Communicating Ag in an Urban Age

The University of Florida would like to know how as ag producers do you communicate with your neighbors in a increasingly urban area about your production practices. Please take the time to read the following post and take the short survey by clicking on the link. This information will help IFAS develop information that will help communities understand the importance of agriculture in the local area.

As the rural-urban interface becomes less distinct we would like to know what kind of communication tools you as agricultural producers need to educate your neighbors and the school children in your community about agricultural practices in their community. We can only do this if we know current practices. How do you communicate with your neighbors? Let us know by completing this survey that is being conducted by the University of Florida IFAS Extension in partnership with Florida Farm Bureau. Based on the survey we will be designing a Good Neighbor Program (GNP) that will help people living in urban-rural interface communities understand more about the importance of agricultural practices. We are also asking School Systems to complete a survey asking how they communicate with you. Please share your communication practices with us and we will use them as part of the new Good Neighbor Program. The survey will take 5 to 10 minutes to complete and we will only use your answers after they have been combined with other respondents' answers and will be completely confidential. Thank you for participating.Email Survey Link:

If you have any questions, please call (352) 273-3971, or send an email to FOI@ufl.edu. Thank you for your participation.


Water Restrictions Begin

Here we go again...This in from SWFWMD, a list of their new water restrictions. Remeber that this is a La Nina cycle so it will be drier than usual possibly making the drought conditions worse.

Effective Date and Areas

The District’s Phase I Water Shortage Restrictions go in effect Dec. 1, 2010, except where stricter measures have been imposed by local governments. Always refer to your local government or utility restriction guidelines first.
Restrictions apply to all of Charlotte, Citrus, DeSoto, Hardee, Highlands, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pinellas, Polk and Sumter counties; and portions of Lake and Levy counties. View map.
The unincorporated parts of Hernando, Pasco and Sarasota counties have local ordinances and are on one-day-per-week restrictions.
The City of Ocala and unincorporated Marion County will continue to follow the St. Johns River Water Management District’s water restrictions; however, the City of Dunnellon and The Villages remain under the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s water restrictions.

Lawn Watering Schedule and Times

Lawn watering is limited to twice per week.
Lawn watering days and times are as follows unless your city or county has a different schedule or stricter hours in effect:
Even addresses may water on Thursday and/or Sunday before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m.
Odd addresses may water on Wednesday and/or Saturday before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m.
Locations without a discernable address, such as rights-of-way and other common areas inside a subdivision, may water on Tuesday and/or Friday before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m.

Irrigation Systems

Under Phase I, residents are asked to check their irrigation systems to ensure they are working properly. This means testing and repairing broken pipes and leaks, and damaged or tilted sprinkler heads.
Residents should also check their irrigation timer to ensure the settings are correct and the rain sensor is working properly in accordance with state law.
Landscape Watering Schedule and Times
Hand watering and micro-irrigation of plants (other than lawns) can be done on any day and at any time.

New Lawns and Plants

New lawns and plants have a 30-30 establishment period, which allows any-day watering during the first 30 days.
During the second 30 days, watering is allowed three days per week: even-numbered addresses may water on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday; odd-numbered addresses may water Monday, Wednesday and Saturday.

Reclaimed Water

Reclaimed water remains subject to voluntary watering hours, unless blended with another water source or restricted by the local government or utility.

Fountains, Car Washing and Pressure Washing

There are no restrictions on fountains, car washing and pressure washing. However, the District asks that residents be as efficient as possible, such as using a shutoff nozzle on their hose so water isn’t wasted.


Water utilities and their local governments are expected to review and revise water restriction enforcement procedures, begin monthly enforcement reporting and communicate with customers about water restrictions and water conservation.

Job Posting for Ecologist in Central Florida

GroundLevel has asked that I help post a position that they have available for hire. They are looking for an entry to mid-level Ecologist to join their team. The position will include restoration projects, plant id, travel, and develop environmental permit applications. They have a native plant nursery as well do restoration work. They have around 100 employees (and growing). For more information please call Debi Lane 863-428-2571


Open Letter to Agricultural Producers about EPA Numeric Nutrient Criteria

Here is an open letter from
the Commissioner of Agriculture Charles Bronson and Micheal Sole the Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection encouraging all agricultural producers to sign and implement the Best Management Practices for their respective operations. Just click on the link below to read the letter.

The EPA has finalized the levels for nutrients that are allowed in the waterways of Florida in order to meet water body standards of quality and reduce the amount of impaired water bodies in the state. The new standards will go in effect 15 months from now. This will require stakeholders to implement plans and remediate affects of nutrient runoff to waterways. As a producer you will eventually either verify that you are not causing nutrient runoff from your nursery or sign up and follow the FDACS Best Management Practices for Nurseries. This is extremely important that you sign up with the BMPs if you haven't done so already. You can call me to talk about it or Jemy Hinton 813-478-6630. This regulation will have far reaching consequences and as a producer you need to be proactive to minimize risk. Here is more information from an article from Growing Produce http://www.growingproduce.com/news/?storyid=4644 and here is a publication from UF about the entire Nutrient Numeric Criteria regulation entitled, "A Guide to EPA's Proposed Numeric Nutrient Water Quality Criteria for Florida" http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/SS/SS52800.pdf


Longleaf Pine Conservation from USDA

This just in from USDA NRCS. Just another thought...There are no longleaf pine seedlings available from Southern nurseries this year, partly due to this government program. You might want to consider growing them.

