In a long-standing tradition, UF/IFAS Extension Collier County hosted the Annual Collier County Ag Tour on Wednesday, March 16, 2022. This annual tour gives participants access to the stories, tastes and sights of farm life from the farmers, ranchers and local agricultural experts of Collier County. Residents, part-timers and visitors alike interested in agriculture hop aboard an air-conditioned bus and visit local farming operations in the county. This year nearly 100 community members joined the tour on two buses.
The day started at the Collier Extension office with freshly squeezed orange juice from South Naples Citrus Grove. Our first stop included Silver Strand Citrus, currently managed by Alico. In the grove we talked with Mr. Forrest Taylor about how citrus is grown in Florida, the current state of the citrus industry, and the ways the industry is fighting pests and diseases.
We then visited Ms. Liesa Priddy at JB Ranch in Immokalee. Liesa is a third generation rancher and shared her unique heritage breed of Cracker Cattle, spoke to the challenges of meat processing in Florida and the U.S., and highlighted her ranch as important ecological habitat for wildlife.
Next was a visit to the UF/IFAS Extension SW Research and Education Center where we enjoyed a delicious lunch catered by Lozano‘s Restaurant.
We then dodged the showers and visited with Jose, Adrian and Melissa Vega of Rojo Farms in Immokalee. The Vega family shared their operation in fresh fruits and vegetables which includes peppers, squash, watermelon and also shared their journey growing up in agriculture to creating their own successful business. They shared their pride in being local food producers, shared the challenges of fresh fruit and vegetable production such as the costs of fertilizer, seeds, labor and highlighted the need for communities to support local and U.S. farmers.
Our final stop was a visit to the Farmer’s Alliance packing house where Mr. Wade Purvis showed us around the green bean packing house. Mr. Purvis and his partner farms processes upwards of one tractor trailer full of green beans every day! Mr. Purvis showed the group how the packing line operates, explained some of the changes he has seen in his 30 years of farming in Florida, and shared his pride growing and offering fresh fruits and vegetables from family farms all around the Southwest region.
The event was a huge success due to our knowledgeable bus moderators Mr. Gene McAvoy of the UF/IFAS Extension Research and Education Center and Mr. Fritz Roka of the FGCU Center for Agribusiness. They shared their expertise as agricultural educators and explained the importance of the abundant natural resources we were seeing right outside the bus window.
This event is not possible without the support of our Collier County farmers, Extension educators, Collier County 4-H, and community members. A big Thank You to all that participated this year!
If you want to support local farmers and Florida farmers look for the Fresh from Florida label at your grocery store or visit SWFL Fresh: Choose Local, Choose Fresh for producers selling local products.
We hope you’ll join us next year for the Collier county Ag Tour, Wednesday, March 15, 2023!