Challenges and potential solutions for vegetable producers in Miami–Dade county
The production of winter fresh market vegetables in Miami-Dade County can be traced back to late 1800s and supports the local economy through employment and revenues. The major vegetable crops are snap bean (Phaseolus vulgaris), squash (cucurbita pepo), sweet corn (Zea mays var. rugosa), Cuban sweet potatoes (Boniato) (Ipomoea batatas), okra Abelmoschus esculentus), and tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum). However, vegetable producers are facing a number of challenges, such as strategies for marketing, food safety, overseas competition, implementation of Best Management Practices (BMPs), Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs), pest control, freeze protection, and soil and water management. Marketing and food safety are top considerations, especially for new and small farm growers (with gross sales less than $250,000 a year) due to limited budget. However, outbreaks of food borne disease could result in business closure for either small or large producers. Good Agricultural Practices, such as Tomato-GAPs, have become a mandatory requirement in Florida. It is important to implement Integrated Pest Management (IPM) systems including cultural, biological, mechanical, and chemical practices with sufficient scouting to prevent pest resistance and to benefit the environment. Best Management Practices (BMPs) for soil nutrient and water management in vegetable production are needed to reduce production costs and protect downstream water supplies.