For Immediate Release

Longleaf Pine Initiative Funding Available to Private Landowners

Gainesville, FL., November 10, 2010 -- Longleaf pine forests once covered millions of acres throughout the Southeastern United States. Today, only a few thousand acres of this vital habitat remains. To help sustain, enhance and restore longleaf pine forests, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Dave White announced the availability of $400,000 to help private landowners in Florida restore and manage longleaf pine.
“The longleaf pine is one of our key native species; providing a home to hundreds of plant and animal species as well as being a tremendous economic resource,” White said. “Restoring and expanding this species is only made possible through voluntary partnerships with conservation-minded landowners who share our goal of healthy forests.”
Longleaf pine habitat can contain as many as 300 different species of groundcover plants per acre, and approximately 60 percent of the amphibian and reptile species found in the Southeast. Additionally, this forested habitat is home to at least 122 endangered or threatened plant and animal species including the fox squirrel, northern bobwhite, red-cockaded woodpecker and gopher tortoise.
“We’ve taken great steps toward conserving longleaf pine forests in Florida,” said Jeffrey Woods, acting state conservationist for Florida. “Through this initiative, and the great works of our landowners, we will be able to enhance and protect more of this essential habitat.”
The Longleaf Pine Initiative will incorporate, through the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP), both technical and financial assistance to help landowners in Florida to improve habitat on agricultural land, nonindustrial private forest and Tribal land. Although WHIP has a continuous signup, landowners have until January 7, 2011 to apply for FY2011 funding for the Longleaf Pine Initiative.
Nine states are included in the Longleaf Pine Initiative: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.
Approved participants will receive financial assistance for implementing conservation practices including planting longleaf pine, installing firebreaks, conducting prescribed burning and controlling invasive plants.
Additional information on NRCS and our programs is available on our Website at www.fl.nrcs.usda.gov or at your local USDA NRCS office. To find the nearest office go to http://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app .


USDA Conservation Stewardship Program

Here is an announcement from the USDA NRCS. You can call the NRCS in Plant City 813-759-6450 or click on the links below for more information.

Gainesville, FL., November 4, 2010 – The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has extended the ranking period cut-off date for their Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). Producers now have until January 7, 201, to finalize their applications; but are encouraged to apply as soon as possible.
The CSP program, authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill, offers payments to producers who maintain a high level of conservation on their land and who agree to adopt higher levels of stewardship. Eligible lands include cropland, pastureland, rangeland and nonindustrial forestland.
“We’re extending the deadline for applications to CSP to provide agricultural producers more time to complete their applications,” said Acting State Conservationist Jeffrey Woods. “This will help farmers, ranchers and forestry producers by giving them more time and hopefully allow even more producers to participate in this program.”
CSP is offered in all 50 states, District of Columbia, and the Pacific and Caribbean areas through continuous sign-ups with announced cut-off dates for ranking periods. The program provides many conservation benefits including improvement of water and soil quality, wildlife habitat enhancement and adoption of conservation activities that address the effects of climate change.
A CSP self-screening checklist is available to help producers determine if CSP is suitable for their operation. The checklist highlights basic information about CSP eligibility requirements, contract obligations and potential payments. It is available from local NRCS offices or online at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/new_csp/csp.html .
For information about CSP or other NRCS conservation programs, visit: www.fl.nrcs.usda.gov/programs or the USDA-NRCS Service Center nearest you, http://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app .
NRCS is celebrating 75 years helping people help the land.


Job Posting for Horticulture Retail Sales

Here is a retail sales position that is needed to be filled from Robert at Colorfield Farms.

We need a plant salesperson for the retail nursery garden-center who knows the plant names and common problems with their remedies. We seek a well-spoken, helpful” teacher-type” person. We sell to mostly retirees. There is no educational requirement except skill and success. Some QuickBooks POS experience would be a plus but just ordinary computer skills is enough, Microsoft OS. Some marketing and plant upkeep knowledge is good.
Must be OK with some lifting and warm summers. $24,000/year and up, permanent. Contract after trial period. References etc. Start immediately.

Anne and Robert
Colorfield Farms, Inc.
(813) 672-4121
8221 S.R. 674
Wimauma, Florida 33598

La Nina

It looks like we are in the La Nina climate cycle of the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) this winter and predictions are that it will extend into the spring. This means that we are generally going to experience a warmer and drier than average winter. What does that mean for my neck of the woods and what does that mean for my production of plants? How will my operation be affected? Well here are some things to think about.

Here are some graphs that will better explain the averages. Remember that these are averages!
This graph shows the La Nina years and how that compares to the normal average.

This graph shows higher than usual temperatures during the winter for the Tampa area when looking at the averages of the La Nina years.

I find that this is an interesting graph as it shows that we might have more freezes than usual depending upon whether or not the La Nina is strong or weak even though overall winter temperatures may be warmer.

How does this affect production? If you are scheduling plants for a particular week remember the growing degree days will be higher and therefore development of plants will be more rapid. It means that you will probably use more water as water loss from the plants is a function of temperature. That might mean that your costs might be slightly higher for production. It means that you will more rapidly use fertilizer if you are using controlled release fertilizers. It means that spring sales will probably start a little earlier and you should have your labor lined up for production, shipping, and delivery. It means pests may stick around longer and start earlier and you will need to be vigilant. It means you shouldn't think that freezes wont be a problem this winter. They might and you will need to keep an ear to the forecast. I'm sure that you can probably think of a few other ways that this climate phenomenon will affect production. If you like please share with the other readers of this blog and post a comment!

For more economic analysis on climate data refer to my previous post about climate by clicking on the label heading called "climate" on the side bar of this blog.