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Spring Membership Roundup

Spring Membership Roundup

Spring showers bring new members!

New members are popping up all over the place this Spring. As a large herd, we can turn our concerns into smart planning for a future that both grows our economy and protects our horse farms.

What does it mean when a Marion County business aligns with Horse Farms Forever by joining as a member? Quite simply, it means that they care about our open spaces and beautiful places. It means that they are willing to support farmland preservation and our unique equestrian heritage. Thank you, new and renewing members!

This spotlight features our new & renewing donors at the $500 & up level as of April 1st, 2024.

New to the Herd


We welcome you!

Fresh Start Farm Therapy – Corporate Bronze

Dowman Family Foundation – Individual Leader

Renewing Organizations

Corporate Gold

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Ocala Stud – Corporate Gold

Imagine – Marne Fauber – Corporate Gold

Corporate Silver

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Southern Heritage Developers, LLC – Corporate Silver

Great American Insurance – Corporate Silver

Corporate Bronze

Advanced Myographic Technologies, LLC. – Corporate Bronze

Next Level Farm – Corporate Bronze

Renewing Individuals & Families

The Goodwin Family & James W. Goodwin, Esq.

Individual Leader – RENEWING

John S. Gaither

Individual Leader – RENEWING

Gary Bybee

Individual Leader – RENEWING

David & Aline Velez

Individual Patron – RENEWING

Nancy deCavaignac

Individual Patron – RENEWING

Always Watching

We work hard to keep you informed, and to represent our members’ interests in preserving our horse farms, farmland and the unique character and culture of Marion County. Join the herd. Every voice matters.

Corporate Membership

Looking for a way to promote your business throughout the equine community? Becoming a Horse Farms Forever Corporate Member gives you access to our members in Ocala/Marion County and beyond.  Donating to Horse Farms Forever, a registered 501(c)3 with the IRS, reaches our members, friends, and subscribers though our newsletters, social media, advertising, and events.  To learn more or to join please contact our Executive Director,
Sara Fennessy 

Spring Founder Spotlight

Spring Founder Spotlight

The community, like a herd of horses, has come together to show their support, and the herd keeps growing!

More and more people are raising their hands and making a difference in Marion County to help protect horse farms for future generations. Our Founders demonstrate the pinnacle of commitment to the preservation of horse farms by investing in the mission of Horse Farms Forever®, year after year.


Founders who renew each year are demonstrating their iron clad commitment to continuing the work of preservation. New threats are appearing all the time, and the Founders are behind us all the way. We are beyond grateful.

We would like to thank the Founders who have renewed their 2024 membership with a gift (as of March 2024).

As a show of gratitude for those who wish to support Horse Farms Forever at the Founder level, an anonymous donor has agreed to match all gifts at the $5,000 during the second quarter of 2024. Please contact us to learn more about this exciting match opportunity in celebration of Horse Farms Forever’s sixth birthday!

 

 

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The Green Group is an accounting, tax, consulting and advisory firm with a unique approach – out of the box, entrepreneurial thinking. With a team of seasoned, highly successful entrepreneurs, family business owners, real estate owners, investors and specialists in IRS audits and thoroughbred racing, we see the business world through a special lens and find solutions in ways our competition simply can not.

We go beyond the typical accounting firm-client relationship and invest ourselves into understanding the intricacies of your particular business and financial situation. Our cloud technologies allow us to be accessible to you wherever you may be. We are your trusted business advocates and advisors, and can help your business catch wave after wave of success.

New to the Herd


We welcome you!

Green Group

Renewing


Thanks for your continued support!

Elisabeth Brinton & Bob Utley

VanKampen Boyer Molinari Foundation

Phyllis & Patrick Harlow

Nicole Hornblower

JP Morgan Private Bank

Tash Osbourne, Sotheby’s International

Lugano Diamonds

St. Bernard Foundation

UF Health

The community, like a herd of horses, has come together to show their support, and the herd keeps growing!

More and more people are raising their hands and making a difference in Marion County to help protect horse farms for future generations. Our Founders demonstrate the pinnacle of commitment to the preservation of horse farms by investing in the mission of Horse Farms Forever®, year after year.

