Disaster Strikes – Opportunity Knocks: American Farms in Collier County

As it barreled up the Atlantic towards the state of Florida, meteorologists and news anchors warned of potentially devastating winds, floods and rains. Floridians watched with trepidation as the National Hurricane Center updates aired on local news stations. Heading west towards Miami, the category 5 storm came to be known as “the big one”.

That was the start of American Farms nearly 26 years ago. Hurricane Andrew, known for its lasting impacts in South Florida was the catalyst for a new era of building codes and improvements to weather modeling. The hurricane didn’t spare growers on the east coast, but on the west coast American Farms in Golden Gates Estates moved into the market to provide flowering annuals to new clients. Today that 10 same acre parcel has grown to over 90 acres of annual and perennial ornamental plants, “That hurricane put us in the market.” says Alex Salazar, one of the owners of American Farms.

Photo of impacts of Hurricane Irma at American Farms in Collier County, FL

That weather event wasn’t the last the farm would see. They went through Hurricane Wilma in 2005 and 2017, in particular, proved to be a challenging year for the wholesaler nestled in southeastern Collier County. In April of 2017, 100 foot tall wildfire flames consumed trucks and trailers, left greenhouses destroyed and operations interrupted.

In September of 2017 Hurricane Irma barreled through Naples, 125+ mph winds twisted newly rebuild greenhouses and flooding covered the property with over 15 inches of rain. Salazar reflects, “All of the rain gauges were overflowing”.

https://www.facebook.com/GreaterNaplesFire/videos/1412610232095756/

Video from Greater Naples Fire Rescue District

Significant losses from both events included equipment, planting material, the costs of clean-ups and rebuilding. The American Farm team is currently figuring out how to salvage some of the greenhouses, manage sunburnt plants and how to use these experiences to better prepare them for the next trial Mother Nature propels their way.

Photo of impacts of Hurricane Irma at American Farms in Collier County, FL

One common theme has stayed with American Farms over the years. American Farms farming philosophy and practice is focused around the community and their employees. With about 200 year round workers, American Farms knew their first priority after Irma was ensuring employees were safe and had access to essentials. With generous donations from suppliers and the Community Day School, they were able to provide important commodities such as food, water, diapers, and ice. As a serious gas shortage loomed in Florida, the company provided fuel to their employees as they traveled back and forth between the farm and their homes to tend to damage. American Farms partners and managers fired up the grill and fed employees for days following the storm.

Photo from https://www.facebook.com/American.Farms

Storms can be catastrophic to people, businesses and institutions. But sometimes, it’s not all bad news. Sometimes, large weather and climate events can surprise us with the opportunities they present, and as a community it behooves us to find that silver lining. 26 years ago, American Farms was just a dream to Salazar and his partners. Today, the farm produces over 30 million plants every year, most of their sales coming from Walmart and private contractors in the region and as far north as Michigan. They’ve become an economic agricultural engine to the area. And now again, decades after the impacts of Hurricane Andrew, Hurricane Irma and the 2017 wildfires provide American Farms with another opportunity to improvise and innovate. Alex Salazar, one of the company owners says, “We are rebuilding. We have a good market and a good team.”

Education has also been an important component of their innovation. Over the years American Farms has developed a relationship with the University of Florida IFAS Extension in Collier County. They have been guest speakers in IFAS programs sharing their extensive knowledge to educate consumers about proper care of annual perennials, “Our relationship has been extremely good” Salazar says.

The story of American Farms is a story of resiliency. And one seen time and time again in Collier County and the state of Florida. Natural disasters are part of working with the land and despite the setbacks and loses it’s the dedication to employees, courage to innovate and generosity to the local community that help agricultural business like American Farms thrive.

