Ocala Horse Properties - 2023 Winter Farm Portfolio

PROMOTE The base layer of the cake, Little describes, is Promote. Through ongoing and strategic community awareness and education this layer establishes their reputation, creates relevance and provides us with a seat at the table. In this layer, we educate about the Farmland Preservation Area, why we are the Horse Capital of the World, and why HFF is needed to defend Marion County’s global brand. PROTECT The second cake layer is what they’re most known for: Protect. This is the threat identification and response function of HFF. The “watch dog” role, he says. This work is continuous, and staff divide and conquer zoning meetings, council meetings and workshops to review every application for planning and zoning with dozens coming in each week. “We read the applications, look at the maps and talk to the Growth Services staff about them. This was harder four years ago when the county didn’t know us well. Today, we have a seat at the table and we are well-respected as a fact-based organization — not a political one.” Little emphasizes this last point. It’s important to him that people understand that staying true to this position has earned HFF the respect of elected and professional leadership in the county – in any county. It’s the long game, he says. “Any developer today who is planning something that requires land use or zoning changes in the rural area, especially the FPA, knows that their first hurdle is HFF. So, we are actively engaged with these people.” There are some groups within Marion County that have been critical of HFF. But, Little reminds everyone that the goal is to have a seat at the table with major stakeholders, and the way to do that is to be respectful of others’ opinions. “It doesn’t mean we agree. If our goal is to be effective, it’s not to see howmany people we can ostracize, it’s how to bring everyone together in a group and have them understand and appreciate your mission and stay true to that mission. Many of the groups being critical are more short term in their focus, and that impacts their effectiveness.” It’s natural, of course, to get defensive when people criticize something so close to your heart. Staying highly focused always wins the game because, as Little says, “They’re playing checkers, we’re playing chess.” PRESERVE Third layer is Preserve and reflects how the “forever” in their name takes the front seat. “The watch dog role is reactive; this is our proactive role.” HFF holds two main events each year – a speaker series in the spring and a summit in the fall. Conversations about Conservation is the umbrella theme for these events. The theme for this years’ summit was transportation. Something, folks might say, Little knows a lot about. “There are 42 transportation projects in currently in coordination between the county and the FDOT and we’re especially interested in what’s happening to I-75 and the plan to extend the turnpike to the northwest,” Little says. To realize “forever” means to change a culture then maintain that culture change. This is precisely the work that is done through Conversations about Conservation. PLAN The top and last layer is Plan. “In this top layer, we have our rural land management plan which seeks to strengthen the county’s plans to balance economic development with the county’s population growth while protecting horse farms. “We want to be a catalyst for rural land management.” They aim to do this by strengthening the county’s Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Codes. As the plan states, there needs to be a “compatible and harmonious” existence and balance between urban development, preservation of natural resources, and social and economic requirements. “We have stayed exceptionally true to our mission,” Little says reflecting on the new plan and their accomplishments over the years. Clarity around their influence and on their destination remains key. And noting this at the start of their written plan is fitting. It begins with this quote from educator, author and businessperson, Stephen Covey: “To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to knowwhere you’re going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.” FOUR “CAKE LAYERS” WITH A PURPOSE PROMOTE PROTECT PRESERVE PLAN HORSE FARMS FOREVER’S OCALAHORSEPROPERTIES.COM | 51 OCALA HORSE PROPERTIES | WINTER/SPRING SEASON 2023