What can you tell me about growing hot peppers, such as the Scotch bonnet, in Florida?
Answer: The Scotch bonnet pepper is classified as a Capsicum chinense pepper, which is the same species as other chili peppers such as the habanero. These are some of the hottest peppers and are native to the Americas.I did not find specific information on growing Scotch bonnet in Florida, but recommendations provided for habanero should apply to Scotch bonnet. The University of Florida’s Pepper Production guide provides planting dates for peppers in North, Central, and South Florida. The guide also provides some recommendations of other bell and chili pepper varieties that grow well in Florida. Most of the pepper production in Florida is bell peppers and it does not appear that Scotch bonnet is grown on a large commercial scale ? which may be an opportunity for you to sell specialty peppers that would otherwise be imported.Another University of Florida guide, Common Pepper Cultivars for Florida Production, provides images of common peppers grown in the state. The university also offers a guide titled Jalapeno and Other Hot Pepper Varieties in Florida, though Scotch bonnet is not listed. The Chichen Itza habanero pepper is the closest relative listed in this guide.There are some common diseases of peppers in Florida that you should be aware of, including Bacterial Spot, Phytophthora, Wet Rot, and Southern Blight, which are detailed in the UF guide, Some Common Diseases of Pepper in Florida. Chili peppers such as the Scotch bonnet are usually more resistant to diseases, but you should still be aware of potential issues. The Pepper Production guide mentioned above includes pesticides that can be used to control insect pests and diseases. Any product that has “OMRI-listed” in the remarks can be used in organic production.When it comes to starting a successful farm business, there are some important considerations to think about. You will need to do some market research in your area to determine what market you will be able to sell your peppers at and what the consumer demand is for the peppers you choose to grow. You may want to visit specialty grocery stores that sell hot peppers and ask if they would be interested in carrying local Scotch bonnet peppers and how many peppers they usually order per week or month. You will also want to find out what the market price is for peppers in your area to determine how much you could make growing these peppers.Depending on your scale of production and how much land you are able to acquire, you will need to think about what kind of equipment you will need to purchase. Most of the pepper farms in Florida grow on raised beds that are hilled with a tractor and covered in plastic mulch for weed control. You will need to think about what kind of equipment will be most cost-effective for you starting out, especially for activities like soil preparation, planting, weed control and spraying. Another significant cost will be the cost of labor for hand-harvesting (even if you are the one harvesting).The Marketing, Business & Risk Management section of the ATTRA website provides a wide variety of useful resources related to agriculture business planning, which you should find helpful, as well.