Crop Diversification in Central Florida— Where to Begin by DON HARDEN


Agridiversity is an increasingly important part of agriculture as the statistics show that the industry will need people from all backgrounds to consider agriculture as a career if we are going to feed the world’s growing population.

 

In the pages of this month’s Central Florida Ag News, you’ll read stories of the diversity of agriculture in our region.
While we’re on the topic of improving the ag industry, there’s another kind of diversity to talk about too, and that’s diversity in the fields themselves. If you’ve not looked into crop diversification yet, there’s no time like the present.

Crop Diversification Benefits

A short list of the advantages of implementing crop diversification includes the following:
Lowers impacts on environmental resources.
Can improve soil health, as well as fight soil erosion and minimize problems with crop-specific pests and diseases.
Spreads farmers’ economic risk by diversifying their offerings.
Takes advantage of profitable niche markets.
Strengthens rural communities by creating additional industries based on renewable agriculture resources.

In 2016, AgAmerica Lending surveyed growers all over the nation about crop diversification. We found that 44 percent of growers were looking into growing a new crop because the price for their current crop had fallen too low.

Crop Diversification Options

There are many options when it comes to crop diversification. Planting alternative crops, trying agroforestry (the purposeful integration of trees and shrubs into crop and livestock farming systems), and the use of cover crops are all considered crop diversification strategies.
The best resource for finding the most desirable crop diversification options in your area is to look to your local Extension or Farm Bureau office, state USDA offices, and groups dedicated to diversification in crops. In Florida, the Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises website (smallfarms.ifas.ufl.edu) is a great resource for those looking to diversify their ag operations.

This column is sponsored by AgAmerica Lending.

BIO: Donald Harden, a Relationship Manager for AgAmerica Lending, grew up in the cattle and citrus business, managing a family ranch of several thousand cattle and horses. He has more than 30 years of experience in the real estate business, and more than 20 years specializing in agricultural sales. Don has owned and operated farm and ranch supply stores, machinery auction companies, and farms. He has served as a director and on the board of the Cattlemen’s Association, as the manufacturer’s representative for ag equipment companies, and as a beef cattle specialist for a national feed company. Don has traveled across the U.S. as a sales rep, conducting seminars and fostering long-lasting business relationships. Don enjoys his work at AgAmerica, as he has never met a stranger. For more information, visit www.AgAmerica.com.

by DON HARDEN