Rain brings the Rise of the Insects!

Our recent daily rainfall is a welcome site for many of us after the drought of the past few years! However, all the generous rainfall brings the danger of a rise in insect populations, including mosquitoes. Mosquitoes pose a risk to humans and animals, carrying diseases like West Nile. They also can spread several other illnesses that if not treated can be fatal. We often see advertisements for charities buying nets to send to other parts of the world as a form of control, something that is unnecessary with the advanced methods of control we have in the United States. But, even with targeted spraying and commercial deterrents, citizens hold the key to lower mosquito populations.

These insects breed from stagnant water sources that stay around your home or barn. Buckets, pots, troughs, puddles, and even water bodies are ripe for a population explosion. You an reduce these by turning over all standing water sources. Also, invest in insect spray to use outside on yourself late in the afternoon. Some products are also available for animals and can be bought at your local feed store. We have recently seen a rise in West Nile throughout the southeastern US, meaning horse owners should also check vaccinations records and vaccinate if they haven’t already this year. Call your local vet for vaccine recommendations. For more information, please visit this website http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_mosquito_control.

Permanent link to this article: http://escambia.ifas.ufl.edu/smallfarms/2012/08/17/rain-brings-the-rise-of-the-insects/

Fish + Plants = Lots of fun!

After taking a break from our page for the holidays and a trip to the NACAA annual meeting, we are back in the swing of things! Recently, our office has seen a rise in the number of people calling about hydroponics, aquaculture, and aquaponics. All three practices have been around the industry for a while and are nothing new to the state. However, the expanding number of small farms and the growing movement toward local products has meant that the market demand on these products has risen. Our team is currently planning several programs on these topics, but first we will give you a quick lesson on the meaning of each!

Hydroponics is a cropping system that integrates plants into a water based system. Common setups include plants floating in styrofoam or some other type of buoyant material that allows the roots to touch the water, but the plant to stay above the surface. Other types would be plants that are in a bucket system with media (per lite or pebbles or similar types of media) that allow the water to circulate throughout the bucket.  Nutrients are usually fed into the system by hand or through an irrigation line. They could be synthetic or  organic in nature. A wide range of plants can be grown in this system because of the wide range of setups. Popular types in the panhandle include lettuce, herbs, tomatoes, strawberries, and green onions.

Aquaculture is the raising of aquatic animals whether in a fresh or saltwater system. Some aquaculture farms are located in the open oceans with net type systems to restrict the movement of species, while others could be a small backyard pond or tank in someone’s garden. Some of the more recognizable operations would be catfish ponds in the Mississippi Delta or the large ornamental operations in South Florida. The panhandle has several successful operations raising a range of gold fish, koi, catfish, tilapia, and other aquatic species.

Aquaponics is an interesting combination of the two systems listed above. Fish and plants coexist for the benefit of each other. Tanks hold fish and the waste is piped into a system where plants are grown in water. The nutrients act as the fertilizer for the plants with only a small amount of added nutrients into the system. Water is cleaned through the plants and an additional filtration system, while later being returned to the fish holding tanks. The circulation allows for the reuse of water and providing a continuous product for farmers. Plants can be harvested daily in larger systems and provide a significant boost to the profit of the farm.

If you have any questions about these systems, please feel free to contact a member of our team: Rick O’Connor (roc1@ufl.edu), Libbie Johnson (libbiej@ufl.edu) or M. Allison Meharg (allisonm@ufl.edu).

Permanent link to this article: http://escambia.ifas.ufl.edu/smallfarms/2012/07/24/fish-plants-aquaponic-fun/

Flood Damage

If anyone has flood damage and needs some questions answered, please give us a call or better yet shoot us an email tomorrow. We know there will be a lot of farms with water damage issues and will be assessing damage throughout the county this week. A couple tips for anyone that had water intrusion in their produce crops or livestock pastures:

– all crops that are being grown for fresh produce sales and come in contact with flood waters should not be sold for human consumption. This seems a little extreme, but the large amount of water we have seen over the last couple days has a high risk of bacteria and food borne illness. Take the opportunity to assess where the water entered the property and plan for futurearrow things with that problem in mind.

– for livestock producers that have issues flood issues: Having at least a small dry area for animals and access to dry hay/ feed is essential. Also, having access to fresh, noncontaminated water will help keep disease risk low.

– start working on finding and getting rid of all containers that may hold standing water. Mosquitos will be a huge issue in the next few weeks. If you have more questions on ways to control these summer pests, please visit or call Escambia County Mosquito Control http://www.co.escambia.fl.us/Bureaus/CommunityServices/MosquitoControl.html.

