ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35 ORLANDO) -
With agriculture at historic lows in Central Florida, a new crop of businesses has experts with the University of Florida Extension program excited about the future of farming in the region.
They report an uptick in interest in local food businesses.
University of Florida Extension reports five new local food businesses in the last two years in Orange County alone.
More than 150 people recently attended a conference for local food enthusiasts.
"We had a very good mix of people that were interested in starting farms, people who are interested in starting cottage food businesses, people who are interested in where they can go to get local food and how they can support it," said Richard Tyson, director of extension services in Orange County.
The hope is that those businesses will grow and be part of the local economy.
He met FOX 35 at the Waterkist Farms greenhouses, the hydroponic operation that Melanie and Roger Corun have run for the past 14 years.
“[The Coruns] are a good example of a new breed of farmer and local food enthusiasts who are driving this local food movement, and I think it’s something that’s really going to be an economic driver for Central Florida,” Tyson said.
The Coruns sell at the Winter Park Farmers Market and to 10 local restaurants.
Their relationships with local businesses has grown over the years.
“Some of them would greet us with open arms and others were kind of skeptical to give us a chance,” Melanie Corun said. “I think because we were a small farm. But of course, now, it’s morphed into [a three-greenhouse operation] and everybody wants it, so it’s definitely a good thing.”
Tyson said even if a small percentage of businesses and consumers subscribe to the local food movement, the new breed of agriculture will help the local economy.
“When you look at the fact that there are 5 million people in Central Florida, a small percentage can drive a lot of demand,” Tyson said.