Our Changing Farms: A series

Entrepreneurs take the spotlight at Localecopia event

Entrepreneurs take the spotlight at Localecopia event

The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in South Florida, and there’s no better proof than the group of small businesses, including a seafood wholesaler, a spice company, vegetable farmers and more who attended this week’s Localecopia event at The Breakers. Connecting local chefs and restaurants with local food producers has been the mission of Localecopia, founded in 2007 by Geoffrey...
Florida high school students star in cook-off at The Breakers

Florida high school students star in cook-off at The Breakers

Three teams of high school students chopped, sliced, sauteed, steamed and stirred Florida-grown fruits and vegetables in the regional round of the Fresh From Florida Student Chef Cook-Off at The Breakers on Tuesday. After almost two hours of cooking before a panel of four judges in the elegant Ponce de Leon ballroom, Sheldon Riley and James Weichmann, seniors at Westwood High in Fort Pierce, were...
Florida agriculture still reeling from Irma damage, relief sought

Florida agriculture still reeling from Irma damage, relief sought

Most years attendees at the annual Farm-City Week luncheon at the South Florida Fairgrounds leave with a box full of locally-grown produce such as sweet corn, green beans, peppers and radishes. At the annual event held Wednesday that didn’t happen. That’s because Hurricane Irma’s arrival Sept. 10 left Palm Beach County’s farms flooded and soggy, delaying planting. More rain...
Water farm on ex-citrus grove reduces Lake O discharges into estuaries

Water farm on ex-citrus grove reduces Lake O discharges into estuaries

For decades, thousands of orange trees thrived at Caulkins Citrus Company’s 3,200-acre grove in Palm City, producing a bountiful crop each year. But now another “crop” is being harvested — polluted water from Lake Okeechobee. The practice is being touted as part of the solution to Lake O discharges that have resulted in damaging blue-green algal blooms in the St. Lucie Estuary...
Irma caused an estimated $2.5 billion in Florida agriculture losses

Irma caused an estimated $2.5 billion in Florida agriculture losses

Hurricane Irma slammed every aspect of Florida agriculture from citrus groves to cattle ranches to sugar cane fields and more causing more than $2.5 billion in damages, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam said Wednesday. “Florida agriculture took it on the chin as Hurricane Irma pummeled the state, and the $2.5 billion in agricultural damages is only an initial assessment. We&rsquo...
Citrus groves regroup after getting ‘kicked in the teeth’ by Irma

Citrus groves regroup after getting ‘kicked in the teeth’ by Irma

Driving along highway 60 near Yeehaw Junction in late August, I looked at all the fruit hanging on citrus trees and wondered what would happen if a hurricane were to strike those groves. Lamentably, we have found out. Hurricane Irma, a massive, powerful storm, blew through Florida’s citrus crop, too, on Sept. 10, littering the ground with the precious fruit and flooding fields for days. Florida...
After Irma: Florida agriculture losses widespread, billions in damage

After Irma: Florida agriculture losses widespread, billions in damage

Palm Beach County and Florida agricultural producers ventured into their fields and groves after Hurricane Irma to find oranges ripped from trees, shade houses gone, vegetable beds ruined, sugar cane flattened, and power poles and lines down. This week, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Rep. Thomas Rooney viewed the...
JUST IN: UF working to develop a better-tasting tomato juice

JUST IN: UF working to develop a better-tasting tomato juice

The juice business, including tomato juice, is big business in the U.S., and University of Florida scientists are working to develop a better-tasting tomato juice. Palm Beach County-grown Florida’s Table rice in Publix, Whole Foods Essence, usually extracted from a plant to add flavor or provide a scent, can be used to improve juice flavor, according to a new University of Florida Institute...
Palm Beach County-grown Florida’s Table rice in Publix, Whole Foods

Palm Beach County-grown Florida’s Table rice in Publix, Whole Foods

Palm Beach County is known for growing sugar cane and winter vegetables, but now a lesser-known crop, rice that’s produced during the summer in the Everglades Agricultural Area, is getting its day in the sun. Florida’s Table, a new brand of rice launched by Domino Foods Inc. and owned by West Palm Beach-based Florida Crystals Corp., is now available in most Publix and Whole Foods stores...
Not a lake, but rain-flooded Palm Beach County rice field. Read why

Not a lake, but rain-flooded Palm Beach County rice field. Read why

Florida’s low-profile rice crop is produced entirely in western Palm Beach County in a few inches of water, but this week’s torrential rains are too much even for the semi-aquatic rice plants and could reduce production. Now some fields are completely underwater due to heavy rain in the Everglades Agricultural Area. Rice is planted in the summer as a rotation crop when sugar cane and vegetable...
NEW: Why do we have to wait for payout on citrus trees in canker war?

