Monday, December 07, 2009

110 Miles Through Hendry Farm Country

28th Annual Farm Tour Shows Rural Hendry To 300

LABELLE, FL. -- The Hendry County City-Farm Tour Council hosted hundreds of visitors Saturday for the 28th Hendry county farm tour visiting cattle ranches, citrus groves, a packing plant, a storm water treatment area, and an organic vegetable farm.

(Photo: Gene McAvoy, Hendry Agricultural Extension Director holds up some fresh vegetables at a south Hendry county packing house.)

Six busloads of people from Lee, Collier, and Hendry county were shown how agriculture affects everyone's life from the food they eat to the clothing they wear.  Agriculture in Hendry county saw nearly half billion dollars in sales last year from beef, citrus, vegetables, nurseries, sod, and sugarcane,

Citrus and vegetable growing make up most of Hendry's farm revenues, with sugarcane and beef cattle following. Cattle however take up the most Hendry county acreage of all by far, at 403,000 acres.

Tour leaders this year included Gene McAvoy, Les Baucum, Mongri Zekri, Kelly Morgan, Fritz Roka, Jack Johnson, Lindsey Wiggins, Chuck Obern and Butch Wilson.

Stops on the 110 mile round trip journey from LaBelle to Clewiston included Mobley Plant World in LaBelle, Duda Farms, Alico Ranch (one of southwest Florida largest landowners), Storm Water Treatment Area #5, Southern Gardens Citrus (owner of Florida largest contiguous citrus grove at 35,000 acres) and C&B Organic Specialty Vegetable Farm. A steak lunch was provided by the Hendry Cattlemen's Association at the Hendry County Fairgrounds in Clewiston.

One of the most interesting stops for many was Chuck Obern's C&B Farms. Obern started farming in Southwest Florida in 1986 with 10 acres and now farms over 1000 acres in the Devil's Garden area of southern Hendry. Producing 36 different vegetables including ethnic and specialties from arrugula to zucchini.

Another unique feature of the C&B Farm is a 40-acre composting operation where waste products are composted to produce high quality soil amendments to the naturally poor sandy soils.

Obern is one of a handful of family owned and operated vegetable farms in southwest Florida, and one of an even smaller number where the farmer lives on the farm. He and his wife typically work 7 days a week, 12 hours a day along with his Mexican farm workers.

At the conclusion of the tour, all had a greater appreciation of how agriculture is a vitally important part of the Hendry county economy and all left with full stomach after the great lunch, and a bag of specialty vegetables courtesy of C&B Farms.

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