Elma Garcia Cannavino

In Ocala, A Win-Win Is Possible

It’s a familiar and sad chain of events when farmland is lost- growth leads to unplanned development which leads to sprawl. Without intention, open spaces and beautiful places shrink away and the character of a community is changed beyond recognition. Matt Varney comes from a family of real estate developers, and he’s passionate about farmland preservation. Together with Rob and Chris Desino, they operate Ocala Horse Properties – representing the largest portfolio of horse properties in the world. Ocala Horse Properties has been a steadfast ally in forwarding our mission, right from the beginning. Varney and the Desinos are all Founding Members, and Ocala Horse Properties is a Corporate Founder and Gold Sponsor of this year’s Conservation Summit.

We had a conversation about conservation with Matt Varney.

Why is it important to have a Conservation Summit?

“We look into the faces of buyers who come to this area for the first time,” says Varney. They are in awe of the natural beauty and open space. This is one of the few places in the country where I can literally sell a farm that is worth more as a horse farm than as anything else. This area is unique. I want to know that when I’m long gone, there will still be beautiful open space, horse farms, and a community of likeminded people. Horse Farms Forever is looking out for that future.”

Why is now an important time for conversations about conservation?

“Most communities find out too late that shortsighted development has taken over. They then have to react,” warns Varney. “That is not the case here. When we had the Coastal Connector proposal three years ago, Horse Farms Forever formed and reacted very quickly to stop it. In 4 to 5 months, we organized a grassroots effort that can often take years. Now, we are in a position to be proactive, protecting the land before it is threatened.” Varney contends that Marion County is in a position of opportunity right now, and is poised for smart growth.

“Marion County can responsibly grow in a lot of different directions,” he says. “I’m from a family of developers and have seen the effects of shortsighted development. We are unbelievably fortunate to have the Farmland Preservation Area and Urban Growth Area here, and leadership that values them equally.”

Why are you looking forward to the Summit?

“We brought John Malone to Ocala. He was a customer of ours,” notes Varney. “He is one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. His passion for land and knowledge for conservation is at a completely different level – something we should all strive for. He is a role model.” It is clear that Varney shares our excitement at the opportunity to learn from an icon, but he also recognizes the pure fact that when people who care get together, good things happen.

“I’m looking forward to seeing a large group of leaders and neighbors gathered together to learn and connect around the subject of farmland preservation,” concludes Varney.

So are we! Thank you, Ocala Horse Properties, for helping to make the Summit possible. See you at Ocala Breeder’s Sales on November 23!

Meet Some of our Gold Sponsors


Ocala Horse Properties

Selling horse farms is our one and only business — not a hobby or a part-time job. With the OHP Team, you hire the entire company of three agents, not just one agent! We are united with one mission & only one mission: to sell your property!

We have been the number 1 Ocala Farm Sales realtors for the past 13 years and counting. And, as leaders who set the pace for how to do business and serve our clients, it’s no surprise that others locally and across the nation seek to emulate us.

Lugano Diamonds

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.

JP Morgan Chase

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations are integrated into the policies and principles that govern our business and reflect our commitment to sustainable growth.

Our approach to ESG management includes having robust governance systems, risk management and controls; striving to serve our customers exceptionally and transparently; investing in our employees and cultivating a diverse and inclusive work environment; working to strengthen the communities in which we live and work; and advancing sustainable solutions for our clients and within our operations.

Tri-Eagle Sales

Tri-Eagle Sales has been the leading beverage wholesaler in the North and North Central Florida area since 1996. Our 210 knowledgeable beverage professionals service over 2,000 retail customers in our 14-county territory from our two facilities in Tallahassee and Ocala. 

Niall Brennan Stables

Success is no accident was chosen as Niall Brennan’s motto because it embodies his philosophy of life. Sometimes people are lucky in the horse business but success generally comes from hard work, attention to detail, integrity, leaving nothing to chance, and striving to fine tune the quality services of our program. NBS is the leader or amongst the leaders in EVERY Category from Winner to Grade One Stakes Winner at the Two Year Old Sales from 2015 -2019.