Central Florida Ag News August 2022

Page 1

www.FloridaAgNews.com

vol 13 | issue 2 | august 2022

The Voice of Agriculture for Our Region

Farm Tour Agritourism edition THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS

FARMERS SHINE WHEN AG AND TOURISM MEET

Permit No.FL 335 TAMPA, PERMIT #2118 Lakeland, Fl. PAID PAID

PRESORT STD PRSRT STD U.S. Postage US POSTAGE

FloridaAgNews.com

LAKERIDGE WINERY

A TASTE OF HOW THE SOUTH LIKES ITS WINE

FINDING LALA LAND

FARM TEACHES ABOUT EXOTIC ANIMALS, CONSERVATION

WELCOME, JESSICA HARRIS!

MEET NEW HIGHLANDS FARM BUREAU COORDINATOR

RECIPE SPOTLIGHT

AVOCADOS ARE MORE THAN JUST A PASSING TREND

CFAN | 1


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2 | CFAN

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CONTENTS | a u g u s t 2 0 2 2

The Voice of Agriculture for Our Region

On the Cover

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vol 13 |

issue 2

| augu st 2022

TOURIS

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ews.com

for Our

Region

TASTE SOUTH OF HOW THE LIKES ITS WINE

FINDIN LALA G FARM TE LAND AC

HES AB S, CONS OUT EXOT IC ERVA

ANIMAL

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RECIPE

Nelson Kirkland MANAGING EDITOR

LAKER WINERIDGE Y A

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FloridaAgN

photo provided by LAKERIDGE WINERY & VINEYARDS

iculture

edition

THE B BOT EST OF FARMER H WOR L DS S SHIN AG AN E WHE D N

ews.com

PUBLISHER

The Voic e of Agr

Farm Tou r Agritour ism

PRE SOR PRSR T TSTD STD U.S. US POS Post age TAG E PA PAID ID Perm TAM it No. PA, FL 335 PERMIT Lake land #211 , Fl. 8

It doesn’t matter if you consider yourself an enotourist, vinitourist, or gastrotourist, you’ll still find something special at Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards in Clermont. As the ongoing popularity of winery visitations continues to expand, Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards is welcoming wine aficionados and potential customers into its facilities and vineyards for an inside look at their processes and a taste of the final product. Learn more on page 14.

w w w. FloridaA gNews.com

www.Flo

LANDS REAU CO ORDINA TOR

AVOCAD SPOTL IGHT JUST A OS ARE MO RE PASSIN G TREN THAN D

Jessica McDonald PROJECT MANAGER David Kiessling ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE

CFAN |

1

Juanita Halter CONTRIBUTING WRITERS

12 THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS

For most tourists, Florida — especially Central Florida — is almost synonymous with Mickey Mouse and theme parks, but those don’t represent all the Sunshine State has to offer. Agritourism is an alternative to traditional tourism, and it invites people to experience the farmlands and agricultural aspects that many of us in the state’s ag industry know and love.

20 RALLYING THROUGH RESEARCH

A pair of start-up companies housed in one of the University of Florida’s business incubators are teaming up to take their individual specialties and apply a new approach in order to give Florida’s citrus growers an edge in managing their crops. Agriculture Intelligence, which specializes in highresolution drone technologies, and Satlantis, a space technology company offering satellites for Earth observation and universe exploration, aim to help growers more closely monitor their groves and manage problems faster.

24 AG ROOTS RUN DEEP

Central Florida Ag News would like to welcome the new coordinator for the Highlands County Farm Bureau, Jessica Harris! Harris is excited to step into her new role so she can share her passion for agriculture with the world while striving to improve the lives of Florida farmers. Learn more about her roots in agriculture and what keeps her motivated.

Departments 5 7 9 10 16 17 18

Publisher’s Letter President’s Letter Signs of the Season Calendar Angle’s Letter Agri-Update AgriShopper

4 | CFAN

22 23 26 28 30 31 38

Agri-News Ag-Rec Recipe Spotlight In the Heartland Event Highlight Classifieds From the Editor’s Desk

Paul Catala, Grace Hirdes, Teresa Schiffer, Carol Corley, J. Scott Angle, Brad Buck, Tim Craig, Annabel Rocha CONTRIBUTING COLUMNISTS Baxter Troutman, Mike Roberts, Dr. Katie Hennessy, Tommy Thayer, Marty Higgenbotham, Phillip Rucks CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER Tyler DiGiovine CONTRIBUTING ARTIST Dawn Lewandowski DELIVERY DLS Distribution

PUBLISHED BY

56 Fourth Street Northwest, Suite 100 Winter Haven, Florida PHONE (863) 248-7537 Copyright © 2022 Central Florida Media Group. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This issue of Florida AgNews is a trademark of Central Florida Media Group. Reproduction or use in whole or in part of the contents of this magazine without written permission is prohibited. Florida AgNews makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of content published. In the event of an error found herein, however, neither the publishers nor advertisers will be held responsible, nor do the publishers accept any liability for the accuracy of statements made by advertisers in advertising and promotional materials.

FloridaAgNews.com


PUBLISHER LETTER

Opening Doors, Opening Minds IF THERE’S ONE THING WE LOVE about agritourism (although let’s face it, there is a lot more than just one thing to love!) it’s the fact that it gives our farmers and ranchers the chance to shine. There’s so much more to our state than the sprawling concrete tourist destinations that typically pull in the big bucks and gain the most attention. Our state is rich in resources, and agritourism is a great way to educate others about those resources. Central Florida Ag News has always been a champion of the local ag scene, but this edition gives us the opportunity to shine the spotlight on businesses that are opening their doors to open minds and share their passion. In this edition, we introduce you to Clermont’s Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards and Sebring’s Lala Land, but those are just two of many farms in our area that offer educational opportunities in the way of agritourism. Others include:

• Dark Hammock Legacy Ranch: This Lake Placid ranch offers tours through old Florida from October through April. It’s a working cattle ranch that spans nearly 5,000 acres and is teeming with wildlife. • Partin Ranch Corn Maze: Located in Kenansville, 13 miles south of St. Cloud, this ranch offers a variety of fall activities including a corn maze, combine harvester rides, hayrides, a kiddie zipline, and a pumpkin patch. • S outhern Hill Farms: This Clermont staple reopens in September for its Fall Festival, which includes a corn maze and pumpkin patch. In addition, each spring it hosts a u-pick for blueberries, peaches, strawberries, zucchini, squash, sunflowers, and zinnias. We hope you share our enthusiasm for all the fun and educational opportunities that

NELSON KIRKLAN D, Publish nelson@c er entralflori damediag roup.com

abound in our state. After all, agritourism is just one more way to #ThankAFarmer. ag

EVENT EXHIBITORS

Was the Secret to Saving Citrus CRAFT Foundation Helps Growers Face Trees Greening Just Unlocked?

Fibredust LLC. As a global leader in coconut coir production, Fibredust LLC can provide your company with quality eco-friendly sustainable coir products to your specifications, anywhere in the

EUCALYPTUS WINDBREAKS

Ever since the first case of citrus greening was detected And that, she says, is where CRAFT “We're world. With 7comes factoriesin. located in India and Sri Lanka and now have ability to for supply even the largest coir users in Floridaorange in 2005, theitscitrus industry in thewidely state utilized has been partnering with the to we take these research Trifoliate and hybrids have been as them. It can facilitate theirgrowers effortMexico, to clone genes orthe edit genes without struggling. the search for solutions backed ideas disease into the groves, tosacrificing evaluate themWe in are a hands on coir producers with strict, rootstocks in Naturally, citrus production. They accounted for 82%toof the the citrus greening resistance, save their time, quality. reduce costs, standardizedprocess, quality control in to place at every location and all of our problems of greening is the on, 2018-2019 with various research labs or number of settings.” In the application it is up •• New greening-tolerant greening-tolerant rootstocks rootstocks top 20 rootstocks used in citrus propagation speed up the development ofcoir new resistant cultivars. products are produced by us with no•• Hardy middlemen. Hardy versatile versatileYou treewill thathave can and varieties now available available and numerous searching an answer. the tostrong identify treatment options they are from FibreDust cycle, accordinggrowers to Dr. all Zhanao Deng,forprofessor of the quality product you need and expect when buying LLC. “Wegrower identified candidate genes that may control grow nearly 40 We ft indon’t three years Environmental Horticulture at UF. He also led and interested in exploring. But Wood clarifies that just manufacture we growtoin citrus it! Ask us about our 200 acre blueberry operation in •• Largest Largest screened commercial commercial trifoliate orange’s coir, tolerance greening, Among these groups is the Citrus Research •• Provides Provides crop crop protection protection from coordinated the(ortrifoliate sequencing, this does not mean growers have tonematodes, continue Mexico, FD Berries. Always meeting customers needs we have developed a new blend citrus nursery in in the the US US strong candidate genes for citrus and Field Trial CRAFT)genome Foundation. Since wind and disease disease with US wood fiber. In trials now excellent substrates to replace rockwool. OMRI listed. analyses, and mining efforts, and oversaw the on their own. “They work with our Technical candidate genes for cold hardiness, and others,” 2019, the CRAFT Foundation has supported •• DNA tested tested true-to-type citrus •• Reduces Reduces soil soil loss, loss, nutrition nutrition loss, loss, production of the final paper. Working fine-tune a design Deng says.Group “These to candidate genes seem tothat be varieties and rootstocks rootstocks available available growers who are experimenting with agricultural chemical chemical drift drift and and allowstargets us to for collect viable data.” “The most popular rootstock at present time, good engineering or editing for citrus irrigation loss Polkscientifically County Farm Bureau various means of addressing citrus greening •• Now Now contracting contracting for US-942, a trifoliate orange hybrid,” says Deng. greeningsays resistance.” For this over 78 years, Polkhelps Countyto Farm Bureau••has as thefor eyes Now Nowserved contracting contracting 2021-2022 2022-2023 in their is operations, such as alternate varietWood that approach and ears Polk’s diverse agriculture community. PCFB seeks to 2021-2022 2022-2023 Trifoliate orangesupplements, and its hybrids or benefit scion citrus This genome sequence will for make it much easier to ies, nutritional grove mainte“pinpoint what’s working and what isn’t.” protect agriculture’s best interests in areas of regulation, taxes, private Phillip Rucks Rucks develop new citrus breeding cultivars in multiple Program ways including resistance to by Phillip tools that can be used nance practices. Director Tamara property rights,payment and more.toOur In exchange for a participation themission is to insure that local, state citrus citrus nematodes, tolerance to citrus to speed up the development of citrus cultivars. New take agriculture producers’ needs Woodtristeza sumsvirus, up CRAFT as “a grower-driven field and to federal laws and growers, CRAFT is able collect andregulations compile seedling root and foot rot, and DNA markers can be used to select desirable,and promising citrusimpacts into consideration. and economic trial anddamping-off, demonstration program…a nextgummosis. step or a new comprehensive records on each project for acommunity total of six years before they flower and bear fruit. DNA markers can approach to thetrifoliate fight against Very importantly, orangegreening.” and its hybrids possess genes plants years. All of that data is then entered into one centralized help citrus breeders eliminate hundreds or thousands of Ocean Organics that can CRAFT provide ahas highworked level of tolerance to citrustogreening So far, with growers developanda unwanted data portal, with thewhen data the available to anyone who may Completely Renewable citrus plants plants are several months The Wave ofonly the Future…. We began operations in the 70’s with the resistance to Asian citrus psyllids. Deng says trifoliate orange has total of 103 projects accounting for nearly 4,700 acres of be interested in the work CRAFT is doing. •• Produces shoots shoots and and trunks trunks yearly…. Month-long event old and it can help in finding rare plants with better citrus •• Licensed Licensed grower of low chill development of stress management products for intensively managed been a very important breeding parent for citrus breeding and a newly planted solid through and reset citrus groves across 15 greening needeffective, to replant replant every every year year peaches peaches on on Flordaguard Flordaguard and and this December turf grasses. were successful sequencing, analysis, and“Emerald releasing of productsno Starting andofgoes 2021.citrus. allow any The grower anywhere inThese Florida to lookIsle” at EVENT major source valuable genes January for improving It can This will resistance. MP-29 rootstocks rootstocks Begin your online counties, covering all of the at major citrus-growing the of their time. collaboThey continue to be usedcarbon in professional orange areand direct results ofrootstocks, close data that cangenome be sorted byahead regions, or virtual ag expo •• Absorbs Absorbs carbon dioxide and provide valuable genes experience and gene sequences for using the latest realtrifoliate DETAILS turf today. Ocean Organics continues to be an innovator in the regions in Florida. rations among Deng laboratory at the UF Gulf Coast Research releases 35% more more oxygen oxygen •• Low Low chill chill varieties varieties ideal ideal for for central factors being used, and look at both the cost and https://centralfloridamediagroup.com/virtual-ag-expo/ biotechnologies and precision breeding to improve varieties, for development of seaweed based stress management and growth than an equivalent equivalent stand standof oftrees trees and Education Center, Gmitter laboratory at the UF Citrus and south Florida Florida climates climates “We haven’t foundgreening that silver yet,” Wood says. “But effectiveness of the factors being used. resistance to citrus and bullet other major diseases. enhancing products, offering these for use in commercial turf and Research Rokhsar laboratory at the UC FREE to registerwe & sign up to be enteredof into our drawing for a $25 gift card. and Education Center, REGISTRATION • • The newest superfood, the shoots are have found a number treatments and strategies agriculture. •• Licensed Licensed for new released Hopefully, this data help growers the state The high-quality trifoliate orange genome assembly is freely Berkeley, Albert Wuwill and Shengqiang Shu across at the U.S. Departrich in nutrientsnutrients- especially especially proteins, varieties that haveonline shown promise.” However, this promise in ata succeedand available to citrus researchers and other researchers against citrus greening. ment of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute (JGI). With the status carbohydrates, minerals carbohydrates, minerals and andfifiber ber controlled environment not indicate howTO effective •• Now Now contracting contracting for their fingertips. Dr. Deng may mentions this genome has BECOME LOOKING VENDOR? and is low in fat and sugar, our citrusAindustry is in I hope this is sooner rather than later in or economically feasible those solutions are. 2022-2023 2021-2022 become This a genomic to and shakers that are key to the agriculture industry. and gluten gluten free. free. is yourresource chanceoftoenormous meet thevalue movers

