Seven Billion and Counting: Dade's Farms Disappear, Hunger Grows
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But what we really need to worry about is right here.
In both Miami-Dade and the rest of Florida, the population has increased while the amount of farmland has shrunk in the last decade. The number of folks living in the county jumped 10 percent to 2,496,435 while approximately 30,000 acres of farmland was lost due to real-estate development and the Everglades Restoration Act, which reduced farmland by at least 10,000 acres, said Debbie Brady, director of member services for the Dade County Farm Bureau.
With approximately 13,000 acres and a $75 million annual industry, South Florida is the biggest producer and exporter of tropical fruits in the state, which includes avocados, mangoes, bananas and coconut.
Also known as the nation's "salad bowl" and "winter bread basket," Miami-Dade also grows its vegetables between the months of September and October and exports most of them to the northeastern U.S. The tomato crops have been particularly affected in the last 10 years, with approximately 10,000 acres of tomato farmland lost. The potato industry has been all but destroyed due to real estate development and Everglades restoration.
Yet as Miami-Dade exports most of its fruits and vegetables, parts of the county face shortages of food distribution, according to a report issued by Food Action and Research Center. The report released last August ranked Florida's 17th Congressional District -- including parts of Miami, North Miami, Miami Gardens, and Hollywood -- as having the highest number of hungry children in the nation.
Experts agree that it is more of food distribution problem, and are troubled about the loss of fertile farm land to real estate development.
"In my humble opinion, most of the starvation has to do with political reasons," said Thomas Stevens, a researcher for the Food and Resource Economics Department at the University of Florida. "What's sad to me is a lot of residential and commercial development starts on arable land, and they don't build factories and homes sites on land that's the least suitable for farming."
Despite the shrinking farmland in Miami-Dade, producing enough food to feed the local population isn't a problem, said Brady.
"We're trying to get our community to realize that they can get fresh local produce right here in our own backyard," said Brady. "We can feed this county plus, no problem. It doesn't have to be so bleak, it can be a positive."
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