The University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) and Florida A&M University (FAMU) will host a “Florida Small Farms Conference” series to help small farmers build more efficient operations.

“Attendees will learn about a wide variety of alternative enterprises, marketing options, and other important financial topics that will help them improve their own small farm,” said Bob Hochmuth, the UF/IFAS multi-county agent at the North Florida Research and Education Center in Suwannee Valley. “The conferences will help improve the sustainability of our small farms and maintain viable agricultural communities throughout Florida.”

These small farms workshops were designed by UF/IFAS and FAMU county Extension agents and faculty to help small farmers learn more about marketing, business planning, alternative production, worker health and safety, and more.

"I always gain something at these conferences where I can see all types of new ideas presented,” said Belinda Cheney, a past small farms conference attendee, who owns and operates Cheney Farms, in O'Brien, Fla. “Attending has been especially helpful to me in finding new crops to try and new ways of doing things to improve my operation.”

The idea for the small farms conference series stemmed from the UF/IFAS and FAMU small farms Web site (http://smallfarms.ifas.ufl.edu), which was designed to compile resources for small farmers in one location.

Farmers using this site can select topics on enterprises of special interest to them. Each topic includes information on production, marketing, and economics as well as other appropriate links.

Small farms represent over 90 percent of all farms in Florida, based on the USDA definition of up to $250,000 in sales. These farms represent about 15 percent of all farm product sales in Florida.

The Small Farms Conferences will be held at various locations around the state during the next several months. For a detailed list of the locations of the small farms conferences and other small farms resources log on to http://smallfarms.ifas.ufl.edu/calendar.htm