Seven Billion and Counting: Dade's Farms Disappear, Hunger Grows

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The world's population reaches seven billion today, according to the United Nations. That has led to a lot of hand wringing about how we feed future populations around the world.

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.


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.


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


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