account for the majority of the Florida GDP. The idea of Florida being defined in the year 2050 by (comparably speaking) minimal lands, control by a small handful of major conglomerates, and the possibility of agriculture not being a driving force to the Florida economy are a not overly appealing.

Instead of reading this article and going about your day, I want to give you a homework assignment. Make it a point within the next few months to try one of these things: Go to a farmer’s market ** Take a drive into the middle of the state ** Try to meet with a farmer ** Ask your local grocery store how they are supporting local Ag ** When your local restaurant presents a menu mentioning “local,” ask the server to give you specifics ** Go online to learn more about the Florida Deparment of Agriculture and Consumer Services ** Ask yourself what you are doing to preserve a little bit of Florida ** Attending a Localecopia Meet & Greet ** Learning more about the University of Florida Extension Services ** Discover Florida organics **

Help to preserve a little piece of Florida.