NEW: Why do we have to wait for payout on citrus trees in canker war?

Palm Beach County residents who saw their trees forcefully removed and destroyed in the canker war will have to wait another year to collect their reparation, but growers may get some relief with the recent lifting of a key obstacle to exporting citrus to Europe. Florida’s citrus canker eradication program was the largest such effort the world has ever experienced. From 1995 to 2006 homeowners...
NEW: Holman’s Harvest grew from couple’s passion for healthful food

NEW: Holman’s Harvest grew from couple’s passion for healthful food

Liza and Marty Holman started Holman’s Harvest, a Loxahatchee Groves farm where they grow fruits and vegetables and raise chickens, in 2008. They knew little about farming, but learned by watching podcasts and speaking with experts for guidance. MORE: Farms leave produce to rot in fields as crop prices drop Now, despite a packed schedule that includes three children under 5, and Marty working...
Feeding Florida seeks $5 million from state to distribute produce

Feeding Florida seeks $5 million from state to distribute produce

Florida produces an abundance of produce, from sweet corn to bell peppers and watermelons, yet an estimated one-fifth of it is wasted. “About 20 percent of the crops never make it into the supply chain,” said Robin Safley, executive director of Feeding Florida, the non-profit’s network of 14 food distribution banks. RELATED: Farms leave produce to rot in fields as crop prices plummet...
Florida fruit, vegetable growers see hope in Trump’s NAFTA stance

Florida fruit, vegetable growers see hope in Trump’s NAFTA stance

Since the North American Free Trade Agreement was enacted in 1994, Florida growers of tomatoes, bell peppers, strawberries and other specialty crops have been hammered by cheap imports from Mexico, where labor costs are lower and regulations fewer. Unfortunately for Florida growers, the state’s winter growing season coincides with Mexico’s, causing head-to-head competition and oversupply...
Farmers gear up to fight proposed land buy south of Lake O

Farmers gear up to fight proposed land buy south of Lake O

With a proposal to purchase a huge swath of the nation’s most fertile farmland south of Lake Okeechobee threatening to put them out of business, a coalition of Palm Beach County vegetable farmers and related businesses has formed an organization to fight back. EAA Farmers Inc. says there’s misinformation being circulated about the land grab they say would not solve problems plaguing the...
Volunteers gather produce that would be plowed under

Volunteers gather produce that would be plowed under

Madeline Erwich and Ariana Fernandez waited to board their buses, their arms laden with peppers. They intended to eat them - even though they were the misshapen or discolored kinds that the big stores reject but which many families would be glad to have. The two Palm Beach Atlantic University students knew they likely never will find themselves in those straits. Monday’s gleaning event, which...
Local farmers harness GPS-driven tractors, drones, as season begins

Local farmers harness GPS-driven tractors, drones, as season begins

Palm Beach County’s winter vegetable and sugar cane harvest season is off to a good start, and these days there’s a lot more to agriculture than plopping seeds in the ground and watering them. Farmers have been using GPS technology for about a decade to automatically steer tractors to create perfectly straight and spaced rows. But what’s called precision agriculture, where data is...
Best of Our Blogs: Hot holiday toys; Video spotlights area farmers

Best of Our Blogs: Hot holiday toys; Video spotlights area farmers

. Amazon’s top toy list for the 2016 holiday season features more than 1,000 items, including toys, games, electronics and popular books. The list is at: https://www.amazon.com/gp/holidaytoylist New this year, Amazon has also released a Top 100 list, which it says is “ideal for busy shoppers who want to quickly and conveniently shop a condensed version of the Holiday Toy List and the best-of-the-best...
Florida orange crop forecast at 70 million boxes, lowest in decades

Florida orange crop forecast at 70 million boxes, lowest in decades

Florida’s signature crop, the orange, continues to be battered by greening disease, and the federal government’s first forecast for the 2016-17 harvest is a bleak one. It’s shaping up to be worse than last season’s when the crop reached a 52-year low. The state’s commercial orange crop will be an estimated 70 million boxes, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Wednesday...