CITRUS

BAMBOO

PEACHES

developing better tolerant citrus to HLB.

If you would like to be a part of the Central Florida Virtual Ag Expo - register online at https://centralfloridamediagroup.com/central-florida-ag-expo/

863-635-1948 •info@rucksnursery.com PHILLIP RUCKS CITRUS NURSERY, CONTACTINC. INFO: FOR MORE DETAILS, P.O.EVENT Box 1318 Frostproof, FL 33843 • www.ruckscitrusnursery.com Phillip Rucks, Owner www.floridagrownspecialties.com CONTACT MORGAN AT MORGAN@CENTRALFLORIDAMEDIAGROUP.COM | 863-248-7537 EXT. 11

FloridaAgNews.com

CFAN | 5


Columns 5

CRAFT FOUNDATION HELPS GROWERS FACE GREENING

Ever since the first case of citrus greening was detected in Florida in 2005, the citrus industry in the state has been struggling. Naturally, the search for solutions to the problems of greening is on, with various research labs and numerous growers all searching for an answer. Among these groups is the Citrus Research and Field Trial (or CRAFT) Foundation.

13 RESEARCH ON TRUNK INJECTION MOUNTS

Ute Albrecht, a scientist with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, recently released findings from trials conducted regarding the injection of antibiotics into the trunks of citrus trees. The goal is to provide protection for the trees against HLB while simultaneously reducing the undesired effects of traditional forms of antibiotic application, including the risks to non-target organisms and workers.

16 PATHWAYS TO THE FUTURE OF CITRUS

Florida citrus growers have experienced more than their fair share of challenges in the past 15 years as HLB has ravaged groves, drastically reducing the state’s citrus yields year after year. Tree Defender stands firm in the belief that the industry will not only recover but also thrive in the future. Co-owner Tommy Thayer talks about some of the avenues available to help growers.

18 FALL PREPARATIONS FOR YOUR HORSE Fall is coming, and while the weather won’t be dramatically different from summer, the nights may be cooler. Dr. Katie Hennessy offers some tips on preparing your horse for the changing season..

20 GUT HEALTH PLAYS A MAJOR ROLE IN CATTLE

Digestive health in cattle is an important factor in the animals’ overall health and development. If your animals are expending extra energy in order to fight off an illness, or something is preventing them from absorbing nutrients efficiently, this takes away from the two most important uses of energy in cattle: gaining weight and reproducing.

30 A SENSE OF COMMUNITY

Community has never been more important than it is now. Auctioneer Marty Higgenbotham recently attended the 56th National Auctioneers Association Conference and Show, which was hosted in San Diego. There, he and his peers reunited as a community and renewed our common bonds. He expounds on the importance of community and participating in common goals.

SAVE THE DATE!

Polk County Farm Bureau Political Forum

& 80th Annual Membership Meeting

Thursday, October 6th, 2022, WH Stuart Center, Bartow POLITICAL RALLY – 5 P.M. • POLITICAL FORUM – 6 P.M. DINNER & ANNUAL MEETING – 7 P.M.

Sponsorships are available for this event. If you are interested in sponsoring this event or need additional information, please contact Carole McKenzie at carolem@pcfb.org or 863-533-0561. 863-533-0561 • www.PCFB.org • Facebook.com/PolkCountyFarm Bureau 6 | CFAN

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Polk Polk County County Farm Farm Bureau Bureau Protecting & Promoting Protecting & Promoting Polk Agriculture since 1942 Polk Agriculture since 1942 www.pcfb.org www.pcfb.org

Phone: Phone: 863.533.0561 863.533.0561

Member Member Services Services

p r e s i d e n t ’s c o l u m n

Carole McKenzie Carole McKenzie Executive Director Executive Director

Lori Kuehl Lori Kuehl Program Coordinator Program Coordinator

2021-2022 2021-2022 Board Board of of Directors Directors

Leigh Ann Wynn Larry Black Leigh Ann Wynn Larry Black President Charles Counter President Charles Counter DeVane Michael Matteson Kenny DeVane Michael Matteson Kenny Leslie W. Dunson, III Vice-President Leslie W. Dunson, III Vice-President Dean T. Evans Dean Evans Dean T. Evans Dean Evans Ellis Hunt, Jr. Past President Ellis Hunt, Jr. Past President Scarlett Jackson Scarlett Jackson Corby Myers Jack James, Jr. Corby Myers Jack James, Jr. Treasurer Nelson Kirkland Treasurer Nelson Kirkland Lanier Christian P. Spinosa Daniel Christian P. Spinosa Daniel Lanier Ed Lassiter Secretary Ed Lassiter Secretary David Lawson, Jr. Brett Costine David Lawson, Jr. Brett Costine Kyle R. Story YF&R Chair Kyle R. Story YF&R Chair Matt Story Matt Story Scarlett Jackson John W. Strang Scarlett Jackson John W. Strang Women’s Kevin M. Updike Women’s Kevin M. Updike Committee Chair Committee Chair Keith Walter Keith Walter

Location Location

1350 East Main Street 1350 East Main Street Building A, Ste. 4 Building A, Ste. 4 Bartow, FL 33830 Bartow, FL 33830

Offi Office ce Hours Hours

Monday-Friday Monday-Friday 9 9 a.m. a.m. to to 5 5 p.m. p.m.

Jimmy Jimmy Williams Williams Agency Agency Manager Manager

Bartow Bartow Offi Office ce Agents Agents Phone: 863.533.0561 Phone: 863.533.0561 James James L. L. Moser, Moser, Jr. Jr. Jimmy Jimmy Williams Williams

Greetings! Members of the Polk Young Farmer and Ranchers committee joined more than 200 of their colleagues from around the state in St. Augustine on July 8 – 10 for leadership training, competitive events, and fellowship at Florida Farm Bureau’s 2022 Young Farmers and Ranchers (YF&R) Leadership Conference. I’m pleased to share that our Polk YF&R Committee has once again received the Florida Farm Bureau YF&R Activity Award. Congratulations Polk YF&R! Polk County Farm Bureau and the Polk Extension Service will co-host an ag tour on Friday, September 23 for election candidates, current elected officials, county and municipal staff, and community stakeholders. Themed “Where We Go To Grow” the full-day event will feature stops at traditional and urban agriculture sites as well as agritourism venues. Seating is very limited! Please contact Carole McKenzie at carolem@pcfb.org if you would like to attend. We will hold the 80th Polk County Farm Bureau Annual Meeting in conjunction with a Political Rally and Forum on Thursday, October 6 at the W.H. Stuart Center in Bartow. Active Polk Farm Bureau members will receive mailed invitations. If you would like to RSVP, are interested in sponsoring this event, or need additional information, please contact Carole McKenzie at carolem@pcfb.org or call 863-533-0561. The Florida Farm Bureau Annual Meeting is scheduled for October 26-28 at the Caribe Royale Orlando Resort. For more information on the Florida Farm Bureau Annual Meeting, visit www.ffbf. org. Farm Bureau Member Benefits Highlight

Haines Haines City City Offi Office ce Agent Agent 203 203 S S Dixie Dixie Drive Drive Phone: Phone: 863.421.4545 863.421.4545 Rhonda Rhonda Ambrose Ambrose Winter Winter Haven Haven Offi Office ce Agents Agents 3039 Cypress Gardens 3039 Cypress Gardens Road Road Phone: Phone: 863.299.3892 863.299.3892 Barry Barry Walker Walker Jason Jason Yates Yates

Did you know? Florida Farm Bureau members get special member prices on select categories and brands from Grainger and free standard shipping on all standard Grainger products. To learn more, sign in to MyFFBF.org or call 352-374-1585. Finally, as the new school year begins, please remember to support our local FFA and 4-H chapters. The experiences gained by young people in these programs are invaluable to the development of their character and leadership skills. These are the same youth who will one day lead the agriculture community into the future. As a grassroots organization, the success of our youth is critical to the Farm Bureau mission. Sincerely,

