Exploration of the Farms, Families and History of Western Manatee County
The 2018 Manatee River Soil and Water Conservation District Spring Farm Tour hugged the coastline in contrast to some itineraries which have taken us much further east. A common theme among the agricultural operations we visited, was their longevity and multi-generational histories. At A.P. Bell Fish Co. owner Karen Bell granddaughter of founder Aaron Parx Bell led the group out to the dock and then through the packing house to view both offshore and inshore fish species.
Manatee Floral traces its history back to 1892 when the Manatee Lemon Company was established. On the tour, 15 acres of potted plants (including Easter lilies, poinsettias, mum, foliage plants and various potted plants and baskets) destined for markets near and far. Manatee Floral is owned by Whiting Preston, great grandson of the founder.
Greg Geraldson and two of his children gave a tour at the farm where crops are grown to be sold in their Farm Market. Greg’s father, Carroll M. (Jerry) Geraldson, Ph.D. was a soil chemist professor at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center located in Bradenton at the time. Dr. Jerry Geraldson and his family lived and farmed in NW Bradenton and several of his children and grandchildren have continued the farming tradition.
Orban’s Nursery is currently run by the 3rd and 4th generation Marty and Tyler Orban. The company started in 1914 in Ohio, before relocating to Bradenton. They supply flowers to many retailers and garden centers. Orban’s Nursery is well known for the one-day Christmas drive-through and sale where one can view 100,000 blooming poinsettias before they are shipped to various locations.
The Manatee County Agricultural Museum served as a fitting final stop, since many of the ancestors involved in the operations above could be seen in the Agricultural Hall of Fame display housed in the museum. Tour attendees were able to view ‘Florida’s Black Cowboys: Past and Present’. The neighboring Carnegie Library was open after some recent renovations and exhibiting ‘Beaches, Benches and Boycotts: The Civil Rights Movement in Tampa Bay’.
The Manatee River Soil and Water Conservation District hosts the tours to increase the awareness of agricultural operations within the county. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to be added to the email list for future farm tours.