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Meet the Founders of Horse Farms Forever®

Meet the Founders of Horse Farms Forever®

New Founder Tasha Osbourne of Premier Sotheby’s International Realty 

Horse Farms Forever® welcomes 13 new Founders!  They join a group of 56 Founders who understand the connection between a robust preservation program for horse farms and a strong equine industry.

Our Founders demonstrate the pinnacle of commitment to preservation of horse farms by investing in the mission of Horse Farms Forever®, year after year. Not every member is a Founder, but more and more people are raising their hands and making a difference in Marion County to help protect horse farms for future generations.

 

Open Spaces, Beautiful Places

A leisurely Sunday afternoon drive through Marion County’s Horse Country is one of the most beautiful and enchanting landscapes to experience. The iconic open spaces draw you in with their magical Spanish moss-covered canopy, magnificent horses and miles of 4-rail fences. To protect horse farms in our treasured crown jewel – the Farmland Preservation Area – Horse Farms Forever® has adopted a long-term strategy with achievable and visionary goals to help preserve horse farms in Marion County.

Real Conservation Takes Real Commitment

Horse Farms Forever® has worked hard to share the vision with the other major stakeholders in Marion County. We have achieved success by being relevant in our actions, educational in our messages and always respectful of others’ opinions.

This long-term approach takes commitment, time and expertise to make it happen – just as the leisurely drive takes longer – yet the end result is worth the effort. Our commitment is to create lasting, impactful change as we celebrate the organization’s fourth birthday.  And over the past four years, Horse Farms Forever® has many blue-ribbon wins to celebrate.

  • Coastal Connector Toll Road – HFF joined other major stakeholders in asking the FDOT to reconsider the routes of the proposed Coastal Connector Toll Road through the heart of the FPA.
  • New FPA Signs – HFF partnered with Marion County to help identify the Farmland Preservation Area by designing the new FPA sign (the sign with the horse) and funding for the placement of dozens of new signs.
  • WEC Agreement – HFF reached an agreement with the Golden Ocala Equestrian Lands leadership to save 275 acres from being removed from the FPA.
  • ATV Racetrack in Flemington – HFF lead the charge to stop the development of an ATV park and ¼-mile dragstrip in the heart of the FPA and a large area of horse farms.
  • QoL Survey – HFF served as the catalyst for the Quality-of-Life Survey to gauge the community wide support for preserving horse farms and the FPA. Over 90% of the community agreed that these special features should be protected.
  • Conversations About Conservation – HFF hosts two annual events focused on protecting horse farms and the FPA.
  • HFF Amendment – HFF successfully amended the Marion County Comprehensive Plan to add further protections to the FPA by more tightly defining rural character and compatible land uses.
  • Conservation Easements – HFF is working with the County leadership to refine the Transfer of Development Rights Program to make it more effective and functional, adding further protections to the FPA with conservation easements.

The support of our Founding Members was the key to bringing home these blue-ribbon wins, and we are so grateful for the tremendous level of support from a broad spectrum of members. While HFF was started by some of the most iconic horse farms, over the past four years the original founding members have been joined by a wide spectrum of other individuals, foundations and businesses. To all of our Founders, we say THANK YOU!

Hanna Pieri and her fiancé Jason Lyons, owner of The Yard Stop.

Jason Lyons of The Yard Stop put it plainly, “Horse farms are the foundation of our business. Without horse farms, there are no horses and no equine industry. We are excited to continue and increase our support for Horse Farms Forever.”

We are so honored to have Tasha Osbourne of Premier Sotheby’s International Realty and Jason Lyons and Hanna Pieri of The Yard Stop as two of our thirteen new Founding Members. They share HFF’s goal of protecting this iconic landscape. This culture of conservation is important to ensuring that the Farmland Preservation Area, our crown jewel and the foundation of our brand and identity as the Horse Capital of the World®, is preserved for future generations.

Take a drive through the list of our new and continuing Founding Members.

Our Newest Founders:

Individual/Family:

Niall & Stephanie Brennan

Niall Brennan Stables

Lori & Peter Conway

Conway Arabians

Janet & Kurt Giesselman

Naked Horse Farm

Jacqueline Mars

Stonehall Farm

Phyllis & Patrick Harlow

Ladera Farm

Corporate:

Misty Lane Cattle Co.
Misty Lane Cattle Co.

Tasha Osbourne

Premier Sotheby’s International Realty

Foundations/Trusts:

Misty Lane Cattle Co.

