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Issue No. 595

The Vegetarian Newsletter 

A Horticultural Sciences Department Extension Publication on 
Vegetable and Fruit Crops 

Eat your Veggies and Fruits!!!!!

Publish Date: 
October 2014

How to Start a Food Business in Florida

Soohyoun Ahna and Michelle D. Danylukb

As Extension Specialists in Food Science, we often get inquiries from people in Florida about developing or selling a food product. It could be a barbeque sauce that your friends and family urge you to sell, or a special product that you developed for your own restaurant. Whatever your food product is, running a food business can be a rewarding and exciting experience. You can be your own boss, creating your own work environment, and do something you really enjoy. However, running a business can be overwhelming and stressful, and it is important to understand you need invest a great deal of time and effort to run a successful food business.

It is estimated that 26,000 new food products are developed and introduced every year to the market, but only about 10% of them last more than a year (West III, 1999; Stanton, 2013). To survive and succeed in this competitive market, food entrepreneurs should have more than a good idea. They should have good, detailed business plan and a basic understanding of food processing, packaging, marketing, and regulatory requirements. The following are basic steps food entrepreneurs should follow in starting a new food business.

1.       Food Product Development

Once you have an idea for a food product, you should develop a recipe for commercial operation. Based on the batch size, you should revise and adjust your formula so that your final product would be made exactly the way you want it. Keep in mind that when you scale up your formula, not all ingredients increase proportionately, and thus you cannot simply multiply all ingredient amounts for scale-up operation. Once you finalize your recipe, you might need to test your product for acidity, nutritional analysis or shelf-life. Depending on the type of products, some of these tests can be mandatory.

2.       Food Regulation

Each state has different regulations regarding food business operation, and it is important to find out requirements applicable to your product and obtain all required permits for your business and/or facility as early as possible. In Florida, most food businesses are regulated by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS). If you operate any type of restaurant or diner establishment, you should contact Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) for the regulatory requirements. If you plan to sell your product out of the state, or sell your product online and ship it out of state, then you must comply with federal regulations as well. FDA regional small business representatives can provide details about requirements under federal regulations (http://www.fda.gov/ForIndustry/SmallBusinessAssistance/SmallBusinessRepresentatives/).

3.       Business Planning and Product Marketing

Developing a comprehensive business plan is the most difficult, yet the most important part of starting a food business. Most food businesses fail not because their products are bad, but because they did not fully understand the market for their products or financial needs. Thus, you should write a business plan including detailed description for business organization, product type, financial plan, management plan, market analysis, and marketing plan. Writing a business plan will help you assess the feasibility of your proposed business, and this plan will likely be required when you try to get financing from external sources such as a commercial bank. When you make a business plan or seek financing, use available resources to get assistance. You should consider getting liability insurance to protect your personal assets in case there is any claim against you and your company resulting from foodborne illness or injury. To develop a marketing plan, you should understand your product and which market your product would fit. Your marketing plan should include a market analysis on competition, prices, target markets, and marketing methods. In Florida, FDACS, county Extension agents and local economic development agencies provide help for people who start their business, and it is highly advised to seek available help and get professional advice.

4.       Production

This is the stage where you make plans for a production line to manufacture your product. First, you should decide where you will produce your product. You could use your own kitchen if you sell cottage food, but many entrepreneurs use co-packers or commercial kitchens. Co-packers manufacture and package foods for others to sell. Using co-packers has advantages. Co-packers can provide entrepreneurs with various services other than manufacturing and packaging products. Using them can reduce start-up costs for equipment and facilities. When you use your own facility, you have to ensure the layout of your facility and materials to be used are in compliance with state regulations (http://www.freshfromflorida.com/content/download/10023/136406/min_standards_chklist.pdf). Additionally, you should have appropriate storage place for ingredients, packaging and the final products.  