Founders who renew each year are demonstrating their iron clad commitment to continuing the work of preservation. New threats are appearing all the time, and the Founders are behind us all the way. We are beyond grateful.

We would like to thank the Founders who have renewed their 2024 membership with a gift (as of March 2024).

As a show of gratitude for those who wish to support Horse Farms Forever at the Founder level, an anonymous donor has agreed to match all gifts at the $5,000 during the second quarter of 2024. Please contact us to learn more about this exciting match opportunity in celebration of Horse Farms Forever’s sixth birthday!

horse-farms-forever-farmland-preservation-area-ocala-marion-county

The Green Group is an accounting, tax, consulting and advisory firm with a unique approach – out of the box, entrepreneurial thinking. With a team of seasoned, highly successful entrepreneurs, family business owners, real estate owners, investors and specialists in IRS audits and thoroughbred racing, we see the business world through a special lens and find solutions in ways our competition simply can not.

We go beyond the typical accounting firm-client relationship and invest ourselves into understanding the intricacies of your particular business and financial situation. Our cloud technologies allow us to be accessible to you wherever you may be. We are your trusted business advocates and advisors, and can help your business catch wave after wave of success.

horse-farms-forever-farmland-preservation-area-ocala-marion-county

Elisabeth Brinton and Bob Utley have lived abroad and traveled the world for most of their professional careers. They purchased a horse farm in the Farmland Preservation Area (FPA) and joined Horse Farms Forever as Founder Members.

Elisabeth is a competitive show jumper. She is also a global sustainability expert and successful builder of global businesses for strategic corporate investors and private capital. A few years before her retirement as a senior executive with Microsoft, she and Bob began searching for a U.S. based horse farm. They reached out to Matt Varney, a realtor and broker with Ocala Horse Properties, to find the perfect farm.

They could have chosen one of many equestrian areas around the world, but they chose to buy a farm in Marion County because of WEC. But most importantly, they wanted their farm to be located in the Farmland Preservation Area (FPA).

 

horse-farms-forever-farmland-preservation-area-ocala-marion-county

Individual Renewing Founder

In 2019, Kimberly Van Kampen moved her Hampton Green Farms from Wellington to Ocala. The move to Marion County was inspired by the opening of WEC; so much so, that in 2021 Hampton Green Farms and Discover Dressage became Founding Partners of WEC.

Van Kampen’s move to Marion County is big news for the dressage world, as she is one of the founders of the Global Dressage Festival in Wellington and a member of Wellington Equestrian Partners. But after 20 years, she decided to move her investments to Ocala because of WEC.

Van Kampen is one of the most respected breeders of P.R.E. (Spanish) horses in the world and is the past president of the US P.R.E. Association. She is also one of the largest supporters of youth dressage, supporting Lendon Gray’s Dressage4Kids program and the Emerging Dressage Athlete Program through the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF). Van Kampen’s sponsored rider Sophia Schults, had two big wins at the 2022 FEI North American Youth Championships (NAYC). Schults and Conocido HGF, owned by Hampton Green Farms, won an Individual Bronze Medal (Freestyle) and were also part of the NAYC Team Gold Medal.

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Phyllis & Patrick Harlow

Individual Renewing Founder

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Individual Renewing Founder

Horse Farms Forever is happy to have Nicole Hornblower and her husband James Denman as Founder Members. Their primary residence is in Massachusetts, but they fell in love with Marion County’s picturesque countryside after visiting Ocala for several years for horse shows. In 2017, Hornblower and her husband decided to buy their own horse farm.

“This is such a beautiful area and my husband, James and I, are very excited to be part of the Horse Farms Forever community to help make sure that there is land for horses,” she said.

In 2018, shortly after they purchased their property, now named Little Creek Farm, they learned about the proposed Coastal Connector toll road from their realtor, Matt Varney of Ocala Horse Properties. They are grateful that the road was stopped, but they became concerned again when the Northern Turnpike Extension was recently proposed.

