Courtesy of One Martin
Special to Treasure Coast Newspapers USA TODAY NETWORK – FLORIDA
PALM CITY– Agriculture is a critical industry in Florida as well as Martin County — both for its economic impact and its vital role in feeding people here — and across the globe.
At the fourth annual Farm City Week luncheon Nov. 18, guests from rural and urban areas of Martin County had the opportunity to come together and recognize the important relationships between farmers, consumers, community leaders and everyone in between who contributes to a safe, abundant food supply. The event is hosted each year by the nonprofit One Martin in partnership with the Florida Farm Bureau.
J. Scott Angle was this year’s keynote speaker. Angle is vice president for agriculture and natural resources at the University of Florida and the leader of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. He spoke about the dire consequences that hunger causes in populations across the world and challenged Florida’s agricultural leaders to take up the monumental task of doubling food production by 2050.
“It won’t be easy,” Angle said. “We will be working with less water, no more land, and decreased labor supply, and we can’t look to other parts of the world that are already under stress. The southeastern United States is central to our planet’s future, and Florida is at the heart of it.”
At IFAS, Angle and his colleagues are calculating how to compensate farmers for the work they do as part of the efforts to counter economic threats to the future of agriculture.
“Our farmers provide essential ‘ecosystems services’ like cleaning water, sequestering carbon, and enhancing wildlife,” Angle said. “To preserve our farms, we need an objective way to calculate the value of these services.”
Technology will be the key to doubling production. He described drones that can distinguish a weed from a plant in applying herbicides, better systems for weather forecasting, and targeted fertilization. “Artificial Intelligence systems can understand and integrate data,” Angle said, “but only if we step up to the challenge.”
The Farm City Week luncheon was held at the Palm City estate of Paul and Lehr Felipe. Guests enjoyed steaks provided by the iconic Adams Ranch, greens from the production farm of House of Hope, and vegetables from AgriGator farms, all prepared by Chef Mark Muller.
Rick Hartman, President of One Martin’s Board of Directors and Owner of Hartman Real Estate and J& E Cattle Co. and partner in C-23 Cattle Co., reminded guests that agriculture is an integral part of the economic and civic life of the community. “Most people don’t get to see agriculture in action,” Hartman said. “The Farm City Luncheon gives us a chance to bring people together from all walks of life and show them what’s happening on today’s Florida farms and ranches.”