Calling Calling from from Lake Lake Wales Wales 863.676.3187 863.676.3187

FloridaAgNews.com

LEIGH ANN WYNN President, Polk County Farm Bureau CFAN | 7


7TH ANNUAL

the

Cassidy

Supporting the Haven Women’s Hospital Carewill Unit (NICU) and support Winter Haven Hospital AllWinter proceeds from theNeonatal 2022Intensive events go to the Patients

Women’s Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). AWinter Golf Haven and Tennis Event at Country Club of Winter Haven Presented by:

Legacy Sponsor:

THANK YOU SPONSORS AND TEAMS The

Family

Fore the Love Sponsors:

Mike & Janine Mahalak | John & Tracy Scheck

Online Auction & Raffle Drawing

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 14 - SATURDAY, OCTOBER 22

Golf and Women’s Tennis Tournament SATURDAY, OCTOBER 22 - 9:00 AM

Country Club of Winter Haven

4200 Country Club Road South, Winter Haven

For More Information: WHH Foundation (863) 297-1781 whhfoundation@baycare.org

8 | CFAN

FloridaAgNews.com


SIGNS OF THE SEASON FLORIDA RANKS SECOND ONLY TO CALIFORNIA IN AVOCADO PRODUCTION

Avocados are a funny fruit – technically classified as a type of berry, but more commonly considered a vegetable of high esteem due to their versatility and marvelous nutritional profile. Florida was the first state in the U.S. to begin cultivating avocados when they crossed the border from Central and South America through Mexico in the 1800s. Now they generate roughly $54 million in annual economic activity for the state.

CURRENT PROJECTIONS FOR FLORIDA AVOCADOS Florida now ranks second only to California in U.S. avocado production, with cultivation being primarily concentrated in the southern counties of the state. The vast majority of Florida’s 315 avocado growers operate in Miami-Dade County, with isolated farms scattered throughout the state making up the remainder of growers. According to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, total U.S. production of avocados in 2020 was 206,610 tons, valued at $426 million. Florida produced about 13 percent of those avocados. The USDA is expecting the 2022-23 crop yield to be lower than last year’s for Florida avocados, spurring the Agricultural Marketing Service branch of the USDA to increase the assessment rate on avocados from $0.45 to $0.50 per 55-pound container of the fruit. They reported in April of this year that the utilized production of Florida avocados for the 2020-21 season was equivalent to 624,364 55-pound containers, valued at more than $13,717,277, or $21.97 per 55-pound container for the grower. Handlers were able to get an average terminal market price of $83.60 for each 55-pound container or equivalent that season. For the 2022-23 season, the USDA projects an estimated 500,000 55-pound containers of avocados will come out of Florida, which is down from the approximately 800,000 55-pound containers that are estimated to have been produced in the preceding season. They expect growers to be able to command

about $22.50 per 55-pound container or equivalent of avocados as the current year’s crop goes to market, so the proposed assessment rate of $0.50 per 55-pound container represents a mere 2.2 percent of the average projected grower price.

HAVE YOU HEARD OF THE SLIMCADO? You may have seen the “SlimCado” avocado in your local grocery store and wondered about its origin. Is it genetically modified? Is it an exotic import? The answer is “no” on both counts. These are the avocados grown right here in Florida! “SlimCado” is a brand name registered by one grower in particular because they have a lower fat and calorie content than the smaller Hass avocados that come from California. Florida avocados are much larger than those Hass fruits coming over from the West Coast, and they have a smoother, brighter, and greener skin than the Hass. Their flavor is milder, but the flesh is firmer, making the Florida avocados ideal for slicing or dicing and using on sandwiches and salads. Nutritionally, the avocados grown here in Florida have all the same great vitamins, fiber, and protein that people love avocados for, but with a third of the calories of the Hass variety. Peak avocado season in Florida is July through September, so now is the perfect time to pick up an avocado for back-to-school snacking! by TERESA SCHIFFER Sponsored by Farm Credit of Central Florida

FINANCING THE FUTURE Farm Credit of Central Florida is an Agricultural Credit Association. We provide financing for Farms, Homes & Land across 13 counties in Central Florida. We have offices in Lakeland, Plant City, Brooksville & Plant City. For more information check out our website.

Financing for Farms, Land and Homes CALL US TODAY 866-245-3637 FarmCreditCFL.com NMLS# 685850

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AUGUST — SEPTEMBER 2022 AUGUST 17 – 18 CITRUS & SPECIALTY CROP EXPO

More than 150 exhibitors, citrus growers and producers of other crops, from six countries will be in attendance at this exciting trade show taking place at the Lee Civic Center, located at 11831 Bayshore Rd N in Fort Myers. Don’t forget to get your prize card upon entry in order to get it stamped by the exhibitors so you can enter the drawing to win $1,000 cash! For more details, please go to www.citrusexpo.net.

AUGUST 6, 13, 20, 27, SEPTEMBER 3, 10, 17, AND 24 SATURDAY NIGHT RODEO

This fun, family-friendly rodeo takes place every Saturday from 7:30 – 9:30 p.m. at Westgate River Ranch Resort & Rodeo, located at 3200 River Ranch Blvd in River Ranch. Enjoy the antics of cowpokes and bronco busters as they show off their skills in trick riding, bull riding, calf roping, barrel racing, and more. Kids are invited into the rodeo arena toward the end of the night to participate in a real “calf scramble.” Tickets are $25 for adults, $15 for children ages 5 – 12, and children ages 4 and under are free. For more information, please visit westgateresorts. com/hotels/florida/river-ranch/westgate-riverranch-resort/activities/rodeo/.

AUGUST 13 FIRE ON THE LAKE CHILI COOK-OFF

A fun, family-friendly weekend enjoying the various entries of Chili Cook Teams competing in an International Chili Society (ICS) sanctioned event from 12 – 6 p.m. Adult and youth teams will be judged to crown the Camp Mack champion. General admission is free, registration fee required for entrants. Additional food trucks and vendors will be positioned at the Riverfront at Camp Mack, a Guy Harvey Lodge, Marina & RV Resort, located at 14900 Camp Mack Rd in Lake Wales. For more information, please call Kevin DeNell at (954) 465-3804 or email kdenell@guyharveyoutpost. com. You can register your Chili Cook team at guyharveycampmack.com.

AUGUST 13 & 27, SEPT. 10 & 24 DOWNTOWN FARMER’S MARKET IN LAKE WALES

AUGUST 11 AND SEPTEMBER 8 PUPS & PINTS

Every second Thursday of the month you can take your favorite canine with you to enjoy a large selection of beer and enter a raffle to win a gift basket. Sponsored by Orchid Springs Animal Hospital and held at Union Taproom, located at 245 W Central Ave #102 in Winter Haven, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. Call (863) 268-4921 for more information.

10 | CFAN

The Lake Wales Downtown Farmer’s Market is sponsored by Lake Wales Main Street and takes place every second and fourth Saturday from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. at 20 N. Market St. in Lake Wales. This producer-only market specializes in locally grown, pesticide-free produce and plants, baked goods, local honey, Florida grove pepper sauces, cheeses, award-winning BBQ sauces and rubs, homemade jams and jellies, natural pet treats, plus a ton of crafts, clothing, and jewelry. For more information, you can contact Lynn Greenfield at (863) 676-8782 or visit lwmainstreet.com/farmers-market.

AUGUST 23 RAIN GARDENS WEBINAR

UF/IFAS Extension Polk County unites with Lakeland Water Utilities to present this informative class all about rain gardens. Learn how you can reduce stormwater with adaptable plants you can incorporate into your existing landscape. For information on how to join the free Zoom webinar go to www.sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/ polk/.

AUGUST 24 – 26 THE LANDSCAPE SHOW

Landscape industry professionals are invited to attend this trade show. This year’s theme is “Connecting with Nature.” A diverse mix of companies will be present to exhibit plants, trees, yardgoods, equipment, and services. Thousands attend this show every year to network, see new material, and attend workshops and other educational opportunities. The venue is the Orange County Convention Center, West Building, located at 9800 International Dr in Orlando. Badges to attend are $35. Learn more at www. thelandscapeshow.org.

FloridaAgNews.com


CALENDAR

compiled by TERESA SCHIFFER

AUGUST 25 CITRUS PACKINGHOUSE DAY

This is the 61st annual Citrus Packinghouse Day and is the perfect opportunity to get all the information you need on everything from harvesting, to packing, to shipping fresh citrus fruit. UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center, located at 700 Experiment Station Rd in Lake Alfred, is where the event will be held from 8:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. Register online at www.eventbrite. com, search for “2022 Packinghouse Day.”

SEPTEMBER 10 – 11 F.I.R. EXPO – REPTICON REPTILE & EXOTIC ANIMAL SHOW

AUGUST 27 GRADY GOAT YOGA TAMPA BAY

Herpetologists and reptile enthusiasts will love this convention! Reptiles and other exotic species will be on display and for sale at this exciting exhibition. Tickets for both days are only $15, or just $11 for Saturday only, $12 for Sunday only. Kids ages 5 to 12 are $6, and ages 4 and under get in for free. Taking place in the Exhibit Hall at the RP Funding Center, located at 701 W Lime St in Lakeland. Get your tickets by visiting www.repticon.com/tickets/.

Every Saturday, Grady Goat Farm hosts a fun and relaxing yoga class featuring their famous goats. Tickets are $15 for each attendee. This delightful event benefits Project G.O.A.T. (Global Offensive Against Trafficking), a charity that works to protect children. Grady Goat Farm is located at 12551 Franklin Rd in Thonotosassa. Learn about this incredible farm and all that they do by visiting their website at gradygoat.org.

SEPTEMBER 3, 10, 17, AND 24 DOWNTOWN LAKELAND FARMERS CURB MARKET

This vibrant, eclectic market brings the community together every Saturday in Downtown Lakeland with fresh, local produce, live plants, and a variety of hot foods and handcrafted wares. It is located on the 200 block of N. Kentucky Ave. in Lakeland from 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. every Saturday (except in August) and is a production of the Lakeland Downtown Development Authority (LDDA). Learn more at downtownfarmerscurbmarket.org.

FloridaAgNews.com

SEPTEMBER 24 HONEY BEE SEMINAR

The Tampa Bay Beekeepers Association is putting on this fun and informative day of learning at the Hillsborough County Fairgrounds, located at 215 Sydney Washer Rd in Dover. Registration opens that morning at 8 a.m. and the event will begin at 8:55 a.m. or you can register in advance by visiting www.eventbrite.com and searching for “2022 Honey Bee Seminar.” There is also a link at www. TampaBayBeekeepers.com. It is $30 per person for adults, $15 for youth ages 11 to 18, and kids under 11 may enter for free with a paying adult. Stations will be set up to teach participants everything from how to start a hive to honey extraction and more.

