The Geography of Food: Orange County’s Food Production Industry Profile
As part of the Orange County Food Production Strategic Plan, the ECFRPC developed an inventory of the County’s food production assets, which included all properties currently used for agricultural purposes and all food production facilities (farms, food processing and distribution companies). These food production assets were mapped using Geographic Information System (GIS) software based on data provided by a variety of sources including the Orange County Property Appraiser, state and local governments, and private company websites. The ECFRPC found that there are over 142,000 acres classified as agricultural. Most of these properties are located in areas subject to high development pressures. The ECFRPC also identified over 200 food production facilities located within Orange County. These include 45 farms, 102 food processing establishments, and 54 food distribution businesses with warehousing facilities. Overall, Orange County’s food production sector represents a small part of the county’s economy. However, there are opportunities to increase the number of businesses within this sector by fostering stronger connections with the tourism and restaurant industries.
As part of the Orange County Food Production Strategic Analysis, the ECFRPC conducted an audit of the zoning regulations for the County as well as its six largest municipalities. This involved reviewing all relevant planning documents, such as comprehensive plans, zoning codes, and sustainability plans. This review found that the majority of zoning codes are not friendly towards food production. Many jurisdictions treat food production as a thing of the past and there is a strong bias to protect residential uses. There have also been some attempts to increase production programs, such as the urban chicken pilot programs, they seem like hobby type uses, and do not possess the capacity to have a major impact on local food production. Based on the ECFRPC’s analysis the most friendly jurisdictions toward food production uses are the cities of Apopka and Orlando. The rest of the jurisdictions restrict most food production uses.
The food production plan includes three major strategies: increase the visibility of Orange County’s Food Production Sector, Encourage Agriculture in Orange County, Support the Expansion of Food Entrepreneurship. Food production in the region seems to have a negative stigma attached to it, as development regulations have favored residential over agricultural. Eliminating this stigma and corresponding zoning regulations would likely have a positive impact on the local agriculture movement of the region. Moreover, as the production of legacy agriculture commodities, such as citrus, continues to decline, it will be important to encourage urban agriculture projects. The final goal of the implementation plan is to expand of the food production industry. This can be done through localities allowing industrial food uses, increasing the number of commercial kitchens, and general easing of the land regulation process for potential food entrepreneurs.
For more information about this project, contact Luis-Nieves-Ruiz, AICP at 407-262-7772 x 308 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.