Spring Farm Tour 2024

The Manatee River Soil and Water Conservation District Spring Farm Tour brought over ninety participants in two charter buses to several agricultural operations in the Manatee County. Manatee River Soil and Water Conservation District board members Buddy Keen, Paul Howard, Julie Tillett, and Mike Ingram served as tour guides along with county and UF/IFAS Extension staff.  Points of interest, historic, and anecdotal information was shared on the buses while en route to the tour stops.

TerraNova Equestrian Center

TerraNova Equestrian Center, recently established in Manatee County, is a welcoming setting for all levels of equestrian competition. There are six state-of-the-art arenas and a cross-country course designed by Olympic gold medalist Captain Mark Phillips and built by master craftsman Eric Bull. In addition to the outdoor riding arenas, there are spectator viewing areas, spacious stalls, and ample acreage for riding. This family-run operation created an equestrian training and event center with both horses and people in mind. The facility also offers lessons and training.  For more information, visit https://www.terranovaequestrian.com


Participants were able to view the TerraNova Winter Series ES III show (hunter/jumper portion) from the VIP Pavilion while learning about the operation.  The four acre lake servicing innovative drainage and irrigation to maintain optimal moisture levels in show arenas was discussed. As we departed, we were able able to hear about another part of the business, the sod operation and planned golf course.


Tour attendees in the VIP pavilion.
Horse jumping with rider
Horse show.
Person on a horse
Horse rider answering questions during the tour.

Dry Prairie Baptist Church

Lunch was prepared and served to tour participants at Dry Prairie Baptist Church.  Lunch was sponsored by Mosaic.  Mosaic PR intern Haley Kesler attended the lunch and spoke to the crowd and provided  information to attendees.  Ellen Cruz, Regional Director, with Florida Department of Agriculture and  Consumer Services (FDACS) attended the tour and gave an overview of areas overseen by FDACS.  She encouraged those with questions to speak with her.  Some participants walked next door to the Duette School-one room schoolhouse.

Mosaic Reclamation Area

The Mosaic Company’s reclamation activities start before they mine. They lead the industry in developing effective methods of returning mined lands to productive uses for both wildlife and people. Since 1975, government regulations have required that lands mined for phosphates must be reclaimed back to nature. This reclamation allows for the establishment of vast wildlife areas while recreating wetlands as they originally existed. Examples include a 500 acre wetland created near Mosaic’s former Four Corners mine. Encompassing three lakes, this freshwater marsh has become a sanctuary for numerous plant and wildlife species and serves as a haven for migratory birds and is a vital nesting ground for several protected species. For more information, visit http://www.mosaicco.com


Mosaic staff boarded the buses to tell us about the gopher tortoise recipient sites on the way to the observation deck. On our way out of the reclamation area, the bus driver noticed a gopher tortoise starting to cross the road and we stopped to allow it to do so.


View of Mosaic reclamation area
View from the Mosaic reclamation area wooden deck.
Tour attendees standing on a wooden observation deck.
Tour participants on wooden observation deck at Mosaic reclamation area.
Gopher tortoise at Mosaic reclamation area.

Blue Lily Farm

Blue Lily Farm consists of 150 acres of improved grazing pastures for beef cattle, which includes Angus, Brangus, and Wagyu. Their breeding program runs from January to June. All Blue Lily Farm hay is home-grown and harvested for the winter in the early spring months. Hay production is in the form of silage as well as dry hay. In addition to cattle, Blue Lily Farm grows 18 acres of blueberries with a spring harvest. Blueberry varieties grown here are Jewel, Emerald, and Arcadia. Blue Lily Farm’s blueberry season is open to the public for U-Pick. Also located on-property are Freedom-variety blackberries with season being in-tandem with the blueberries, and pasture-raised chickens. For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/BlueLilyFarm/


Diverse, picturesque operation with young fowl to view up close, turkeys, cattle, a dog, blueberries, and blackberries.  Hosts welcomed us in to their barn for an overview of their farm and then attendees were able to relax or take a walk around the grounds.


Dog in front of vehicle
Dog in front of vehicle
Turkey at Blue Lily Farm
Blueberry crop
Blueberries at Blue Lily Farm.


young fowl
Young fowl.

Additional information

The Manatee River Soil and Water Conservation District hosts the farm tour each spring to increase the awareness of agricultural operations within the county.

Contact gail.somodi@fl.nacdnet.net if you would like to be added to the email list to be notified about future spring farm tours.




Posted: March 18, 2024

Category: Agribusiness, Agriculture, Conservation, Crops, Farm Management, Livestock, Natural Resources, Water
Tags: Agriculture, Farm Tour, Soil And Water Conservation District

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