SEPTEMBER 23 – 24 ULTIMATE TEAM CHALLENGE BULL RIDING

Ninety of the world’s best bull riders will be competing for their piece of a $100,000 cash prize at the RP Funding Center, located at 701 W Lime St in Lakeland. Fun events for the whole family include a boot scramble for kids on Friday, a dance-off on Saturday, and the opportunity to show off your own bull riding skills on a mechanical bull. Volunteer to play Money the Hard Way for a chance to win $200 by being the one to pull a ribbon off the neck of a real bull! Tickets start at $17, and children under age 3 get in for free. Get your tickets by going to www.rpfundingcenter.com or calling the RP Funding Center Box Office at (863) 834-8111.

SEPTEMBER 24 GARDEN FEST AND MORE

At Plant City Garden Club’s 14th annual Garden Fest, you will discover a plethora of native plants, perennials, herbs, garden ornaments, soil amendments, and so much more. The free event will take place from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. at McCall Park, 100 N Collins St in Plant City. Details at www. plantcitygardenclub.org/calendar/.

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FEATURE | e d i t i o n

The Best of Both Worlds

True Florida Shines Through Agritourism by ANNABEL ROCHA

F

FOR MOST TOURISTS, Florida — especially Central Florida — is almost synonymous with Mickey Mouse and theme parks, but those don’t represent all the Sunshine State has to offer. An alternative to traditional tourism invites people to experience the farmlands and agricultural aspects that many of us in the state’s ag industry know and love. Agritourism, defined by the Florida Agriculture Association as the marriage between Florida’s top two industries, combines Florida’s two moneymakers: tourism and agriculture. Many agritourism businesses give guests the opportunity to take part and interact with the culture, including u-picks, petting zoos, hayrides, and corn mazes. Luis O. Rodriguez Rosado, the Small Farms and Pesticide Education Extension Agent at UF/IFAS Extension Polk County, says there are many ways to introduce agritourism onto your property and that it is ultimately a mutually beneficial experience. 12 | CFAN

“The public can have either a fun place to spend some time with their families or you can actually convert [your farm] into an educational aspect so people can learn about how agriculture works, how produce is done, and that creates some kind of awareness about the importance of agriculture by allowing people into your farm,” he says. While providing education and spreading awareness of the hard work that goes into producing food and crops, agritourism also serves as an additional stream of income for farmers. “Normally you have your farm, then your products,” Rodriguez Rosado explains. “Let’s

LUIS O. RODRIGUEZ ROSADO

just think of a tomato farmer for example. He sells tomatoes, that’s his main source of income. But he implements some aspect of agritourism into his farm, he will still be producing tomatoes and selling tomatoes but at the same time he will get another source of income, charging people to take tours or another activity on the farm.” FloridaAgNews.com


RESEARCH ON TRUNK INJECTION MOUNTS

“The public can have either a fun place to spend some time with their families or you can actually convert [your farm] into an educational aspect so people can learn about how agriculture works, how produce is done, and that creates some kind of awareness about the importance of agriculture by allowing people into your farm.” — Luis O. Rodriguez Rosado

He adds that it provides business owners with a way to increase their revenue without increasing the number of acres they own. According to the Census of Agriculture, agritourism is a booming business. In 2017, the latest data available, U.S. agritourism revenue generated $950 million, an increase from $704 million generated in 2012. The 2017 numbers did not include money brought in by wineries, although the 2012 data did. Deciding what types of activities to offer on a property is a personal choice that comes with different regulations depending on the type of activity. In general, Florida law tends to side with the farmer. As long as a visible warning sign explains the risks of participating in an agritourism activity, farmers are not liable for the injury or death of those who chose to participate. The laws also prevent local governments from enacting new regulations on local agritourism. One of the duties of Rodriguez Rosado’s role is to educate the community on many aspects of agriculture, one of those being agritourism. He recently held an “Introduction to Agritourism” class in Polk County to help farmers learn the benefits of implementing agritourism on their farms. He teaches all the basics, including marketing and the importance of creating a business plan, a common issue he says many of his clients overlook. “People can read the Florida law online, FloridaAgNews.com

but where people actually fail is [in] how to develop their business because a lot of people start doing a farm and then they forget that in order to be farmers you also need to be a good business person,” he said. “You need to know how much it’s gonna cost you and how much you’re gonna get out of it. One of the things that I always say to my clients is that if the costs oversee what you can get out of it, you either need to rethink your plan or you need to look for something else.” He says agritourism offers so much potential for farms to grow, citing how some farms charge $7,000 to $12,000 just to host events. It stimulates the economy of agriculture and provides additional jobs to locals. Most farmers and cattle ranchers will say that they cannot envision life away from the farm, but the reality is that less than 2 percent of Americans live on a farm. Agritourism makes farm life more accessible to the public and for tourists coming from major cities near and far, this is a lifestyle they otherwise may never be exposed to. “It’s enjoyable for kids, especially city kids that have never touched a farm, it’s always really exciting to them… To take a kid to an actual farm and show those kids how food is grown, it’s not that you just go into a supermarket and you just have it. Somebody else actually needs to go into the field and grow your food, which is always important for kids to learn.” ag

UTE ALBRECHT, a scientist with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, recently released findings from trials conducted regarding the injection of antibiotics into the trunks of citrus trees. The goal is to provide protection for the trees against HLB while simultaneously reducing the undesired effects of traditional forms of antibiotic application, including the risks to non-target organisms and workers. Trunk injection, or endotherapy, is accomplished by delivering the antibiotics directly into trees through the xylem. This allows the material to then be distributed efficiently throughout the plant via the transpiration system and into the phloem, where the Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas) bacteria that causes HLB resides. This method is successfully utilized to combat various pathogens in a number of species, including the fungal infection that causes laurel wilt in Florida avocados. One of the main benefits of trunk injection as a delivery method for antibiotics is that the residual effects last significantly longer than they do with other forms of delivery. Other benefits include synchronization of flushing and flowering, improved quality of fruit internally and externally, decreased fruit drop, and increased yield. This was the result of injection specifically with the antibiotic oxytetracycline. These benefits were maintained through the second year of study without additional injection, despite an increase in the concentration of CLas bacteria present. Albrecht also investigated the effectiveness of injecting citrus trees with the pesticide imidacloprid to control the Asian citrus psyllids that spread the CLas bacteria. While this insecticide increased psyllid mortality for two weeks after the injection, it was no longer effective two months later. There are a number of factors that influence how quickly the injected material is distributed through the tree by the transpiration system, such as weather, season, and time of day when the injection is made. Whether the injection is made into the rootstock or scion also impacts uptake and distribution. Spring injection resulted in larger fruits. Injury to the tree from the injection seems to be best treated with no treatment at all, although more research needs to be conducted to determine long-term effects.

by MIKE ROBERTS This column is sponsored by Griffin Fertilizer Co., and the opinions expressed herein may not reflect those of CFAN or of its advertisers. BIO: Mike Roberts is the Vice President of the Frostproof, Florida-based Griffin Fertilizer Co. Roberts joined the company in November 2011. He has spent the majority of his career in the fertilizer/agchem industry. Roberts earned a Bachelor of Science degree in citrus production from Florida Southern College in Lakeland. For more information, visit griffinfertilizer.com.

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FEATURE | e d i t i o n

Wine & Sunshine Clermont’s Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards Offers Education, Tours, and Tastings by PAUL CATALA title photo by TYLER DIGIOVINE other photos provided by LAKERIDGE WINERY & VINEYARDS

I

IT DOESN’T MATTER if you consider yourself an enotourist, vinitourist, or gastrotourist, you’ll still find something special at Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards in Clermont. As the ongoing popularity of winery visitations continues to expand, Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards is welcoming wine aficionados and potential customers into its facilities and vineyards for an inside look at their processes and a taste of the final product. Since opening in 1989, Lakeridge Winery has included and encouraged streams of tourists into and onto its properties for winery tours and wine tasting. Seven days a week — one about every 15 minutes — guides and winemakers take guests on a 45- to 50-minute tour of the facility founded by Gary Cox and a small group of investors from Lafayette Vineyards in Tallahassee. Barry Hus, Lakeridge’s chief operating officer, says the winery grows and harvests native varieties of the red Noble, bronze Carlos and Welder Muscadine grapes and bottles chardonnay, pinot grigio, petite sirah and cabernet sauvignon. The wines are all produced at the 127-acre Lakeridge Winery Estate, along with an additional 450 acres owned at Prosperity Vineyards in the

14 | CFAN

Florida panhandle plus 200 acres under contract throughout Florida. Hus, who is in his sixth year with Lakeridge, says the winery is the largest in Florida along with its sister winery, San Sebastian in St. Augustine. Cox, a Tallahassee native, grew up on a family farm, where his father made wine. There, a five-acre test vineyard was started, and that eventually grew to 450 acres, 110 of which are grapes, and the Lafayette Winery was opened in Tallahassee. That ventured floundered, but in the mid-1980s, the family – convinced by Lake County businessman Arthur Herbert – decided to move operations to Clermont to take advantage of the agritourism industry. Hus says the move was also done to grow grapes in the region and to be closer to the booming tourist populations in Orlando and the east coast beaches. “It was a success, but it was a lot of hard work the first few years. Eventually, they found the FloridaAgNews.com


right formula for wine,” he says. “I think that was one of the struggles was they were trying to do it like California did it. They discovered it’s different in the South – we like sweet tea, we like sweet wine, let’s do things the way we do it here in the South.” That meant narrowing operations down to only muscadine wine, made from the only grape that will successfully grow in the area. Currently, Lakeridge fills about 150,000 cases of wine per year with the help of 50 employees – 30 of whom work full-time at the winery. That amounts to a capacity of about a half-million gallons with 350,000 gallons bottled at the end of a harvest, which usually begins the first 10 days of August and can last five to six weeks. Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards, like most small wineries across the U.S., caters to tourists, mostly as an inexpensive way to advertise. In addition, Lakeridge used to organize regular music festivals and other events to draw people out to the area and the winery also became a “venue.” He says as the population grew, the company didn’t have to rely on that as much. “(Small wineries) rely on people coming CONTINUED ON PAGE 21

FloridaAgNews.com

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PATHWAYS TO THE FUTURE OF CITRUS FLORIDA CITRUS GROWERS have experienced more than their fair share of challenges in the past 15 years as HLB has ravaged groves, drastically reducing the state’s citrus yields year after year. While some growers have thrown in the towel and moved on to other ventures, many of our state’s grove operators and those of us at Tree Defender stand firm in the belief that the industry will not only recover but also thrive in the future. The CRAFT Foundation has been working to bolster Florida’s citrus industry with the creation of a system that provides funding for growers to design and execute experimental procedures to demonstrate effective techniques for HLB mitigation. Data collected by growers are provided to the USDA for analysis. Three cycles have been successfully implemented, with a fourth tentatively set to start taking applications from prospective participants in early October. To learn how you can benefit from this cooperative research project, visit craftfdn.org. Ongoing research continues to feed growers’ optimism, as every year more is learned about the psyllids that spread HLB and how growers can best preserve trees from damage. Brazilian researchers with Fundecitrus have found that an orange tree is most susceptible to HLB infection during the first four of its six stages of shoot development. During this time, rapid shoot growth and leaf expansion leave the tender new tissue vulnerable to psyllid damage and infection with HLB. Therefore, protecting young trees becomes a primary goal for growers to guard against HLB. This can be accomplished by using Tree Defender’s individual protective covers to create a physical barrier that is highly effective at preventing psyllids from accessing the new growth. Finally, various options are available to help growers finance solutions to the challenges they’re facing. One is the USDA’s Conservation Innovation Grants On-Farm Innovation Trial Program available through their Natural Resources Conservation Service. This program provides funding for agricultural producers to adopt innovative conservation approaches. Growers can learn more at grants.gov. Through the perseverance that Florida growers are known for, the citrus industry can and will rebuild.

by TOMMY THAYER This column is sponsored by Tree Defender, and the opinions expressed herein may not reflect those of CFAN or of its advertisers. BIO: Tommy Thayer is the co-owner of Tree Defender and owner of Southern Citrus Nurseries, which has been in business since the 1970s. Both companies are based in Dundee, Florida. As a native Floridian, he is a fifth-generation citrus grower who graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Science degree in Food Resource Economics. For more information, visit thetreedefender.com

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FROM THE DESK OF

Dr. Angle

Scott Angle is the University of Florida’s Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources and leader of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).

