March 21st is National Agriculture Day!
Founded in 1973, National Agriculture Day is dedicated to increasing awareness of agriculture’s role in modern society. This year’s theme is “Growing a Climate for Tomorrow”, putting an emphasis on preserving agricultural land for the future. Here in Manatee County, agriculture has always been, and continues to be, a major contributor to the local and state economy. Agricultural industries found here include crops, pastureland, citrus, and ornamental plant production. In addition, the county is home to one of the last true working waterfronts in Florida, making for a productive commercial fishing and seafood aquaculture industry.
Agriculture in Manatee County
Manatee County ranks second in the state for vegetable production and is the top producer of fresh market tomatoes. Our livestock sector is valued at over $35 million, which includes beef, dairy, horses, and hobby animals. Citrus grown here includes 91% oranges, 5% grapefruit, and 4% specialty fruits such as lemons and limes. Tropicana is also located in the county, which is one of the state’s largest citrus processors. Manatee County fishermen harvest over 10 million pounds of seafood annually, with a dockside value of over $11 million. The Cortez fishing village has persevered through time to maintain its status as one of Florida’s most productive seafood communities.
Ornamental horticulture is a major component of the agriculture industry in Manatee County, bringing in $30 million annually. Nurseries such as Mariposa and H&H grow their own plant stock and sell directly to the public, while other nurseries sell wholesale to local landscapers and across the country. For a wide selection of Florida native or edible plants, Sweetbay Nursery is a great destination. Bayside Sod produces high-quality turfgrass in the county, including Zoysia, Bahia, and St. Augustine varieties. Many of our ornamental producers participate in the FDACS Best Management Practices program, going above and beyond as environmental stewards by preserving our water quality.
Farmers, Thank You!
With all these great values in mind, it is not hard to pause and recognize the hard-working men and women in Manatee County who work tirelessly to provide us with food and beautiful landscape plants. They have been working extra hard these past few months to recover from the effects of Hurricane Ian, so be sure to thank your local farmer whenever you can! Some easy ways to support local agricultural production include purchasing food items labeled “Fresh from Florida” while shopping at your local supermarket, or shopping for plants and produce at a local farm stand or retail nursery. Fun fact: if you shop at the Home Depot for plants, you may have the luck of purchasing a plant grown at Ralph Taylor’s Nurseries, which is a local nursery that sells exclusively to the Home Depot!
(Cover Photo Credit: Golden Magnolia Photography)