Photo from: https://www.facebook.com/American.Farms

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Posted: December 6, 2017


Category: Agribusiness, Agriculture, Horticulture, UF/IFAS Extension
Tags: Agribusiness, Collier County, Farms, Florida


Comments:

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January 23, 2022

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Tom
August 11, 2021

Very, very expensive

Michael Sipos

June 24, 2021

That's a tricky one as slippers/bulldozers are not as targeted by commercial divers and I don't believe many slippers get caught in regular spiny lobster traps. I would reach out to some local seafood houses to see if they get them in occasionally, request them from a distributor or if they get some of their product by divers, ask if you could make a request or be contacted when they come in. I know a few Tampa area commercial divers and I believe they sell their speared fish to Shelly's Seafood and would check with them https://www.shellysseafood.com/. Good luck!

JANIE NEWMAN
June 24, 2021

I am looking to buy 20 lb of slipper lobster bulldozer lobster spiny lobster and looking for some place in Tampa area to purchase them

Enan
June 1, 2021

I want to give thanks to you for sharing such good information

Enan
June 1, 2021

pretty good informative

Manuel
April 20, 2021

Is there a membership for this program?

Michael Sipos

March 29, 2021

Hi Earl, I would be happy to take a look at a picture, my email address is sipos624@ufl.edu. Cane toads and other invasive species are usually/can be more common in urban and disturbed areas where the native critters are pushed out leaving an open ecological niche. I did a search of the Everglades Conservation Area 2 A and looks like it backs up to some urban areas on the East side. The FWC promotes reporting sightings of invasive species as the best form of management is early detection and rapid response before the species become established. You could report the sighting on the I've Got One app or on this website (url below), you can also see where some invasive critters have been spotted/reported as well https://www.eddmaps.org/distribution/ . For cane toads they may not mobilize a response as they have been established but researchers could find the information useful and interesting if they are moving more towards rural undisturbed areas. -Mike

Earl Mallory
March 27, 2021

I got this last night in Everglades Conservation Area 2A. miles from anything dry. It looks like a cane toad and is the size of a bullfrog. secretions from the glands behind the head. if it is a cane toad, and they are reproducing, bad news for natvive glades frogs. i cant figure out how to attach photos but glad to email to you.

Ken Robertson
January 8, 2021

Great video on sheepshead feeding. Thanks for posting this.

Judith Bergauer
October 30, 2020

Our HOA is requiring residents to hire a tree trimming company to remove the royal palm seed pods ($55 per tree). Do you have any written materials to support nature's "self pruning" of royal palms? The royal palms on our property have never been pruned but the new HOA is determined to excessively prune these palms. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you for your time.

Doug Caldwell "Dr. Dougbug"

October 1, 2020

I just watched NBC2 news with Twyla Leigh and the Vanilla Bean vine plant. My friend, Dr. Henry Herman, Professor at FSW in Fort Myers, gave me a cutting of his plant and it was amazing how healthy it was and grew to flower. I had moved from that home, but would love to have samples to grow at my home in South Fort Myers. I am a master gardener and would love to help produce more Vanilla Bean Orchid plants. Please contact Twyla Leigh at twlaleigh@ufl.edu

Suzy Callanan
September 24, 2020

I just watched NBC2 news with Twyla Leigh and the Vanilla Bean vine plant. My friend, Dr. Henry Herman, Professor at FSW in Fort Myers, gave me a cutting of his plant and it was amazing how healthy it was and grew to flower. I had moved from that home, but would love to have samples to grow at my home in South Fort Myers. I am a master gardener and would love to help produce more Vanilla Bean Orchid plants.

Michael Sipos

September 22, 2020

Hi Albrey, The pictures are great! I believe there is a huge value of having real fish pictures for identification. I'm beginning to stockpile photos of distinguishing characteristics for all the species I now catch/do a segment on. I'm trying to do a species profile/fillet video a week on edible fish found in Florida on our Collier County Sea Grant Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/CollierSeaGrant

Albrey Arrington
September 22, 2020

Nice to see you using the helpful species identification clues provided in Fish Rules App. Swipe pics in Fish Rules App to see additional images and identification clues.

suba suba
June 11, 2020

the internet. You actually know how to bring a problem to light

Michael Sipos

June 8, 2020

Thank you for your kind words! If there are any invasive species you're interested in particular, I would be happy to answer your questions or put you in contact with an expert within the University of Florida network. Feel free to reach out with any requests or ideas for future programming. Have a good one!

