10 Things You Didn’t Know About Florida Agriculture
1. Florida’s number one crop, oranges are an over $10 billion industry
Although well known for its impact on the citrus industry, many do not realize the genuine supply that Florida provides in regards to fresh citrus and juice. There are approximately 569,000 groves in the state and Florida alone accounts for 70% of the country’s citrus supply, while also exporting overseas to Canada, Japan, France and the U.K..
2. Florida’s $10 billion agriculture industry is under attack
Despite the natural disasters that plowed through groves uprooting trees, knocking down fruit and flooding the soil, Florida’s citrus industry has also been battling Huonglong Bing, also known as greening, for many years as the disease works to kill the state’s signature crop. The bacterium, transferred through psyllids has been found in all Florida counties where commercial citrus is grown since 2005. Even with hope for a comeback after the 2016 crop, Hurricane Irma rattled those chances.
3. Florida and California are neck-in-neck in production of multiple crops
Citrus, strawberries, avocados and peppers are included in determining the race to the top between Florida and California.
4. Florida cotton production is ranked 15th in the United States
Although not well known, Florida is ranked 15th of the 50 states in cotton production. Annually, 188,000 anchors are harvested with $75.9 million in production value. When googled, the question even arises whether or not it is legal to grow cotton in the state, but the panhandle is full of cotton fields working hard to grow the crop that clothes us all.
5. Florida is home to nearly a million head of beef cattle
Growing up in Florida and travelling across the country with FFA, people were always extremely excited to learn that my friends and I were from Florida. My favorite question ever asked was from a young man from Illinois - “So since y’all don’t have cows in Florida, do you farm whales?” Much to his surprise, we informed him of Florida’s prominent beef cattle industry. Florida is ranked in the top 10 for beef cattle production, primarily composed of cow calf operations. Florida’s beef cattle herds are valued at an excess of a billion dollars and have an economic impact of over $900 million annually.
6. To battle greening, Florida is putting a hand in peach production
With the increasing threat of citrus greening looming over citrus producers, many farmers are giving way to a surprisingly successful crop in the state of Florida. Peaches have been developed for Florida’s mild winter climate offer new opportunities for struggling citrus producers. This crop aligns with the blueberry market, with mid-March through April being the prime marketing window for the peaches.
7. Florida is home to the “Horse Capitol of the World”
The city of Ocala within Marion County has stolen the title of “Horse Capital of the World” from Kentucky as it is home to the largest number of horses and ponies in the world. The county has an economic impact of $2.62 billion annually from the equine industry alone. There are over 35,300 Thoroughbreds in Ocala and 431 farms and training centers in the area. In this year’s Kentucky Derby, 17 of the 20 horses racing had ties to Marion County, and the Florida Derby is considered one of the most influential preparation races for the Kentucky derby. The Florida Derby has produced seven Kentucky Derby winners in the last twenty-five years.
8. Mickey Mouse is growing crops in Florida, too
Walt Disney World’s Epcot produces hydroponically grown produce including anything from cucumbers, melons, tomatoes and pumpkins, which can all be found in the iconic mouse shape. The produce grown in the greenhouses is served across Walt Disney World resort to guests. Aside from the visually appealing, Disney is completing research for NASA regarding growing plants without soil or water. Hydroponically grown plants are grown in any media, other than soil, including sand, water, nutrient solutions and even air.
9. Florida’s dairy production works hand in hand with the citrus industry
Florida dairies are found across the state in all kinds of sizes, ranging from 150 cows to 5,000 cows on more than 130 dairy farms. These Florida Dairy farmers recycle about 170,000 tons of byproducts such as citrus pulp, brewers’ grain and whole cottonseed that are consumed by the cow, rather than going to a landfill. This provides the cattle with adequate nutrition and an option to use these byproducts rather than wasting them in the landfill.
10. Florida is the largest producer of sugarcane
Sugarcane is grown commercially in South Florida, primarily near Lake Okeechobee. Palm Beach County accounts for 70% of the commercial sugarcane acreage and 75% total harvested tonnage. Because of Lake Okeechobee’s fertile soil, the sugarcane flourishes. The tropic or sub-tropic climate keeps the deadly winters warm and sunshine and water available for growth. Sugarcane production takes up around 400,000 acres and yields over 17.3 million U.S. tons of stalks. The raw crop and molasses by-product are valued at about $700 million. Florida is the largest producer of sugarcane in the United States, followed by Louisiana, Hawaii and Texas. An average sugarcane stalks weighs in at about three pounds and contains about 85% juice and when it comes down to totals, the stalk only contains about 0.3 pounds of sugar. With the amount of sugar that comes from one stalk, and the amount of refined sugar consumed in the U.S. is approximately 61.5 lbs per person per year, this would come from about 205 stalks of sugarcane. With 30,000 stalks per acre, one acre could supply sugar for roughly 146 Americans for a year.