 

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Corporate Renewing Founder

A uniquely elevated private banking experience shaped around you, JP Morgan Private Bank offers:

  • Planning: bringing finances together into one comprehensive strategy
  • Investing: tailored guidance and access to unique investing opportunities from world-class specialists
  • Lending: working to strategically craft the right financing solutions for your goals
  • Banking: extensive personal and business banking resources
the-yard-stop

Corporate Renewing Founder

Everyone deserves the extraordinary, because luxury is not about price—rather it’s about an experience. And when it comes to real estate, experience matters. Sotheby’s is one of the world’s most recognized and respected luxury brands, having served discerning auction buyers and sellers since 1744.

Dedicated to building relationships & accomplishing the impossible for others right here in Ocala Florida, Horse Capital of the World, the Co-Founder for the Ocala’s Premier Sotheby’s International Realty location.

Put your home in the hands of an expert. Mastering the art of listing a home successfully & getting it sold.  Helping buyers with their dream homes, fully in my element being a part of the life they have worked so hard to achieve.

 

the-yard-stop

Corporate Renewing Founder

Located in The Equestrian Hotel at The World Equestrian Center in Ocala, Florida. This world-class facility is the largest equestrian complex in the United States and we are very proud to be a founding partner. Our newest salon can be found in the lobby of the hotel overlooking the VIP Terrace and Grand Prix arena.

 

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St. Bernard Foundation

Corporate Renewing Founder

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 Corportate Renewing Founder

University of Florida Health is a medical network associated with the University of Florida. It includes two academic hospitals – UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville and UF Health Jacksonville – and several other hospitals and facilities in North Florida. It used to be known as Shands Healthcare and UFShands.

UF Health encompasses the colleges of DentistryMedicineNursingPharmacyPublic Health and Health Professions and Veterinary Medicine; the UF Health Shands family of hospitals; hospitals in Leesburg and The Villages®; UF Health Jacksonville medical center; UF Health North; and an academic campus in Jacksonville that is home to the UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville and includes degree programs offered by the colleges of Nursing and Pharmacy. It also includes primary care and specialty practices throughout Central, North Central and Northeast Florida, as well as Southeast Georgia.

Our mission is to promote health through outstanding and high-quality patient care; innovative and rigorous education in the health professions and biomedical sciences; and high-impact research across the spectrum of basic, translational and clinical investigation.

 

It is the vision and mission of Horse Farms Forever to inspire conservation of horse farms through education, awareness and idea exchange so as to preserve natural pasture land focusing on horses and their habitats, to protect soil and water on which they depend, and minimize land use conflicts
in Marion County, Florida.

We are watchful of government and others to preserve and protect horse farms and farmland for future generations - especially in the Farmland Preservation Area. We are neither anti-growth nor anti-development; we encourage urban growth to remain inside the Urban Growth Boundary.

Horse Farms Forever® is a Florida not-for-profit corporation registered with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services as a charitable organization and approved as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) corporation by the Internal Revenue Service. Horse Farms Forever® does not have a political mission. Our status as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization does not allow us to participate or intervene in political activities. The organization will neither advocate on behalf of political candidates nor advocate for the passage of legislation.

 

Questions About Membership?

Sara Fennessy, Executive Director
859-553-5510

Call It What You Want. It’s a Truck Stop.

Call It What You Want. It’s a Truck Stop.

RaceTrac has applied to build a truck stop deep inside the Farmland Preservation Area. The County says truck stops are not compatible on agricultural land, so RaceTrac has applied to change the zoning and made some modifications to the plan, calling it a gas station and convenience store with Extended Diesel Offering (EDO).

EDO is RaceTrac’s code word for truck stop. It’s a shenanigan! But more critically, it is an inappropriate use of rural land and is located in a traffic hot zone that is already dangerous. 

Original Plan

In June of 2022, the Site Plan had parking spaces for 19 tractor-trailer rigs. Take a good look at this location and the entrance/exits onto US Highway 441 and W Highway 329. Can you picture tractor trailers entering and exiting in multiple places in that already busy location?

Here’s a bird’s eye view of the traffic hot zone, close to schools and surrounded by rural land. Could you pick a worse spot for multiple tractor-trailer entrances and exits?

Plan B

Here is a revised site plan dated November 11, 2022, with parking spaces for 18 tractor-trailer rigs. The truck parking is condensed into a smaller area but the traffic impacts are unchanged.