Murphy Mary
June 5, 2020

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Gaylene Vasaturo
May 11, 2020

Thanks for your info--i didn't realize this was the problem with my porterweed until the plants were quite infected with the caterpillars. I've cut the stems as you suggest...but continually find many I've missed. The infestation is pretty established. What's the best course of action? I've cut back the porterweed substantially, but probably the moths are around and will continue to infect. If I remove the porterweed completely...and start over, must I continually (almost daily) check the plants for infestation? I've had the plants for a few years before the problem occurred.

Gaylene Vasaturo
May 3, 2020

i have a big infestation of this on my native porter weed. Didn't really notice it until it has really devasted my plants an is spreading. It is overwhelming the plants. The caterpiller appears to burrow down inside the stem and then the branch dies. It may be too late for me to control it by just cutting the infected stems out. How do I get these insects under control. Do I need to remove all the porter weed and let the ground remain dormant for a while? I have the infestation in my backyard, but have porterweed in the front also, and I observed early signs of infestation in the front. Would appreciate your advice. So glad you've identified my problem.

Angel Raudner
January 21, 2020

Thank you so much! Wish so many of my "natives" and Florida friendly, like Wild Coffee, were a bit more cold sensitive. Not sure how I'll have time and ability to protect my 100' hedge row, but we'll give it a valiant try.

Rancho Cordova Tree
January 9, 2020

You're very right about that! We completely agree!

North Shore
December 27, 2019

I want to give thanks to you for sharing such good information!! North Shore Tree Services

Tree Surgeon Hastings
September 23, 2019

Great Share! Hastings Tree Surgeon

YG
August 22, 2019

Cool stuff. Tree Service

Jessica M. Ryals

December 3, 2018

George, let's set up a time to talk! Give the Extension Office a ring: 239-252-4800 - Jessica

George
September 21, 2018

Who do I need too talk to the bosses on location??? Am a great talented Chef wanting my own business truck.And knowing dealing Bosses but you. Z And to put healthy great food for the tourists. I leave here for 5years and know know proveries and fisherman.. Gradauted CIAn 2005, like to know permits and costs before I get a food truck please let me know. Best Regards, George Vassilev

Jessica M. Ryals

September 4, 2018

Hi Seth, the event has already passed. Feel free to call our Collier County Extension Office at 239-252-4800.

Seth Trombley
August 31, 2018

Hi I want to buy 2 tickets to the Collier county tropical fruit road tour please give me a number to contact someone the link is not working for me. thank you

Doug Caldwell "Dr. Dougbug"

August 28, 2018

For the royal poinciana caterpillar, carbaryl or a pyrethroid (bifenthrin) should work. Remember just to spray the bole of the tree from the ground up to 3 or 4 feet. No need to spray the canopy as explained in the posted FSHS article.

Drew Ellison
August 28, 2018

So what do we use to kill them? Seven?

Annette Brody
July 18, 2018

Love the pics!!!!

joyce berkoski
March 15, 2018

Can't seem to be able to sign up for the ag tour. Would like to go, are there any available seats left. Thanks, Joyce Berkoski 239 732 5847

Kathy O’Connor, Driftwood Landscape
December 8, 2017

I want to compliment Jill for being the Naples face of American Farms. She is innovative knowledgeable and personable. You have a true Gem!

Dr. Steve Hardiman, Ed. D
December 6, 2017

We in Iowa followed the hurricane devastation in Naples and its impact on American Farms. Kudos to Alex and the employees for their efforts to rebuild.

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