2024 Annual Collier County Ag Tour Recap

In a long-standing tradition, University of Florida/IFAS Extension Collier County hosted the Annual Collier County Agricultural Bus Tour on Wednesday, March 20, 2024.

This annual tour has occurred for over 50 years in the county and gives participants access to the stories, tastes, and sights of farm life from farmers, ranchers, and local agricultural experts. 120 Residents, part-timers, and visitors hopped aboard an air-conditioned bus and got a “behind the scenes” look of why farming is important to Collier County’s economy, environment and people.

This year’s tour stops included flower nursery, American Farms; dragon fruit farm, Jessie’s Tropical Fruit Farm; large tomato farm, Lipman Family Farms, and the unique partnership with Naples Botanical Garden and Lipman Family Farms.

Collier County is home to highly productive agricultural lands. These lands are important not only for feeding people locally and nationally, but for water recharge areas, wildlife habitat, and carbon sequestration. Participants got a chance to see real working farms and how farmers, scientists and agricultural experts are navigating challenges of on the farm and the future of food production.

Jessie’s Tropical Fruit Farm is a 5-acre fruit farm in Naples offering fresh fruit, an edible plant nursery, and guided U-pick tours. Their farm mainly grows dragon fruit, but they also sell loquat, bananas, passionfruit, soursop, sapodilla, guava, and more. They have a unique selection of jams, syrups, sauces, and artisanal soaps and sell locally and ship across the U.S. Jessie’s Tropical Fruit Farm is a member of the SWFL Fresh: Choose Local, Choose Fresh program that connects local producers and consumers.

Jessica Johnson of Jessie’s Tropical Fruit Farm giving a tour of her dragon fruit (pitaya) farm

Started in 1991 with a passion for horticulture and 10 acres of land, American Farms has expanded to more than 100 acres. The wholesale business produces more than 30 million plants every year, including annual, perennial, and tropical flowering plants as well as seasonal and holiday plants such as geraniums, garden mums and poinsettias.

Alex Salazar of American Farms sharing the production efficiency of American Farms

Lipman Family Farms, founded in Immokalee, is now North America’s largest tomato producer. The family operation has expanded from growing tomatoes to specialty crops, repacking, distribution, and fresh-cut processing. Farm #7 grows tomatoes for fresh market consumption.

Fritz Roka shares the tomato production challenges and opportunities in Florida

Lipman Family Farms recently donated use of a 5-acre greenhouse to the Naples Botanical Garden as a horticultural production facility on Farm #7. This gift allows the Garden to venture into restoration projects, community plantings, and conservation efforts.

Brian Galligan and Nick Ewy of Naples Botanical Garden discuss plants and conservation efforts

Our participants were guided by two local experts, Dr. Fritz Roka, Director of FGCU’s Center for Agribusiness and former Associate Professor with UF/IFAS Extension and Mr. Gene McAvoy UF/IFAS Extension Emeritus and 2024 Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame Inductee. Dr. Pavlos Tsouvaltzis, assistant professor of vegetable horticulture at the UF/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center also talked with participants about tomato production in SWFL. Clark Ryals with the Florida Forest Service shared information about fire management with regards to wildfires in the Golden Gate Estates area.

We also thank the Collier County Master Gardeners, Collier County 4-H, and Collier County Public Services for making this year’s tour possible.

The excursion provides participants with an opportunity to explore the diverse agricultural landscape of Collier County. Previous tour stops have included cattle ranches, citrus groves, packinghouses, aquaculture, and more.

We hope to see some new faces join us next year!


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Posted: May 8, 2024

Category: Agriculture, Events, Fruits & Vegetables, Horticulture, Natural Resources, UF/IFAS Extension
Tags: Ag Tour, Agriculture, Bus Tour, Collier County, Collier County Extension, Farm Tours, SWFL, Tropical Fruit

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