Yesterday, FATA Board members Lena Juarez, Lisa Ard and Sarah Harris joined FATA members in celebrating the ceremonial bill signing by Governor Rick Scott of House Bill 59. C&W Farms in Lakeland hosted the event and we were excited to be joined by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Senators Kelli Stargel and Wilton Simpson and Representatives Jake Raburn and Colleen Burton. Thank you to all who were able to make it to the event and especially to Representative Neil Combee for his support and sponsorship of the bill.
Robert Is Here Fruit Stand is a family-run market specializing in exotic fruit grown here on our own farms.
Beginning in 1959, six-year-old Robert was set on the corner of SW344th Street and SW 192nd Avenue to sell a crop of cucumbers his father had grown. No one stopped the first day. After much discussion, it was decided that no one could see the little boy standing on the corner. The next morning, his father pulled a couple of hurricane shutters from the house and spray painted the words “Robert Is Here” in bright red, and set them on each side of the table. Robert sold out and walked home in time for lunch.
Over the past 54 years, Robert has been selling produce on the very same corner. The fruit stand has grown over the years and has added honey, preserves, jams, jellies, dressings, sauces, and a huge variety of dried fruit. We now also have a petting zoo in the back yard, and a splash pad in our park.
Our fresh fruit milkshakes have become extremely popular over the years and lines can get quite long on weekends. Each milkshake is made to order using only fresh fruit and vanilla ice cream. We also offer smoothies made with fresh fruit and ice. Our Key Lime pies are made in our kitchen and have been named “Best Key Lime Pie in South Florida”. To keep our customers entertained, we have live music on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
As a leader in Agritourism, Robert Is Here encourages our customers to try something new during their visit. We feel it is important for visitors to our area to experience the tastes and scents of our sub-tropical climate. As over a million visitors per year pass by on their way to Everglades National Park’s south entrance, our customers come from all over the world.
July 1, 2014 marked a new Fiscal Year for the State of Florida, as well as the one-year anniversary of the changes to the Florida Agritourism Law that created new opportunities and protections for Florida Agritourism Operators. Your FATA Team worked hard during the 2014 Florida Legislative Session and we wanted to update you on some exciting results. While traveling the state during the past year and meeting with many of you, one of the most frequent requests that we encountered was a desire to have an increased opportunity for signage. We know that many of you are located in rural areas and sometimes have a challenging time with state and local regulations that don’t permit you to obtain adequate directional signage to your location. FATA worked closely with the Florida Department of Transportation to better understand current signage opportunities as well to create new opportunities through statutory change.
Here is a synopsis of signage opportunities that are potentially available to your operation:
Tourist Oriented Directional Signage (TODS) – TODS are standard-design white on blue service guide signs for use on rural roads. Signs have one or more panels that provide the business name and directional information. This program has been available since 2007 and has been a sign program for intersections on rural and conventional state, county, or municipal roads in rural counties identified by criteria and population in s. 288.0656, F.S. However, the law was changed during the 2014 legislative session to include rural areas in all Florida counties. The program applies to intersections on rural and conventional state, county or municipal roads. This is a very exciting new signage opportunity for many of your businesses. However, your local county must decide to implement the program, as it is voluntary by counties and not mandatory. A county or local government that issues permits for a TOD sign program is responsible for sign construction, maintenance, and program operation for roads on the State Highway System and may establish permit fees sufficient to offset associated costs. TOD signs may not be placed within the right-of-way of limited access facilities; within the right-of-way of a limited access facility interchange, regardless of jurisdiction or local road classification; on conventional roads in urban areas; or at interchanges on freeways or expressways. FATA wants to work with you and your local county officials to get the TODS program established in every Florida County. Contact us, if you want to help spearhead efforts in your county to have the TODS program implemented.
Temporary Harvest Season Signs – Seasonal signage is now permitted. Signs can measure up to 32 square feet but may only list the name, distance and/or direction of a farm operation. Signs must be erected at a road junction within the State Highway System. Such signs may be erected during harvest season, not to exceed four months. Harvest signs may not be located in the Right-of-way. The farm must either own the property where the sign is placed or have permission from the property owner. This type of signage is ideal for U-pick operations.
Signage on Farm Property – The following types of signage are exempt from state statute signage regulations and are permitted at Agritourism Operation locations: * Signs erected on the premises of an establishment, which signs consist primarily of the name of the establishment or which identify the principal or accessory merchandise, services, activities, or entertainment sold, produced, manufactured, or furnished on the premises of the establishment. (If a sign located on the premises of an establishment consists principally of brand name or trade name advertising and the merchandise or service is only incidental to the principal activity, or if the owner of the establishment receives rental income from the sign, then the sign is not exempt) * Signs erected, used, or maintained on a farm by the owner or lessee of such farm and relating solely to farm produce, merchandise, service, or entertainment sold, produced, manufactured, or furnished on the farm.
Florida Interstate Logo Signs – Did you know that your business may already be eligible to participate in the Florida Interstate Logo Program? Your agritourism operation may qualify as an “attraction” under Florida law. To participate in this program: * Your operation must be open at least 5 days per week, 52 weeks per year; * Your operation must be located within 15 miles of the interchange; and, have family oriented entertainment, or cultural, recreational, scientific or historical activities; and * Your operation must be recognized as a bona fide attraction. Ideally, you would offer some type of ongoing activity, such as a tour or other active participation by the public activity at your operation that is specifically designed to entertain or educate. Fees for signage are determined by a population formula based on the location of the interstate exit and currently range between $700 and $1245 annually. A $50 discount applies in Rural Areas of Critical Economic Concern, which will also be based on where the sign is located. There may be some limitations on availability of spaces at some exits throughout the state. You can learn more about the signage opportunities specifically for Interstate Logos at www.florida.interstatelogos.com or by calling toll free- 888-608-0833.
Outdoor Advertising/Billboards – If you own property on along a state or county road, you may be eligible to place a billboard on your property. The billboard could be utilized to advertise your agritourism operation. The rules for placing a billboard on your property are complex and best understood by working directly with FDOT Office of Outdoor Advertising & Logo Office of Right of Way. Here is a link to the specific rules that have been established by the agency pursuant to Chapter 479, F.S. https://www.flrules.org/gateway/chapterhome.asp?chapter=14-10
For more information about these signage opportunities for your operation, contact the Florida Department of Transportation Outdoor Advertising & Logo Office of Right of Way at 850-414-4600 or review their web pages at http://www.dot.state.fl.us/rightofway/OutdoorAdvertising.shtm and http://www.dot.state.fl.us/rightofway/LogoSignProgram.shtm
This is the type of valuable service and information that we provide to our members- we hope you will consider joining the Florida Agritourism Association.