Commercial Urban Agriculture in Florida

UF/IFAS Photo by Marisol Amador

Commercial Urban Agriculture in Florida:

Needs, Opportunities, and Barriers

https://doi.org/10.21273/HORTTECH05038-22

Much of the southeastern United States is rapidly urbanizing, with Florida a prime example. One result of this urbanization is an increased interest in the development of commercial urban agriculture (CUA) in Florida.

While not defined by US law, urban agriculture is described by the USDA as “City and suburban agriculture [that] takes the form of backyard, roof-top and balcony gardening, community gardening in vacant lots and parks, roadside urban fringe agriculture and livestock grazing in open space.” (Urban Agriculture | Alternative Farming Systems Information Center | NAL | USDA) A recent survey and analysis conducted by the University of Florida provides insight into the current state of urban farming in Florida, including barriers faced, perceptions of future business opportunities, training opportunities, and preferred informational formats.

Researchers performed a cluster analysis to identify clusters of urban growers in Florida and found that the demographics of these CUA farmers differed from rural farmers in several ways: 1) They had a larger proportion of female producers; 2) They were younger and highly educated; 3) They had degrees in subjects other than agriculture; and 4) They were relatively new to farming and used a variety of production methods. In addition, the analysis showed that the urban locations of CUA farms provide easier access to fresh produce for customers, but at the same time, it can be more difficult for CUA farmers to find affordable and/or appropriate space for production that complies with urban area regulations.

The study found that CUA is poised to provide hyperlocal food to Florida’s rapidly growing urban population, and the prospects for future business development and expansion are promising, but urban farmers will need supportive policies and regulations from their local governments and extension training tailored to their specific needs.

If current trends continue, Florida’s urbanization and demographics are similar to what other areas of the US will look like in the coming decades. According to Catherine Campbell, Assistant Professor, Community Food Systems, Family Youth & Community Sciences Department UF/IFAS Mid-Florida Research and Education Center, “Following the food systems disruptions caused by covid-19, there is an increasing

awareness of the importance of resilience in local and regional food systems, and commercial urban agriculture can be an important way to ensure consistent access to healthy food in urban communities.”

The complete article is available on the ASHS HortTechnology electronic journal website at

https://doi.org/10.21273/HORTTECH05038-22

Established in 1903, the American Society for Horticultural Science is recognized around the world as one of the most respected and influential professional societies for horticultural scientists. ASHS is committed to promoting and encouraging national and international interest in scientific research and education in all branches of horticulture.

Comprised of thousands of members worldwide, ASHS represents a broad cross-section of the horticultural community – scientists, educators, students, landscape and turf managers, government, extension agents and industry professionals. ASHS members focus on practices and problems in horticulture: breeding, propagation, production and management, harvesting, handling and storage, processing, marketing and use of horticultural plants and products. To learn more, visit ashs.org.

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