Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Packing all that Manatee County farm information into the brain no easy operation

Mac Carraway, president of SMR Farms,  discusses operations at Lakewood Ranch.
(provided photo)

Jason McKendree, cattle and land manager, for SMR Farms, discussed the cattle operation
 (provided photo)
The folks who recently took a Manatee County farm tour got just a taste of the sprawling business that is agriculture in  Manatee County.

That's certainly not to disparage the tour coordinated by the Manatee River Soil and Water Conservation District.

But you do need a mighty long pair of arms to get them around a business that accounts for $2.5 billion in annual revenues and employs more than 49,000 people, according to the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Green, green watercress.
Gail Somodi, soil conservation supervisor affiliated with Manatee County, the state of Florida and the U.S. Department of Agriculture,  shared details of what the farm visitors saw.

Read more here: http://eastwordbradenton.blogspot.com/2013/02/youth-judges-show-their-understanding.html#storylink=cpy

First stop on the tour took visitors to Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, where Mac Carraway, president of SMR Farms, and Jason McKendree, SMR cattle and land manager, discussed the vast operation at Lakewood Ranch.

SMR's thriving operations include citrus, sod, nursery, and mining. It produces more than 1,000 calves  for the beef cattle market annually.

Large animal veterinarian Dr. Johnnie Copeland, with Sarasota Equine Associates, immunized and applied treatments and preventatives to several calves in a demonstration arranged by McKendree, said  Somodi, who also doubled as tour guide.

Jack Creighton, a USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service district conservationist, said this was the first time the tour has included a demonstration of veterinary services, highlighting the connection between animal health and safe products for consumers.

The next stop on the tour, also at Lakewood Ranch, was Sarasota Polo Club.  Attendees watched a portion of a polo match played on one of nine fields with a unique underground irrigation system, and heard comments from a polo player, Somodi said.

Next up was a hot meal at Myakka Family Worship Center in Myakka City.

Another stop in the Myakka City area included Watercress Farms, whose produce is shipped via Virgin Airways from Orlando to Great Britain. Baby leaf salad crops and other spring mix salads are also grown.

Finally, visitors stopped by a new packinghouse, Utopia Packing.

As boxes moved through the packinghouse, workers packed bell peppers. Up to 4,000 boxes can pass through the packinghouse per hour.

Utopia packs bell peppers, hot banana peppers, jalapenos, a variety of specialty peppers, and cucumbers for major retailers in the United States and Canada.
Visitors observe bell pepper packing at Utopia. (provided photo)

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