SMALL FARMS AND RANCHES
Welcome to the Small Farm and Ranch Program of Sarasota County UF/IFAS Extension. Here you will find resources and programs highlighting opportunities for county residents to participate in the local food system of Sarasota County. This program seeks to assist small and mid-size landowners who are considering growing crops and animals for profit or personal use. It makes available the latest information designed for both beginning and experienced small farmers and ranchers.
To put things in perspective, small farms represented approximately 90 percent of the 47,000-plus farms in Florida in 2007, based on the USDA "small farm" definition of up to $250,000 in annual sales. In addition, small farms accounted for roughly 15 percent of the $6 billion in agricultural product sales by Florida farms in 2002. It is good news for small farmers and ranchers that the level of institutional commitment to provide assistance is on the rise. For example, a renewed acknowledgement of the federal role to serve the full diversity within agriculture is reflected by the USDA National Small Farms Conferences and the USDA Know Your Farmers Know Your Food Program.
Here in Florida, the UF/IFAS/FAMU Small Farm & Alternative Enterprises Program was initiated in 2003. This statewide program provides an online library of references ranging from business/market planning to niche enterprise opportunities for local markets, such as farmers markets and restaurants.
In addition, this program sponsors statewide and regional conferences for small farmers that bring experts and farmers together with FL tested and science-based information.
In support of this statewide program, Sarasota County Extension offers the following projects that provide educational events to the general public that are listed on the extension educational calendar:
- Market Garden Training Project – monthly classes
- Florida Small Farms Blog
- Southwest Florida Small Farmers Network (SWFSFN) – quarterly meetings of small farmers held at local farms for networking and educational purposes.
- Organic farming and ranching – training on the production methods and certification requirements of the USDA National Organic Program.
- Annie's Project is designed especially for farm/ranch women. Sessions will combine lecture, discussion and individual and small group activities.