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"Science shows conservation makes sense. Unfortunately, I realize many farmers have to choose between holding onto their businesses in the short-term and investing in practices that payoff in the long-term."
 
-Rose Koenig
 
 
Farm and Food Voices
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Conservation Makes Sense for Florida Community Farm

Rose KoenigOrganic grower Rose Koenig markets her products directly in Gainesville, Fla., and she believes that the federal government should provide incentives that would allow producers to evolve to more sustainable and environmentally beneficial farming systems.

On a personal level, Koenig questions why farmers need to be paid to be good stewards of the land. “Science shows conservation makes sense. So I often wonder why farmers wouldn’t make that choice,” she says. “Unfortunately, I realize many farmers have to choose between holding onto their businesses in the short-term and investing in practices that payoff in the long-term. With many farm commodity prices at historical lows, it is no wonder society has to create incentives for farmers to make long-term investments.”

Koenig puts her 17 acres to good use, growing 40 different types of vegetables, cut flowers and herbs. Ninetythree Gainesville residents buy farm “shares” each year, enjoying lettuce, sweet onions, asian greens, southern greens, squash, cucumbers, strawberries, beans, tomatoes, melons and much more in weekly harvests. Koenig also sells at farmers’ markets and supplies a restaurant specializing in local fare.

Type of Operation:
crops, flowers, herbs

Land in Agriculture:
17 acres

Greatest Challenge:
encroaching development

Change She'd Like to See :
an incentive system that rewards good stewardship and sustainable farming practices

Koenig focuses on crop rotation and summer cover crops to improve her sandy Florida soil. She knows soil chemistry and understands that carbon quickly disappears from the profile in the subtropical heat. Decomposition occurs quickly. She plants cover crops—millet, sorghum and cowpeas—to provide as much organic matter as possible while fixing nitrogen for subsequent crops.

Self-described as crop-rich and land-poor, Koenig strives for diversity. “We have a lot of crops, but we’re on the urban fringe so we’re not able to get more land,” she says. “We do a lot of rotations during the cropping seasons with different species.” Mixing flowers and herbs helps manage pests by adding more species to the mix and creating an environment that supports beneficial insects. Moreover, her temperate climate also allows beneficial insects to persist in an “agro-ecosystem,” further keeping damaging pests in check.

“I’m a big proponent of the right plant in the right place at the right time,” she says.

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American Farmland Trust