Three Cheers for the Rooneys!

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Not often enough does this writer get to bring happy news to this post, so hats off to the Rooneys for doing so much to sustain our resources.  Their farm is a fine example of what can be done to immediately improve agricultural methods to conserve our resources.  The Rooneys can be commended as land stewards who are concerned for our land and our planet, not just users and takers.

SRWMDHeaderCropped In: Three Cheers for the Rooneys! | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. (OSFR) | Protecting the Santa Fe River
On June 02, 2015 at 05:13PM, Suwannee River Water Management District published the following article:

Scott and Billie Rooney practice environmentally friendly farming in Live Oak

Suwannee County farmer uses sustainable practices

CONTACT: Abby Johnson, Office of Communications
Suwannee River Water Management District 386.362.1001 or 800.226.1066 (FL)

Suwannee County farmer uses sustainable practices

Scott and Billie Rooney practice environmentally friendly farming in Live Oak
Live Oak, FL, June 2, 2015 –

In 2005, Scott and Billie Rooney bought the first 53 acres of their now 80-acre farm in Suwannee County, east of Live Oak. Ten years later, the Rooney farm is divided into six acres of four varieties of “Rabbiteye” U-pick blueberries, a quarter of an acre of one variety of U-pick blackberries, 25 acres of fenced-in, pasture land for their sheep and a few cattle, and five acres of long leaf pine trees which are beneficial to the natural habitat.

The Rooneys have partnered with the agricultural portion of the IFAS/Extension team in Suwannee County to gain assistance in implementing the most up-to-date, cost efficient and ecologically sound methods of farming. From the beginning, the Rooneys have found ways to be the most environmentally friendly farm they can be.

They started by planting their first cover crop of Bahia grass two years before they even began to plant their blueberries. The Rooneys chose native southeastern “Rabbiteye” blueberries which are more suitable to the local growing conditions.

Upon planting, the Rooneys made the decision to use a rather uncommon cultivation method. Rather than using pine bark, they chose to plant their blueberries in beds covered by a weed cloth. Using weed cloths helps to better control weeds, reduces labor costs as well as reduces need for chemical applications.

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They also decided to use a drip irrigation method under the plant bedding rather than having an aerial form of irrigation. The decision to use beds with drip irrigation was extremely beneficial to the Rooneys, both from a cost standpoint as well as a water conservation standpoint. It also has proven to be very instrumental in limiting their fertigation.

Over the past two years the Rooneys have been assisted by the National Resource Conservation Service Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the United States Department of Agriculture Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program. They have used these two programs to help implement and monitor plant protection by attracting native pollinators, planting beneficial cover crops, and even installing “trap crops.” The “trap crops,” which include triticale, sunflowers and buckwheat are expected to become very important to the Rooneys’ pest management strategy. Triticale is predicted to have a very positive impact for the longer term vitality of the Rooneys’ plants because blueberries and blackberries are prone to early season damage.

When discussing how they see their Front Porch Farm fitting into agriculture in the Suwannee Valley area, the Rooneys talked about the pleasure they gain from seeing non-farm families having the opportunity to come and enjoy the “farm experience” and noted they especially treasure seeing families, especially with children, have the opportunity to pick their own healthy, locally grown produce. The Rooneys hope to continue to have the opportunity to positively impact the community and give folks some familiarity with agriculture and a unique experience that is “down on the farm”.

You can find the Rooneys and their Front Porch Farm on the web at This is the first in a series of articles highlighting the remarkable work of local farmers practicing sustainable and environmental best management practices. These stories are brought to you from the partnership of the Suwannee River Water Management District (District), the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agriculture (UF/ IFAS) the Suwannee River Partnership and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Office of Agriculture Water Policy.

For information about this story contact Bob Hochmuth, Regional Specialized Extension Agent- Vegetables, Center Director Suwannee Valley Agricultural Extension Center at 386-362-1725 x103 or [email protected]

This post rendered with LFS

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