Cathy D. Perry Estate

Misty Lane Cattle Co.

Saint Bernard Foundation, Inc.

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.

 

State of the County Report Focused on the Growing Economy and Tourism

State of the County Report Focused on the Growing Economy and Tourism

Over the summer, Marion County is presenting the State of the County report. The first presentation was held on Friday, July 8 at the Circle Square Cultural Center. Horse Farms Forever® attended to be on the lookout about any potential projects that may affect horse farms, primarily in the Farmland Preservation Area (FPA). Three additional presentations are planned throughout Marion County.

Highlights included the state of the economy, future improvements to transportation systems, a countywide broadband research study, and improvements to public services such as law enforcement, fire rescue, animal services, and Blue Run Park.

Commissioner Zalak focused on the growing economy and tourism. In 2010, there was a 14.4 percent unemployment rate. “Times were tough,” he said. However, with the County’s focus to grow the economy over the past 10 years, the unemployment rate is now about 2.8%.

Balancing growth is important to the County, while also growing the economy. Approximately two-thirds of the County is protected from urban development between the Farmland Preservation Area and the Ocala National Forest.

The County’s tourism industry is also growing with the opening of the World Equestrian Center and the FAST Aquatic Center.

“Great venues like the World Equestrian Center have made Marion County as a destination on an international stage,” said Commissioner Zalak.

Marion County is also becoming a logistics hub due to its central location in the state and I-75. The tax revenue from the buildings helps keep the County’s property tax rates low.

Commissioner Zalak also reported that Marion County is being considered as an ideal location to site a 120-bed Veterans’ Nursing Home; funded through the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs (FDVA) and the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs. The County is home to more than 45,000 veterans. About 650,000 veterans live within a 75-mile radius of the site.

Commissioner Curry presented a summary of the County’s Litter Task Force to help change the mindset of people negatively impacting our community and scenic roadways. The task force is tasked with coming up with a plan that the community can implement. The County spends over $900,000 picking up litter every year and nearly 84 percent is thrown intentionally.

“We are better than this,” said Commissioner Curry.

Commissioner Michelle Stone presented an update on affordable housing and the Commitment to Zero plan to help improve transportation safety.

Commissioners Jeff Gold and Kathy Bryant also presented summaries on fire rescue and law enforcement infrastructure improvements, and the County’s $2.5M in park improvements at Blue Run Park near Dunnellon.

 

County Commission Chairman Carl Zalak, III, presented the report along with fellow County Commissioners and staff. Photos courtesy of Marion County

Broadband Feasibility Study

Commissioner Michelle Stone also presented the Broadband Feasibility Study to research the need for high speed internet county wide. The County is partnering with Televate to conduct the study, which will help determine where new or improved broadband services are needed. The County is also partnering with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) for the Broadband Speed Test to help develop Florida’s Broadband Availability Map.

For the Broadband Survey, there is an eCheckup to share what type of internet service residents currently have. For the Broadband Speed Test, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) has a link to take an internet speed test.

Attend a Presentation

Three more presentations of the State of the County are planned:

  • Wednesday, July 27 at 7 pm, Salt Springs, VFW
  • Tuesday, August 9 at 1 pm, Del Webb Spruce Creek, Ballroom (Only open to Spruce Creek residents.)
  • Thursday, August 18 at 7 pm, The Villages, Mulberry Grove Recreation Center

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.

 

April Showers Bring New Members

April Showers Bring New Members

New members are popping up all over the place this Spring as we celebrate the success of the Amendment to the Comprehensive Plan. 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. We thank our renewing members and welcome new members this month:

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

Longwood Arenas

Founder- NEW

Longwood Arenas has focused on building the highest quality all-weather riding arenas around the United States. We are equestrian builders who understand the needs of fellow equestrians.

Over the last 44 years, we have experimented with horse riding arena footing from all over the world that mimicks grass. We’ve developed an extensive knowledge base about equestrian development and horse arena footing through this research and experimentation. There is no better way to understand a subject than through real-world experience and trial and error. When you build with Longwood Arenas, you can rest assured that our work is tried and true.

“When it comes to horse arena footing and equestrian construction, we have seen and done it ALL at our own facility. That gives us the confidence to guarantee perfection at your facility.”

– Joe Watkins – President, Longwood Arena.

New to the Herd


We welcome you!