J. Scott Angle jangle@ufl.edu @IFAS_VP

Advocating for Hillsborough County Agriculture MARSHAL SEWELL grew up in a strawberry farming family in Plant City wanting to be a farmer. Casey Simmons Runkles grew up in a strawberry farming family in Plant City wanting to be anything else. Hillsborough County agriculture is fortunate that neither succeeded. They’re two of the area’s emerging agricultural leaders. But Sewell left his family farm to do it, and Simmons Runkles returned to hers. Sewell’s role traveling the nation as the strategic accounts manager for the seed company Seminis lends itself to his taking an active role in trade associations. Simmons Runkles’ flexible work schedule at Simmons Farms allows her to travel the state teaching producers how to safely handle the food they produce. She also served on the board of the Florida Strawberry Growers Association. Kenneth Parker, executive director of the Florida Strawberry Growers Association, knows both families and expects big things from this rising generation. “Local agriculture is built on the backs of multigenerational families, so it’s no surprise to see Marshal and Casey advocating for all of us,” Parker says. “They’re maybe more open to change than older leaders, but at the same time their family background gives them a sense of the history and tradition that makes Hillsborough County agriculture special.” The continuing wave of newcomers to Tampa and the I-4 corridor who are generations removed from food production means the Hillsborough agriculture community needs not only to educate consumers, voters and neighbors, but it may require the active combatting of misinformation. The stakes are high, Sewell says: “If we don’t engage, we potentially do not exist.” Simmons Runkles says a successful industry depends upon engagement with political leaders. If they don’t know you, she says, they’re less likely to take in what you have to say. If it takes a run for office to get agriculture at the table, she’s open to that. One place their path was the Sewell same: For the past three years,

Sewell and Simmons Runkles have traveled throughout Florida and the United States taking deep dives into complex agricultural issues and developing the skills needed to address those issues. In July they graduated from the UF/IFAS Wedgworth Leadership Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources, joining an influential alumni network whose Hillsborough-Polk area members include Carl Bauman and John Bertram of Lykes Brothers, Tony Lopez of Metlife, Shane Platt of Farm Credit, Cammy Hinton of Hinton Farms, Mark Wheeler of Wheeler Farms and Sue Harrell of the Florida Strawberry Growers Association. Sewell and Simmons Runkles are also graduates of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association’s Emerging Leader Development Program. Sewell wants to represent Hillsborough way beyond the county line. Early this year, the International Fresh Produce Association invited him to serve on its technology council, where he can advance the interests of Hillsborough County, Florida and U.S. farmers. Simmons Runkles identifies herself as an agvocate, and just as Sewell does, she describes engagement as an existential challenge. “Florida specialty crops are in a fight for our life. Unless things change, I don’t see my children farming,” Simmons Runkle says. “We need a single loud voice for ag because the goal of any grower is the same—healthy, good, quality food on the table at a price we can pay our bills.”

Simmons Runkles

FloridaAgNews.com


AgriUPDATE

AI Helps Detect Watermelon Disease Quickly, Accurately by BRAD BUCK, UF/IFAS correspondent

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IF YOU SAVOR a juicy watermelon in the scorching summer heat, Florida farmers toil to meet your tastes. The Sunshine State leads the nation in watermelon production. But like all farmers, those who produce watermelons seek ways to control diseases, so they don’t lose all or part of their crops. The needs of growers drive Yiannis Ampatzidis to use artificial intelligence to detect pathogens early and accurately. One such disease, downy mildew, spreads like wildfire, says Ampatzidis, a UF/IFAS associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering. For a new study, Ampatzidis used AI to help find downy mildew. In newly published research, Ampatzidis used spectral reflectance — the energy a surface reflects at specific wavelengths — of plant canopies and machine learning to quickly and efficiently detect downy mildew in several stages of the disease. Hopefully, farmers can take advantage of this technology. “If left unchecked, downy mildew can destroy a farmer’s entire crop within days. That’s why it gets the nickname ‘wildfire.’ It spreads rapidly and scorches leaves,” says Ampatzidis, a faculty member at the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center. Ampatzidis and his research team successfully detected downy mildew in several stages

of severity. “Our most important result was finding downy mildew in its earliest stage, which is critical to growers’ ability to manage this disease,” he says. Ampatzidis and his research team developed two methods, utilizing hyperspectral imaging and AI — one in the laboratory and the other using UAVs (drones) for field detection. Downy mildew does not affect stems or fruit directly. But it can defoliate the plants, leaving fruit exposed to sun damage, making it unmarketable. That’s critical because, as of 2019, Florida farmers harvested watermelon from 24,500 acres in Florida, with a packinghouse value of $161 million. As long as consumers continue to buy watermelon — and those who grow the fruit want to reap a good harvest — Ampatzidis will continue to find ways to find pathogens that could damage the fruit. As the next step of his research, Ampatzidis wants to develop a simple and inexpensive drone-based sensor to improve the detection of downy mildew in watermelon plants. ag

Is your farm FSMA ready? Sign up today for a free On-Farm Readiness Review

www.FDACS.gov/FSMA This publication is supported by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award U2FFD007446 totaling $1,166,732 with 100 percent funded by FDA/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by FDA/HHS, or the U.S. Government.

FloridaAgNews.com

CFAN | 17


FALL PREPARATIONS FOR YOUR HORSE FALL IS COMING, and while the weather won’t be dramatically different from summer, the nights may be cooler. Here are some horse care items that need to be on your fall preparation checklist. 1. Shelter and Feeding Fall is a great time to repair any damage to fencing, stalls, and paddocks, and to inspect wiring maintenance and ventilation. Barn fires can occur from faulty wiring or damaged outlets, so pay special attention to wiring since horses may be indoors more often. Pasture grass will become limited as winter approaches, so you may need to offer supplementary forage (hay) to maintain their body weight. With inadequate grass, you may also need to rotate pastures or have a dry paddock so the available grass is not overgrazed. 2. Blankets Carefully check clean blankets for rips and tears, loose and broken buckles or excessively worn straps. Make sure to have any tears mended and hardware replaced. Don’t forget to check that it still fits your horse, too! This is especially important if your horse has had major weight changes in the past year. 3. Water Requirement Horses tend to drink less water in cooler weather. You can encourage drinking by adding Gatorade or electrolytes to their water. Make sure to always provide a regular bucket of water, just in case your horse doesn’t like the flavor. You may need to experiment with flavors to find something your horse likes. It doesn’t happen very often in Florida, but insulated water buckets or submersible heaters prevent freezing and ensure your horse has access to water at all times. 4. General Health Checks Fall is a good time to get a fecal parasite count and deworm your horse if required. Make sure they’re also up-to-date on vaccines such as equine influenza and have a current coggins test, particularly if they will be traveling during the fall and winter months. Colic is probably one of the most common ailments we see in fall/winter due to the changing management and weather. To prevent these episodes make changes to the diet slowly over 1-2 weeks and always have fresh, clean water available to drink. Know the signs of colic and have a plan in place to assess their vitals (heart rate and temperature) and any medication you might need until your veterinarian arrives. Have a chat with your vet about what’s best for you and your horse.

by DR. KATIE HENNESSY This column is sponsored by Polk Equine, and the opinions expressed herein may not reflect those of CFAN or of its advertisers. BIO: Dr. Katie Hennessy graduated from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in 2008 with a degree in large animal health and equine medicine. She completed an advanced internship at The Equine Medical Center of Ocala and is currently the owner and practicing veterinarian at Polk Equine. Her expertise ranges from small and exotic creatures to large animals, specializing in equine medicine.

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AGRISHOPPER SHOPPER Your Guide to Finding Perfectly Ripe Produce by GRACE HIRDES

We all know the struggle of picking out produce. Is it not ripe enough, will it be rotten in a few days, or is it just perfect so that it melts in your mouth? For most of us, selecting fruit is hit and miss. That’s why we’ve put together a few tips to help you pick the perfect produce. Avocados Avocados are different from most produce because they mature before picking but still are not ready to eat. They must be softened off the tree. To determine when the fruit is soft enough to eat, hold the fruit in the palm of the hand and gently squeeze with all fingers. If the flesh gives with slight pressure, it is ready to enjoy. Do not press fruit with your thumb. This results in discoloration and bruised spots. With some of the thicker-skinned or hard-shelled types, softness may not be easily determined. Remove the button at the stem and insert a toothpick into the opening. If the meat is soft, the fruit is ready to eat. Starfruit A ripe star fruit will be firm to the touch, have a bright yellow color, and may have slightly browned edges. Occasional patches of green are okay, but if a star fruit is mostly green in color, it means it’s not ripe. Lychee Unlike avocados, lychees do not continue to ripen once picked. Most lychee varieties are ripe when the skin turns pink or red. So when you go to choose yours, choose the fruit that is firm and springy, with lush red or pink skin. This is a good sign that you’ll have a greattasting lychee. Passion Fruit Interestingly, passion fruit isn’t harvested from the vine but is actually ready to eat when it falls off the plant. You will know it is time to harvest when fruits are plump, have a slight give, and are fully colored. In the yellow forms, the color is deeply golden, and the purple fruits will be nearly black. Slightly wrinkled fruits are super ripe and will have a sweeter taste than the smooth-skinned passion

fruit. The ripest fruits will simply drop off the vine, so keep the area under your plant clear to facilitate finding the fruit. Fruits that are still on the vine and have changed from green to purple or yellow are also ripe and may be picked straight from the tree. Green passion fruit won’t ripen fully off the vine but ripe fruits will develop a deeper, sweeter flavor if left uneaten for several days. Watermelon You can spot a good watermelon when the underside or belly of the fruit turns from a greenish white to buttery yellow or cream. This color change is especially pronounced on the dark green-skinned varieties. In addition, the fruit tends to lose its slick appearance on top and becomes dull when ripe. For most people, thumping or tapping the melon is generally not a good indicator of ripeness. Rapping an immature melon with your knuckles produces a metallic ring. A ripe melon gives off a hollow or dull ring. While experienced home gardeners may be able to determine the maturity of watermelons using the thump test, most individuals will have difficulty differentiating between the sounds. Tomatoes First, check how the tomato looks on the outside. The best tomatoes are completely free of blemishes and bruises and should be a deep, bright red. Any tomato that looks dull or pale is going to be lackluster. Steer clear of any discolorations even a small black spot can mean hidden rot on the inside. Artificially ripened tomatoes are bland, so for the best grocery store tomatoes, look for the phrase “vine-ripened” or find a farmer’s market where you can buy from local growers. Second, test how the tomato feels. A good tomato is firm enough to resist pressure, but not so hard that it doesn’t react to your touch. Tomatoes that are no longer fresh will feel unnaturally soft all over and are days away from turning into piles of goo. Juicier tomatoes are denser, while unripe tomatoes feel a little too light. Finally, test the tomato for its scent. Smell the tomato up by the CONTINUED ON PAGE 38

