Grozina / Agricultural and Life Sciences  / Agriculture: Import, Export & Sustainable Farming Practices

Agriculture: Import, Export & Sustainable Farming Practices

Florida’s climate does not only promote year-round tourism; its growing season is 200 days longer than anywhere else in the country. Between warm temperatures and having the highest annual precipitation, there is also increased yield production during that time. 

The journey from farm to table employs almost 1.4 million individuals between building, machinery, harvesting, and selling agricultural commodities. Florida ranks second for its leading crops - primarily oranges, tomatoes, dairy, and sugarcane - as well as its production of fresh vegetables in the U.S.

Seeing as 90% of the nation’s orange juice, along with the vast majority of other commercial citrus products, the way organizations choose to package, distribute, and grow these have an important role in redefining “smart farming” through the lens of sustainability.

One move towards sustainability is used at Jacob’s Farm, a cabbage farm near Tampa Bay, that implements a 4R Nutrient Stewardship.

Their goals focus on getting the:

- Right fertilizer source, since different crops grow optimally with specific nutrients
- Right rate of applying that fertilizer, because there is such a thing as too much
- Right timing based on nutrient loss risk factors
- Right placement, so that nutrients are kept where crops can use them, rather than contributing to secondary pollution through runoff, which harms local waterways

By maintaining healthy soil, crops and the land itself, fruits and vegetables are more resilient to natural disasters and extreme temperatures. The owners of Jacob’s Farm are able to farm fewer acres than ever since being established in 1986, yet their crop yields have doubled across the board.

Local Farming

Another sustainable practice that is growing state-wide is the presence of community-supported agriculture (CSAs), which are partnerships between consumers, who pay the operational costs, and farmers, who provide a weekly return of fresh produce. These arrangements are approved by and kept track of by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), which maintains a list of CSAs that voluntarily register.

By participating in a local CSA, consumers can count on locally and sustainably grown produce, meat, and dairy products, while contributing to the local economy and small family businesses.

Florida Agricultural Exports

On its own, Florida’s agricultural industry accounted for nearly 7% of the United States income in 2017. And as of 2019, Florida’s top export partners were relatively close to home with neighboring countries like Canada, Mexico, Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas. The agricultural export commodities with the highest production values in dollars were oranges, tomatoes, and strawberries. However, Florida was also ranked first for the value production of bell peppers, grapefruits, and sugarcane. Cabbage also saw a 32% increase in percentage and value in comparison to the previous season.

Citrus production as its own category has also continued to grow as exports, with oranges at over 71 million boxes, grapefruits at about 4.5 million boxes, and tangerines at 990,000 boxes. These are 59%, 16%, and 32% increases, respectively.

While the entire state accounts for 47,000 farms, many of the most successful product yields and sales have occurred in South Florida. Specifically, in Palm Beach, Miami-Dade, and Hendry counties.

Florida Agricultural Imports

While Florida is one of the top producers of tomatoes globally, the United States also imports the largest amount of round and plum tomatoes from Mexico and Canada since state growers have not been able to meet domestic demand or combat increased production costs. Issues like high humidity and rainfall contribute to the quick spread of diseases in plants, and pest control has remained a large issue during the winter.

The continued need for heavy pesticides and the need for intense labor not only jeopardizes sustainability for farms but constitutes over 30% of production costs alone. With the establishment of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Floridian tomato production decreased by half, and import volume was five times higher than in the 90s.

Sustainable Farming Practices

While globalization and climate change have posed threats to South Florida agriculture, many farms have found unique ways to thrive. Buckingham Farms in Fort Myers, for example, grows its vegetables hydroponically.

Hardee Fresh also utilizes hydroponics, but in a hybrid system based on vertical farming. On top of using ethically sourced nutrient mixes and coir cubes, the technology being used to control temperature and lighting is very advanced, which decreases energy use.

Many farms are also considering the possibility of becoming regenerative by carbon farming. This practice improves the rate at which carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere to be converted into plant and soil materials. This can be done even in off-seasons by applying temporary cover crops and sticking to organic fertilizers.

In light of the agricultural and sustainability efforts in Florida, a marketing and public relations firm plays an invaluable role in communicating the significance of these initiatives and fostering a favorable public image. With Florida's agriculture industry not only leading in production but also making substantial strides towards sustainability and resilience against climate change, there is a compelling story to be told.

We bridge the gap between the farmers' innovative practices, such as the 4R Nutrient Stewardship at Jacob’s Farm and the hydroponic and vertical farming techniques employed by Buckingham Farms and Hardee Fresh, and the broader public, including potential investors and consumers. By strategically highlighting Florida's leadership in sustainable farming and the importance of community-supported agriculture (CSAs), we are able to enhance consumer trust, drive consumer choices towards locally and sustainably grown products, and ultimately support the state's economy.

Moreover, in navigating the challenges posed by increased imports and the need for sustainability, a proficient marketing and PR team is critical in shaping narratives that underscore the value of Florida's agricultural exports and the global importance of adopting smart farming practices. This not only solidifies Florida's reputation as a pioneering agricultural hub but also encourages more responsible consumption patterns globally. Thus, hiring a marketing and PR firm is crucial for elevating the visibility and impact of Florida’s agricultural advancements and sustainability endeavors, thereby ensuring the long-term success and resilience of its farming communities.

Notes is a collection of articles, analysis, in-depth research and thinking from our firm, published with the purpose of transmitting information, of all kinds, to protect our clients.