Down on the Everglades Farm

For several years now I have been a Legacy Member of the Florida Chapter of The Nature Conservancy.They have started resuming their Legacy trips-workshops in various places around the state that demonstrate the work they are doing to preserve our environment. We recently signed up for a-tour to visit Hundley Farms, a third generation family run farm located west of West Palm Beach, Florida in the hamlet of Loxahatchee. John Hundley started his farm in 1969 with his family and won numerous accolades for his progressive farming tactics that not only limit excessive watering of his crops but also carefully measures and provides fertilizer to his plants as needed. The farm sits on acres of beautiful black soil, the results of millions of years of accumulated vegetation resulting from being a floodplain from Lake Okeechobee. Palm Beach County as a result has some of the most fertile soil in the world and produces the most produce in one spot in any part of the country! To get there we drove past miles of fields of sugarcane.

When we arrived at the farm our group was given a lecture about the Hundley’s farming practices before we boarded a bus to tour some of the working fields of the farm. Sugar cane is an essential crop as when grown, it deposits essential nutrients into the soil that helps them grow other crops. The Hundleys grow sweet corn, celery, radishes, green beans, cattle,cabbage–check out these fields of cabbage being harvested

Rice (Florida is the third largest grower of rice in the country and has a rice mill operated by US Sugar nearby) when rotated with the sugar cane crops also provides nutrients for the soil. Leftover processed sugar cane stalks (the bagasse) is used to help fuel the farms boilers to produce electricity. These rotational plantings on their fields and on leased fields help to reduce the fertilizers needed to produce their crops. Irrigation is provided in an as needed system by constantly monitoring rain and soil moisture so no over-watering occurs. This progressive system replaces center pivot irrigation and protects the fields from fertilizer runoff. We learned that the majority of water pollution in Lake Okeechobee comes from farms, ranches, and land development at the head of the Kissimmee River just outside of Orlando. The Nature Conservancy has David Royal, TNC’s Nutrient Stewardship Project Manager, on its staff. He travels around the state to assist farmers in helping them reduce their environmental impacts while increasing crop yields to meet the growing demand for food by implementing the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Program. These plans have also helped to curtail excess nutrients polluting Florida’s springs. My head nearly exploded with all the information I learned about farming!
 
As we traveled around the fields we were given samples of what was currently being harvested. We received two beautiful heads of red and savoy cabbages.

We then drove several miles away from the main farm where they were growing and harvesting radishes.

Their farm is one of the top producers of radishes in the world! We were allowed to pull some beautiful red globes of radishes for ourselves.

As we were leaving we could see the cane fields were being burned to reduce waste and add more nutrients to the soil. 

Every burn must have a carefully monitored permit. It made an amazing view as we headed west for the three hour drive back to Naples.

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