Small and Alternative Enterprise - Feature Farmer

Emil Belibasis - Beli Farms

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Hydroponic greenhouse grower, Emil Belibasis, is originally from Honduras, Central America, Belibasis came to the United States to attend UF, where he received a Bachelor’s degree in Vegetable Crops Department (now Horticultural Sciences Departement) and a Master of Science degree in the Food and Resource Economics Department from IFAS. Before becoming a greenhouse grower, Belibasis worked in a health care economics position with the state of Florida. In 1989 he resigned his position with the state to begin growing greenhouse hydroponic tomatoes in Lake Butler, Fla. A year and a half later, he purchased his current 15-acre farm in Wellborn, Fla., where he grows tomatoes on the vine and Middle Eastern cucumbers.

Through the years Belibasis has maintained a close relationship with UF/IFAS and utilized NFREC-SV to start his operation. “Because I am a graduate from IFAS, I’ve always appreciated what IFAS does,” Belibasis said. “Since I started farming, the research center here (Suwannee Valley) was extremely active helping small greenhouse tomato growers become successful. “They have provided a lot of support through the years. I have the people there help me with disease issues, food safety issues, with labor issues, a variety of things.”

“Emil is a great example of the type of grower that willingly gives of himself to help others,” said Bob Hochmuth, the UF/IFAS multi-county agent at NFREC-SV. “He has always been a cooperator that shares knowledge and works with UF/IFAS to solve problems on his farm and to help the industry as a whole.”

Emil has recently expanded the farm's markting strategies to include direct sales to consumers on the farm. A new greenhouse production area was established to grow a wide variety of specialty vegetable and herb crops.