2017 a Standout Year for Florida Agriculture – in More Ways Than One

2017 a Standout Year for Florida Agriculture – in More Ways Than One

Where does the time go? It’s a fair question given how busy we all are, and one that invariably gets asked every year as the calendar’s final days count down. This past year is no exception. It has flown by, bringing with it good and not-so-good tidings. Looking back on 2017, more than a few items of note put the current state of Florida agriculture in perspective. Here are three to me that rose above the rest as definitive of not only what our industry is enduring, but also what we have to look forward to.

Technology: Florida Grower® magazine’s February issue kicked off a dedicated companywide initiative focusing on the increasing integration of modern technology in farming, particularly specialty crops.

Precision Ag Specialty Crops logoSince then, we have covered multiple angles of this topic and how it affects you. And the reality is, we’ve only scratched the surface. The world of ag technology, including precision growing, soil mapping, robotics, etc., is vast and largely untapped by most producers. There’s much to learn, and we’re learning with you.

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“Agriculture can be a win-win situation, and technology can be a central driver.” — Kevin Folta, UF/IFAS Professor, “How Precision Agriculture Is Helping Farmers Win Over Consumers.”

Neo 1 hops at UF/IFAS MREC

Photo by Paul Rusnak

Alternative Crops: This subject is a favorite of mine. I had a blast researching and writing the October cover story about the potential of hops as a viable crop in Florida.

“There’s room on this planet for more hop acreage. The question is: Who wants to jump on it?” — Mike Harting, CEO of 3 Daughters Brewing, “Hopes High for Hops Fresh From Florida.”

There are more unconventional selections on the table for growers, too. Artichokes, blackberries, pomegranates, plus a few others being vetted.

Speaking of, the latest alternative crop stirring conversation is industrial hemp. Earlier this year, the Senate Agriculture Committee approved a bill that would allow state institutions like UF/IFAS and Florida A&M to conduct research on growing, harvesting, and selling the crop (unlike cannabis). Stay tuned on this one.

Plain and simple: Demand is always there for something unique. The same goes for the desire to explore new avenues. If we can grow it, let’s show it. So far, so good.

citrus grove damage from Irma at SWFREC in Immokalee

Photo by Monica Ozores-Hampton

Hurricane Irma: Without a doubt, the devastating impact of the storm on the state’s agriculture sector — citrus in particular — was the story of the year (unfortunately). The tale is still unfolding, too. There is still much work to do on all levels. We plan to be there with you along the way, and know you’re up for it.

“Growers are resilient, and this is not the first rodeo for most.” — Gene McAvoy, UF/IFAS Extension Agent, “Florida Farmers Digging Out From Impacts of Irma.”

Well said, Gene. Quote of the year? Perhaps. With opportunity comes challenge. With challenge comes opportunity. It’s your move. Don’t let time pass you by.