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GUT HEALTH PLAYS A MAJOR ROLE IN CATTLE DIGESTIVE HEALTH IN CATTLE is an important factor in the animals’ overall health and development. If your animals are expending extra energy in order to fight off an illness, or something is preventing them from absorbing nutrients efficiently, this takes away from the two most important uses of energy in cattle: gaining weight and reproducing. Cattle with gut problems simply are not producing at the rate that they could. So what does digestive health or gut health mean? In cattle, this takes two forms: how well the animals are processing the nutrients in their food in order to be used by the body, and how well pathogens are contained within the digestive system to keep them from impacting other bodily systems. Cattle have a multitude of microbes within their digestive tract that help to break down the food that the animal eats. While these microbes are essential in the cattle digestion process, it is also imperative that these microbes are contained within the gut. In animals with good digestive health, there is a barrier that keeps these microbes, along with any other pathogens the animal may ingest, contained within the digestive tract. However, if this barrier is weakened, the microbes and pathogens can escape the digestive tract and begin affecting the rest of the animal’s body, causing disease or infection. How does this barrier weaken? One of the major factors is stress, caused by extreme heat, insufficient food supply, lack of shelter, or when the animal is weaning or being transported. Additionally, digestive tract diseases, such as E. coli and salmonella, can weaken this barrier, which in turn allows other pathogens to disrupt the digestive system. Whatever the cause, the results include liver abscesses or inflammation from infection. To counteract this weakening, ranchers should work to minimize stress in their animals by monitoring for signs of heat stress and implementing proper nutrition and feeding practices which can both strengthen the immune system and reduce strain on the digestive tract. With these practices in place, energy that the cow might have used to fight off a salmonella infection can instead be directed to weight gain in the animal.

by BAXTER TROUTMAN This column is sponsored by Labor Solutions, and the opinions expressed herein may not reflect those of CFAN or of its advertisers. BIO: Baxter Troutman is founder and chief executive officer of Labor Solutions, a staffing company with offices in Bartow, Winter Haven, Lake Wales, Arcadia, and Plant City. You also can visit his Dark Hammock Legacy Ranch online at www. DH-LR.com. A cattle rancher and citrus grower who served in the Florida House of Representatives, Troutman understands the challenges and concerns of today’s farmer.

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FEATURE | r e s e a r c h

Rallying Through Research

Two UF Startups Join the Effort to Save Florida Citrus by TIM CRAIG

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A PAIR OF START-UP COMPANIES housed in one of the University of Florida’s business incubators are teaming up to take their individual specialties and apply a new approach in order to give Florida’s citrus growers — and eventually growers of specialty crops around the globe — an edge in managing their crops.

Agriculture Intelligence, which specializes in high-resolution drone technologies, and Satlantis, a space technology company offering satellites for Earth observation and universe exploration, believe they can offer a powerful tool to help growers closely monitor their groves and manage problems faster. The initiative comes at a key time for the Florida citrus industry. A recent U.S. Department of Agriculture report estimated that growers will fill 44.7 million boxes of oranges, grapefruit, and specialty crops during the 2021-2022 season — down more than 22 percent from the previous season and the lowest since the 1939-1940 season. “The war for improving productivity starts with understanding the real inventory,” says Matthew Donovan, CEO of Agriculture Intelligence. “Our approach goes beyond just pictures of trees that are taken by drones and have no practical value. Our goal is to give the grower an accurate picture, complete with full field analysis and actionable data.” The key to the project is Agriculture Intelligence’s Agroview, the brainchild of researcher Dr. Yiannis Ampatzidis, a leading voice in deep learning technologies and artificial intelligence

specifically for the agricultural space. Agroview is a science-first approach to data collection. It uses high-resolution drone imagery, artificial intelligence, and software to report the inventory and health of groves down to the individual trees and the leaves on those trees. The software monitors, analyzes, and helps growers understand what is working and what needs to be improved among their crops. Agroview not only produces maps but also identifies key data that demonstrates the growth and health of the trees, including nutrient analysis. It assists in informing practical decisions to reduce per-field fertilization treatments, a crucial step in improving sustainability. “As powerful and useful as this technology is, it’s just the beginning,” Ampatzidis says. “For example, it could generate application maps for use with variable rate sprayers and fertilizers that deliver precision applications for specialty crops. [This] is a step toward major improvements to long-term sustainability.” Agroview was the 2021 winner of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) AE50 award, which honors the year’s most innovative design in engineer-

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ing products for the food and agricultural industries. The award is a sign that the software has been put through the rigor of the scientific community and that it works. “Part of the issue we have found is that the citrus industry tried drones before and got nothing more than nice pictures of its trees,” says Donovan. “It kind of left a sour taste in their mouths. Agroview was built based on that experience and we proved its value in the depth and the rigor of the scientific process — it’s the only platform to go through that process — and we are looking to bring back the grower market.” The team-up with Satlantis, with its focus on satellite imagery, gives Agriculture Intelligence the opportunity to expand its in-depth inventory of citrus groves and other specialty crops around the state. The relationship could create the opportunity to monitor inventory more frequently, perhaps even monthly. “Our goal is to shorten that time between data collections and analyses and, therefore, the decision loop for growers to take action to save their trees,” Donovan says. The two companies believe they can eventually provide detailed inventory maps for the entire state of Florida if given the chance. For Aito Moriñigo, executive vice president of Satlantis LLC, the combination of higher-resolution imaging provided by the drones, the scale provided by the satellite imaging, and the technological edge of Agroview gives both companies the opportunity to provide detailed maps for the entire state of Florida, and eventually, beyond. “The combination of our very high-resolution satellite systems with drone pictures and Agroview software is the perfect fusion of data collection at different altitudes. With the software, we are capable of processing that data and transforming it into actionable information,” says Moríñigo. “The combination of drones and satellites results in the optimum methodology that is ahead of the current state of the art.” For Donovan, teaming up with Satlantis gives Agriculture Intelligence the opportunity to help on a larger, and quicker, scale. “By providing full-field data – not a sample – and aggregating that with our data, we can help every single grower in Florida fight the battle and, hopefully, win the productivity war for citrus,” Donovan says. ag

Wine & Sunshine continued from page 15

through the door to taste the wine and become a customer,” he says. “Likewise, we rely on local tourism to get people in the door to try and taste the wine and if they like it, they can purchase it at our retail store or purchase it at Publix or WalMart. We’ve always had a tourism aspect.” Hus says visitors and tourists used to amount to more than 100,000 for big festivals. However, the Covid pandemic put a stop to those, and now Lakeridge holds “Weekends at the Winery” from noon to 4 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday. These include music, food, and drinks on the festival grounds. Those attract 500 to 800 people a day.

The majority of winery tourists come from local areas and across the state, says Hus, due to the ongoing population increase and drawing markets such as Tampa, Miami, Orlando, and The Villages in Ocala. “We do pull from all over,” Hus explains. “I’ve noticed lately we’re getting a younger and younger crowd. I think part of that is the local population is growing as well as the VIP tour experiences, which are very popular.” For those taking a Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards tour, Hus says guests are greeted and then taken into a small theater to see a CONTINUED ON PAGE 34

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AgriNEWS UF Study Shows Why ‘Aromatic’ Blueberries Taste Better by BRAD BUCK, UF/IFAS correspondent

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THEY MAY BE CALLED “aromatic” blueberries, but they don’t just smell nice — they taste good, too. University of Florida scientists now know why: These fruits contain just the right genetic combination to produce the chemistry required for a pleasant blueberry flavor. Growers and consumers always seek better-tasting fruit, compelling blueberry breeders like Patricio Muñoz to work in fields and labs and to use UF taste-test panelists to find the right varieties of blueberry to breed. “More consumption will increase demand and keep prices up for our growers to stay in business, making profits,” Muñoz says. Blueberry breeders have long known that the fruit they help grow, classified as “aromatic,” comes with naturally occurring chemical components that make the fruit taste different, says Muñoz, a UF/IFAS associate professor of horticultural sciences. “These metabolites are in a category we call ‘volatile organic compounds,’ because they ex-

22 | CFAN

plode with fruit flavor when you crunch the fruit in your mouth,” he said. To find where the flavor starts, scientists must find the right genes that control these compounds. Haley Sater, a doctoral graduate from the UF/ IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, led the research, under the supervision of Muñoz. The new study combines information from UF sensory panels with biochemical and molecular information. Through the research, scientists identified potential candidate genes that control the production of terpenes in some types of blueberries. Terpenes are aromatic compounds found in many plants. To reach their findings, scientists selected two groups of blueberry varieties. In the first group were a few traditional blueberry varieties; in the second group, researchers selected aromatic varieties.

