Friday, June 27, 2008

Florida takes on specialty crops, Homeowners transform backyard gardens.

Excerpts from The Packer article of 6/23/08
By Haley Jones, Staff Writer

The high cost of living on the coasts is prompting an increasing number of Florida homeowners to turn their backyards into gardens for specialty crops. Residences of Miami-Dade County are taking advantage of an agricultural tax break opportunity by growing various crops on their own acreage.

Homestead, Fla.-based Brooks Tropicals is a big supporter of the growing local produce trend, including backyard gardens. Brooks has brokered local produce since 1928, said marketing director Mary Ostlund.

"But we're losing farmland to the suburbs. We've seen acreage go from pre-1992 amounts when it was over 5,000 acres to 3,000 acres after Hurricane Andrew hit."

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's 2002 census, Florida farmland has decreased by almost 250,000 acres since 1997.

The unique sub-tropical climate of southern Florida provides a desirable palate for growing a variety of commodities year-round that are becoming increasingly difficult to find.