Christina Parker – Partner

Fran Brown– Friend

Alexis Macaulay – Friend

James Moore – Friend

Julio Viteri – Friend

Renewing


Thanks for your continued support!

Laura Payner – Partner

Melissa Henry– Friend

And our monthly recurring supporters!

Ron Beschman

Sara & Bryan Fennessy

Karen & Lonny Powell

Donna Saatman

Paula & Craig Wehde

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

Charlie & Rachel Cantrell

Founder- NEW

Charlie Cantrell is a movie producer, entertainment consultant & New York Times best selling author. He has been featured in hundreds of newspapers and magazines across the globe, and has appeared on Oprah, The View, Today Show, Good Morning America, Early Show, Super Tiny Animals, Animal Planet, National Geographic, ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, FOX, ITV, BBC, CBC, PBS, including scores of international TV networks. He is the proud owner of EINSTEIN – The Smallest Stallion.

 

When horse lovers Charlie Cantrell and his wife, Dr. Rachel Wagner, received the news that a tiny horse had just been born to champion miniature horses, they knew they had to meet the mini-miniature foal. Sure enough, it was love at first sight, and Charlie bought the baby as a present for Rachel, an experienced rider and owner of a number of horses. Two weeks after Einstein was born, the Cantrells were shocked to discover a procession of 4,000 visitors, soggy and shivering in the rain, lined up to pay homage to their little horse.  Cars were parked all the way to the center of the small New England town, and local police had to shut the roads down a mile from Einstein’s barn and turn many more cars away.  Some people stood for over an hour just to get a sixty-second glance at the fast asleep baby stallion.

As Charlie and Rachel greeted the half-mile line of fans from all walks of life, they immediately recognized an unmistakable connection among the crowd: Einstein elicited a feeling of pure joy and remarkable gladness in everyone he touched.  The good feeling spread as videos of newborn Einstein swept the Internet.  Within days the tiny foal was featured in newspapers, magazines, and television programs as far away as Australia. 

Dr. Rachael Wagner is an MD with a family practice. In late 2021, they bought a house in NW Ocala and have fallen in love with the open spaces and beautiful places.

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

Cone Distributing

Founder- RENEWING

Cone Distributing is a distributor of craft beer, hard seltzer, and other beers and beverages. We have offices in Ocala and Tallahassee, serving over 20 counties and stocking everything from local brews to internationally recognized brands.

In every pour of every pint, we take pride in the people and the passion that got that liquid from grain to glass to you. We believe it takes excellence every step of the way. We strive to deliver the highest quality beverages from all around the world and with excellence in service

Whether beer or soda, tea or cider, Red Bull or red ale, all of our products were handled with care by people committed to excellence and quality day in and day out.

Cheers.

Ocala Metro Chamber & Economic Partnership

Founder – RENEWING

We welcome the Ocala CEP in their new level of support as Corporate Founders and thank them for aligning with our mission.

The Ocala Metro Chamber & Economic Partnership (CEP) works to be the leading voice of business. We strive to improve economic prosperity with our key areas of focus Business Attraction, Business Retention and Business Creation. Moving Forward is our charge and it reflects our desire to be a catalyst for the business community. By working together with our partners and community investors, we will continue to improve our quality of life and build a strong base for economic growth in our community.

the-yard-stop

The Yard Stop

Founder – RENEWING

We welcome The Yard Stop in their new level of support as Corporate Founders and thank them for aligning with our mission.

The Yard Stop of Ocala is a one stop shop for quality outdoor power equipment including Stihl, Hustler, Spartan, Wright, and Big Dog. Authorized eNVy Crossover Electric Cart Dealer. Full service Garden Center with first picks from regional nurseries. Industry Leading LandscapeDesign and Installation Division. All proud to serve our Ocala, Fl community and beyond.

 

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,
Emily Holmes

Who Belongs to Horse Farms Forever?

Individuals, farms, businesses from all over Marion County who share an appreciation for our farmland and a desire to preserve our open spaces and beautiful places. Visit our interactive map for a bird’s eye view.

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.

Horse Farms Forever® Amends the Comprehensive Plan

Horse Farms Forever® Amends the Comprehensive Plan

A Victory for the Farmland Preservation Area!

THE HORSE FARMS FOREVER® AMENDMENT

Horse Farms Forever® is excited to announce a recent victory for the Farmland Preservation Area! On April 30, a large-scale Text Amendment to the Future Land Use Element was successfully adopted as part of Marion County’s Comprehensive Plan. This Amendment helps protect the Farmland Preservation Area from incompatible Zoning Requests and Special Use Permits.