Having a good idea for a food business is always a good start, but running a successful business requires knowledge of food processing, regulatory requirements, marketing and business aspects of business. While this article provides a general overview of basic steps of starting food business, a food entrepreneur needs more detailed information. The Food Science Extension team will offer a one-day workshop for people who are interested in running their own food business on April 24, 2015. This workshop will cover various topics related to starting a food business in Florida, including business planning, product development, basic food technology, federal and state regulations, and food safety. More details will be announced soon. If you have any questions, you can contact Dr. Soo Ahn (sahn82@ufl.edu).


Stanton, J. 2013. “Market view: the return of truly new new products.” http://www.foodprocessing.com/articles/2013/ increased-new-products/. Accessed July 24, 2014.

West III, G. P. 1999. “Barriers to entry for high-growth entrepreneurial firms: implications for public policy in manufacturer-retail relations.”http://fusionmx.babson. edu/entrep/fer/papers98/XXII/XXII_A/XXII_A_text.htm. Accessed July 24, 2014.

aSoohyoun Ahn, assistant professor in Food Science and Human Nutrition Department, Institute of Food and Agricultural Studies, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-0370

bMichelle D. Danyluk, associate professor, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Citrus Research and Education Center, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), University of Florida, Lake Alfred, FL 33850.

Promoting local food systems for economic development

Richard Tyson, UF/IFAS Extension Orange County

   Support for local food systems is gaining ground all across America and is bringing significant economic development benefits to local communities (Barham et al., 2012; Hodges and Stevens, 2013; Martinez et al., 2010; Rife, 2013).  Food safety, food security and socially responsible food production are all reasons why citizens are intentionally supporting local farms, farmers’ markets, restaurants and food hubs that support them.  In addition, public interest in local farms are creating agritourism opportunities (Scott et al., 2013), further driving economic development surrounding local food production.

   The multiplier effects for purchases of local food in Florida range from $2.3 to $3.2 dollars of economic activity for each dollar spent on locally produced food.  This means that when a commodity is produced, sold and consumed in Florida, the dollar spent on the final product circulates throughout the local economy by the salaries of workers paying for other local items, farmers using the sale to purchase more seed, fertilizer and other production items for the next crop, creating more circulation, etc.  Fruit and vegetable farming and beef cattle ranching multipliers are $3.2 dollars per dollar of final demand (Hodges et al., 2014) when considered on a statewide basis.  The multipliers for more local areas, like a county, are usually smaller because there are fewer industries available to provide inputs to other sectors, so more of the purchased inputs have to be sourced from outside the region, leading to a leakage of money from the local economy.  In Orange County, for instance, the multiplier would be about 25% less than the statewide multiplier, or about $2.4 dollars.

   These statistics can be used to support Extension outreach to clientele involved in all aspects of the local food systems from growers to marketers to restaurants and retailers.  It is also evidence of the need for local governments to put resources into local food production and marketing or at the very least, not create a climate of regulations that limits this industry.

   The USDA has announced grants of over $52 million to help grow the organic and local food economies through the 2014 Farm Bill.  Visit www.nifa.gov for more information about these grants or refer to the link below:


A Hub for Food and Culture

Local food growers and marketers at Audubon Park farmer’s market in Orlando.


Barham, J., D. Tropp, K. Enterline, J. Farbman, J. Fisk, and S. Kiraly. 2012. Regional Food Hub Resource Guide. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Agricultural Marketing Service. Washington, DC.:83 pgs.  http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELPRDC5097957

Hodges, A. and T. Stevens.  2013.  Local food systems in Florida: consumer characteristics and economic development.  Proc. Fla. State Hort. Soc. 126:338-345. http://fshs8813.wpengine.com/proceedings-o/2013-vol-126/FSHS_Vol_126/338-345.pdf

Hodges, A., T. Stevens and A. Wysocki.  2014.  Local and regional food systems in Florida: values and economic impacts.  Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics, 46, 2 (May):285-298.  http://ageconsearch.umn.edu/bitstream/169063/2/jaae709.pdf

Martinez, S., M. Hand, M. Da Ora, S. Pollack, K. Ralston, T. Smith S. Vogal., S. Clark, L. Lohr, S. Low, and C. Newman.  Local food systems: concepts, impacts and issues. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture/Economic Research Service, Wahington D.C. http://www.ers.usda.gov/media/122868/err97_1_.pdf

