By Clint Thompson
Tailgate treats and insightful information highlighted Thursday’s Florida Ag Expo. Specialty crop growers and industry leaders flocked to the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Wimauma for the annual event.
Seminar sessions and field tours provided attendees with valuable insight into how they can remain sustainable in crop production while utilizing the latest technological advancements.
A four-person farmer panel addressed issues pertaining to labor, trade and agritourism.The panel included Michael Hill, H&A Farms; Dustin Grooms, Fancy Farms; Jason Chandler, Grimmway Farms; and Marshal Sewell, Mind Your Melon.
“It’s important to come here today to learn about agriculture, and it’s all different kinds of agriculture that you can learn about. It’s not just strawberries or tomatoes. It’s the next step of agriculture of what’s taken place and the future. It’s here right now,” Grooms said. “The University of Florida is at the forefront of it. There’s not a better venue we could have it at. There’s all kinds of vendors out here to tell you what they’re doing and how they’re going to help you farm.”
The grower panel during the final part of the morning’s general session was a small part of the educational experience producers and industry leaders took part in throughout the day. Breakout sessions put technology and pest management under the spotlight. Field tours of UF/IFAS research capped the event.
“Each of us are in a little bit different industry, but all are still in the produce business. Every one of us are active participants in management and navigating the industry, whether it be labor or trade or mental health,” Chandler said. “I think it’s good to get a group together where you can just have a real conversation with growers and folks here in the room. Every one of us faces the same thing, but every one of us has a little different twist, whether it’s our perspective or how we’re managing something. It gives everybody else a chance to ask questions and participate.”
The Expo included a new tailgate-style trade show this year. Vendors brought different delicacies for attendees to sample. The new format was met with positive feedback.
Attendees voted for their top tailgater, which was awarded to Kennco Manufacturing. The company served empanadas, Cuban egg rolls and mini stuffed potatoes.