Horticulture reigns as Florida's top crop.
“I’d say there’s one pretty simple concept that’s kept us in business 50 years,” says Bill Ingram (left, with brother Doug). “You give the people what they want.” [Photo: Joshua Prezant]
Top Crop? Horticulture reigns.
The Ingram family of Homestead embodies perhaps the biggest shift in Florida agriculture in the past 50 years — the emergence of horticulture, which has become Florida’s most significant crop by any number of measures. In 1958, as a “shot in the dark” experiment, the family, which had grown citrus, began growing landscaping plants that they sold in cans to their neighbors. Some fellow farmers thought they were crazy. Today, the Ingrams grow more than 1,000 varieties, shipping them all over Florida, the Caribbean and the eastern seaboard. Meanwhile, as Florida’s rapid population growth and urbanization drove up demand for shrubbery, it also drove a decline in citrus land. Citrus acreage has been dropping since it peaked in 1970 at 941,000 acres. But even as citrus acreage fell 22% between 2004 and 2005, the statewide crop’s value rose 14% to $1.02 billion — a testament to technology and farmers getting more fruit from fewer trees.
The chart reflects two trends over the past 50 years: More production from fewer acres, and the emergence of horticulture.
|Horticulture||Value||$55.4 million||$1.8 billion|
|Citrus||Value||$116.4 million||$1.36 billion|
|Livestock||Value||$42.3 million||$1.3 billion|
|Field crops*||Value||$55.4 million||$499.1 million|
|Tomatoes||Value||$42.3 million||$464 million|
|Strawberries||Value||$1.37 million||$329.3 million|
|Snap beans||Value||$14.7 million||$217.4 million|
|Green peppers||Value||$12.1 million||$183.1 million|
|Watermelon||Value||$11.5 million||$152.5 million|
|Sweet corn||Value||$14.3 million||$112.8 million|
|Cucumbers||Value||$9.2 million||$71.6 million|
|Squash||Value||$3.5 million||$52.9 million|
|Cabbage||Value||$5.6 million||$47.1 million|
|* Including corn, tobacco, wheat and soybeans|
|Source: Florida Department of Agriculture|