Rife, J.  2013.  Developing regional food hubs in central Florida. Proc. Fla. State Hort. Soc. 126:348-349. http://fshs8813.wpengine.com/proceedings-o/2013-vol-126/FSHS_Vol_126/348-349.pdf

Scott, F., R. Ryan and H. Veilleux.  2013.  Agri-tourism and local foods at Long & Scott Farms.  Proc. Fla. State Hort. Soc. 126:346-347.  http://fshs8813.wpengine.com/proceedings-o/2013-vol-126/FSHS_Vol_126/346-347.pdf

Recycling Waste Byproducts to Reduce Fertilizer Inputs for Vegetable Production on Muck Soils

Alan L. Wright1, D. Calvin Odero1, Huangjun Lu1, Richard N. Raid1, and Chris Miller2

UF-IFAS Everglades Research & Education Center1 and UF-IFAS Palm Beach County Extension2

Sweet corn and snap beans are grown on organic and sandy soils in south Florida (Fig. 1), and these commodities fill an essential niche in supplying the U.S. during late winter and early spring.  These crops often require a significant amount of  synthetic fertilizer .  With increasing fertilizer costs, and concerns regarding the implementation of numeric water quality criteria for Florida’s waterways, it is essential to find more efficient strategies to manage nutrients.  Organic waste byproducts, particularly mill mud produced by sugarcane mills in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA), are normally land-applied for disposal purposes.  However, these byproducts could be used for vegetable crops to lessen dependence on traditional synthetic fertilizers, and provide a more slow-release nutrient supply that could potentially lessen nutrient runoff or leaching losses.  We are implementing a science-based research and education program to investigate the feasibilty of using the recycled organic waste byproducts for vegetable crops.  We are evaluating the potential decreases in total fertilizer usage, effects on weed dynamics and populations, and changes in plant pathogen and pest control strategies.  Projected outcomes include increases in crop yield and decreases in fertilizer input  amounts and costs.  In the long-term, this project should improve production practices while maintaing environmental stewardship. 

Many of the vegetables in stores of the eastern U.S. originate from farms in the western U.S., Mexico, and Central America, and it is our goal to increase Florida’s share of the vegetable market.  Sweet corn and snap bean production in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) of south Florida fills a special niche in providing these vegetables to the winter market (Fig. 2).  However, growers are facing new challenges, especially with regard to high fertilizer costs and potential implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandated numeric water quality criteria for Florida.  The proposed scientific research and education activities should help Florida’s growers meet this challenge. 

This project is focused on improving sweet corn and green bean production systems.  Through interaction with the growers and commodity groups, several priority areas have been identified for improving production and profitability, and to educate consumers about these crops.  These priority areas include optimizing nutrient management by evaluating new strategies and management of plant pathogens, weeds, and insects.  By addressing these issues, we can potentially decrease input costs and increase production, resulting in greater acreage and profitability, and potentially expand the market for Florida sweet corn and green beans. 

Sweet corn and green beans require large amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium fertilizers.  The sugarcane industry in the EAA produces large amounts of organic waste products, such as mill mud, as a result of sugarcane processing, which is generally applied back to sugarcane fields, but could be used in vegetable production.  Mill mud consists of sugarcane residues and soil remaining after processing.  Potential benefits to the vegetable growers include a decrease in the amount of synthetic fertilizer application, and a decrease in the total amount of fertilizers applied.  The organic waste byproducts would serve as a form of slow- release nutrients to the crops, which would in turn lessen the potential for leaching and runoff of nutrients into nearby canals and waterways.  Thus an extra benefit would be increased potential for nutrients staying in the fields which enhances the grower’s likelihood to remain in compliance with water quality regulations.  Furthermore, use of these organic byproducts is an option for the mandatory best management practices (BMP) program established for EAA farms, so growers would receive credit for byproduct utilization to count toward their total.  Sweet corn and green bean growers could potentially receive substantial benefit if utilization of byproducts were implemented. 

