ANNA MARIA ISLAND – Thanksgiving meals recently enjoyed and holiday meals yet to come this season wouldn’t be possible without the farmers and ranchers that provide our food.
Each year, Farm-City Week is celebrated in recognition and appreciation of the farmers, ranchers and support personnel that are the backbone of Manatee County’s agricultural industry.
Celebrated this year from Nov. 7-19, Manatee County Farm-City Week 2022 honored the Bradenton Kiwanis Club in celebration of that organization’s 100th anniversary.
The Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach city commissions each issued their annual Farm-City Week proclamations. According to those proclamations, the first Farm-
City Week celebrations were established by Kiwanis International and Manatee County Farm-City Week was first sponsored by the Bradenton Kiwanis Club in 1955.
The Bradenton Kiwanis Club began recognizing its local Outstanding Agriculturalist of the Year in 1967 and was instrumental in establishing the 4-H Education Center, the Manatee County Agricultural Museum and the Master Gardeners Horticulture Learning Center. The Bradenton Kiwanis Club also sponsors 4-H, Future Farmers of America and Farm Bureau programs for Manatee County youth.
“Farm-City Week and the agriculture community are thankful for the 100 years of service and support provided by the Bradenton Kiwanis Club and urges the public to celebrate agriculture in Manatee County while appreciating the contributions the Bradenton Kiwanis Club has made to agriculture education in our community,” the proclamations read.
The countywide Farm-City Week celebrations included approximately 1,000 third-grade students participating in the AgVenture program conducted by the University of Florida IFAS extension staff at the Manatee County Fairgrounds in Palmetto on Nov. 17. The AgVenture program provided local students with up close and personal learning experiences that included beekeeping, growing vegetables, milking cows, making orange juice, protecting local water resources and more.
In recognition of Farm-City Week, Manatee County native and Suncoast Nursery owner Ralph Garrison visited the Bradenton Beach City Commission on Nov. 17.
“This is something I always look forward to because it’s important to remember that Manatee County is a big agri- cultural community,” Mayor John Chappie said before Garrison spoke.
After noting this was the 67th year that Manatee County has celebrated Farm-City Week, Garrison said, “It brings awareness between the city folk and the farmers and ranchers of Manatee County. There’s no unity in the community that doesn’t know its past.”
Garrison said past generations of Manatee County farmers used to grow their crops in west Bradenton and load them onto boats on the Manatee River that then traveled north on the Gulf of Mexico to Cedar Key to be shipped further up north.
“Why Cedar Key? That’s where the railroad stopped at the time. It hadn’t made its way down to Tampa yet,” Garrison explained.
Garrison said Manatee County’s sandy, loamy soil base is conducive to the farming that helps make agriculture one of Manatee County’s primary economic engines, along with tourism and construction.
“Manatee County still farms, even though we get pushed farther and farther to the east,” Garrison said in reference to the increased development in east Manatee County.
He said multiple generations of Manatee County farmers, ranchers and fishermen have provided local citizens with food, employment, a love of the land and the raw materials needed to make clothing, housing, medicine, fuel and other products, and they’ve been assisted by the processors, brokers, truckers, shippers, wholesalers and retailers that are also crucial to the agricultural industry.
Regarding the Thanksgiving holiday, Garrison said, “As we gather with friends and families, we want to count our blessings and give thanks for the bountiful amount of food that we have. Safe, simple food that’s available to us.”
Garrison presented each commission member with a commemorative coffee mug containing an heirloom radish plant, which he encouraged them to replant.
“They’re a purple radish and they taste wonderful,” he said.
Garrison addressed the impacts that Hurricane Ian had on Manatee County farmers, including his own plant nursery.
“It was a difficult end to a year for Manatee County farmers and ranchers. Hurricane Ian tore up crops and blew down sheds. Packing houses got blown down and ripped up. Cattle were drowning because of the flood of the Myakka River. But farmers have always found a way to work through these adversities. We’ve been through recessions, hurricanes, a pandemic and market loss. Farmers are resilient and bounce back,” he said.
In closing, Garrison said, “I’ll leave you with one statement Benjamin Franklin made: ‘Unstable is the future of a country which has lost its taste for agriculture.’ ”
He then offered this final piece of advice: “Don’t speak poorly about the farmer if your mouth is full of food.”
The Anna Maria City Commission issued its Farm-City Week proclamation on Nov. 10, joined by John Hamilton, who in 2018 was named the Kiwanis Club’s Outstanding Agriculturist of the Year.
Hamilton made some brief remarks and presented the mayor and commissioners with commemorative coffee cups, pencils and agricultural fact sheets.
In response, Mayor Dan Murphy said, “You’re always welcome here in the city of Anna Maria. You’re doing a great job. You contribute a lot to our community.”