Many are aware Florida is the state that produces the most citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruits and tangerines in the U.S. What some people might not know Florida is second, behind California, in strawberry production. In Hillsborough County, where Tampa is the county seat, it is the hub of strawberry production for the state of Florida.
Plant City is the agricultural community for strawberry farmers and their delicious Florida strawberries. Every year in Plant City there is the annual Florida Strawberry Festival that is reminiscent of the old-fashioned country fairs. The main attraction is of course the various strawberry concoctions like making your own customized strawberry shortcake. How did Florida become involved in strawberry farming? Why is it in Plant City? What exactly is the Florida Strawberry Festival?
Florida Strawberries – The 2nd Largest Strawberry Producers in the U.S.
California may be the largest producers of strawberries in the U.S., however Florida is second with the sweetest and most luscious strawberries around. The production of strawberries began over 100 years ago in Florida when the railroad was built for its final destination to Tampa. Along the way there were farming communities selling many of their bountiful produce and fruits to railroad passengers. One of these fruits, which is in season during the winter and early spring when many Northerners vacationed at that time in Florida, was strawberries. Thus began the fruitful and prosperous production of Florida strawberries.
Plant City, Florida – Winter Strawberry Capital
One particular farming community in the path of the South Florida Railroad built by Henry B. Plant that ran from Sanford to Tampa was Plant City. It was not called that when the railroad was extended into their community. Not until 1885 did they name it Plant City after the Northern railroad industrialist. During the time of the railroad the strawberry was introduced to the area. Some residents began growing this succulent red berry fruit in their garden.
Before long strawberry farms began to increase and prosper as the fruit was being shipped to out of state markets with the growth of other forms of transportation. The reason Plant City is so successful with its strawberry production is due to its mild subtropical climate, fertile soil and easy transport. Plant City also has other forms of agriculture, manufacturing and phosphate mining. However, it is the strawberry that is the town’s most prized possession. Every year in March they honor the Florida strawberry with its own festival that includes a beauty pageant, parade and country fair.
Florida Strawberry Festival – Good Old-Fashioned Fair
This is not a fair known for the extreme and wild midway rides like some of the state fairs. Instead, it is an old-fashioned fair that is a part of Americana when farming communities held fairs and festivals to celebrate their harvest. The Florida Strawberry Festival began in 1930 to celebrate the peak of their strawberry season that runs from December through April. For 11 days in the month of March Plant City opens its doors to the world with anything and everything strawberry.
You can find vendors selling strawberry-themed crafts to flats of strawberries to the famed building where you can make your very own strawberry shortcake with as much strawberries and whipped cream as you like. Now the Florida Strawberry Festival is ranked amongst the Top 50 Fairs in North America. If you’re in Florida during early March why not check out Plant City and the Florida Strawberry Festival.
Florida Strawberries, Produce Pete
Florida Strawberries, Google Images
FSGA – Florida Strawberry Growers Association History, FlaStrawberry.com
Dawn Henthorn, “Plant City, Florida”, Florida Travel – About.com
About The Florida Strawberry Festival, FLStrawberryFestival.com