However, there is a need to evaluate these waste byproducts to determine their efficacy for sweet corn and green bean production.  We are conducting field trials to evaluate these byproducts to determine their effects on crop growth and yield, effects on pest populations, weed control measures, and other management practices that may need to be altered to accommodate use of the byproducts.  Outputs of this research will include 1) recommendations to growers as to the optimal rate of byproduct application to maximize yield, 2) the reduction in the amount of chemical fertilizers to be applied, and 3) changes in plant pathogen and weed control measures resulting from byproduct application.

Some preliminary results from field experiments have been generated.  The use of mill mud, significantly enhanced both sweet corn and snap bean yields, and reduced the amount of supplemental fertilization necessary to produce optimal yield potential.  Yields significantly increased with increasing supplemental fertilization rates for both crops.  Even with mill mud application, the use of inorganic fertilizers is still needed to meet crop demands, especially soon after planting.  The slow-release of nutrients from mill mud likely enhanced its ability to improve yield relative to the synthetic inorganic fertilizers, which can potentially leach from fields following heavy rainfall.  For this experiment, we did experience a high rainfall event soon as fertilization and planting, which likely leached the recently-applied inorganic nutrients from the experimental plots.  Thus, some treatments receiving only synthetic fertilizer yielded 40% lower than comparable treatments receiving mill mud.  Mill mud application increased nutrient retention in soil, which enabled it to provide a more consistent supply of nutrients to the growing crops under adverse weather conditions.  Mill mud had a greater effect on snap beans than sweet corn, likely due to the greater rooting depth of sweet corn and its ability to more efficiently scavenge nutrients from a greater volume of soil than snap beans.  Also, the time to maturity is greater for corn than beans, so corn has a longer time to make up for any early-season nutrient deficiency.  Snap beans were more dependent on nutrients supplied by mill mud than corn.  Further trials in Fall 2014 will determine the longer-term effectiveness of mill mud to reduce conventional fertilization rates.  Data from several growing seasons and replicated field experiments will be used to make final conclusions on the percentage reduction in conventional fertilization that can be offset by mill mud application.

Figure 1. Snap beans and sweet corn grown on muck soils of the Everglades Agricultural Area.

Figure 2.  Production and value of snap beans and sweet corn for  Florida


ARTICLE 7:   EMPLOYER RESPONSIBILITIES related to Transporting Workers

Last month we talked about regulations that directly apply to drivers of farm labor vehicles.  This month, in the final article on transportation, we will discuss regulations that are primarily the responsibility of the employer, including vehicle files; driver qualification files; hours of service; and the administration of DOT-required drug and alcohol testing programs.   In many cases, administrative and management office staff are responsible for these files and procedures.

DOT regulations are extensive and complicated, and we recommend training by an expert.  We will have two more classes on this topic at UF/IFAS as part of the Farm Labor Supervisor training program.   The classes are called “DOT-AUDIT,” meaning:  “Would you pass an audit?” and are taught by Tracey McQuilken, retired Sergeant Investigator with FDOT/FHP.   The classes will be held October 22, 12:30 to 4:30 in Arcadia; and November 12, 1:00 – 5:00 in Belle Glade.     See www.imok.ufl.edu/programs/economics/fls.php for more information and to register. 

AGENCIES:   Agencies that monitor the administrative files and procedures are the same as those that monitor drivers and their vehicles, and include the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) that now enforces what was previously covered by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), specifically the regulations issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and adopted by the State of Florida.  Prior to 2011, FDOT and FHP were two separate agencies. After FHP absorbed FDOT, the number of potential officers increased from 200 to more than 2,000.

Two other agencies, the Federal Department of Labor (DOL), and the Florida Division of Business and Professional Regulations (DBPR), require that if a driver is a licensed farm labor contractor, he or she must have Driver Authorized (DA) on the contractor’s license. In addition, the federal DOL and state DBPR officials enforce transportation safety and insurance requirements outlined in The Migrant & Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA), plus some of the DOT (FMCSA) regulations have been adopted by both MSPA and in the State of Florida Statutes.



