By Stacey Sark, AgriPOWER Class IX participant

When I think of Florida, I picture sunshine, alligators and orange juice. Blueberries, strawberries, cattle, caviar and ferns were not what popped into my mind but my recent trip with Ohio Farm Bureau to experience farming in Florida has definitely changed that.

No matter where you go in this country, agriculture will have adversity and struggles, and Florida is no stranger to some difficult times. A disease to the citrus plants that began in 2005 creates what they call “greening” and eventually kills the trees. Add that with devastation from Hurricane Irma and you get a reduction of about 33% of your already diminishing citrus product. So what do Floridians do when their strongest industry is hurting? DIVERSIFY! Did you know that Florida is the winter strawberry capital of the world, that it is home to the largest beef ranch in the country or that it is ranked as one of the top fern and landscaping plant producers?

Agriculture in Florida isn’t easy when it seems like there are predators everywhere, and I am not talking about the gators. citrus-farmThese producers have created innovative ways to increase profit margins through creative packing, marketing and co-op programs, circumvented eminent domain through their local planning efforts and improved the likelihood of future generations to be a part of their operations through the diversification of their farm. They have increased their value-added products and experiences with the general public. Connecting people with their food and increasing agritourism in the state has provided a better profit than the commercial industry has recently.

fern-farm

Learning about these different industries was a great experience but what I loved the most was that the people we met, even through their struggles, love what they do and love their communities. We are no different in Ohio when it comes to that feeling of being committed to agriculture, to the land, to our families and to our communities. We may have different products and we may have different struggles, but we share a common value in agriculture. I am grateful for the opportunity to see Florida agriculture and its diverse products, but I am more grateful to have experienced it with some of the greatest people in Ohio agriculture with this Ohio Farm Bureau Federation AgriPOWER Class.

 

Having opportunities to attend leadership institutes, advocate for rural Ohioans on the state and national level, facilitate young ag professionals events, and serve in a variety of leadership positions have helped my skills grow exponentially.
Sara Tallmadge's avatar
Sara Tallmadge

Ashland County Farm Bureau

Growing our Generation
Labor has always been an issue, mainly because we are a seasonal operation. So that's a challenge finding somebody who only wants to work three months out of a year, sometimes up to six months.
Mandy Way's avatar
Mandy Way

Way Farms

Business Solutions
If it wasn't for Farm Bureau, I personally, along with many others, would not have had the opportunity to meet with our representatives face to face in Washington.
Austin Heil's avatar
Austin Heil

Hardin County Farm Bureau

Washington, D.C. Leadership Experience
I was gifted the great opportunity through an Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation Youth Pathways grant to run a series of summer camps here. That really expanded my vision of what ‘grow, maintain, sustain and explain’ could actually be.
Jim Bruner's avatar
Jim Bruner

Mezzacello Urban Farms

Farming for Good
I see the value and need to be engaged in the community I live in, to be a part of the decision-making process and to volunteer with organizations that help make our community better.
Matt Aultman's avatar
Matt Aultman

Darke County Farm Bureau

Leadership development
So many of the issues that OFBF and its members are advocating for are important to all Ohioans. I look at OFBF as an agricultural watchdog advocating for farmers and rural communities across Ohio.
Mary Smallsreed's avatar
Mary Smallsreed

Trumbull County Farm Bureau

Advocacy
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