Our family immigrated from Ireland via Charleston, South Carolina in the 1650s. We were Hugenots originially from France but living in Ireland at the time. We came to escape unpromising conditions in Ireland and to take advantage of the Land Grant of King George the II. That whole deal eventually fell apart and our family ended up in Virginia. From there we spread to Alabama. We finally ended up in Florida when our great-grandfather came here to grow citrus.
The story long told in our family, is that our great-grandfather was making a decent living in Alabama. The local doctor told him he thought when his patients ate citrus fruits they had less colds and were generally healthier. They struck up a deal for grandfather to move to Florida to begin to plant citrus trees.
That was over 100 years ago and the family continues to farm citrus even though the industry has been hit hard by freezes and now, deadly viral infections. We farm other crops as well and some of us have entered the organic beef industry.
Our family belongs to the Florida Organic Growers Association. You can find more about them at their website at www.foginfo.org. What we particularly like is the ongoing education they offer. Although we've been farming a long time, there are always new, innovative ideas out there. We also like to share.
Our daddies grew up in a time where everyone in their community farmed. They might drive trucks, too, or own a business, but everybody farmed and grew some, if not all, of their own food. We remember heading down to the local market/hardware/gas/butcher/clothing store on the main road through town to drink a soda and shoot the breeze. They talked about their crops. They talked about their chickens and their cows. They sold and shared and stayed connected. We do this still today (only it looks a little different) which is why we chose to join FOG.
FOG hosts regular workshops for farmers. Their next one is June 15 at Coldwater Farms in Milton. The folks at Coldwater offer "glamping accomodations" for only $50/night. Milton is located up in the Florida Panhandle so you all from Central Florida might want to catch the shuttle from Gainesville Regional up to Pensacola. Coldwater Farms calls what they do "agri-tourism" and it's certainly not how our daddies farmed! Farming certainly has its ups and downs. Farming can be real drudgery. And it can be very rewarding and satisfying. Getting together with other farmers is a good thing to do.
Did you grow up with fruit that was picked ripe from the tree or plucked fresh from the ground? Did it ruin you forever for anything storebought?
We feel that way about watermelon. We were reminded of this the other day when listing to NPR and heard the story of the Bradford Melon. This is a delicious heirloom melon that all but dissappeared because it did not ship well and since most folks grew things to sell as well as to eat, this meant growing the Bradford became a luxury and not a neccesity. The Bradford melon is now being revived by the 4xgreat-grandson of the original Bradford who cultivated it. If you want to read about the Bradford melon you can go to www.npr.org/the sweetestwatermelon.
We related to the story of the Bradford Melon because we grew up eating our own locally grown melon. From the time we were kids (in fact, from the time our dads were kids), our family got all their melons from another family in the community. We're not sure of the name of the melon, but we always called them simply "Clyde's Melons" because he's the one who grew them. Clyde grew the melons until he was 92 and his last crop was harvested this very year after he past away. (Sad, I know, but we all have a time to go.)
We made sure we were there to buy some of those final melons. Now, seeds from Clyde's Melons are saved and have been passed along because nothing else any of us could buy in the store was going to satisfy us. We're sure our family members have passed the seeds along to each other in the past, but somehow it was always tradition to buy them from Clyde so we didn't bother growing them for ourselves. Now we do.