Opinion: Population Growth And Growing Produce Make Imperfect Partners

Paul Rusnak

We’re No. 4! We’re No. 4! This mock cheer for Florida being the fourth most populous state in the nation, according to 2012 U.S. Census Bureau figures. With eyes set on third place and a growth rate humming along at a better clip than in the last six years, Florida stands to pass New York in head count by 2016.

You’d think our peninsula with 19.3 million people and counting would begin to sink into its bordering waters. Well, we haven’t reached that point … yet. But, in the meantime, you’d figure at the very least that farmland is getting squeezed to death from development. And no doubt, it is. On the other hand, it’s pretty amazing how much rural area Florida still has. This may be hard to grasp driving up and down the I-4 corridor. You might get some inkling once you take a turn off the beaten path.

However, to get a true idea of how much ag/nature land is out there, a view from above is what’s required. One really cool online perspective is through Blue Marble Navigator “Night Lights.”

From there, you get a satellite view of a planet that’s shrouded in darkness and illuminated by the bright lights of big (and small) cities and towns. Whether you’re zoomed in to a particular area around your farm, or if taking it all in via a wide-angle view, our blue marble — in this light — is a marvel.

Out Of The Darkness Comes Life

If you center the satellite image over the Sunshine State, it’s easy to pick out the large metro areas, the concentration along the coasts, and spot a few bright shining stars in between. Also, quite noticeable are large chunks of darkness in the Panhandle and Big Bend areas, patches of black in North Central Florida, and a wide swath of nothing but night from the Heartland southward past the Big Lake all the way through Everglades National Park.

Agriculture/rural life is holding its own in Florida — better than what I’d expected to find. The economic strength and value of the sector allows it to do so. The demand is there and should only increase along with the number of hungry mouths.

Same But Different

Another thought that crossed my mind while peering at the night lights is the vast number of different types of farms that make up the majority of the map’s dark spots. Big and small, each are part of an industry that is consolidating and shrinking in acreage. On the brighter side, agriculture is growing in importance, not for novelty sake, but for future survival. Eventually, something has to give. For now, let’s enjoy the peace, quiet, and darkness of the countryside. It’s only a matter of time before we’re all urban farmers.

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