MUÑOZ

Then, Charles Sims, a professor of food science and human nutrition, conducted a taste-testing panel. Sims asked the tasters whether they could detect any special traits in the blueberries, and if so, to describe them. They also asked the tasters if they liked the fruit. The results: Consumers correctly detected the special aromatic blueberries, and they described them, using different words such as “floral,” “fruity,” “blueberry (flavor),” “strong” and more. Most tasters liked the blueberries. “Once we analyzed the data of the panel, we saw consumers like these aromatic blueberry varieties more than the non-aromatics,” Muñoz says. “Once we had this information, we tried to understand where this characteristic originated.” That’s when scientists put molecular marker information together with data on volatile organic compounds. Researchers discovered the aromatic varieties contained more of the terpenes, which provide an aroma related to floral, sweet, citrus, and fresh. “Now we know why these blueberry varieties make the fruit aromatic,” Muñoz says. “We now have the capacity to use these compounds to formally classify varieties as aromatics. We can predict consumer liking and preference for these varieties.” In addition to Muñoz, Sims, and Sater, Felipe Ferrao, a research assistant scientist for Munoz, was among the scientists who helped with the study. ag FloridaAgNews.com


a d i r o Fl ag-rec myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/wildlife/american-crocodile/

e t a d Up

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Florida Crocodiles a Conservation Success Story DID YOU KNOW that we don’t have just alligators in Florida, but we have crocodiles, too? Historically, the American crocodile lived in coastal areas of the southern third of Florida and was found as far north as Charlotte County on the Gulf Coast and in the lower Indian River on the Atlantic Coast. While crocodiles are found along the coasts of Mexico, Central, and South America and the Caribbean, Florida is the only place in the United States where people can see crocodiles in the wild. They most commonly occur in brackish and saltwater habitats, such as ponds, coves, and tidal creeks lined with mangroves. Crocodiles also can be found inland in freshwater habitats due to South Florida’s extensive canal system. The Florida population of the American crocodile is a conservation success story. Listed as an endangered species in 1975, crocodile numbers have since recovered from just a few hundred individuals to as many as 2,000, not including hatchlings. The Florida population is now classified as threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Crocodile sightings have increased as a result of their recovery along with the growing number of people spending time on or near the waters of South Florida. Due to the American crocodile’s shy and SHOWTIMES: Sat Satand&Sun Sun Noon and 1 pm

• Crocodiles are most active between dusk and dawn. • Do not allow pets to swim, exercise, or drink in water that may contain crocodiles as they closely resemble natural prey items of crocodiles. • Always keep pets at a safe distance from the water. • Use fencing or other barriers to separate your pets and family from crocodiles. Leave crocodiles alone. State and federal • law prohibit killing, harassing, or possessing crocodiles. • When observing or photographing crocodiles, always keep a safe distance from them. • Never feed crocodiles – it is illegal. When fed, crocodiles may become used to people and may be more likely to become a nuisance. • Inform others that feeding crocodiles is illegal and can create problems for people recreating in or near the water. • Dispose of fish scraps only in designated waste containers. Discarding scraps in the water may attract crocodiles. • Feeding other aquatic wildlife such as ducks, fish and turtles also can attract crocodiles by attracting potential prey animals. ag

reclusive nature, conflicts between them and people are extremely rare in Florida. However, as with any predatory animal, people should use caution when near them. As an imperiled species continuing to recover, American crocodiles must be managed responsibly by balancing the primary consideration of public safety with the recovery needs of crocodiles.

Which Is It: Gator or crocodile?

Crocodile • Grayish green on its back If present, dark stripes on tail and body • Fourth tooth on the lower jaw is exposed when the mouth is closed • Narrow tapered snout Alligator • Black coloring on its back If present, light stripes on tail and body • Fourth tooth on the lower jaw is not exposed when the mouth is closed • Broad, rounded snout Safety Tips • Swim only in posted swimming areas. • S wim only during daylight hours.

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FEATURE | p e o p l e

Ag Roots Run Deep New Highlands County Farm Bureau Coordinator Jessica Harris Lays Out Plan of Action by TERESA SCHIFFER

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CENTRAL FLORIDA AG NEWS would like to welcome the new coordinator for the Highlands County Farm Bureau, Jessica Harris! Harris is excited to step into her new role so she can share her passion for agriculture with the world while striving to improve the lives of Florida farmers. Born and raised in Lake Placid, Harris hails from a long line of agriculturists who have operated groves and farms in Lake Placid for decades. “My grandparents were dairy farmers and citrus growers, all of my uncles and parents were citrus growers and agricultural well-drillers, and we have a family ranch in Texas – cattle ranchers,” she says. “So we have a little bit of everything going on here!” The significance of agriculture in Harris’ life cannot be overstated. “I was in agriculture my whole life,” she explains. “Everything I’ve learned came from an agricultural perspective. Like learning how to drive a tractor – it taught me how to go slow and steady because it’s not always the fastest who wins the race. Everything I have, I can thank agriculture for. My morals, my manners, my education – everything.” Harris attended the University of Florida for a degree in Business Administration and graduated in 2019. Her education, in addition to her life experiences growing up, has prepared her well for handling the financial and business as24 | CFAN

pects of her position as coordinator. After selling agricultural real estate to and from farmers and ranchers for the past year, Harris is ready to hit the ground running with the Farm Bureau while continuing her career in real estate. “I’m aiming to educate our community politically, I plan to educate our youth on the importance of agriculture, and to serve our land with a helpful and hopeful hand,” she says. “I’m going to be present in the classroom, on our farms and ranches, and our political events, and I’m going to make a positive change in Florida agriculture.” To help instill in our youth a respect for agriculture, Harris is looking forward to preparing presentations geared toward middle and high school students to highlight the career opportunities available in the agriculture sector. She also hopes to elicit donations of books on agriculture to further this goal. Harris has seen how farmers and ranchers struggle to stay afloat while providing necessities to society, especially in recent years. She brings a message of hope to the community and an energized spirit of cooperation. “If we work together, we can come through

HARRIS

it,” is her mantra. To Harris, as to many in the agricultural community, it is of vital importance that people come to value their local farmers and ranchers. It is her mission to elevate awareness of what is happening all around us, that much of the general public is scarcely aware of. She wants people to understand the impact of diseases and environmental factors on crops and land, as well as the detrimental effects of relying too heavily on goods imported from other countries. Agriculture is the basis of a healthy, functioning society, as it touches the lives of all Americans in many ways every single day. “Agriculture isn’t only limited to what we eat,” she expounds. “You’d be surprised how many people go into their local grocery store’s produce section and have no idea what happens with that orange before it’s sitting on the shelf. In addition to this, agriculture makes a difference in our whole economy, including processing and distribution for example. It generates other jobs, provides your skin care products, and contributes to the landscape and beauty of Florida. Not only that, but it also affects our everyday health. If you ate today or used that citrus-scented skincare routine, if you took your vitamin C, then you are a part of agriculture.” ag FloridaAgNews.com


Farming is stressful Help is available Call 211 Or Text ‘FarmFL’ to 898-211 Working on a farm can be physically and emotionally demanding. If you are feeling anxious or depressed, you’re not alone. Nine in ten farmers cite financial issues, farm business concerns and fear of losing their farms as mental health stressors. Call 211 to speak to someone who will listen and provide the resources you need to get through tough times. Calls are confidential and can be anonymous.

Learn more at 211.org


Recipe Spotlight Avocado Can Take Dinner and Dessert From Drab to Delicious by CAROL CORLEY

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AVOCADOS ARE VERSATILE and delicious when eaten alone or added to foods like hamburgers, salads, smoothies, and even desserts. Better yet, they are a superfood known to contain 20 healthy vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, including C, E, K, B6, riboflavin, niacin, folate, magnesium, and potassium. Even the fat is considered good for you. Avocados help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and reduce inflammation. So how can you include avocados in your meals? Add it to scrambled eggs, put it on toast, use it in soups and salads, and try it as a substitute for mayonnaise or sour cream, and in smoothies. To really appreciate avocados, you can start by using them as the star of the show.

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CRAB SALAD AVOCADO BOATS

(Adapted from parade.com)

Ingredients Avocados, 4, halved lengthwise and pitted Crabmeat, 8 oz lump Tomatoes and peaches, 1 cup each, peeled and chopped Lemon juice, 1-1/2 tablespoon fresh

Honey, 3 teaspoons raw Salt to taste Jalapeño pepper, minced, 1tablespoon, if desired Chives, 4 tablespoons minced, for decoration

Directions Take the halved/pitted avocados and scoop the flesh out of the skins, carefully. Set skins aside, and chop the avocado flesh. Gently toss the avocado meat with the crab, peaches, tomatoes, and flavorings of choice. Add lemon juice, and honey, and stir all together. Finally, scoop the crab salad into the avocado skins, sprinkle with chives, and chill until time to serve.

CHICKEN STUFFED BAKED AVOCADOS

(Adapted from allrecipes.com)

Ingredients Avocados, 4, halved and pitted Chicken breasts, 2 medium, cooked and shredded Tomatoes, 1/3 cup chopped Cream cheese, 4 oz softened

Parmesan cheese, 2/3 cup shredded or to taste Salt and pepper to taste Cayenne pepper, 1 pinch if desired

Directions Remove some of the flesh from each avocado and mix with shredded chicken, cream cheese, tomatoes, and flavorings. Scoop a generous amount into each empty avocado half then top with Parmesan cheese. Now take each avocado half and place face-up in a pan, stabilized so they will not tip over. Some people use muffin cups. Bake in an oven preheated to 400F until the cheese is melted, about 8-10 minutes.

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EASY GUACAMOLE

(Adapted from foodnetwork.com) Ingredients Avocados, 4 ripe halved and pitted Lemon juice, 3 tablespoons fresh squeezed Red onion, 1/2 cup diced small Garlic, 1 clove minced Salt and pepper to taste Hot pepper sauce to taste Directions Mix the flesh of the avocados in a bowl with other ingredients, use a sharp knife to finely dice the avocados, and toss well.

CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER AVOCADO PUDDING

(Adapted from foodnetwork.com)

Ingredients Avocados, 2 ripe Banana, 1 large Cocoa powder, 2/3 cup unsweetened Peanut butter, 1/2 cup Maple syrup (or sweetener of choice), 1/2 cup or more if desired

Almond or oat milk, 1/4 cup or more if needed Whipping cream, optional (can use coconut whipping cream to remain gluten-free)

Directions Place all ingredients except the whipping cream of choice into a food processor and blend until smooth. Place in a medium bowl and cover with plastic wrap pressed tightly to prevent a skin from forming. Chill overnight. To serve, divide among 6 small glasses, top with whipped coconut cream, or of choice, drizzle with salted peanut butter and a tiny dusting of cocoa powder.

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In The Heartland

Highlands County

Finding LaLa Land Exotic Animal Farm in Sebring Educates About Conservation by PAUL CATALA photos provided by LALA LAND

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IT ALL STARTED WITH A BOX AND A PIGLET. That small, secured swine eventually led to a 45-acre exotic animal farm and education facility in Sebring now known as LaLa Land. LaLa Land is co-located with TLC Therapy Hooves off Payne Road on a 45-acre farm and ranch owned by Terri and Scott Crutchfield. Licensed by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission and the United States Department of Agriculture, it’s a registered and insured Florida agritourism facility that educates the public about Florida agriculture and the care and conservation of various exotic animal species. TLC Therapy Hooves is a nonprofit organization that provides educational farm tours for senior citizens, people with disabilities, and veterans groups. In 2008, Terri Crutchfield went to a local feed store with her daughter, Taylor, and her FFA rooster. Another customer had a shoebox at the counter, and inside was an orphaned piglet needing adoption. Terri stepped up and adopted “Precious Piglet,” taking it with her everywhere around town until the pair became known as “Miss Piggy” and “Precious Piglet.” That encounter inspired Scott and Terri to head out to the country, buy a farm, and eventually open LaLa Land. “That was the first animal that started all of this,”

28 | CFAN

says Terri Crutchfield, 57. Since that day 14 years ago, LaLa Land has continued to support and show exotic animals and share educational experiences to an estimated 100 visitors per month. Terri, a West Palm Beach native raised in Sebring, says their mission is to foster an appreciation of and love for exotic and therapy animals through complementary therapy visits and fee-based private tours. All proceeds from the LaLa Land private agritourism tours go to TLC Therapy Hooves. Crutchfield says the LaLa Land tours offer guests the chance to see and interact with some of the animals, including miniature horses, a Continental Giant rabbit, camels, llamas, and joeys among other animals. Guests can also venture through oak hammocks, near a bay head, through Florida grassland pastures, and beside two fish ponds. Terri, a Professional Fellow in the Zoological Association of America, works with sanctuaries and zoos to promote research, education, breeding, and training of exotic animals for conservation and preservation. Her compassion for animals partly developed from her father, John Thomas, a retired FWC chief pilot, and her mother, Ann Hamilton, a

