Farmer Testimonial: Local Residents Preventing Housing Structure from Being Built on Farm

Jim Rogers Florida

By Clint Thompson

A small group of people can sometimes boast the loudest voices. For some specialty crop producers, that can impede progress.

Farmer testimonial
David Hill, president of Southern Hills Farms

David Hill, president of Southern Hills Farms in Clermont, Fla., and chairman of the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, recently testified to the Florida Senate Agriculture Committee on the state’s fruit and vegetable industry. One of his main points centered on the H-2A program; how expensive it is and the challenge of finding adequate housing.

Hill said he would like to rectify that problem by building a housing structure on his farm. But local ordinances have precluded him from following through.

“The main thing is if you reclaim something that’s already bult like a hotel, then no one can say much. It’s kind of grandfathered in. If you break ground and try to build something, all of the local communities will stand up and go to hearings and fight you, because they don’t want that close to their house,” said Hill, who testified that the nearest housing to his farm is about two miles away. “It’s not the local government, it’s the local people who go through the local government and get the government to stop us.

“They have a loud voice.”

He is forced to continue utilizing an independent contractor to transport and find housing for his seasonal workers.

“What it’s forced us to do is find something existing, which is tough to do, 100 rooms somewhere that’s existing,” Hill testified. “We’re trying to grow, and we want to be able to be not at anyone’s mercy. It’s like building our own packinghouse. We want control of what we’re doing, because we want control of what we’re doing.

“We’re not looking for financial assistance, we just want not to be stopped, if it makes sense and we do everything per code. We’re going to try and try, because we’re resilient. It’s just another hurdle to jump.”