In the world of small business there is a constant balancing act between what needs to be done versus what can be properly achieved with the resources available. For a grower, this means some farm improvements may be put off while addressing the main priorities of producing and harvesting a marketable crop. In the sector of niche journalism, under which this magazine operates, we have many topics available to cover. We try to choose those of most immediate value to our readers and do our best to properly cover and present them in a timely fashion.
Growers remain our most important target audience, but industry representatives and others involved in agricultural issues have become an added component of our reach. Those consuming our print, online and radio content sometimes include lawmakers and others who craft policies that affect agriculture. As media technologies advance, it becomes easier to reach different audience sectors. However, the core challenge of balance remains.
AgNet Media has always worked to convey factual, relevant and useful information to the grower and industry community. We produce daily ag news that airs on many local radio stations and crosses over to reach urban neighbors, and on AgNet Media websites that target different sectors of agriculture. This includes coverage of key industry events, conventions and meetings. It can and does involve coverage of the legislative process as best we can.
Urban Encroachment Impacts Ag
Speaking of legislation, if I could make a law, I’d make the novel “A Land Remembered” by the late Patrick Smith required reading for all new residents to Florida. It would be of particular value to newcomers who have opinions on what needs to be done to protect the Sunshine State’s environment. The book tells a compelling story of how masses of people can forever change fragile agricultural and environmental landscapes.
Not too long after my parents retired and sold their small South Florida vegetable farm, my entire hometown area changed dramatically into something I don’t even recognize. I suppose in the minds of many who have moved into that area from elsewhere, it has always been an urban jungle, but the reality of history is much different.
The impact of urban growth on agriculture is a concern shared by farmers throughout the deep Southeast. Florida is the third most populous state and continues to lead the pack in urban expansion, so many folks in neighboring states have a close eye on it for several reasons.
In most cases, good land stewardship by Florida farmers has proven to protect lands far better than the state or federal government can. Yet a growing chorus of urban interests and politicians — who often seem short on facts but long on opinions — continue to point fingers at agriculture as an easy target about environmental issues that others don’t want to claim.
For example, we hear a lot of hoopla nowadays from uninformed politicians and media about algae — where it comes from and where it’s flowing. It’s ironic that some of the cleanest water around Lake Okeechobee is in and around the farming areas south of the lake, flowing around and out of the Everglades Ag Area where farmers grow vegetables and sugarcane. They manage the land with good science and land stewardship practices that appear to filter dirtier water flowing into the area.
At least that’s what the best science available shows from water management district professionals who are charged with finding facts on which their governing boards can make the best informed decisions. Regardless of misinformation swirling on issues like this, facts remain facts.
Hopefully there are still some left in politics and media who are willing to tell the truth to the public, regardless of the political fallout. Farmers know better than most that following good science is the best way to make the best decisions about the environment.
With the legislative season again upon us, now is the time to ensure your legislators are learning and making informed decisions on behalf of agriculture. Reach out to ask tough questions. Talk to your urban neighbors. Work with your chosen farm organizations on more effective ways to communicate to new residents, and let your elected leaders know that facts must prevail over fiction. The future of agriculture in this region may depend on it.
Gary Cooper is the founder and president of AgNet Media, Inc., based in Gainesville, Florida.
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