– be careful! Snakes and other wildlife have also been impacted by the large amount of water, so please be concious of where you walk, place your hands, or allow your children and pets to venture.

Permanent link to this article: http://escambia.ifas.ufl.edu/smallfarms/2012/06/11/flood-damage/

Lots of Alternative Growing System Questions

Our office has had quite a few questions lately about the alternative growing systems featured at some of our programs and field days. While we are hoping to model the large system at other locations, we are currently working on information guides for those individuals who haven’t been able to attend events at the WFREC in Jay. If you have questions, ideas, etc. please feel free to email me at allisonm@ufl.edu. We want to produce materials based on client needs, which is why we need your help. We are also going to begin posting photos and providing recaps of some of our small farms events.

Permanent link to this article: http://escambia.ifas.ufl.edu/smallfarms/2012/05/24/lots-of-alternative-system-questions/

Upcoming programs

Check out our calendar for upcoming programs. We have Cattle Management 101 beginning on the 31st, our first Specialty Crop Field Day at the  WFREC is also the 31st, we are hosting a cottage and homemade food forum on June 4th, and then we kick off the summer! Our pasture weed workshop will be July 10th at the office with a great presentation by Dr. Ramon Leon from the WFREC and then we are hosting a Pasture Managment program and field day in August with NRCS. If you would like to attend any of these programs, please email Allison or call theoffice for information.

Permanent link to this article: http://escambia.ifas.ufl.edu/smallfarms/2012/05/18/upcoming-programs/

Drought in the Panhandle

As I am sure most people have noticed, it’s a little dry lately! Most of our large farms are turning to irrigation for crops they already have planted and others are hoping for rain in order for the seeds their planting to grow. Drought has been a major issue decreasing production over the past several years and this year doesn’t look to be much different. While we can’t guess when it will ran here at the Extension Office, we can offer a few helpful tips to help you manage production in dry weather:

– Stockpile when possible- If you have the capacity to stock pile feed products, hay, fertilizer, and other farm essentials when you find a good price, buy it now! Anytime we have drought weather the price of basic products will go up. If you can save money by buying in bulk or stockpiling when its cheaper, you will see a return on your initial purchase.

– Make sure you water and water smart- There is almost no heartache like losing a beautiful crop to dry weather. If you can justify irrigating a crop, whether large or small, it can help reduce significant crop loss. If you water, water smart. Run irrigation during the coolest part of the day or night. Make sure you don’t have leaks or nozzles that don’t work. Running a quick test can’t save you a lot of time cleaning up a problem or losing crops to over watering.

– Drought and heat can kill- Animals should be monitored carefully for signs of heat stress. With decreased forages and loss of water coming from a grass crop, animals will need access to unlimited clean, fresh water. Now is a good time to clean tanks, check floats, and make sure everything is in working order.

-Don’t be afraid to make a long term investment- While its easy for me to say buy it when it’s not my own money, investing in irrigation or other ways to decrease the likelihood of total crop failure can pay off in the long term. Do some number crunching and find out what equipment or strategy may be worth it in the long term. We have a great project going on at the research center in Jay on various types of irrigation and can help answer all your questions.

Last, but not least, check out this article if you are interested in a disaster loan or need assistance because of a drought related crop failure. Good luck this season!


Permanent link to this article: http://escambia.ifas.ufl.edu/smallfarms/2012/04/30/drought-in-the-panhandle/

Cattle Management 101

In response to the flood of questions we have had to local offices over the last six months, our local extension team will be hosting an educational series for citizens that own or are interested in owning cattle. “Cattle Management 101” will begin on May 31st and address topics including: nutrition, forages, reproduction, herd health, marketing, facilities, and end with a multi county field day. We are excited to be able to offer this opportunity as part of our ongoing beginning and small farmer outreach. If you would like to find out more information or register, please visit the website below or call the Extension office at 850-475-5230.


Permanent link to this article: http://escambia.ifas.ufl.edu/smallfarms/2012/03/30/cattle-management-101/

Small Farms Blog Launch!

Welcome to our new Escambia County Small Farms Blog! Every week we will be posting information related to small farm operations. This may include photos, articles, specialist recommendations, upcoming program announcements, or FYIs that we run across. Also, please pass along questions.  The blog is a great forum to provide a detailed answer that a lot of other farmers might be able to use.

Permanent link to this article: http://escambia.ifas.ufl.edu/smallfarms/2012/03/22/small-farms-blog-launch/