Farmland Preservation Area

Farmland is Marion County’s Brand

Once the farmland is erased, it can never be replaced.

For there to be horses and a horse industry, there must be farmland. The Marion County Commission created the Farmland Preservation Area (FPA) in 2005 to manage growth and protect the areas valuable soils, water and spring sheds.

Marion County is home to about 80,000 equines on 1,200 horse farms. The FPA encompasses 193,000 acres in the northwest portion of Marion County and a large concentration of horse farms are located in the FPA. In recent years, 2,500 acres has been removed from the FPA through determined petitioning by developers. This will continue without public pressure to keep the boundaries set in stone. It is our mission to protect this area through community support and collaboration with the County. 

That’s why In April of 2022, Horse Farms Forever® successfully amended the Marion County Comprehensive Plan to enhance the definition of rural character and add further protection to the Farmland Preservation Area against incompatible zoning and special use permits. Read about the Amendment here.


What's So Special About the FPA?

We’re glad you asked!



Marion County’s picturesque landscape and pastures stand above a rare soil structure with a thick layer of limestone near the surface. The grass that grows from these soils is rich with bone-strengthening minerals ideal for horses.

There are just 4 places in the world with these special soils, and all of them are known for producing fine, strong Thoroughbred racehorses: Ocala, Marion County; Lexington, Kentucky; Newmarket, England; and Chantilly, France



Florida has over 1,000 springs and 33 first-magnitude springs – the most in the world. Marion County is home to three first-magnitude springs: Rainbow, Silver, and Silver Glen. Silver Springs is one of the most endangered springs in the state. Rainbow Springs is one of the largest first-magnitude spring systems and Silver Glen Springs is designated as an Outstanding Florida Spring.

 The FPA serves as major recharge area for rainwater entering Rainbow Springs. 

Open Spaces


In addition to the horse farms, Marion County has about 1,300 agricultural properties that range from growing pumpkins to raising cattle and other livestock. Combined with the horse farms, Marion County’s agricultural land encompasses 377,000 acres. The open spaces provide habitat for wildlife and filter the water as it seeps down to the aquifer, enriching quality of life for both man and beast.

Farmland Economy


The equine industry represents 15 to 18 percent of the county’s economy with an annual impact of $2.62 billion in horse industry output (revenues) and with nearly 20,000 people employed. More than 50 horse breeds are represented. The FPA is where the equine industry does business – farriers, vets, fencers and barn builders, tack stores, truck and trailer dealers, feed, event venues – this list goes on, and grows year on year.

Horse Capital of the World®


Horses are Marion County’s global brand. The presence of horses and horse farms sets us apart and makes us a destination. A well-protected and thriving Farmland Preservation Area ensures that this will always be.