Horse Farms Forever® Amends the Comprehensive Plan

Horse Farms Forever® Amends the Comprehensive Plan

A Victory for the Farmland Preservation Area!


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.


Visual Inspiration For Conservation

Visual Inspiration For Conservation

Learn More About Photographer and Filmmaker, Elma Garcia

The stunning photos of Marion County landscapes, horses and dogs, that you see on our website and social media are graciously donated by Elma Garcia – HFF Founder, Board Member and Gold Sponsor of this year’s Conservation Summit. Elma’s love for the landscape is contagious in each photograph and short film she so kindly allows us to use in support of our mission. Elma is an artist and an equestrian and a treasured member of our team.

Elma Garcia began directing commercials, working alongside renowned cinematographers such as Conrad Hall, Haskell Wexler, and Robert Richardson, who all encouraged her to get behind the camera herself. Once she did, there was no turning back:  in her own words, “I love having the camera close to my heart; it allows me to move more intuitively.”  For that reason, she’s worked as both director and cinematographer for 28 years and owns her own production company, EGF.  Her mastery of these complementary talents allows her to create authentic, beautiful, and cohesive narratives reflecting the spirit of the human condition.

Above all, Elma’s keen attention to detail and commitment to excellence in storytelling ensure she consistently delivers not only high-quality, effective spots, but a top shelf experience for her collaborators. Her clientele have taken her all over the world creating award winning tv commercials. Her images and short films taken in the Farmland Preservation area are about giving everyone the feeling of the open spaces, and the quality of life on horse farms. 

In her spare time, she’s an avid golfer and National Dressage Champion. She is now training her new string of dressage horses. She and her husband, Jim Cannavino, live on their horse farms in Mill Spring, North Carolina and Ocala.  

The Marion County Quality of Life Survey

What will Marion County look like in the future?

How can we grow gracefully?

What will it take to retain the character and culture of this special place?

We are asking those who live, work and play here to weigh in.

Keep an eye on your mailbox!

Together with the Ocala Metro CEP, College of Central Florida, Florida Thoroughbred Owner’s and Breeder’s Association, Ocala Horse Properties, and Hotel Development and Management Group, we are sponsoring a comprehensive Quality of Life Survey in Marion County. This Survey is being conducted by The Matrix Group – an independent insights and consulting firm.

Over the next 20 years, Marion County’s population is projected to grow by about 150,000 new residents. By taking a step back to assess our strengths and weaknesses, this survey is an opportunity to work together to strengthen the community and economy. It will also serve as a model for how public, private and non-profit organizations can work together toward building a better future here in Marion County.

 You may receive an invitation to participate in the Survey by mail. The Matrix Group is mailing the survey to 15,000 households randomly-selected to accurately represent all of the County’s regions. If you do receive the Survey, we urge you to follow the directions to complete it.

We look forward to sharing the results this Fall at our Conservation Summit

Gratitude to each of our generous sponsors for partnering with us in this important endeavor.

Conservation Summit 2021

Save the Date!

Tuesday, November 23

from 11:30 AM to 2:30 PM

Lunch will be served at 11:00 AM

Live Stream from 12:30 to 2:30 PM

New Location:

 Ocala Breeder’s Sales Co.

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's 193,000 acre Farmland Preservation Area.

Join the herd. Every voice matters.

Businesses Invest in Ocala’s Quality of Life

Businesses Invest in Ocala’s Quality of Life

The environment where we work and live is important. Our local businesses, whether they serve the equine industry or not, know that the unique character of Ocala/Marion County expressed in its farmland and open space makes it an appealing place to be. Without it, we are just another Florida boom town. We welcome several new Corporate Members this month, and heartily thank those who have renewed their memberships, many jumping up a level or two. Yes, we have work to do, but we are getting it done together as a strong voice for farmland preservation.


Cloverly Farm – the Stroh Family

Founder – RENEWING 

Owned and operated by the Stroh family, Cloverly Farm is a state-of-the-art hunter jumper show stable located in the heart of the Farmland Preservation Area. Thank you, Vivian Day and John Stroh, for expressing your alignment with our mission by stepping up to the Founder level.


Cone Distributing

Founder – RENEWING

When you crack open a cold one at your 4th of July barbeque, offer a toast to Cone Distributing. They employ 320 in Ocala and serve 22 counties in Florida with a vast array of beer and non-alcoholic beverages. Why does a beverage distributor support Horse Farms Forever? Find out here.

Advent Health Ocala

Charter – NEW

The Advent Health Network’s principles for caring for the whole person started more than 150 years ago. They continue to help the people in their care create a life of whole health by healing their bodies, strengthening their minds and lifting their spirits. Today, AdventHealth is one of the largest health care providers in the United States, with thousands of compassionate professionals working to Extend the Healing Ministry of Christ around the country.

Lugano Diamonds Ocala

Charter – NEW

Lugano Diamonds is proud to be recognized as a leader in the community. They believe they must be stewards of giving while encouraging others to give back. Lugano Diamonds’ newest salon can be found in the lobby of the Equestrian Hotel at The World Equestrian Center overlooking the VIP Terrace and Grand Prix arena.

Horses Daily


For people with a passion for horses, Horses Daily provides a unique service archiving and reporting equestrian news for multiple disciplines, as well as health and wellness advice, tips on training, business management, and promotion of the equestrian industry. Located right here in Marion County, Horses Daily, and its owner, Mary Phelps, have proudly leveled-up to Patron.

Berrettini Feed Specialists

Patron – NEW

We welcome Berrettini – a well-known feed and supply provider here in Marion County. Established in 1974, Berrettini earns customer loyalty and confidence by providing quality large and small animal feed and supplies coupled with knowledgeable customer service. 

Florida Horse Park Logo

Florida Horse Park


The Florida Agriculture Center and Horse Park is a 500-acre, multipurpose facility and one of Central Florida’s premiere venues for equine, agricultural, educational, and sporting events. We are proud to support the Horse Park and champion their mission. This year, they have chosen to increase their commitment from Partner to Patron level. We are so thankful for their unwavering support for our mission.

Florida Horse Park Logo

Covert Appraisal Services

Partner – NEW

Covert Appraisal Inc is a full service commercial real estate appraisal firm with offices in Gainesville and Ocala. With over twenty-six years of real estate experience and with completed assignments in the range of several hundreds, Covert Appraisal Services Inc, has the expertise and resources necessary for a quality product delivered efficiently to its clients. 

New to the Herd

We welcome you!

Jamie Wallace – Friend

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.

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 Director of Community Affairs,
Sara Fennessy 

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.