DOT regulations require that you maintain a file for each your company’s commercial vehicles. This file should contain:

  • Vehicle identification information:  year, make, model, VIN, unit # and tire size.
  • Repair receipts
  • Vehicle inspections and driver vehicle inspection reports (DVIR).   Train your drivers on how to do a proper pre- and post-shift inspection - the vehicle driver is the only person who may do this.   The post-shift inspections have to be documented, and a DOT-required form has to be used.   Note:  During an audit, investigators will compare inspection records with repair records to be sure the driver accurately reported issues in the post-shift inspection.   Keep post-trip inspection forms for 3 months. 
  • Annual inspection forms
  • Roadside inspection records should be kept for 1 year.  
  • Create a preventative maintenance schedule and checklist.   Keep records of preventative maintenance performed.

Each vehicle should have a DOT number on EACH side of the truck/bus, toward the front, in a contrasting color with letters and numbers at least 3 inches tall.


Extensive checking of the driving and prior employment records of all drivers is required for drivers of Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMVs), including large vans and labor buses.   Create and maintain a separate file for each driver, which contains the following:


1.    A completed DOT-required application form

2.     Commercial Driver’s License – The required license is a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).   Make a copy and keep it in the driver’s file.  Be sure the license is still valid and monitor expiration dates to be sure your drivers renew their CDLs.  

3.     Previous Employers – Contact all employers where the person drove a CMV over the last three years.  

4.     Motor Vehicle Records – Check Motor Vehicle Records from all states where the person worked as a driver in the last three years. 

5.     Make sure the driver has a valid DOT-required Medical Certificate that was filled out by the examining DOT physician. You must keep a copy in the driver file.   Note:  The examining DOT doctor must be on the National Medical Registry.


1.    Make an annual review of driving record using a current MVR.

2.    Make sure the DOT-required medical certificate is still current.

3.    Make sure you have a current copy of the driver’s Commercial Driver’s License.

4.    Keep written documentation of any disciplinary actions


Make sure your drivers are given a copy of your company’s drug and alcohol requirements and testing program using the DOT regulations as your guide.   Have them sign a receipt of policy that they received it and keep that signed receipt in their file.  Note:  A DOT-required program is NOT a “drug free workplace.”  The DOT-required program is much more stringent. 

When hiring a new driver, a pre-employment drug test must be done and come back negative before any “safety-sensitive function” can be done by the driver.  This essentially includes having any contact with the vehicle, even washing it!   While you wait, assign the driver other tasks or make the hiring conditional on a negative-result drug test. 

For existing drivers, 50% of all company drivers have to be tested for drugs and 10% have to be tested for alcohol, on an annual basis, using a scientifically valid method of selection.

If a driver of your vehicle is involved in a crash they may need a DOT post-accident drug and alcohol test, so it is best to consult an expert.

If a driver appears to be under the influence based on the observations of a trained supervisor, a drug and alcohol test should be administered.  This is called “reasonable suspicion testing.”

If a driver tests positive for drugs and/or alcohol, they have to complete a Substance Abuse Professional Program (SAP) and pass a return to duty test before they can perform any safety-sensitive functions, as well as meeting other criteria prior to being released from the SAP program.


The company should have an “hours of service” policy, based on DOT regulations.   Generally speaking, drivers of Commercial Vehicles that carry passengers, including farm labor buses and large vans, may drive 10 hours within a maximum 15-hour shift, after 8 consecutive hours off duty.  Weekly restrictions of on-duty and driving time are based on a “rolling” period of 6 or 7 days and are more complicated than we can address in this article.   Again, we suggest consulting an expert or taking a class.   

For short haul distance (less than 150 air miles AND less than 12 hours a day) drivers may be able to keep a written time record.  For distances beyond 150 air miles, drivers may need to maintain a log book.   The log books look intimidating, but are not difficult to fill out, with proper training.   

Driver logs have to be current to the last “change of duty” status and include the previous 7 days.   They have to be submitted to your company every 13 days and should be reviewed and audited. The company is required to maintain ALL time records for 6 months.