Florida’s orange crop drops 16 percent

Florida’s citrus industry, struggling in a battle against a fatal citrus disease, will have a little bit sweeter season than projected in an initial forecast. However, the outlook for the state’s orange crop continues to be troubling. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s final forecast for the 2015-2016 citrus growing season, released Tuesday, projected that Florida will produce...

Florida citrus agency cuts 20 jobs, but still handing out free juice

Free orange juice will continue to be available to travelers at Florida welcome centers as the state Department of Citrus squeezes staff to help the embattled industry. The Florida Citrus Commission on Tuesday approved a preliminary $20.7 million budget that will eliminate 20 of 46 positions at the Department of Citrus, including 14 that are currently filled. Employees who will lose their jobs are...
At end of season, Swank Farm hosts fresh market

At end of season, Swank Farm hosts fresh market

Swank Farm is celebrating the final few weeks of growing season by opening its doors to the community for a Saturday morning farm market. This is good news for those who flock to Jodi Swank’s fresh produce stand at the West Palm Beach GreenMarket on Saturdays during market season. While the popular green market closed for summer on May 28, Swank produce seekers can still snap up a heap of greens...
Belle Glade firm takes sweet corn to the next level with new pack

Belle Glade firm takes sweet corn to the next level with new pack

Palm Beach County produces more sweet corn than any other county in the nation, and a new consumer-friendly microwavable whole ear sweet corn pack has sprung from that legacy. John E. “Buddy” McKinstry, founder and owner of JEM Farms and Rick Roth, president of Roth Farms, formed Next Level Fresh LLC in 2015 to market the product that’s packed at Ray’s Heritage, Roth&rsquo...

Invasive whitefly found in PB County marks first U.S. backyard finds

A new type of invasive whitefly has been detected from Palm Beach Gardens to Boca Raton, and it’s attacking a beloved backyard favorite, the hibiscus plant. Known as the Q-biotype whitefly, it feeds on more than 900 types of host plants and is considered a major invasive species worldwide. Six finds in Palm Beach County residential landscapes in late April mark the first time the Q-biotype has...

Sons & Daughters Farm and Winery offers a taste of country in suburbs

With free-range hens contentedly roaming, a winery where hibiscus wine is made and an organic farm with everything from fragrant holy basil to loquats, sunflowers, kale and yuca, the 17-acre enterprise off Lantana Road is like nothing else in Palm Beach County. In April, David Bick, 42, and Teal Pfeifer, 33, opened Sons & Daughters Farm and Winery to the public. The county’s only winery, it...
How a relatively small amount of acreage feeds a lot of people

How a relatively small amount of acreage feeds a lot of people

When it comes to Palm Beach County agriculture, there are plenty of big numbers that tell its story, such as a half million acres in production. The vastness of the fertile fields around Lake Okeechobee often amazes people when they view them for the first time and even for the zillionth time. A new report, “Economic Contributions of Agriculture, Natural resources and Food Industries in Palm...

Palm Beach County agriculture touted as economic engine at summit

Palm Beach County has an economic engine that operates on more than half a million acres west of the Florida Turnpike, yet it’s completely off the radar of some local residents. That’s Palm Beach County’s agriculture industry, which with $1 billion in sales of crops at the farm level and a $10 billion economic impact, ranks first in Florida and makes up more than a third of the county&rsquo...

Scott sides with growers, tells citrus agency to squeeze budget

Gov. Rick Scott has sided with a group of growers in asking the Florida Department of Citrus to squeeze its operations as the industry struggles with the impact of citrus disease. Scott made list of requests this week for the citrus department, with the issues including how the agency handles $7.6 million the Legislature allocated in next year’s budget for marketing programs. First on Scott&rsquo...