We worked diligently for over a year with community leaders, major land owners, developers, and other stakeholders to seek support for the Amendment to strengthen Future Land Use Objective 3.3 – Farmland Preservation Area. After 14 months, these efforts paid-off when the Growth Services staff recommended approval of the Amendment, the Planning and Zoning Commissioners voted unanimously for approval, and finally the County Commissioners voted unanimously at the two public hearings to approve the Amendment.

The County’s Comprehensive Plan is similar to a company’s Mission Statement in that it lays out Goals, Objectives and Policies to provide a vision for sustainable urban, suburban and rural growth that supports a transportation network, a variety of land uses, natural and agricultural resources, and open space.

In the Comprehensive Plan, Objective 3.3 establishes the Farmland Preservation Area. Policy 3.3.1 defines the Elements of Rural Character.

The Horse Farms Forever® Amendment enhances the definition of Rural Character and further requires that all applications for Zoning Requests and Special Use Permits “be consistent with and preserve, protect and support and enhance the rural, equestrian, and farmland character of the Farmland Preservation Area.”

Throughout this year-long process, HFF worked closely with the Growth Services and County Administration departments to develop a Text Amendment that would help protect the Farmland Preservation Area and also be compatible with the existing language and guidelines in the Comprehensive Plan. We especially thank County Commissioner Michelle Stone and County Administrator Mounir Bouyounes for their leadership and guidance through this year-long process.

“This amendment is important because a Special Use Permit is requested when the proposed land use doesn’t meet the guidelines in the Comprehensive Plan. It will have a positive effect on the Farmland Preservation Area. This is the hard work of real land conservation and where the rubber meets the road.”
Busy Shires

Director of Conservation Strategies, Horse Farms Forever

Why Amend The Comprehensive Plan?

If you live near Flemington in the Farmland Preservation Area, you may remember the ATV racetrack and drag strip that was proposed during the summer of 2020.

Horse Farms Forever® opposed the Special Use Permit for the ATV racetrack and drag strip, and launched a strategic outreach campaign to oppose the Special Use Permit as incompatible with the Comprehensive Plan Objective 3.3 – Farmland Preservation Area.

Objective 3.3 reads: The Farmland Preservation Area is intended to encourage preservation of agriculture as a viable use of lands and an asset of Marion County’s economy and to protect the rural character of the area. Planning principles within this area are designed to protect significant natural resources, including prime farmland and locally important soils as defined by the United States Department of Agriculture and unique karst geology that provides high recharge to the Floridan Aquifer, a key source of freshwater for central Florida. The County establishes this area as critical to the enhancement and preservation of its designation as the Horse Capital of the World.

We were surprised and disappointed when at the meeting for the Planning and Zoning Commission, the Growth Services Director recommended approval of the Special Use Permit. Thankfully, our outreach campaign paid-off when the Planning and Zoning Commissioners and the County Commissioners both voted to deny the Special Use Permit.

After the votes, the Horse Farms Forever® leadership met the Growth Services leadership to better understand why they recommended approval. It was out of that meeting that the campaign to amend Objective 3.3 of the Comprehensive Plan began.

What Is A Comprehensive Plan?

Every City and County in Florida is required to adopt and maintain a local Comprehensive Plan, which must also be consistent with the state and regional plans. These plans help guide growth and development to appropriate areas while also protecting public health and safety as well as natural resources.

The Introduction of Marion County’s Comprehensive Plan states:

The Marion County Future Land Use Element Goals, Objectives and Policies are designed to provide a comprehensive, area-wide vision for sustainable urban, suburban and rural growth that supports a transportation network, variety of land uses, natural and agricultural resources, and open space.”

The Land Development Code is a separate document with specific guidelines to implement the Goals, Objectives, and Policies of the Comprehensive Plan.

 

How To Amend The Comprehensive Plan

A comprehensive plan can be changed and updated over time. In fact, in Florida, there is a requirement for each municipality to update the plan every five to seven years through the Evaluation and Appraisal Report (EAR) process.

The ability to amend the comprehensive plan is not limited to municipalities.

Any resident, business owner, or organization can submit a request to amend the comprehensive plan, but the Board of County Commissioners makes the final decision to adopt the amendment. However, the process to submit a request is lengthy and costly, as the process takes months and months, plus the application fee is $5,000.