Plan “OOPS”

Here is the “Oops, You Caught Us” revised site plan dated November 09, 2023, with parking spaces for ZERO tractor-trailer rigs. Why the change? Tractor-trailer parking is not allowed in Rural Commercial zoning and the only way to get this application approved is to change the zoning from agricultural to Rural Commercial. EDO is RaceTrac’s code word for truck stop. The EDO fueling pumps are still there, and the site is still designed for tractor-trailer rigs to enter and exit on 329 and 441. 

Truckers: Please Stop In

What’s more, RaceTrac is actively encouraging truck drivers to use the facilities, as seen here in their own promotion from September of this year:

“As a business, RaceTrac relies on truck drivers not only to supply our store with fuel and products, but also as valued customers who stop in to fill up with us. We believe it’s important to show thanks for the hard work these drivers give, day in and day out,” said Mark Reese, vice president of operations, maintenance, and store support at RaceTrac.

 

“RaceTrac Travel Centers and EDO stores are specifically designed with truck drivers in mind. Travel center amenities include plenty of interior store space, an outdoor patio, extended canopies for high-flow diesel with bulk diesel exhaust fluid (DEF), free Wi-Fi and a seating area.”

A Traffic Nightmare

The tractor-trailer drivers are going to park to visit the store, use the Wifi and outdoor seating area, and that begs the question, WHERE are they going to park?

Along the road?

How about in the open field behind the fuel pumps where the original spaces were located? Who could blame them for pulling over there just to get out of the way? Who will stop them?

And if there is no parking, what will happen when all 5 EDO lanes are occupied? Will they be lined up along 441 or 329?

Surely not. That’s a safety issue. How long will it be until RaceTrac applies for A SPECIAL USE PERMIT to add the parking spaces they originally planned, for the sake of safety and the public good? How then will the County be able to deny their request?

This is not RaceTrac’s first rodeo. They have stated in their application their opinion that the location near the 441/301 split is ideal for development. The truck stop will trigger safety and environmental issues that will require further development, blowing the lid off that quiet rural area.

Attend the Hearing

RaceTrac’s application for zoning will face a public hearing on March 19th, 2pm, at the McPherson Complex. We urge you to show up along with us and exercise your right to public comment. Please also reach out to your County Commissioners to thank them for their longstanding support for farmland preservation and ask them to continue to uphold the Comprehensive Plan’s protections for the Farmland Preservation Area. Your voice matters and it makes a difference.

It is the vision and mission of Horse Farms Forever to inspire conservation of horse farms through education, awareness and idea exchange so as to preserve natural pasture land focusing on horses and their habitats, to protect soil and water on which they depend, and minimize land use conflicts
in Marion County, Florida.

We are watchful of government and others to preserve and protect horse farms and farmland for future generations - especially in the Farmland Preservation Area. We are neither anti-growth nor anti-development; we encourage urban growth to remain inside the Urban Growth Boundary.

Horse Farms Forever® is a Florida not-for-profit corporation registered with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services as a charitable organization and approved as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) corporation by the Internal Revenue Service. Horse Farms Forever® does not have a political mission. Our status as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization does not allow us to participate or intervene in political activities. The organization will neither advocate on behalf of political candidates nor advocate for the passage of legislation.

 

Jumbolair Meeting Ends with Win for Community

Jumbolair Meeting Ends with Win for Community

The dust has begun to settle from the Tuesday, February 20 public hearing on Jumbolair’s application and it still feels like a big win for the community. Residents went home after the nearly six-hour meeting with a sigh of relief as the meeting ended with a moratorium on new fly-in communities and a commitment to study and revise the County’s regulations.

The feeling on Tuesday morning was much different when, just two hours before the public hearing, Jumbolair withdrew their application to expand the fly-in community.

This calculated maneuver did not deter nearly 350 residents and neighbors, as they showed up at the Marion County Commission Auditorium to protest the development. Also, in a show of solidarity, 220 people signed up to speak in opposition.

Since the application was withdrawn, the Marion County Commission could not vote, but they could still take public comments from residents, the attorneys representing Horse Farms Forever and John Travolta, as well as comments from Save Our Rural Area, who helped organize the community.