Drivers of farm labor buses must have “DA” (Driving Authorized) on their Farm Labor Contractor licenses.  In addition, if the vehicle is under the control of an FLC, that person’s DOL registration must be authorized the “TA” (Transportation Authorized).   A Farm Labor Vehicle is required by the DBPR.  

Farm labor transport drivers who are not subject to DOT requirements (such as small van drivers) still must comply with all the DOL and DBPR regulations pertaining to drivers of vehicles transporting farm workers. This includes being at least 21 years old, having a current doctor's certificate (and carrying it with them while driving), possessing a current and proper driver's license, maintaining a record of the hours they work, being able to speak and understand English, and, if they are not a direct employee of an Agricultural Employer such as a farmer, possessing a federal and state Farm Labor Contractor certificate with Driving Authorization. (DA) 

Authors:   Thissen, C.; T. McQuilken; M. Bayer; and F. Roka.  

Carlene Thissen and Fritz Roka work for the University of Florida at the Southwest Research and Education Center, Immokalee, FL, 239-658-3400.  carlene@ufl.edu, fmroka@ufl.edu

Tracey McQuilken is a retired Sergeant Investigator with FDOT/FHP.  She is now a DOT Consultant and owner of Ion Drug & Alcohol Testing, Brandon, FL, 813-244-7087, tracey@iondat.com   

Mike Bayer is a former DOL-WHD Investigator, now with Curran, Bayer & Associates, West Palm Beach, 561-371-0126 mtbayer@curranbayer.com  


The Farm Labor Supervisor (FLS) Training Program is a University of Florida/IFAS Extension program. Begun in 2010, the program is coordinated by Fritz Roka and Carlene Thissen at the Southwest Florida Research & Education Center.  In the past, attendees were awarded Certificates of Attendance and of Certificates of Completion if they attended the core classes.   


CERTIFICATE OF FARM LABOR MANAGEMENT:  In 2014, a new program was introduced that allows participants to earn a Certificate of Farm Labor Management.   The objective behind this certificate is to enhance the professional stature of those farm labor supervisors who complete the program and successfully manage farm workers in accordance with all associated rules and regulations.   To achieve the Certificate of Farm Labor Management, a total of eight (8) classes are required, and attendees must pass a test administered at the end of each class.  Three (3) of those classes must be Wage & Hour, Human Resource Compliance, and one class related to worker safety.  The remaining five classes will be the choice of the individual.  Times and locations of classes offered in fall, 2014, can be found at www.swfrec.ifas.ufl.edu , along with registration information. 

Topics are taught at several locations across Florida and in partnership with county extension faculty.  These topics cover laws that keep farm workers safe, fairly paid, and in a working environment free from discrimination and harassment.  The program is offered in both English and Spanish. If there is sufficient interest, individual classes of combinations of classes can be arranged at times and locations convenient for the participants. We also provide training at grower locations that incorporates grower-specific policies and procedures.  For more information, contact Carlene Thissen, 239-658-3449, carlene@ufl.edu.

The 26th Annual Florida Postharvest Horticulture Tour

March 2 - 6, 2015

The Florida Postharvest Horticulture Tour is coordinated by Dr. Steven Sargent and Dr. Mark Ritenour, specialists in the area of postharvest technology at the University of Florida, Horticultural Sciences Department.  The Postharvest Tour will provide an opportunity to experience first-hand the latest technologies for harvest, handling and shipping of subtropical and tropical fruits, warm and cool season vegetables and ornamental crops. It is designed for produce industry professionals, educators, researchers and students in such diverse areas as field and packinghouse management, transportation, wholesale, roadside/gift and retail sales, as well as import/export. The group will visit large and small-scale operations, observe harvesting, compare cooling technologies, and visit a fresh-cut processor and major supermarket distribution center.

To register go to: http://postharvest2015.eventbrite.com.

A limited number of educational discounts are available for university and government employees.  For more details contact Adrian Berry at adberry@ufl.edu.