Raquel Martin is familiar with firsthand the development pressures farmers in Lake County experience. Vice President of Liner Source, a 200-acre ornamental nursery, describes some offers she has received as “insane.” Martin, 36, said, “It’s $100,000 an acre, simple.” Big developers make big money. Martin claims she is dedicated to her company, but the offers have been alluring partly due to a conflict she has been having with her neighbors over migrant worker housing.
She said, “It costs a lot to be a farmer. It seems like it’s not worth doing because the community isn’t as supportive as you would hope. Lake County is drawing new development to accommodate a growing population as rising land prices around Orlando push it outside. Farmland is disappearing, and rural lifestyles are dwindling.
Farmer and president of the Lake County Farm Bureau Michael Hill said, “Farming has gotten a lot harder over the years. The environment is undoubtedly changing. According to University of Florida research, the population of Lake County has nearly quadrupled since 1981, rising from 108,550 to 400,142 in 2021. By 2030, the county could receive a further 143,000 residents.
According to U.S. data, Lake was the 10th most productive county in the state for that category in 2017, with $216 million in agricultural output. Ministry of Agriculture With $232 million, Orange came in ninth. The department conducts a survey; the most recent results are anticipated in 2023.
Lake’s laws reflect its dedication to agriculture.
Agriculture is a significant industry in the county, so this district intends to: Provide long-term means for preventing further encroachment upon agricultural enterprises; to encourage agricultural pursuits by protecting good soils and farming areas from subdivision development or commercial and industrial construction.
But according to the USDA, Lake lost about 90 farms between 2012 and 2017, or about 5% of all the farms in the county. Since 2008, the county’s agricultural acreage has decreased by 7.6%. Hill, 35, claims that more factors than population growth burden most local farmers. It has to do with farming economics.
According to Hill, the bottom line has been hurt by rising costs and inexpensive imports, especially for small farmers. Land usually disappears first in those situations. Farmland is like a 401(k), according to Hill. We invest our money in our land rather than the stock market.
According to data aggregator Statista, there are mortgages on more than $300 billion in farmland in the U.S. As a result, selling is frequently the only way to recover from a bad year. You have no other option, Hill said. “Land is still a cost you must pay.”
Beyond just houses
A transformation is happening all over the county, beyond just houses and apartments. The Wellness Way Area Plan is bringing mixed-use developments to the south, like Olympus, which will have athletic facilities and health and fitness centers.
A new logistics facility will be constructed by Amazon in the Christopher C. Ford Commerce Park. Additionally, the Wolf Branch Innovation District along Mount Dora will benefit from the area’s improved connectivity by attracting tech and educational jobs and constructing new developments in the form of villages. More than 1,500 homes are planned for construction or already exist in Eustis, tangelo’s birthplace.
Some of them, like the one-bedroom apartments in a brand-new five-story building in the city’s center, is intended for young professionals and what town manager Tom Carrino refers to as “active adults,” which includes young professionals and retirees who want to stay in the neighborhood.
“We’re not at the edge of the universe anymore,” Carrino declared, mainly attributing the new growth prospects to State Road 429 extensions that began opening to traffic in 2016. While maintaining the charming character of Eustis’ downtown, he claims that new businesses and entertainment are urgently needed. Can’t be sustained status quo indefinitely.”
Karen Lawrence, the proprietor of the manufacturer Lulu Candles, is one of Carrino’s active seniors. According to Lawrence, she relocated her company from Miami to Eustis a year ago, bringing 20 employees with her and hiring 30 more. Lawrence chose to purchase a home in downtown Mount Dora because of its charming small-town atmosphere. She wants the nearby towns to maintain their traditional character while introducing new activities.
I miss eating out, she said. “More people are required. Martin, a mother of two, says she’s pleased with how Eustis has increased public activities for children and families and knows they’re coming. She observed that Eustis appeared more adaptable than Mount Dora.
A novel farming method
Hill is aware of the pressure the county is under to change. Hill’s H&A Farms, located in Lake and Orange, switched from landscaping trees to blueberries and other crops during the 2008 recession. He said, “We had to diversify not to be so dependent on housing. His family has changed over the years to become a neighborhood draw for Southern Hill Farms in Clermont. The country’s expanding agritourism industry has more than twenty U-pick farms like this one.
The county also offers festivals to harvest blueberries, pumpkins, and other fruits and vegetables and tours of farms like Lakeridge Winery. For Hill, agritourism is more than just a tourist draw. It will be crucial for our community, he said, and they will need to visit these farms and make direct purchases if they want agriculture. Jay Parker, an engineering consultant, is getting ready to move out of the 20-acre horse farm he has been building for the past 20 years in Apopka, which is located just south of the border with Lake County.
His property will have 165 townhomes surrounded by a new Lennar Homes development. Parker intends to relocate to 100 acres in northeast Lake County’s largely unpopulated northeast, using some space to rebuild his horse ranch and the remainder as a buffer against future development.
He said, “I never imagined I’d have to do this again in my lifetime. In the future, according to Hill, “gentlemen farmers” like Parker will be the primary guardians of farmland in Lake County. There will always be some agriculture, he said, but it will mostly be your doctors or lawyers who have some cows or pasture.