Concerned neighbors gave impassioned speeches to the Commission about how the proposal to build 240 homes and 198 new aircraft hangars would forever change their quiet, rural farmland community. Several residents also shared their serious and grave concerns about the numerous low-flying military airplanes and helicopters that have spooked horses and livestock and rattled residents with the constant noise and safety concerns.

While the application was officially withdrawn by the applicant, not denied by the Commission, this meant that Jumbolair could reapply at any time. However, at the recommendation of County Attorney Guy Minter, Commission Chair Michelle Stone directed staff to revise the Land Development Code (LDC) with clear criteria for private airfields and fly-in communities. Minter also recommended hiring a consultant due to the complexity of the issue.

The Commissioners agreed to study and revise the LDC and, to also not accept any applications for new fly-in communities until the revisions to the LDC have been adopted. This process will take approximately 18 to 24 months. Horse Farms Forever will be closely monitoring this process and we will update the community on any upcoming meetings or workshops.

Horse Farms Forever was instrumental in pointing out the deficiencies in the LDC regarding fly-in communities as we submitted a letter to County Administrator Mounir Bouyounes addressing this issue about a week before the public hearing. For example, the LDC has definitions for things like Aviary, Boat Yard, and Equine Center, but it does not have a definition for the terms Airport, Fly-In Community, Hangar, or Runway. This deficiency in the LDC justifies the moratorium on fly-in applications, especially considering that Marion County has nearly 20 existing fly-in communities.

Horse Farms Forever (HFF) also worked closely with Save Our Rural Areas (SORA) on this proposed development as it not only threatened the Farmland Preservation Area (FPA), but also several rural communities that border the FPA. It was the combined forces of hundreds of residents, along with the powerful legal team that included several attorneys representing HFF, SORA and John Travolta, as well as over 2,000 emails, which sent a formidable message to the Commission about how important it is to protect our quality of life and rural communities.

We thank the County Commissioners and the Growth Services staff for their professionalism and also for the leadership of Commission Chair Michelle Stone, who allowed public comment, even though the application had been withdrawn. Each and every resident that sent an email or spoke at the Commission meeting made a difference.

 

Like our horses, we are stronger together!

The Racetrac Shenanigan

The Racetrac Shenanigan

RaceTrac has applied to build a truck stop deep inside the Farmland Preservation Area. The County says truck stops are not compatible on agricultural land, so RaceTrac has applied to change the zoning and made some modifications to the plan so that it looks more like a gas station. It’s a shenanigan! Like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, RaceTrac is hoping that the disguise will get them in the gate. Once they’re in, the incremental change to a full-scale truck stop will be hard to fight. Let’s take a closer look at this “sheep-nanigan” so we can see the teeth and claws hidden under the fluff.

The Shenanigan

The site is at the intersection of 329 where it meets 301/441 just before the “Y” where 301/441 split in northwest Ocala. It is right near both the North Marion High and Middle schools. You can see that the area is predominantly large, open pastures. It is a quiet rural neighborhood with one exception. The convergence of 301 and 441 creates a high traffic count.

Especially for trucks headed to and from Jacksonville. 

RaceTrac has applied to rezone an agricultural parcel in the FPA to Rural Commercial, a restricted, specialty classification. Rural Commercial is only available to legacy commercial parcels that are agricultural related and appropriate on Rural Lands.

Perhaps you’ve never heard of Rural Commercial zoning – seems like an oxymoron! Is it rural or is it commercial? It’s understandable if you have never heard of it.  Of the 281,000 parcels in the County, only 20 have this legacy zoning. That’s just 0.007%.

According to our research, no one has ever applied to rezone a parcel with Rural Land use from Agricultural to Rural Commercial … until RaceTrac.

Truck Stops are not allowed in Rural Commercial zoning. So, RaceTrac is calling this project a “rural agricultural convenience store and gas station.”

The Disguise

How do you make a truck stop look like a gas station?

RaceTrac’s answer is to remove the semi-truck parking, but keep the semi-truck fueling lanes. Take a look at this site plan. The gas pumps are in the front and the diesel truck lanes are in the back. If you’ve ever been to a truck stop, you’ll recognize the pattern.

