Meet Miss Florida Citrus 2019The Florida citrus sector is proud of its history. Part of its deep-rooted legacy is the long-running Florida Citrus Queen/Miss Florida Citrus program. Its mission is based on being a champion and advocate for the state’s signature crop and its related businesses. Those among the long list of titleholders, which dates back to 1924, know the role entails more than just publicity and promotion. It requires a deeper understanding. That’s what makes Miss Florida Citrus 2019 Michaela McLean such a good fit for the crown.

McLean grew up surrounded by citrus—literally. Her father (Ben McLean III), uncle (Matt McLean), and grandfather (Benny McLean) all have made and are still making an impact on the state’s citrus community and beyond.

Michaela will be competing in the Miss Florida Pageant in June for a chance to vie for the title of Miss America. In the meantime, she was able to take time for a few questions.

1. What does the Miss Florida Citrus honor mean to you and your family?

“The title of Miss Florida Citrus is an incredible privilege. As an eighth-generation Floridian and a part of fourth-generation citrus growers, I competed for the title of Miss Florida Citrus to honor my family heritage in the citrus industry.”

2. What do you hope to learn during your time as Miss Florida Citrus?

“To gain knowledge on citrus greening and spread more awareness to those outside of the industry. Moreover, I look forward to meeting citrus growers across the entire state and learn specific ways they are growing and marketing citrus.”

3. Pageant platform?

“My social impact is ‘Brave & Beautiful: Empowering Women to Live, Love, and Lead Courageously.’ Brave & Beautiful encourages women to develop healthy habits from the inside out while understanding the transformational significance of a purpose-driven life.

4. Next?

“I’m graduating magna cum laude from the University of Alabama (in May) with a bachelor’s degree in Dance and a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations with a specialization in Sport and Entertainment Communication Management. My hope is to move to a big city and pursue a career in the performing arts or entertainment public relations. My dream is to perform on Broadway and work for ‘The Ellen Show’!”

5. One thing about yourself that you’d like readers to know?

“At the age of one and half, I was featured on the first carton of Uncle Matt’s Organic orange juice.”

Paul Rusnak is the Senior Managing Online Editor of Florida Grower, American Vegetable Grower, American Fruit Grower and Greenhouse Grower magazines

Farm equipment purchases plummetBloomberg reports farm equipment purchases dropped by $900 million annualized in the first quarter of 2019. Bloomberg says this drop comes on the heels of six years of decline in farm profits, which fell to $69.4 billion last year. This decline can be attributed to declines of corn and soybeans and historic flooding.

With this uncertainty in commodity prices and retaliatory tariffs, which have targeted U.S. agricultural goods, farmers are opting to wait on major equipment purchases.

Christina Herrick is the Senior Editor of American Fruit Grower magazine and Western Fruit Grower magazine

Florida’s vegetable and small fruit industryIn March, Florida Grower magazine reached out to its readers growing vegetables and small fruits to get their take on the biggest challenges and opportunities facing their farming operations.

Labor uncertainty

Sourcing legal and reliable workers has been a major ongoing concern for Florida growers. It has driven more and more producers to tap into the H-2A visa program to recruit workers. Despite the program’s cost and red tape, it is rapidly expanding across the country.

Foreign competition

The biggest hot-button issue in Florida’s specialty crop industry is the ongoing trade dispute with Mexico. Since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Florida growers have been hit hard by imports from Mexico, which have taken more than half of the U.S. market share for produce crops. NAFTA’s replacement—the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA)—provides no trade remedies for Florida. Basically, it is more of the same.

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has sponsored the Defending Domestic Produce Production Act, which would put in protections for specialty crop growers against inadequacies of the USMCA. In Florida, strawberry, pepper, cucumbe, and blueberry growers also have felt the pinch of Mexican imports.

New market opportunities

Growers are always keen to find new buyers of their produce and even a new crop to fill an in-demand niche. In recent years, there has been a proliferation of alternative crops stirring up interest in Florida.

Technology adoption

The drive to become more efficient and productive is the standard all growers strive for to remain viable in an extremely competitive market. Technology from the field to postharvest is enabling growers to stay on the innovative cutting edge. Weather stations, soil moisture monitoring, and sophisticated irrigation/fertigation systems are becoming more standard to maximize water and spoon feed fertilizer to optimize yields and potentially address future nutrient regulations.

Water woes

It’s not surprising that a majority of survey respondents believe more regulations are on the way for water. After several seasons of toxic algae blooms and red tides, all eyes are on the growing problem of water quality. It was a focus of the 2018 election and helped elect Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and Democratic Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried, who both campaigned hard on the issue.

DeSantis’s first budget proposal included $625 million aimed at addressing the water crisis. He will propose that same amount over the next three years. He has proposed funding for a blue-green algae task force to review the problem from top to bottom. It is an extremely complex issue with no shortage of finger pointing and blame, with agriculture catching much of the heat.

Fried has said water quality will be a top priority of her administration. The question remains in agriculture circles what the commissioner will propose for the best management practices program, which is currently voluntary.

Good season, so far

While there are plenty of challenges, growers have had a pretty good early season so far this year. The mild winter has contributed to a great quality sweet corn crop with ample volume expected through May. In Mexico, weather conditions reduced imports, which allowed for a decent market for fruiting crops in the early season.

Frank Giles is editor of Florida Grower

Florida blueberry pop pastryIngredients

2½ cups fresh Florida blueberries, diced

2 tablespoons Florida sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg

1 teaspoon water

1 cup confectioners sugar

1 box pie dough, store bought

Prep

In a small sauce pot over medium-low heat, combine 2 cups diced blueberries, corn starch, lemon juice, sugar, and vanilla extract. Cook, while stirring, until a sauce has formed, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Reserve ¼ cup of the blueberry mixture to make the glaze. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Unroll the pie dough and cut out 4 matching rectangles. In a small bowl mix the egg and water to create an egg-wash. Place an even amount of the blueberry mixture to the center of half of the rectangles, and do not overfill. Leave a clean edge around the dough to seal properly. Place another piece of the cut pie dough on top of the mixture and use the tines of a fork to seal. Transfer the pastries to a parchment lined cookie sheet. Use a pastry brush to apply a thin layer of the egg-wash. Sprinkle each pastry with the remaining sugar. Bake for 7-10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature. In a small bowl mash the reserved berry mixture with a fork. In another bowl, add in 1 cup confectioners’ sugar and a small amount of the blueberry mixture, stir until completely combined. Adjust consistency with more confectioners’ sugar or blueberry sauce. Drizzle each tart with the glaze.

freshfromflorida.com

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