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Florida: A Wave of Freshness

Florida’s produce markets continue to make a splash throughout the state, though it’s not always smooth sailing — as Sunshine State produce players know they’ll have to navigate through turbulent waters.

Benefitting from its mix of tropical and subtropical climes and year-round growing season, Florida producers harvest an extensive selection of fresh fruits and vegetables.

The Sunshine State ranks second in the nation for overall vegetable production by value, and takes the top spot for oranges, fresh-market tomatoes, watermelon, grapefruit, snap beans, and cucumbers. And in addition to the usual fare comes a broad range of tropical fruits and vegetables that continue to attract the attention of retailers, restaurants, and consumers.

“Over the years, as tropicals gain acceptance, we find they’re going mainstream like papayas and Florida avocados,” says Mary Ostlund, marketing director at Miami-based Brooks Tropicals LLC. “New varieties that extend the season for Florida avocados are helping us stay in the market for the two big avocado events of the year: Super Bowl and Cinco de Mayo.”

Several tropical fruits are earning attention and well on their way to becoming “mainstream” favorites, alongside now familiar exotics like mangoes and papaya.

“Summer field crops like passionfruit and dragon fruit are coming to the forefront,” Ostlund says. “Also, new groves for starfruit and red guava are being planted.” Most of these fruits, however, pale in comparison to another immensely popular seasonal treat: strawberries.

Although it may seem like the sun always shines brightly for Florida produce, the industry faces plenty of stormy days and troubled waters. Despite the challenges — from pests and disease to freezes and hurricanes — Sunshine State produce professionals remain ever-hopeful about the future.

“I farm, so I’m an optimist,” says Gary Wishnatzki, president and CEO of Wish Farms in Plant City and a cofounder of Harvest CROO. “I think growers who are proactive and thinking about the future will survive.”

Further, he says, “Marketers and growers need to be thinking about ways to capitalize on niches and produce crops that consumers want. The future is bright for those who understand this and make a commitment to growing fruits and vegetables that taste good.”

This is an excerpt from the most recent Produce Blueprints quarterly journal. Click here to read the full article.


Amy Bell is a professional freelance writer with more than 15 years experience. She writes for publications and companies across the nation. Visit to learn more