The thriving agriculture industry in Florida is both essential to the state’s economy and an important part of the state’s history. Several different communities contribute to the diversity that shapes Florida agriculture.
Rebuilding in the Florida Panhandle
Of course, Florida is known for citrus. Jackson County, located in the Panhandle, was known as the Satsuma Capital of the World a century ago. But after widespread freezes wiped out the orange groves in the 1920s and 1930s, Satsuma oranges weren’t grown commercially again until the early 2000s. Today, operations like Jackson County-based Cherokee Satsumas and Jefferson County-based Florida Georgia Citrus have rebuilt the citrus orange industry in the Florida Panhandle, selling to schools for lunchroom programs, providing fundraising for local organizations and directly marketing to consumers.
Celebrating 500 Years of Cracker Cattle
Cracker Cattle descended from animals brought to Florida by Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León in 1521. Unique to Florida, they thrive on the state’s harsh grasses and swampy climate, handling the heat and humidity better than more well-known breeds of beef cattle. Small in stature with horns that tip backward, Cracker Cattle offer a healthy meat product that is low in fat and high in omega-3 fatty acids because they are grass fed. About three dozen Florida farmers own Cracker Cattle, including a small herd managed by
the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) in Tallahassee. While there were as many as 20,000 recorded in the state during the 18th century, today’s numbers are much smaller due to urban development and interbreeding with other cattle varieties.
Bringing Back Guava
Florida’s Redland region is home to approximately 90% of the state’s guava production, which provides jams, jellies and marmalades as well as pastes and preserves. The fruit came to South Florida from Cuba more than 160 years ago. Companies like PG Tropicals are expanding production of guava in the U.S., which is otherwise sourced from
Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Colombia and India. After combating challenges brought by the Caribbean fruit fly in the 1960s, Florida guava production grew to about
600 acres in 2015, with most acres located in Miami-Dade County.
Fruits and Vegetables in Immokalee
Home to the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS), the Immokalee region in the southwestern part of the state sees a large impact from agriculture. In 2018, agriculture remained the largest industry in this area, according to an economic overview conducted by Florida Gulf Coast University. Citrus production has been a major part of the region’s agriculture historically, although many acres have been affected by citrus greening in recent years. Tomatoes and bell peppers also grow there, as well as cucumbers and watermelons. The Florida Gulf Coast report shows 34% of Immokalee residents worked in agriculture in 2018, with the majority laboring in crop production.
Peanuts and Cotton
Near the Alabama border, the town of Jay is known for its rich farmland and agricultural roots. Home to peanut-drying facilities and the state’s only two cotton gins, the Santa Rosa County village traces its history back more than a century to small farming communities that thrived on peanut, cotton and livestock production. The Jay Peanut Festival celebrated its 30th year in 2019.
Poultry in Suwannee River Valley
Known as Florida’s poultry capital, the Suwannee River Valley is home to Pilgrim’s Pride, the largest chicken producer in the United States. The area also grows other major agricultural products, including hay, peanuts and cattle. Agriculture provides nearly half of the jobs and nearly half of the gross regional product to Suwannee County, which is located in the north-central part of the state. UF/IFAS estimates in 2016, the state of Florida produced 378 million pounds of broiler chickens valued at over $203 million and 2.364 billion eggs valued at $110 million.