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An assortment of Florida grown agriculture commodities, including tomatoes, potatoes, and citrus. Photo taken 05-09-16.

Agriculture tours make for a great day to see the Real Florida

Florida Agriculture

When you think of Florida, you may think of citrus. In Highlands County we live among the many orange groves. We are the 3-4th largest citrus producing county in the state, depending on the year. We are also an agricultural county.  Ranches, dairies, sod and tree farms and ornamental nurseries dot the landscape. We drive by them every day on our daily tasks and they mostly go unnoticed.  Some of them are on the back roads of our rural county and rarely seen.  If you love farming and are an inquisitive person you now have a chance to see the inter-workings of our counties finest industries.

Boxes of vegetables are stacked up and ready to be shipped

Vegetables get washed, packed and ready to ship at Miller Farms in Lake Placid, Florida.

A great way to see the Highlands County

UF/IFAS Extension, Highlands County has been offering Agriculture tours for some time. Those that attend them are always pleasantly surprised at the day’s activities. A favorite of all, are the steak lunches that the Cattleman’s Association cook for them right on the spot. Usually the setting is a ranch, Kissimmee River, or a view of the Highlands County’s largest lake, Istokpoga.  Stops include all of the above agriculture ventures and many more. The tour includes fertilizer plants, soil suppliers, and other support industries.

Don’t miss the fun!

The tour season is here and the first tour is Thursday, January 31st.  Considered our south tour, we first stop at Windmill Farms, a 100 acre grower of flowering perennials that are shipped throughout the United States. Growing around 5 million plants annually, you may have bought their plants at any number of stores across Florida and the southeast. We then head to the southern end of or county to Howard Fertilizer where they explain the process behind gathering and mixing the nutrients that drive agriculture production. The third stop is at Windy Point Park on Lake Istokpoga where we’ll learn about the important ecosystems and water sheds that are so important to the agriculture of Highlands County. We’ll stay there for the Cattlemen’s steak dinner and then move on after lunch to Miller Farms a vegetable grower in the rich soils surrounding Lake Istokpoga.  Finally we head to the Sugar Sand Distillery.  A unique distillery producing rum and other spirits from the sugar cane they grow right on location. You’ll be back at the Agriculture civic center in time for the local restaurant’s early bird specials.

Tour participants sit down for a steak dinner

Tour participants sit down for a steak lunch cooked by the Highlands County Cattlemen’s Association.

That is if you still aren’t filled up from your steak dinner. That’s the news form the Hometown Gardener.

Like my Hometown Gardener page on Facebook and stay up with the latest gardening info in Florida’s Heartland.   Sign up for our Master Gardener Newsletter Here. 

 

Do you want to be a Master Gardener volunteer?  Class is starting soon. Email me at davidaustin@ufl.edu for details! 

Need answers?

Have a plant problem, a bug to ID, or any other horticulture related problem? Come see us at the Master Gardener help desk in the UF/IFAS Cooperative Extension office. We are at 4509 George Blvd., Sebring in the Bert Harris Agricultural Civic Center. Master Gardeners are on duty from 9:30 to 3:30, Monday through Friday.

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