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.

 

What’s Gotten Into Horse Farms Forever?

What’s Gotten Into Horse Farms Forever?

We Are On A Mission!

A mission statement describes an organization’s reason for existence; it sets the course for the organization. Like a ship without a rudder, an organization without a mission statement can be easily blown off course.

The Horse Farms Forever® mission statement reads –

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.

When HFF® takes a position on a development or transportation matter, the first consideration is how does this position align with our mission statement. The next consideration is whether this matter deals with a compatible land use and is concurrent with the Marion County Comprehensive Plan.

In our watchdog role, if a development or roadway is proposed that affects horse farms in the rural area and especially in the Farmland Preservation Area, the HFF® staff gathers the facts, attends the meetings, contacts county staff and the developer, confers with our professional counselors, then prepares a draft position paper for our board of directors. Our nine directors then study the position paper and supporting documents and a meeting is held to review the recommendation of the HFF® staff. The board then makes a determination as to whether taking a position on the matter aligns with our mission statement, and further if the proposed matter is a compatible land use and concurrent with the Comprehensive Plan. The board then formalizes our position. That position is either opposition, neutral, support or no position depending on the circumstances. All formal positions taken by HFF® are posted to our website.

Over the 4 years since our inception, HFF® has taken just 9 formal positions – 2 regarding roadways and 7 regarding development. Of those 9 formal positions – 4 were in support, 3 were in opposition and 2 were neutral. Please refer to our website for the position papers. Here are 3 real-world examples of those different positions.

Opposition

In 2020, a developer applied for a land use change and special use permit to allow an ATV racetrack and drag strip in rural Flemington inside the Farmland Preservation Area. The HFF® board deemed taking a position on this application aligned with our mission statement and further deemed the proposed land uses incompatible with the surrounding area and not concurrent with the Comprehensive Plan, which states, “…the Farmland Preservation Area is intended to encourage preservation of agriculture…. The County establishes this area as critical to the enhancement and preservation of its designation as the Horse Capital of the World®”. HFF® launched an aggressive grassroots media campaign to encourage the County Commissioners to deny the application, which they did.

Neutral

In 2022, the owner of a 453-acre parcel inside the Irvine/Sunny Oaks Regional Activity Center (RGAC) adjacent to the Highway 318 interchange on I-75 applied to rezone the property from Agriculture to Planned Unit Development. This interchange includes a Future Land Use Element designation in the Comprehensive Plan that includes an Employment Center, a Commerce District and a RGAC. While this parcel is within the Farmland Preservation Area boundaries, these Future Land Use designations sit on top of and override the Farmland Preservation Area restrictions. Also, this parcel was granted the correct land use designation for this zoning request a decade ago.

The owner of this 453-acre parcel has a legal right to rezone this parcel from agriculture to an implementing zoning district for the specific Future Land Use designations. While the requested zoning change is to Planned Unit Development, there are other options that would satisfy the legal obligation of the County to rezone the property to an implementing zoning district. Nonetheless, they all allow significant retail, commercial and industrial development.

With the existing land use designation on this parcel and its location inside an Employment Center, a Commerce District and a RGAC, the end use of this parcel would never be a horse farm. For these reasons, the HFF® board stayed true to its mission statement and took a neutral position on the zoning application.

The HFF® position was limited to the specific zoning request on the 453-acre parcel and did not address the surrounding land. While it is unfortunate that a decade ago the county allowed the Future Land Use change for this 453-acre parcel as it surrounds legacy homestead properties, this action is virtually impossible to undo.

Support

In July of 2021, Golden Ocala Equestrian Lands (GOEL) purchased the Ocala Jockey Club (OJC) property and other adjoining parcels. In September of 2021, GOEL asked HFF® to review and support their planned application to change the land use designation on the OJC to the WEC Rural classification. As a hotel and RV park were included in the plans, this would require a small-scale Text Amendment to the Comprehensive Plan.

The HFF® board deemed that taking a position on this request aligned with our mission. The board further deemed that the proposed land uses were compatible with the surrounding land uses and concurrent with the Comprehensive Plan. Here is why:

The first part of our mission statement as stated in our by-laws reads:

It is the 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.

