Down on the COLLIER FARMS – Bonita Springs Florida Weekly

Meghan Foos tells guests about her family's cattle ranch farm tour.

Meghan Foos tells friends about her household’s cattle ranch farm tour.

When many individuals consider Collier County, they in all probability image sandy seashores, Gulf waters, retailers and eating places, dozens of golf programs, and pure areas just like the Western Everglades.

So, it’d shock even locals to be taught that there are greater than 300 farms on practically 150,000 acres within the county. They vary from a dozen giant producers who wholesale to a whole bunch on simply two acres. Most, even the larger ones, are family-run.

Throughout a lately supplied annual tour, 120 friends on two buses had the chance to go to 4 farms to study this necessary native business.

Individuals are very focused on the place their meals comes from and what is going on on with agriculture, mentioned Jessica Ryals, sustainable agriculture and meals techniques agent with UF/IFAS Extension Collier County, who coordinated the tour. Agriculture is one thing we had been all as soon as connected to, however now lower than 2% of our inhabitants is.

The farm tour included a lunch of grilled chicken with fresh vegetables from Inyoni Organic Farm.

The farm tour included a lunch of grilled rooster with contemporary greens from Inyoni Natural Farm.

The complete-day 8am to 4pm journey went to a cattle ranch, tomato seed producer, natural vegetable farm, and the third largest grower of annual and perennial flowers within the state. The speed was $85 and included lunch.

The tour is a preview of what’s occurring with agriculture within the county, Ms Ryals mentioned. Individuals are impressed by the number of merchandise which are grown and all of the ancillary actions concerned in agriculture, corresponding to fertilizers and labour. It is a complicated system.

The tour helps folks perceive the challenges farmers face, corresponding to pests and ailments, manufacturing prices, invasive vegetation and overseas meals competitors, he mentioned. This yr’s tour additionally included promotion of the SWFL Contemporary program, which inspires Southwest Florida residents to decide on meals and drinks from Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee and Sarasota counties, a lot of which can be found at farmers markets.

We’ve an enormous drawback with low-cost produce from Mexico and South America, Ms. Ryals defined. If we will get folks to vary their buying habits a bit and purchase merchandise with the SWFL Contemporary label, it could actually make an enormous distinction within the sustainability of native farms.

Tour guests stroll through the fields of Inyoni Organic Farm.

Tour friends stroll by the fields of Inyoni Natural Farm.

A number of the folks taking the farm tour are visiting farmers from different elements of the nation.

Don Miller, an Ohio corn and soybean farmer who winters in Naples, has been across the farm about 5 instances. They do lots of issues like us, however it’s totally different due to the local weather and the rainfall, which is fascinating to me, he mentioned.

Native realtor Mary Ballard loved watching the cowboys and sheepdogs work the cattle ranch and listening to in regards to the household that owned the farm. What she realized on the tour will assist along with her enterprise, she mentioned, including, I can provide folks a whole image of what she Collier

The county is past seashores and eating places.

Alex Salazar (center, in checkered shirt), one of the founders of American Farms, talks about operations at the third largest grower of annuals and perennials in Florida.

Alex Salazar (middle, in checkered shirt), one of many founders of American Farms, talks about operations on the third largest grower of annuals and perennials in Florida.

The tour

Foos Ranch, a calf farm owned by Meghan and Bryce Foos, was the primary cease. The couple moved from South Dakota in 2019 to boost heat-tolerant business cattle (together with some Florida Cracker Cattle) to be bought each on the open market and as grass-fed beef. The steers are bought at roughly 7 months of age by the cattle public sale; heifers are held on the ranch to see if they are going to be reared inside 2 years. Any open (non-farmed) heifer at 2 years of age is taken into account for native sale of grass-fed, grass-finished beef merchandise.

Ms. Foos, a sixth-generation rancher who as soon as labored for Dow AgroSciences, advised the group that it prices about $600 to boost a calf to promote. She and her husband, a fifth-generation rancher, hope to proceed increasing the herd and have a extra substantial provide of pasture-raised beef out there to native prospects.

The following step was BHNSeed, which develops hybrid tomato seeds based mostly on the traits of excessive yield, wonderful fruit high quality and resistance to pests and ailments. The corporate was fashioned in 1980 by Gargiulo, the nation’s largest contemporary market tomato shipper, and right now the seeds are planted in 45 international locations with one other 45 piloting new developments.

American Farms plants are sold to customers such as Walmart and Disney.

American Farms vegetation are bought to prospects corresponding to Walmart and Disney.

At one of many 4 data cubicles at this cease, BHNSeed biotech coordinator and molecular biologist Myrna Sevilla, PhD, demonstrated how DNA testing of leaves identifies the healthiest vegetation and solely these are planted within the discipline. At one other station, Greenhouse Supervisor Aaron Malek spoke as Greenhouse Technician Edith Ramirez demonstrated how BHNSeeds emasculates and pollinates hybrid tomatoes and peppers they’re testing.

All friends on the tour acquired a packet of tomato seeds.

Lunch was held at Inyoni Natural Farm, the place proprietor Nick Batty toured his 6 acres earlier than friends loved grilled rooster and a salad with greens, radishes and tomatoes from his gardens. Tour members walked by fields the place tomatoes, certainly one of practically 30 crops grown at Inyoni, had been harvested, studying in regards to the sandy and loamy soil, drip irrigation system, and a USDA mortgage and design assist who contributed to the launch of the farm.



Mr. Batty sells beets, carrots, onions, peppers, spinach, arugula, kale, fennel, parsley and different fruit and veggies at 4 farmer’s markets and on-line for pickup at his farm off Immokalee Highway simply east of Collier Boulevard/CR951 .

I am actually obsessed with native meals and meals security, Mr. Batty advised the group. I’m glad to be a part of SWFL Contemporary.

Final cease was American Farms, the third largest grower of annuals and perennials in Florida. Alex Salazar, who was one of many farm’s founders 32 years in the past, led the tour and shared that he’ll retire subsequent yr after promoting the enterprise to the Hoffman Household of Corporations.

On 100 acres and with practically 200 staff, American Farms produces 30 million vegetation every year on the market to retailers like Walmart and prospects that embody Disney. They work with 450 totally different varieties that change in keeping with the season.

Tomatoes grown by BHNSeeds.

Tomatoes grown by BHNSeeds.

The farm receives 12 semi-trailer a great deal of soil every week and has 5 planting strains the place staff work with seed that usually arrives internationally by in a single day airplane flights. Additionally they work with seedlings, pots, tags and watering machines.

Some vegetation are protected in greenhouses, whereas others colorfully dot the panorama all through the complicated. Relying on the species, they’re shipped 4 to 6 weeks later.

Every visitor acquired a vinca flower donated by American Farms.

The tour concluded on the UF/IFAS Extension workplace the place tour members additionally took house a jar of Rubees native honey.

It is a busy day however lots of enjoyable, mentioned Mrs Ryals. It actually offers you a way of place if you’re among the many rows of vegetation and listening to the tales.

Aaron Malek, greenhouse manager for BHNSeeds, shares how greenhouse technician Edith Ramirez pollinates tomato plants.  ROBIN F. DEMATTIA / FLORIDA WEEKLY

Aaron Malek, greenhouse supervisor for BHNSeeds, shares how greenhouse technician Edith Ramirez pollinates tomato vegetation. ROBIN F. DEMATTIA / FLORIDA WEEKLY

The following annual UF/IFAS Extension Ag Tour is ready for Wednesday, March 20, 2024. Be taught extra at