Farm Tours give locals a chance to learn about where food comes from and meet local growers.

Celebrate Local Ag!

By Lloyd Singleton, Extension Agent II

What does a distillery in Yalaha, a high-tech hydroponic farm in Groveland, an heirloom veggie and fruit grower in Okahumpka, and a citrus processing plant in Leesburg have in common? 1) They are all local Lake county agri-businesses, and 2) they are all stops on our upcoming Farm Tour! This 8th annual bus tour is sponsored in part by Florida Farm Bureau of Lake County and Farm Credit of Central Florida on November 17th, 2017 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. We will depart and return to the UF/IFAS Extension offices at the Lake County Agricultural Center, 1951 Woodlea Road, Tavares, FL 32778. With a cost of $35 per person for this full day of a behind-the-scenes look at local agricultural enterprises, seats are filling up fast. Register today.

Agriculture in Lake County

Agriculture in our area has definitely changed in the last few decades. In reviewing some archived United States Department of Agriculture documents of farms in 1969, Lake County had 122,524 acres of oranges. The number from 2017 is only 8,766 acres of citrus fruits. I’ve heard it said that “Lake County used to grow oranges; now we grow rooftops.” This urbanization of our beautiful area has changed the face of much of the land, but Lake County has a promising future in agriculture in keeping with its rich history.

A voluntary reporting of local agriculture enterprises from 2012 lists the millions of dollars of crop products from nursery and greenhouses, vegetables, melons, sweet potatoes, berries, sod, hay fields, cattle and bees. This census of agriculture also reports a growing number of female and minority farm operators, consistent with the national trend. Less than half of our farmers do so as a primary occupation; it’s a tough way to make a living with an average farm annual income of $13,346.

Lake County 2017 Farm Tour

So, as our agricultural base in Lake County grows in diversity of crops and livestock, it remains an economic powerhouse with over $142 million in sales. With an average size of 85 acres and nearly 2000 farms in this county, this industry which feeds us is worthy of recognition.  Our farm tour this year celebrates a few of our valued enterprises: Cutrale is a family business which began in the 1960s and is now a worldwide supplier of high-quality orange juice and its products; Organica World has a farm store direct to the public featuring freshly grown vegetables and herbs, and offers agritourism tours and seminars in hydroponics and food preparation; Bountiful Farms is a small, family-owned and operated produce farm growing all natural, chemical-free heirloom vegetables and fruits; and Yalaha Bootlegging Co. is Central Florida’s Premier Craft Distillery specializing in moonshine and brandy made from organic blueberries grown on site.

University of Florida IFAS Extension in Lake County hopes you can help us in celebrating our local agriculture industry; join us on the Nov. 17, 2017 Farm Tour if you are able.

Extension programs are open to all persons without regard to race, color, sex, age, disability, religion, or national origin.

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