Florida agriculture

photo courtesy of Highlands Packaging Solutions

From juicy tomatoes to iconic citrus fruits, and abundant seafood to grass-fed beef, Florida farmers grow everything under the sun, providing an array of fresh produce, meats and more.

Florida boasts 48,000 farms spread across 9.5 million acres, each averaging about 200 acres in size. In 2013, the state’s agricultural cash receipts totaled an impressive $8.45 billion.

Many Florida growers supply the U.S. and the world with fresh produce, as the state’s top crops include grapefruit, oranges, sugarcane, bell peppers, fresh market tomatoes, snap beans, squash and sweet corn.

In fact, the state ranks second in the nation for vegetable production, behind California, and is responsible for 63 percent of the nation’s total citrus production. Florida is also second in the U.S. for production of greenhouse and nursery products.

Though Florida is a cornucopia of produce, its agricultural success comes from continued innovation and education throughout the industry.

More than just produce, Florida is a major player in livestock production, ranking No. 12 in the nation for beef cows and No. 18 in total cattle, as well as forestry, field crops and agricultural exports. In 2012, Florida broke the top 10 for agricultural exports, coming in at No. 8 with a $4 billion value.

Researchers at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) study everything from ways to prevent strawberry disease to heat- tolerant rice to the best post-harvest handling practices for mangoes to protect quality, among many other topics. UF/IFAS is just one university training the next generation of Florida agriculture, along with Florida A&M University, Florida Southern College, South Florida State College and more.

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This research not only keeps Florida agriculture competitive with the highest-quality products, but also allows future generations to come into the industry with the latest innovations at their fingertips.

Taste of the Tropics

With more than 500 different varieties of fruit, nut and spice trees, Florida’s Fruit and Spice Park is the only tropical botanical garden of its kind in the U.S.

The 37-acre botanical garden is a paradise, giving visitors a view of Florida’s agricultural diversity. While walking through the garden, guests are invited to sample fruits that have fallen to the ground as they peruse more than 150 varieties of mangoes, 75 varieties of bananas, 70 bamboo varieties and many more exotic fruits.

There are also classes offered, such as propagation workshops and establishing a small grove, as well as several events throughout the year.

The park is operated by the Miami-Dade Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department, and it showcases a unique, tropical Florida climate needed to grow plants that cannot be found anywhere else.

Visitors can tour the park seven days a week. Learn more at redlandfruitandspice.com.

Roe Your Boat

Florida is getting fancy. Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota produces local caviar at a more affordable price than luxurious eggs transported from other countries, so Florida chefs can now serve local fish eggs. The product ends up costing about $55 per ounce, compared to imported caviar, which can cost hundreds of dollars.

Mote’s facility houses dozens of recirculating filtered tanks with between 50,000 and 70,000 sturgeon. From the tanks, they harvest the caviar, also known as roe, when the female sturgeons are 4 to 5 years old, and the meat of the fish is also sold.

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For Florida’s already booming aquaculture industry, the addition of homegrown roe increases local economy dollars and gives restaurants a more varied menu using Florida ingredients.

Learn more about the growing caviar industry at mote.org and Blackopalcaviar.com.

FL Ag Museum

Courtesy of Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Harvesting History

Dive deep into the origins of Florida’s agriculture industry at the Florida Agricultural Museum in Palm Coast.

Established in 1983, the museum’s mission to preserve the state’s agricultural heritage lives on today with educational exhibits, events and exciting activities, such as horseback riding, a petting zoo and more.

Visitors can also experience daily farm life as it was in 1880 at the Whidden-Clark pioneer homestead.

Learn more about Florida’s storied ag past and plan a visit at floridaagmuseum.org or by calling (386) 446-7630.

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