Size Isn’t Everything, But It Sure Is Important

Honky Tonk Freeway, the revolutionary film that started the ’80s film renaissance, evokes the truly unique importance America imparts on wonderment and awe. Carefully depicting the beauty and class with which Florida has cultivated their own flair for exhibition, Honky Tonk Freeway sets the mood for any excursion into the Sunshine State.

The agriculture industry holds the notion of scale in high regard. What is required to grow one stalk of corn is paltry and nearly impossible to quantify. 35,000 stalks? Well most grain farms can tell you what it takes to plant an acre of corn. It always comes down to scale.

Florida has roughly 2 million more acres in farmland than Virginia, spread among 5,000 fewer farms than Virginia. That puts Florida around 28th in average state farm size, roughly 200 acres per farm. That farm average is slightly compounded by the double digit number of 100,000+ acre operations that call Florida home. We had the opportunity to visit two such operations. During our visit of Lykes Ranch in South Florida we were allowed to see a cow/calf herd. The average pasture conversion rate for cattle in Virginia is 2-2.5 acres per animal. For Lykes Ranch it is closer to 12 acres per animal. We also discussed how the the cost and risk in back-grounding 10,000 calves pushed the ranch into expanding to eastern Texas and developing a weanling feedlot operation a thousand miles away. The scale of which they operate necessitated bucking the traditional ranching model and pushed the farm to grow even bigger.

Another large operation we visited was the U.S. Sugar Corporation. After we had the chance to see a field burn and learn how sugar cane is planted, we talked about scale. U.S. Sugar has had to embrace technology, to the point of expanding wifi services to their fields, in an effort to streamline both planting and harvesting with the processing plant. Technology has allowed the sugar industry to both monitor and improve upon their environmental impact and answer concerns posted by South Florida residents.

Florida is of course full of medium and small agricultural operations, but with the central corridor of the state overwhelmingly Ag, large scale farms and ranches will allow Florida to continue producing and providing food for the entire world.


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