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Sustainable Farming in District 10 – Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson
Dr. Charles Barrett
Extension: Regional Specialized Agent, Water Resources explains a soil moisture probe at a recent visit to the Suwannee Valley Agricultural Extension Center in Live Oak.

District 10 requires special attention to agriculture. We are one of the least populated areas in the entire State of Florida with roughly 157,000 people (2015 census) in the whole District. However, our wide land resources are absolutely critical for food production in Florida, our nation and the world. Residents here recognize our vulnerability to dwindling food production and timber acreage for intensive human developments. We are also painfully aware that land use practices such as excessive water use pumping and cumulative land applications of chemicals such as fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and fungicides have harmed our precious water resources.

In recent years, I have been doing my own cultivating of relationships with farmers and organizations that desire to protect our water resources. By now, most of us understand that we impact the natural environment and we are experiencing a convergence with all water users which promises the much-needed land use and planning changes to sustain our farming lands nestled in between the wondrous Florida springs, Florida native habitat and also the drinking water for millions of people who live downstream.

Florida is a “Right to Farm” state, and agricultural interests often focus on their financial bottom line. Farming is rife with variables and unforeseen circumstances due to weather patterns, pathogens and market forces. Although new technological advances offer farmers many benefits, it is never an absolute to know that their time, money and sweat equity investment will be profitable. Whether a small family farmer or large corporate farmer, has to meet voluntary regulations, such as BMPs, they may rely on state and federal assistance to do better for the environment.

There are vast and varied grants and cost-shares available through our state agencies. The Florida Legislature has already done a lot to make the water protection a bit easier on their bank accounts and there is a lot more to do in terms of educating the public about our land to water impacts. The new equipment technology such as satellite positioning tractors, soil moisture probes and micro-drip irrigation combined with right crop/right location can help alleviate the stress on our natural resources. Farmers, themselves, also need to be recognized for achieving huge strides for innovative farming practices and the fact that they share that knowledge with their neighbors too.

We all live and work in the Suwannee River Basin in north central Florida and every drop counts.

support materials:
Soil Moisture Sensors An Open Secret Of Profitability
https://www.agweb.com/article/soil-moisture-sensors-an-open-secret-of-profitability/
2015 BMPs: Water Quality/Quantity Best Management Practices for Florida Vegetable and Agronomic Crops
https://www.freshfromflorida.com/content/download/77230/2220421/vegAgCropBMP-loRes.pdf