LaLa Land volunteer who spent eight years in Africa on conservation trips. “I have a really deep respect for nature,” she says. “What my parents instilled in me is that animals are here and should be appreciated and respected. Any time you need to get back to something, like you feel like you’re straying, put yourself back in nature.” LaLa Land evolved from TLC, which the CONTINUED ON PAGE 36

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A SENSE OF COMMUNITY COMMUNITY HAS NEVER BEEN more important than it is now. I just attended the 56th National Auctioneers Association Conference and Show, which was hosted in San Diego. My wife, who enjoys it, too, does remind me it’s not a “true vacation.” We reunited as a community and renewed our common bonds; we were blessed to have that time. There are many wonderful people we know because we go to these events. There are new, young businessmen and women, exciting updates on technology, and certified skills to better represent our clients. With the worldwide reach, it’s enough to make our heads spin. My favorite part is the kickoff speaker, and this year, it was a powerful young man who did not disappoint. He began with his love of his career life, coaching as a player. Let me offer a bit of my own Real Estate 101 coaching here today. As a community, if you like it, get in the game. It’s up to you to be participating in the maintenance of common goals that reward your family and community. Invest in your future and your grandchildren’s future. Buy land, and get to know your neighbors. You can get a preview of the Crutchfield Estate Land Distribution at 2 p.m. on August 21. Trust me, you don’t want to miss this auction at 10 a.m. on August 27 at The Circle Theatre in Sebring. We also have a firearm auction coming up on September 24 at Rocking H Ranch in Lakeland. We are currently taking consignments. Give us a call! See you at the auction!

by MARTY HIGGENBOTHAM This column is sponsored by Higgenbotham Auctioneers International, Ltd., and the opinions expressed herein may not reflect those of CFAN or of its advertisers. BIO: Marty Higgenbotham, founder and president of Higgenbotham Auctioneers International, Ltd., has conducted approximately 12,000 auctions, selling everything from cemetery lots to shopping centers and everything in between. He graduated from Reisch Auction College in 1959. Since then, he has sold in 49 states and five foreign countries. Clients include Wal-Mart, Albertson, Sinclair, AutoZone, HUD, and the states of Kansas, Missouri, Texas and Florida, to name a few. He lives with his wife in Lakeland.

30 | CFAN

The Landscape Show by TERESA SCHIFFER

F

FROM AUGUST 24-26, Central Florida landscapers, nursery growers, and other professional horticulturalists will gather to network, pick up valuable information about industry trends, and be inspired by new products and plants at The Landscape Show. The annual trade show is for industry only and not for retail buyers. It is organized by the Florida Nursery, Growers, and Landscape Association. Trade Show Manager Sabrina Haines gives a rundown of what to expect at the show: “The theme is ‘Connect with Nature,’ and we’ll feature Conversation Corners, Knowledge College, an Opening Day Reception, Tapped In for under-40 professionals, Cool Products Awards, the inaugural FNGLA Book Club, and a career fair. Plus, we’ll have over 700 booths.” “This is the first year for the Book Club,” Haines explains. “We’ve had one other Book Club meeting, but this will be the first one at a show. They post it online, and there’s a podcast, and there’s a group that will get together every so often at events.” Thousands of attendees convene each year to meet with other experts in the field and browse a vast array of ornamental plants, trees, ground cover, mulch and planting media, and landscaping equipment exhibited. There are opportunities for networking, educational sessions, and a career fair for students interested in learning about horticulture career paths. Knowledge College sessions will be offered throughout the day on August 24 and 25. A full-day, hands-on workshop aimed at green industry professionals and taught by Richard Ludwig, Ph.D., “Designing the Environmentally Responsive Landscape: A Nature Approach,” will begin at 8:30 a.m. on August 24. Other 90-minute sessions will focus on a variety of topics, including landscape safety, pest management, wa-

ter conservation, successful business practices, and more. “At Nature’s Best Hope/How Plants Help Sustain Nature, Doug Tallamy from the University of Delaware will be talking about the steps we can take to help reverse declining biodiversity, which is kind of a burning topic for our industry right now,” Haines says. There will be a Wedgworth Leadership Institute Alumni Meeting from 3 to 4 p.m. on August 24, and the first day of the convention will end with an Opening Day Reception at 5 p.m. On August 25, the 15 most popular products among industry buyers will be promoted at the Cool Products Awards Presentation at 1 p.m. Younger professionals are invited to mingle at the Tapped In Reception from 5 to 6 p.m. on August 25. The event will wrap up with a Career Fair from 10-11 a.m. on August 26, followed by the Book Club meeting at 11:30 a.m. The venue is the West Building of the Orange County Convention Center at 9800 International Drive in Orlando. The Landscape Show hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on August 24 and 25, and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on August 26. Attendance badges are $35 for the entire convention. You can register ahead of time by visiting the website: www.thelandscapeshow.org. ag FloridaAgNews.com


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Wine & Sunshine continued from page 21

short video on how the winery was started by Cox and his son, Charles Cox, now the company president. Visitors are introduced to Jeanne Burgess, Lakeridge winemaker, who makes a presentation before a walking tour commences. The free tour includes seeing the wine tanks and the winemaking process. A visit to a balcony shows tourists the vineyards and the crush deck and the bottling line before heading to the tasting counter of six to eight wine varieties, which range in price from $11 to $30 a bottle. VIP tastings are available for $25 to $50 depending on the guest’s wine-tasting experience level; it includes a private tour guide, a trip into the vineyard, tasting in a private room, and a take-home “swag pack” of gifts. Lakeridge’s busiest season is November through March when seasonal “snowbirds” arrive. “Of the people who come here and taste, 75 to 80 percent of them purchase the product,” he says. “That’s our goal — we want to introduce people to our wine, hopefully they find something they like and then they become a customer.” But most importantly, Hus wants guests to have fun and learn. “We regularly get comments on how knowledgeable our guides are,” he says. “We have wine-tasting in groups where you can learn food selection, smelling, swirling – all the things you need to do to pick out a good wine. We’re hopefully educating people on that so they can make better purchases on wine.” ag

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Finding LaLa Land continued from page 28

Crutchfields began in 2011. At first, animals weren’t available for public viewing. “We always allowed certain groups to come out back then, but we didn’t put it out there for everyone to know. It has been over the last five years that the news that LaLa Land was a hidden gem came out,” she says. That exposure has led Terri, Scott, and Taylor to build and promote LaLa Land’s mission. That includes utilizing forays onto the property and among the animals as nature therapy, something Terri herself tried after her open-heart surgery in 2019 and at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. “We need family, and we need getting ourselves out in nature and taking time to enjoy that,” she says. “The one positive thing on the other side of (the pandemic) and looking back is spending that quality time together; you need to be available for what your passions are,” she says. Most of the domestic animals at Lala Land have been adopted from homes that could no longer properly care for them. The exotics at LaLa Land were personally owned

and/or come from other zoos or licensed animal facilities and are all permitted. At LaLa Land, they fall under the care of veterinarian Jacob Hinds of Citrus Animal Clinic in Lake Placid. Each day from about 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., volunteers, staff, and the Crutchfields care for the animals. Most of that care comes out of the Crutchfields’ pockets, donations, and nonprofit grants. There are also private LaLa Land visits for a $35 donation per person, with a minimum of eight people. “TLC and LaLa Land came about because the community knew about animals and wanted to see them. This kind of blossomed by itself,” says Terri. “The road was paved in front of us and this is what we walked. We just follow the path that we’re supposed to follow.” A typical tour is led by Terri or a facility manager and includes a tram ride from habitat to habitat, a Q&A session, pictures, and interaction with some of the animals, such as Tuda the Tortoise, who was rescued and nursed back to health after was found on a road in Avon Park. “Most of these animals here have a story. Here, they’ve made it to a soft-landing spot,” she says. LaLa Land opens in mid-September and remains open through the beginning of May. For information, call TLC Therapy Hooves at 863-471-7045 or go to facebook.com/lalalandsebringfl ag

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CFAN | 37


From the Editor’s Desk Highlands County Agritourism Forum Set JESSICA McDONALD, Editor jessica@centralfloridamediagroup.com

THE FARM TOUR & AGRITOURISM edition of Central Florida Ag News is one of the more exciting ones we get to produce. After all, what’s more exciting than highlighting all the various sights and experiences that make Florida so unique? Not to mention that we jump at the opportunity to help farmers and ranchers increase their revenue without increasing their workload. That’s why I want to share this opportunity. The Highlands County Extension Office in Sebring is planning the first Agritourism Forum for its area on Sept. 13 and 14. The goal of the program is to offer guidance to those interested in starting or expanding their agritourism business. The forum will begin Tuesday, Sept. 13, at 2 p.m. with a farm tour. Registered attendees will meet at the Extension Office and travel in their own vehicles to various agritourism businesses throughout Highlands County. It will continue on Wednesday, Sept. 14, from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. with scheduled speakers and panels. Topics to be included include: • Trends and opportunities for Florida agritourism • Best practices for marketing your operation • Agritourism rules and liability • Funding sources to start or expand your agritourism business Advance registration of $25/person is required. The registration deadline is Sept. 7. To register online, go to: https://tinyurl.com/2n76txur If you have any questions, you can contact Lori Krinkey with Visit Sebring at LKrinkey@highlandsfl.gov or call 863-402-6909. ag

Agrishopper

continued from page 18

stem; it should have a strong, sweet, earthy odor. The more fragrant a tomato is, the more flavorful it will be. Peppers Peppers are unique because you can harvest them at any point after they hit the maturity stage. For instance, you can pick a Czech Black pepper during the purple/black stage or when it turns ruby red, and it will still be delicious! Pick the peppers when they are the size and color you want, and make sure they are firm. Zucchini Larger zucchini tend to be watery and flavorless, with pulpy insides and large seeds. Stay away! Smaller is better, so try to find one no larger than a regular-sized flashlight. Zucchini can be green, yellow, or white, but always look for a vibrant, rich color. Also, Look for zucchini that still have a good chunk of the stem attached as those ones will last longer. Cucumbers When choosing cucumbers, look for a medium green or dark green color, no matter the size. The color should be even all over, not splotchy or mottled. Second, feel the cucumber to make sure it is firm and doesn’t feel spongy. It should not bend in any way and should be firm throughout. You want to look for cucumbers that have rounded ends. Lastly, look for smaller cucumbers. The smaller cucumbers contain fewer seeds and the seeds are generally very tiny. For eating in salads or alone, you definitely want as few seeds as possible. Tip: Smaller cucumbers are also crisper. Now that you have an idea of what to look for when choosing your produce, visit your local farmer’s market this weekend and see what goodies you can find.

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