Farmworker protest comes amid a backdrop of change in agriculture

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is waging a court battle for the right to hold a protest Saturday near the Palm Beach home of Nelson Peltz, board chairman of the fast food chain Wendy’s Company. The farmworker group coalition’s beef with Wendy’s stems from the chain’s refusal to align itself with the “Fair Food Program.” A key tenet of the program is for participating...
Orange harvest looks larger, but industry’s future still dire

Orange harvest looks larger, but industry’s future still dire

Citrus growers received some good news about the outlook for this year’s crop, but the long-term prognosis remains dire for the industry threatened by greening disease. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s monthly forecast, released Wednesday, predicted that this year’s Florida orange harvest will be enough to fill an estimated 71 million boxes, an increase of 2 million boxes from...

Antonio Fins: Duda’s celery breeding keeps pace with consumer tastes

I wrote about the newest of businesses — startups — last week. This week, I’m focusing on one of the oldest businesses among us. Give Susan Salisbury’s story Monday on Duda Farm Fresh Foods, arguably the biggest celery grower on the planet, a good read. Duda turns 90 this year. That’s quite an anniversary. By the way, The Palm Beach Post surpassed the century mark in...

Duda Farms rules the celery world

Celery breeder Vicki Pierce stands in the midst of 3.5 square miles of celery planted in rich black muck at Duda Farms in Belle Glade on a recent windy morning and chops the bottom off a bright green bunch. She swiftly cuts a stalk into pieces, and offers visitors a sweet and crunchy bite. Growing celery isn’t as simple as it seems, and as recently as the 1980s, celery was still used mainly...
Palm Beach County’s crops are down, and so are workers’ paychecks

Palm Beach County’s crops are down, and so are workers’ paychecks

While consumers might complain about pricey vegetables in the stores as crops have been reduced due to this season’s weird weather, many of the workers who harvest and pack Palm Beach County’s sugar cane and vegetables are experiencing a tough year and struggling financially. Rain and cold weather to start 2016 followed a fall that was too hot, resulting in lower yields, fewer harvesting...
Olive oil: The next big thing in Florida agriculture?

Olive oil: The next big thing in Florida agriculture?

Dozens of brands of golden-hued olive oils line supermarket and specialty store shelves, but not a drop of it available at those retailers is produced in Florida. Florida’s fledgling olive industry hopes to change that and is in the midst of determining whether the Mediterranean fruit is viable as a commercial crop long-term in the Sunshine State. Last year, olives from groves in Central and...
Palm Beach County sugar cane crop hit hard by wet weather

Palm Beach County sugar cane crop hit hard by wet weather

Unprecedented January rains have flooded the sugar cane fields around Lake Okeechobee, damaging Palm Beach County’s signature crop and wiping out millions of dollars worth of vegetables. “Some fields have received 12 inches of rain in January. We are in uncharted territory,” Barbara Miedema, spokeswoman for the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida in Belle Glade, said Thursday...
Palm Beach County’s winter vegetables don’t like it too hot, rainy

Palm Beach County’s winter vegetables don’t like it too hot, rainy

Palm Beach County is known as the nation’s winter vegetable capital — but even with this past weekend’s cold snap there’s been way too much summer so far this winter. This season’s generally warm and wet weather has farmers on edge as crops have grown too quickly, which has affected quality. When the rich black muck soil in the Belle Glade area around Lake Okeechobee...
EPA confirms longtime claims that pesticide harms honeybees

EPA confirms longtime claims that pesticide harms honeybees

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a long-awaited study of controversial pesticide’s impact on bee population this week, but it was sharply challenged Thursday by a leading Florida beekeeper. Dave Hackenberg, reached Thursday at the American Beekeeping Federation conference in Ponte Vedra Beach, called the EPA’s newly-released study on an pesticide linked to honeybee colony...
Florida orange crop forecast shrinks as greening disease takes toll

Florida orange crop forecast shrinks as greening disease takes toll

This season’s Florida orange crop — which the U.S. Department of Agriculture this week forecast at 74 million 90-pound boxes, down 6 million boxes from its October estimate — could be the smallest in decades. There hasn’t been a crop that small since 1963-64, when Florida growers produced 58.3 million boxes of oranges. Over the last decade, the state’s commercial groves...
Trans-Pacific Pact to eliminate tariffs on Florida citrus, vegetables