When’s the last time you saw a truck stop with semi-truck fueling lanes but no semi-truck parking? They have to park somewhere, even temporarily, and they will. On all that space in the back.

How long will it be before that open space has semi-trucks parked on it? Who will be able to stop it then?

My What Big Teeth You Have

Truck stops depend on traffic to make a profit. Look at what grew up around a similar RaceTrac in Lithia Springs, Georgia: big box stores, distribution centers, fast food, you name it. If RaceTrac is allowed to use Rural Commercial zoning, then the sky’s the limit for a commercial invasion of the Farmland Preservation Area.

If this truck stop is “agricultural related and appropriate for rural lands” then what else will developers argue for? A Bucc-ees on the opposite corner? A Walmart? How much farther behind are a wider road, faster speeds, on- and off-ramps, and lighting 24/7? URBAN SPRAWL is knocking on the door.

A Break in the Fence?

In order to get to the sheep, this wolf has to clear some hurdles. The first hurdle is the restriction to agricultural related commercial uses.

Is a RaceTrac truck stop an agricultural related use? Of course not! The USDA says “agricultural related use” means lands, buildings, or structures, used, designed, or intended for use for the purpose of a bona fide farming operation.

Selling salads does not make it agricultural. Providing diesel fuel for off-road vehicles doesn’t make it agricultural. There are already two small, legacy-zoned gas stations in that area to serve that need.

The second hurdle requires the use be appropriate on Rural Lands.

Is a truck stop appropriate on Rural Lands? The Marion County Comprehensive Plan says no! That’s abundantly clear.

The third hurdle is that all undeveloped commercial parcels located in the Rural Lands shall rezone to Rural Commercial.

The RaceTrac parcel is an undeveloped agricultural parcel. It does not qualify for the Rural Commercial zoning.

It should take some fancy footwork to get past those first three hurdles addressing the intent of the Rural Commercial zoning classification, but if RaceTrac clears those, the fourth hurdle is permitted uses. 

If you are agricultural related, appropriate on rural lands, and an undeveloped commercial parcel, then convenience store/gas station is a permitted use. Truck stops are not a permitted use. The Land Development Code says truck stops are not permitted on Rural Lands.

If RaceTrac can convince the County that they meet both the intent of the classification and the permitted use, they will face the fifth and highest hurdle: the Comprehensive Plan. 

Objective 3.3.1

All Zoning Changes and Special Use Permits within the Farmland Preservation Area must be consistent with and preserve, protect, support, and enhance the rural, equestrian, and farmland character of the Farmland Preservation Area.

A truck stop does not clear this hurdle.

Common Sense

If it walks like a truck stop, quacks like a truck stop and acts like a truck stop, it’s a truck stop! Our County has done good work to protect the Farmland Preservation Area through zoning and the Comprehensive Plan. Because it can’t undo those protections, RaceTrac is seeking to find and exploit a loophole.

It’s a sheep-nanigan. We hope you don’t fall for it.

Don’t let RaceTrac pull the wool over your eyes.

RaceTrac’s application for zoning will face a public hearing on March 19th. We urge you to show up along with us and exercise your right to public comment. Please also reach out to your County Commissioners to thank them for their longstanding support for farmland preservation and ask them to continue to uphold the Comprehensive Plan’s protections for the Farmland Preservation Area. Your voice matters and it makes a difference.

It is the vision and mission of Horse Farms Forever to inspire conservation of horse farms through education, awareness and idea exchange so as to preserve natural pasture land focusing on horses and their habitats, to protect soil and water on which they depend, and minimize land use conflicts
in Marion County, Florida.

We are watchful of government and others to preserve and protect horse farms and farmland for future generations - especially in the Farmland Preservation Area. We are neither anti-growth nor anti-development; we encourage urban growth to remain inside the Urban Growth Boundary.

Horse Farms Forever® is a Florida not-for-profit corporation registered with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services as a charitable organization and approved as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) corporation by the Internal Revenue Service. Horse Farms Forever® does not have a political mission. Our status as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization does not allow us to participate or intervene in political activities. The organization will neither advocate on behalf of political candidates nor advocate for the passage of legislation.