Agriculture is the Cornerstone of Florida's 500-Year History
This year, Florida commemorates the 500th anniversary of Juan Ponce de León's discovery of Florida. What makes this anniversary so unique is that Ponce de León's convoy of explorers was the first group of Europeans to document such a landing and appropriately name their discovery “La Florida.” Juan Ponce de Leon named this land “La Florida” because it was the season known in Spain as “Pascua Florida,” the Festival of Flowers, and because much of the land’s vegetation was in bloom.
Florida’s agricultural history began when the first Paleo-Indian cultures migrated into Florida following herds and gathering food sources. Naturally, fish, shellfish and wildlife comprised most of the diet of early inhabitants. Agricultural crops were first cultivated around 500 AD with corn, squash, cucumbers and beans becoming an important food source.
After the Europeans discovered Florida and established settlements throughout the land, they introduced many of the crops that make up Florida’s landscape today. Ponce de Leon planted citrus trees near St. Augustine and brought cattle to the new land. Then came pineapples, tomatoes, oysters, orchids, equine and much, much more. Today, we produce nearly 300 agricultural commodities in Florida.
Though the agricultural production of early settlers was just enough to feed themselves, it marked the beginning of a booming industry that would grow to the more than $100 billion in economic impact today.
I encourage all Floridians to join in celebrating our 500th anniversary and honoring the growth, expansion and diversification of Florida agriculture.
-- Adam H. Putnam, Commissioner of Agriculture
Panel Discussion Series
Commissioner Putnam has partnered with universities and colleges throughout Florida to host a year-long series of panel discussions recognizing the important role agriculture has played in Florida’s 500-year history.
- University of Florida, January 24, 2013
- Flagler College, March 21, 2013
- Florida Southern College, April 11, 2013
- Florida A&M University, Fall 2013
- Gulf Coast University, Fall 2013
- University of West Florida, Fall 2013
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.
- Florida State Fair: Tampa, February 7-18, 2013
- Southwest Florida and Lee County Fair: Fort Myers, February 21-March 3, 2013
- Polk County Agrifest: Bartow, March 8-22, 2013
- Clay County Fair: Green Cove Springs, April 4-9, 2013
- Florida Southern College: Lakeland, April 10-30, 2013
- Polk County Historical Museum: Bartow, May 2 - June 13, 2013
- Sunbelt Ag Expo: Moultrie, Georgia, October 14-17, 2013
- South Florida Fair: West Palm Beach, January 17-February 2, 2014
Slideshow - 32 Images Forestry, Logging
Slideshow - 11 Images Fruits, Melons, Berries
Slideshow - 9 Images Livestock
Slideshow - 16 Images Miscellaneous Agriculture
Slideshow - 30 Images Sugar, Peanuts, Tobacco
Slideshow - 11 Images Vegetables
Slideshow - 25 Images
VideoFlorida Cracker Cattle (7:52)
QT WMV Script Florida Cracker Horses (5:28)
QT WMV Script Florida Viticulture (6:27)
QT WMV Script
- Commissioner's Spotlight: 150th Anniversary of the Morrill Act
- Commissioner's Spotlight: 500 Years in the Making
- Moment in Florida History: Cattle
- Moment in Florida History: Citrus
- Moment in Florida History: Cracker Cattle
- Moment in Florida History: Cracker Horses
- Moment in Florida History: Naval Stores
- Moment in Florida History: Nursery and Horticulture
- Moment in Florida History: Wild Hogs
- Audio Scripts
- Florida Ag Literacy Day Book, "Florida's Farm History!"
- Timeline: 500 Years of Florida Agriculture History
- Century Pioneer Family Farm
- Cracker Cattle and Cracker Horse Program
- Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame
- Florida's Agricultural Heritage in Paintings by Robert Butler
- Florida's Waterfront Communities and Commercial Fishing Heritage
- Cracker Country
- Florida Agricultural Museum
- Florida Humanities Council
- Viva Florida 500
- Viva Florida 500, Visit Florida
Contact Us About "Florida Agriculture: 500 Years in the Making"
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Office of the Commissioner
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0800