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Agriculture's Past

Ingram Brothers
“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]

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.

Changing Values

The chart reflects two trends over the past 50 years: More production from fewer acres, and the emergence of horticulture.

Crop 1958 Now
crop image Horticulture Value $55.4 million $1.8 billion
Acres N/A N/A
crop image Citrus Value $116.4 million $1.36 billion
Acres 513,000 621,000
crop image Livestock Value $42.3 million $1.3 billion
Acres N/A N/A
crop image Field crops* Value $55.4 million $499.1 million
Acres N/A N/A
crop image Tomatoes Value $42.3 million $464 million
Acres 46,300 37,800
crop image Strawberries Value $1.37 million $329.3 million
Acres 1,500 8,300
crop image Snap beans Value $14.7 million $217.4 million
Acres 53,800 34,500
crop image Green peppers Value $12.1 million $183.1 million
Acres 14,100 17,500
crop image Watermelon Value $11.5 million $152.5 million
Acres 72,000 24,800
crop image Sweet corn Value $14.3 million $112.8 million
Acres 48,900 29,500
crop image Cucumbers Value $9.2 million $71.6 million
Acres 13,300 9,900
crop image Squash Value $3.5 million $52.9 million
Acres 11,000 10,900
crop image Cabbage Value $5.6 million $47.1 million
Acres 17,500 7,400
* Including corn, tobacco, wheat and soybeans
Source: Florida Department of Agriculture