Trans-Pacific Pact to eliminate tariffs on Florida citrus, vegetables

How might the newly reached Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement affect Florida’s agricultural exports and imports? That’s an unknown, and the pact with the U.S. and 11 other countries awaits Congressional approval. However, on Wednesday the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a series of fact sheets about how each state and individual commodities stand to benefit from increased agricultural...
Sugar harvesting begins, group urges an end to burning

Sugar harvesting begins, group urges an end to burning

Florida’s sugar cane harvesting season began Wednesday with the decades-old practice of burning the fields to rid the cane of leaves and other debris, resulting in spectacular controlled burns accompanied by smoke and ashes. Now the controlled permitted burns have become a source of contention that could end up in court. The Sierra Club has already filed a petition with the U.S. Environmental...
Fresh from Florida products sell globally — $4.1 billion in 159 nations

Fresh from Florida products sell globally — $4.1 billion in 159 nations

In Scandinavian countries, consumers are wild about sweet corn grown in South Florida. In the Dominican Republic, fresh mushrooms produced in Florida are sold in grocery stores. The two items are among the more than $4.1 billion worth of Florida agricultural exports annually sold in 159 countries and territories, said Dan Sleep, chief of the Florida Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Strategic...
Sugar propels Palm Beach County to No. 1 in state for agriculture

Sugar propels Palm Beach County to No. 1 in state for agriculture

Palm Beach County agriculture continues to be a powerful economic engine and ranks first in the state in its total value of crops, livestock, forestry and fisheries at more than $1 billion, a newly released University of Florida report found. At $1.356 billion in output for those sectors, Palm Beach County ranked highest in the state, almost double the next largest county, Miami-Dade, at $783 million...

Mobile labs help Florida agriculture save billions of gallons of water

Florida’s Mobile Irrigation Lab program helped agricultural operations save more than 12 million gallons of water in the last fiscal year, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said Thursday. The state’s 17 traveling labs provide free irrigation system evaluations and on-site education in 66 counties. Although the MIL program originally targeted agricultural water use, it also assists residential...
Disease threatens roses; Fla. is 4th-biggest rose producing state

Disease threatens roses; Fla. is 4th-biggest rose producing state

The American rose is being threatened by a disease called rose rosette, and researchers at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences are racing to find a cure. The disease, a virus spread by a mite (phyllocoptes fructiphilus), is decimating the rose industry in other states. It was first detected in Florida in December 2013, said Mathews Paret, assistant professor of plant...

Love of bees and honey draws some to beekeeping, Florida numbers up

At Bee Healthy Honey Farms on a sweltering morning, Craig Spence wears a full-body beekeepers’ suit and helmet as he checks the 80 or so hives scattered about in white boxes. He wants to make sure there’s a queen in each and that the bees are healthy. “If there is no queen, the hive will collapse and leave,” Spence said at the 2.2-acre parcel in a neighborhood west of Delray...
New low for Florida’s disease-battered citrus industry

New low for Florida’s disease-battered citrus industry

Florida’s signature crop, the orange, has taken a beating this year, resulting in the smallest crop in almost 50 years. Blame citrus greening, a bacterial disease spread by the Asian citrus psyllid. Infected trees produce bitter, misshapen fruit and most die within a few years. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said today the state’s commercial growers produced 96.7 million 90-pound boxes...
UF invasive species lab set to close following budget cut

UF invasive species lab set to close following budget cut

The Brazilian peppertree is one of Florida’s most hated invasive plants, and government agencies spend millions each year removing the infamous tree also known as “Florida holly” for its bright red berries and green leaves. Now University of Florida scientists poised to release two imported insects, the plant’s natural enemies in Brazil, in hopes of decimating the invasive&rsquo...
Mango grove draws buyers who find all mangoes not created equal

Mango grove draws buyers who find all mangoes not created equal

Jasmine Arneaud once thought all mangoes were alike. Then a few years ago, the Lake Worth resident discovered Cecil Brumfield’s Tropical Paradise Grove off Hypoluxo Road and found out about the wide range of flavors and dozens of varieties. “I don’t necessarily stick to the spicy or the citrusy. I do like different flavors. I put them in my salads or eat them as a snack,” said...
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