While the OJC has lots of natural pasture land, virtually none of it was used for horses or horse farms.  There were a few horses in a barn near the training track, but otherwise it was 1,000 acres of empty pastureland. The equestrian events at the facility were few and far between (years). The GOEL proposal of clustering 94 horse farms on 300 acres to allow over 600 acres of open pastureland for a world class equestrian event facility for multiple disciplines that would also preserve and enhance the existing 4-star cross-country course for eventing seemed like smart planning. Also, GOEL predicted that numerous buyers of the lots would purchase more than one lot; therefore, the total number of farms would be even lower, perhaps by a third.

The HFF® board deemed the GOEL proposal for the WEC Jockey Club would do more to inspire the conservation of horse farms and preserve natural pasture land for horse farms in this specific area than anything HFF® could have ever done on its own. This is the right type of economic development to help horse farm owners maintain their property as horse farms.

The second part of our mission statement as stated in our by-laws reads:

It is the mission of Horse Farms Forever® to protect soil and water on which horse farms depend.

The OJC property was for sale for years and because of the size of the parcel the only viable buyer seemed to be a developer – either residential or potentially commercial. The OJC property is at the I-75 exchange with Highway 318 and borders an Employment Center, a Commerce District and the Irvine/Sunny Oaks RGAC where millions of square feet of commercial/industrial space are planned. That makes the OJC property a high-profile target for a commercial developer with deep pockets (for example, Tesla, Apple, Microsoft). Even a residential developer could put one-hundred 10-acre farms on that OJC property. That would equal hundreds of septic tanks, which are a poor solution to dealing with waste. The same is true for hundreds of individual water wells. It’s just not economically feasible for a developer of 10-acre farms in that region to provide common water/waste utilities.

The opposite is true for the GOEL proposal, which has the economic model to support a community water/waste system. HFF® deemed the requirement for GOEL to install a common water system and state-of-the-art waste treatment plant on the property as the best way to protect soil and water in the area for future generations of horse farms.

The third part of our mission statement as stated in our by-laws reads:

It is the mission of Horse Farms Forever® to minimize land use conflicts in Marion County, Florida.

On the OJC parcel, because of the size of the parcel and surrounding properties, the HFF® board took the position that the proposed uses were compatible with the surrounding uses and concurrent with the Comprehensive Plan. With the combination of the existing lime rock mine to the south, the existing Chi University campus to the west, the existing high-density and expanding RV park to the east, and the pending development of the I-75 interchange that includes an Employment Center, a Commerce District and a RGAC with millions of square feet of commercial and industrial space just a stone’s throw to the east, allowing a hotel and the RV park inside the grounds of the WEC OJC complex was deemed a compatible land use. The hotel and RV park will reduce the amount of traffic on Highways 318 and 225 by lowering the number of trips in and out of the facility.

Thus, the HFF® board answered the question … does supporting this Golden Ocala Equestrian Lands request for the small-scale Text Amendment regarding the WEC Rural land use, including a hotel and RV park, on the Ocala Jockey Club property align with the HFF® mission statement and the Comprehensive Plan?  Yes.

In September of 2021, the HFF® board voted to support the GOEL request with conditions. Those conditions included requiring the Text Amendment to the WEC Rural land use to be used exclusively for the OJC parcel. Also, HFF negotiated the removal of the B-2 zoning on the iconic Plumley and Crupi horse farms that front on US Highway 27, right at the southern entrance to the Farmland Preservation Area on US 27. The HFF board deemed this B-2 zoning on these horse farms as a high priority incompatible land use. GOEL agreed to the conditions, giving up millions of dollars in business and development land value.

The FPA Is Home 

The 9 directors of Horse Farms Forever® are all Marion County horse farm owners and coincidentally all their farms are in the Farmland Preservation Area. In all matters, the board works hard to stay true to our mission statement. That includes well-defined strategic and marketing plans to implement that mission. We remain true to our watchdog role by being present and heard while attending thousands of hours of government and industry meetings. We work to be factual, educational and transparent by using our website as a library for all our corporate documents, tax returns, position statements and other awareness and educational resources.

With that said, Horse Farms Forever® is not in a popularity contest. The HFF® mission statement is the rudder that guides our ship. When others disagree with the position HFF® takes on a matter, perhaps it is because they have a different mission. Nonetheless, and regardless of the veracity of their argument, we are always respectful of other opinions.

The vision of Horse Farms Forever® is to inspire conservation of horse farms through education, awareness and idea exchange so as to preserve the character and culture that horses and the Farmland Preservation Area make unique to Marion County. 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.

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