Through a lecture series, a traveling exhibit and youth competitions, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announced plans to celebrate Florida’s rich agricultural heritage. To kick it off, Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam, in partnership with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, will host a panel discussion commemorating 500 years of agriculture in Florida on January 24.
Putnam’s office released the following information:
“Even before Florida was discovered by European settlers in 1513, Florida was a land of bounty that provided fresh and wholesome foods to its native inhabitants,” said Comm. Putnam. “Over the last 500 years, agriculture has grown to become the strongest pillar of Florida’s economy. Today, the agriculture industry has a $100 billion impact on Florida’s economy and supports nearly one million jobs.”
The January 24 panel discussion, titled “Florida Agriculture: 500 Years in the Making,” will be moderated by Comm. Putnam. Panelists include:
- Dr. Steven Noll, senior lecturer, University of Florida Department of History
- John Griffin, Dade Battlefield Society, South Lake County Historical Society, Groveland Historical Society, Seminole War Foundation, Florida Cattlemen Association and Florida Cracker Horse Association
- Matthew Griffin, student at University of Florida and Seminole War re-enactor
The panel discussion begins at 6:00 p.m. at the University of Florida’s Straughn IFAS Extension Professional Development Center in Gainesville. Prior to the panel discussion, guests are invited to browse exhibits, view historic demonstrations and enjoy refreshments, beginning at 5:30 p.m.
This is the first event of a year-long series of events Commissioner Putnam will host in partnership with universities and colleges throughout Florida. The series includes six events featuring speakers and panel discussions to recognize the important role agriculture has played in Florida’s 500-year history. In addition to the University of Florida, other partnerships include:
- Flagler College (March 21)
- Florida Southern College (April 11)
- Florida A&M University (Fall 2013)
- Gulf Coast University (Fall 2013)
- University of West Florida (Fall 2013)
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is spearheading a variety of other activities designed to raise awareness for the history of the commodities, innovations and people that make up Florida agriculture. Branded with the theme, “Florida Agriculture: 500 Years in the Making,” activities include:
- The “Florida Agriculture: Then and Now” Traveling Exhibit will make its way through Florida in 2013, educating residents and visitors about the exponential growth of the agriculture industry during Florida’s 500 year history. The exhibit will make its first appearance at the Florida State Fair on February 7 in Tampa. From there, the exhibit will travel to museums, universities, fairs and community events, where it will be on display for anniversary celebrations. A full schedule of the exhibit’s tour will be made available in the coming weeks.
- The Youth Fine Arts Competition is an opportunity for middle school and high school students to celebrate the history of Florida agriculture creatively. More than 200 students across Florida submitted entries in December. On February 7, Commissioner Putnam will recognize the winner and eleven finalists at the Florida State Fair in Tampa. Each finalist will be awarded a scholarship and their work will be on display at the Florida State Fair, as well as at the Museum of Florida History in Tallahassee and the Lawton Chiles Center for Florida History in Lakeland.
- The Youth Coloring Competition invited elementary students to learn about the history of Florida agriculture through color. More than 1,300 Florida students submitted entries in November. Ribbons will be awarded at the Florida State Fair in Tampa where the winners will be on display, February 7 through 18.
The events and activities are all designed to leverage the 500th anniversary of the discovery of Florida by Juan Ponce de Leon as an opportunity to raise awareness for Florida’s rich agricultural heritage. Though people, places and industries have come and gone during Florida’s 500-year history, agriculture has endured. Today, Florida produces nearly 300 commodities. Florida-grown products are enjoyed throughout the state, across the nation and in 125 other countries around the world.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is a partner of the Florida Department of State in Viva Florida 500.
For more information about the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, visit www.FreshFromFlorida.com.