Extension Collaboration with Local Government Yields Successful Agricultural Awareness Impacts with Urban Residents
Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Agent
Sumter County, Florida is a historically rural, agriculture-focused community. However, in recent years it has undergone rapid development with the establishment of The Villages – one of the largest and fastest-growing retirement communities in the United States. The 2020 Census population of Sumter County was 129,752 residents, up 39% from the 2010 Census population of 93,420. The presence of an expanding urban area presents both commercial opportunities and preservation challenges for farmers. As the urban block is now the largest voting bloc, there is an advantage in instilling an awareness of, and appreciation for, agriculture in the county. This view is shared by both UF/IFAS Extension and Sumter County government, who collaborated to plan a farm tour with the sole purpose of allowing citizens of The Villages to experience the importance of the agricultural industry in their backyard. The 2023 Sumter County Farm City tour was held at Flowerwood Nursery, a large ornamental nursery with a new Villages development under construction across the street. After a presentation on the history of agriculture in Sumter County, participants learned about cattle grazing and ecosystem services, how to create a butterfly garden, and how drones are used in agriculture. On the nursery tour, Flowerwood demonstrated the concerted efforts they had put in place to reduce the need to spray pesticides before new residents moved in next door. Surveyed participants (n=45) who attended the Sumter County Farm City tour demonstrated a 51% gain in knowledge of Sumter County Agriculture, and 100% plan on attending a future Farm-City tour in 2023.
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Authors: Matthew Smith, Laura Bennett, James Davis, Frank Calascione, Anna Jameson, Glenn Ponder
Smith, M. Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Agent, University of Florida IFAS Extension, Florida, 33513
Bennett, L. UF/IFAS Multi-County Livestock Agent, University of Florida IFAS Extension, Florida, 33523
Davis, J. UF/IFAS Multi-County Extension Director, University of Florida IFAS Extension, Florida, 33513
Calascione, F. Director, Sumter County BOCC Office of Economic Development, Florida, 33513
Jameson, A. Owner, Brite Leaf Citrus Nursery, Florida, 33538
Ponder, G. General Manager, Flowerwood Nursery, Florida, 33513