By Micaela Wright, AgriPOWER Class IX participant
Session 6 for AgriPOWER class 9 took place in the Sunshine state. Staff from the Florida Farm Bureau set up tours all over the state for our class to experience agriculture in Florida. It was eye opening to see just how different agriculture there is compared to Ohio.
The weather was sunny and warm as we toured beautiful blueberry and strawberry farms and packing facilities, the fresh, green smelling fern farm, a fish and caviar farm and citrus groves that smelled amazing and became tasty orange juice. Our adventure was complete after touring the largest cow/calf ranch by numbers in the United States where we not only saw cows, but several large gators along the way. Each farm that we visited greeted us with southern hospitality and clearly had strong family values and an emphasis on preserving their farm heritage.
AgriPOWER is supposed to cultivate leaders in the agriculture industry through each of our sessions. The passion that the Florida farmers had to stand up for their farms despite many challenges was inspiring to me and ignited my passion for strong agriculture policy once again.
I don’t have enough word space to write about each farm, but there were some recurring themes that kept returning as we traveled. Many of the farmers growing produce are experiencing a struggle in their industry. The labor is costly and their margins are shrinking as Mexico thrives by sending its produce to the United States. The packing facilities have also had to make costly adjustments since the passing of the Food Safety Modernization Act. On top of that, all citrus trees are affected by a “greening” disease that the industry is working on finding a resistance gene for. The disease is wiping out citrus trees everywhere. Another common problem that all farmers are facing is their ability to manage pests. Florida is home to many types of wildlife that threaten production. and farmers are often limited in what they can do to manage this wildlife due to the restrictions set forth by the Endangered Species Act.
Similar to Ohio, Florida is seeing an expansion in agritourism as a way for farmers to expand their business and promote agriculture. Florida adopted a new law in 2013 to reduce the risks for farmers opening up their doors to the public. Due to discrepancies in the law, some corrections were made in 2016 to clarify what activities were covered under the law. It was enjoyable to relate to Florida and have conversations about the opportunities and challenges of agritourism.
After learning about all of these challenges, it is easy to feel lost, but these farmers are so passionate about what they do and have stepped up to do the best that they can. Many of them have become leaders in the Farm Bureau, leaders in their young farmers group, and advocates for their industry. If nothing else, I hope that my class was inspired to be strong leaders, to stand up for agriculture and play an active role in policy creation just as I was after this trip.
Session 1 blogs
Eric Reed is excited about implementing the “Building Strong Communities” project.
JD Bethel talks about the strong partnership between Ohio Farm Bureau and Nationwide.
Leadership is influence, explains Melinda Lee.
Session 2 blogs
Communication with consumers is key, says John Arnold Jr.
Stephanie Rucinski vlogs about the relationship between media and agriculture.
Brenda Mescher talks about community “why” rather than “what.”
Addressing tough conversations is the subject of Terri Specht’s blog.
Session 3 blogs
Jess Campbell talks about the United States of Agriculture.
Respectful conversations are vital, says Craig Pohlman.
Megan Lezzer describes making a difference in D.C.
AgriPOWER trip to D.C. fast-paced, informative, says Jackie Mosier.
Session 4 blogs
Practice what you preach, says Kristen Dickey.
Steve Brunner talks about civics and camaraderie.
Jonah Neill learned about the benefits of lobbying.
Session 5 blogs
Phil Cobb learns about Ohio’s opioid crisis.
Brian Palmer describes lessons learned about how local governments run.
Casey Ellington talks about the strength of communities
Session 6 blogs
Agriculture in Florida isn’t easy, says Stacey Sark
Candace Lease describes the diversity of agriculture in Florida