MANATEE COUNTY --Top Manatee County officials loaded a bus and hit the road Tuesday morning to visit the county's pinnacle farm producers, looking for a snapshot of what was once the county's economic backbone. Currently, Manatee's agriculture production ranks 7th largest among Florida's 67 counties, but many wonder how long that status will last.
After mounting an electric MCAT bus located at the Manatee County Municipal Building, the group of 20 or so headed east to SMR Farms.
During the trip, speakers from the Manatee County Agriculture and Extension Service Division spoke to the different programs available to farmers.
Samantha Kennedy, County Extension Director, and Christa Kirby, Livestock Extension Service, gave statistics, listed programs available and dates in which to apply.
Once the bus arrived at SMR, participants where introduced to 31,000 acres of sod, citrus, containerized trees and cattle.
For 80 years, SMR has been in the agribusiness, and claims to be a leader in resource management and environmental stewardship.
Over the years, Schroeder-Manatee Ranch Inc. (SMR) has also expanded its operations into planned development, aggregates and the Sarasota Polo Club.
|The group views a map of SMR's 33,000 acres.|
After leaving SMR, it was a short ride to Enza Zaden Research Farm. Established in 1938, under the name 'De Enkhuizer Zaadhandel,' who was committed to selling as many seeds as possible, and later partnered with Piet Mazereeuw in 1959.
Enza Zaden has developed plant breeding programs that address specific requests by growers around the world. The program includes tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and leafy vegetables, and they claim to be among the top internationally in supplying the ultimate source of vegetables.
Strickland Cattle and Exports was another stop. There too, selected employees assisted in the tour of their related facilities, and answered any questions one might have about a city-size farm.
Big Red Cattle and Hay, and Jones Potato Farm were the last two stops of the tour.
|Manatee County Community Services Director Brenda Rogers|
It seemed of those farms selected to be in the tour, nearly all were generations old and still in operation, and they were not your typical family farms either.
SMR and Strickland Ranches alone equate to 100,000 acres or more, making them not only huge farms, but major county land owners with diverse portfolios.
Much of the farm land lost to the non-stop transformation of farm land into development in recent decades has come from companies like Manatee Fruit and SMR.
It would have been nice to have seen profiles of smaller family farms as well, to see how their future outlook might differ from the mega-farmers.
|Enza Zaden Research Farm|
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