The history of agriculture in the great state of Florida is storied and ancient, from the days of the indigenous peoples of America cultivating crops to the modern day agricultural sector's crucial role in the Floridian economy.
Crops have been produced in Florida for thousands of years. Squashes and gourds were grown by Indigenous Americans from 3,000 BC to 1,000 B.C. , according to “The New History of Florida," a book from the University Press of Florida. The book also claims that it was likely 750 A.D. or later that corn began to be cultivated by some of Florida’s pre-European inhabitants.
Florida's robust citrus industry can trace it's roots back to the reign of the Spanish King Phillip II, when the Spanish population in Florida began planting oranges at St. Augustine.
Centuries later, in the late Eighteenth century British Colonists began the process of establishing plantations for growing vital crops for that era such as indigo and cotton. Following Florida's admission as a state in 1845, Florida gained an important role in the agricultural sector of the Union.
Following the Civil War and the Industrial Revolution, Florida's agricultural sector was transformed by the birth of new farming technology.
The Morrill Act of 1859 was also instrumental in establishing the scholarly community surrounding the studies of Agriculture across the nation by establishing land-grant colleges throughout the Union. The rise of Florida's railroad barons in the 1900's, Florida's Agriculture became even more profitable.
Today, the state of Florida is one of the leading crop producers in the United States. The Sunshine State leads the nation in sugarcane production and is second only to California in fresh market vegetable production. Sugarcane, first grown on orders from Phillip II, was grown had a production value of $505 million in 2013, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). A majority of sugarcane – 298,500 acres – was grown in Palm Beach County.
Other produce in Florida includes blueberries, bell peppers, snap beans, strawberries, cabbage, cucumbers, squash, and watermelons.
Additionally other crops such as corn, cotton, cottonseed, peanuts, hay, pecans, wheat and soybeans had a combined production value of $385 million. Peanuts had the highest production value at $145 million; with Hay following close behind at $133 million.
From the first agricultural steps taken by Native Americans to the modern day economic juggernaut, Florida's agricultural sector and its advancement provides optimism for a bright future for Florida's farmers and landowners.
For more information on Florida's agriculture, check out these other articles from The Land Journal.