Agriculture plays a very important role in Alachua County’s economy. While it is best known as the home of the University of Florida, the county is also largely agricultural, with farms and ranches making up a significant portion of the land use.
Here are some quick facts and figures on the agricultural sector of Alachua County:
Contribution to the Economy
The Alachua County Farm Bureau has reported that agriculture, natural resources, and related industries are the third largest employer in the county, providing jobs to over 37,000 people or around 23% of the workforce.
These industries also have the fourth highest value added to the economy, totaling around $255.4 million. They have the 5th largest output and are the 3rd best performing sector in exports.
The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences reports that, in 2012, agriculture contributed more than $280 million to total business sales in the county. A dollar of sales in agriculture adds $1.80 of sales to other economic sectors, including banking, legal services, transportation, food distribution, real estate, and others.
Alachua County’s wide variety of produce can be found from farmer’s markets to grocery stores throughout Florida.
There are around 1,662 farms in Alachua County, occupying over 340,000 acres or 54% of the total land use. Of these, 98% are considered “small farms”, with an area of less than 75 acres, and 88% are owned by individuals or families.
Around 37.5% of agricultural lands are designated “pastureland”, and about 31.3% are cropland. The rest are designated “woodland” and “other farmland”, which includes orchards and groves, dairies or feedlots, ornamentals, and others.
The top three agricultural production sectors in Alachua County are:
- Fruit and tree nut farming
- Greenhouse, nursery, and floriculture production
- Beef cattle ranching
The overall livestock in Alachua County is valued at more than $27 million, and includes more than 39,000 head of cattle, as well as goats, horses, and swine.
Crop value, on the other hand, is more than $65 million. Alachua County produces a wide variety of crops, including fruits, nuts, and vegetables, and is a major grower of important agronomic row crops, such as peanuts, field corn, cotton, and tobacco. Forage crops include Bahia grass and Bermuda grass.
Ornamental and landscape nursery and greenhouse products are also grown
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significantly, and have an estimated value of around $11 million.
Out of 67 counties in Florida, Alachua County ranks high in the production of the following:
In addition to these economic contributions, Alachua County’s agricultural sectors provide considerable benefits to the environment.
Pastureland create green open spaces and space for ground water recharge, while pine plantations serve as wildlife habitat, flood control, and natural buffers from urban areas.
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