Bonds Between All Farmers Are Plentiful and Powerful

Bonds Between All Farmers Are Plentiful and Powerful

Beachside sangria

Oranges and wine can go pretty well together. Likewise, on a recent trip, I came to find Florida orange juice and California wine producers have more in common than one might think.

Growers, packers, processors — the original all-citrus team that put Florida on the map as “The Sunshine State” laid down a foundation for our great state’s economy before big developments, hotels, and vacationers came on the scene. We’re still here because we are the best at what we do — harnessing the natural resources of this geography to produce the best citrus in the world.

In a greater sense, we are not alone in this category of agriculture. On a recent vacation to California, I had the pleasure of meeting growers and processors of nuts and grapes. My husband and I were there on an indulgence. We love to explore the region of Napa Valley. At our first stop, an age-old favorite vineyard, we met a California almond and walnut grower. We talked about trade, consumer preferences, water, labor, and his family’s generations-old operation.

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What struck me, though, was one of his first questions: “How are you guys doing down there after the hurricane?” He knew Mother Nature threw us that monster of a storm, and his concern for our industry was genuine. After a few minutes of conversation, this young gentleman farmer felt like an old friend.

The next day, we toured a property that had been dangerously close to being damaged by last fall’s wildfires. We saw fresh landscaping and charred (but still living) palm trees that showed us just how close the flames came to taking out decades of growing grape vines.

We learned a new phrase there, “Smoke Taint.” As the fires burned, wineries did everything they could to salvage as many grapes as possible. The lingering question for many, though, is whether the smoke from the fires will impact the taste of the 2017 vintage.

Driving through the region, we saw completely destroyed properties right next to untouched vineyards. We stopped at a small, relatively new vintner’s operation. As we enjoyed the fruit of his labor, our host apologized for a large construction bin on the property. He said the owner was doing “spring cleaning,” and there was a lot to throw out after the fires. The owner stopped for a few minutes to meet us and shared stories of neighboring vineyards helping protect his vines with bucket brigades up until the very last possible minute they could stay on the property.

We were in this beautiful area of agritourism, all the way across the U.S. from Florida, but we belonged. We were part of a community that endured serious natural challenges in the fall of 2017.

I often joke about the similarities of Florida orange juice and California wine — Brix, acid, and polyphenols (which play a role in the overall benefits every glass of Florida orange juice provides). But there’s so much more that binds farmers into a deep community.

There’s strength, grit, hope, challenge, passion, selflessness, and service. Our interdependence is integral to our success, and the Florida citrus team enjoys good company.