VEGETABLE ROW CROPS
Miami-Dade County is referred to as the nation’s “Salad Bowl” and “Winter Bread Basket.” Miami-Dade County has a long history of vegetable production, especially winter tomatoes for export to northern areas, which dates back to the late 1800s. The 2007 Census of Agriculture reported roughly 33,451 acres of vegetables. Vegetables are grown on both Rockdale, and to a much lesser extent, marl soils. Major vegetables based on acreage include beans, sweet corn, squash and tropical sweetpotato.
According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, Miami-Dade produces 99% of the state’s sweet potatoes, 64% of the squash and 35% of the beans. Tomatoes, taro, okra, eggplant, herbs and Asian vegetables are other significant crops. Of these, Miami-Dade produces 75% of the state’s okra crop and 99% of the taro. The total value of this sector was over $128 million in 2007. Over 90% of Miami-Dade’s vegetables are exported out of Florida. With the exception of tropical sweetpotato and taro, which are grown year-round, most vegetables are produced from September to May.
The industry is faced with high costs of production, including land and all inputs, and direct competition with Mexico. Urbanization, leading to both the loss of land for vegetable production and neighbors who do not welcome commercial vegetable production in close proximity, is another real challenge for vegetable farmers.
Dr. Mary Lamberts, UF/IFAS Miami-Dade Cooperative Extension
The nursery industry in Miami-Dade County is the largest in Florida and second largest in the U.S. with 1,500 state certified nurseries growing on 13,000 acres. According to a UF/IFAS economic study of the Florida environmental horticulture industry, the total value of ornamentals sold in 2005 was $659 million. The output impact of industry was $1,045.4 million. The total sales of nursery growers, landscape and garden centers in 2005 were $1,982.6 million and the employment impact of these industries was 40,837 jobs.
The main types of nursery operations are: (a) field nurseries producing palms, trees and large shrubs in the ground, (b) container nurseries producing woody and herbaceous ornamentals in containers in the open fields, and (c) greenhouse and shade house nurseries producing foliage plants, orchids, bromeliads and woody ornamentals for interiors. Tropical woody species are sold for landscapes in south and central Florida, other southern states, California and Arizona. Bedding plants are marketed throughout the U.S., and foliage plants are marketed throughout the U.S. and abroad. A percentage of palms and other tropicals end up in malls, hotels and office buildings in the U.S., Caribbean region, Canada and Europe.
The industry faces many challenges including constant introduction of invasive pests, irrigation restrictions, increasing input costs, and declines in sales. The recent downturn in the economy and collapse of the housing market has had a negative impact, forcing some nurseries producing landscape plant material out of business. Others had been scaling down to adjust to current market situation. Nurseries are coping with various strategies including reductions in labor force, increased efficiencies in irrigation and fertilizer, adoption of BMPs, creative marketing strategies, specialization in the production of unique crops and innovative production techniques.
Teresa Olczyk, UF IFAS Miami-Dade Cooperative Extension
Many of the tropical fruits grown in South Florida today were introduced in the late 1800’s. Several pineapple plantings were attempted in South Florida on what is now Miami Beach, Elliot Key, Key Largo, with Harper’s Bazaar magazine featuring a story on Plantation Key in 1871. Early settlers also began to grow them in their backyards, and by the early 1900’s there were plantings of avocados, mango, and citrus groves. David Fairchild, Wilson Popenoe and others were responsible for the introduction of many tropical fruits that are now commonly grown in backyards and groves of South Florida.
South Florida has a warm, humid subtropical climate that allows the growing of unique, exotic tropical/subtropical fruits. No other area of the continental U.S. has this climate and capability. Miami-Dade County is the number one producer of mangos, large sized avocados, Carambola, lychees, longan, mamey sapote, banana/plantains, sugar apple/atemoya, coconut, sapodilla, jackfruit, and passion fruit. Miami-Dade County is the largest producing county of avocado in the Florida, and 5th in the U.S. There are approximately 10,300 acres of tropical fruits on some 1443 farms in Miami-Dade County, with avocado making up over 8,000 acres. The tropical fruit industry is currently valued at an estimated $38 million in annual sales, with an economic impact of approximately $78 million annually.
The popularity of some of the tropical fruits has increased in recent years with increased value added products such as tropical fruit ice creams, wines, and the advent of more emphasis more exotic cuisine by higher end chefs locally and nationally, and the local food movement.
Dr. Carlos Balerdi, UF/IFAS Miami-Dade Cooperative Extension (Emeritus)
Miami-Dade County has had a long history of aquaculture production dating back to the mid-1940s. Most of the early industry began with the “tropical” fish farming of livebearers, such as mollies and swordtails, familiar to many aquarium hobbyists over the years. However, much of that type of aquaculture moved to the Tampa-Ruskin area of Florida in the 1960s. A variety of other food fish and ornamental fish culture has been in existence over the years with a number of offers in catfish, tilapia, goldfish, redfish, and freshwater prawns, and marine shrimp at varying levels of success.
African cichlids are the predominant ornamental fish currently produced within the county with 22 producers reported with sales of $3.3 million in 2007. According to USDA National Ag Statistics Service, there were 27 aquaculture producers of all aquaculture products with a sales value of over $4.5 million. In recent years some levels of production of tilapia, alligator, hybrid striped bass, Koi production has taken place. Additionally, one hybrid sturgeon production facility is attempting to harvest caviar locally.
Though aquaculture is a very small segment of agriculture in Miami-Dade County, ornamental aquaculture has one of the highest values per acre of any commodity grown. As the county is favorably geographically positioned for transportation, climate, and water supply to support a likely aquaculture enterprise, other issues such as international trade and competition (as Miami International Airport has the second largest amount of live fish imported into the U.S.), economics, land values, regulations, and changing market outlets have all kept the industry fairly stable over the years.
Don Pybas, UF/IFAS Miami-Dade Cooperative Extension
he historical animal industry in Miami-Dade County centered on dairy, livestock, and poultry. In 1950, the county had 49 dairy operations with 10,000 milk cows, but by 1960 there were only four dairies remaining. Dairy made up approximately 30% of agriculture production in the 1944-49 time period with a value of $7 million. No dairies have existed within the county for more than 30 years. Some heifer production for dairy operations is held in the Miami Lakes community. In 2007, cattle were limited to pasture operations in the northwest area, and some limited small farm operations throughout the agriculture area with some 3,400 head of cows and calves. Small numbers of specialty livestock animals, including increased numbers of goats and sheep, chickens, hogs, ducks and geese, were reported.
In 1950, poultry and egg production was a significant portion of the county agriculture industry. There were 197 egg farms that produced 546,000 dozen eggs at a value of $326,000. By 1959 the number of egg farms were down to 62 large operations that produced 5 million dozen eggs with a value of $2.4 million. Like dairy operations, when land prices escalated egg and poultry producers relocated out of the county. Today, poultry is limited to small farms and one game and farm bird hatchery.
The horse industry in the county is predominately made up of private hobby-related and show horses. Boarding and breeding/training facilities make up most of the facilities. Some 2,586 horses, ponies, mules, burros, and donkeys existed within the county in 2007 according to USDA statistics.
Overall, the animal industry utilizes approximately 6,000 acres for cattle and horses.
Don Pybas, UF/IFAS Miami-Dade Cooperative Extension