Americans have celebrated the Fourth of July as the day the 13 original colonies separated from England and declared their independence in 1776.  But did you know that farmers celebrate the Fourth of July for an entirely different reason?

In America’s early days the west was still new territory and largely used as vast agricultural land. The creation of the train permitted farmers to be less self-sufficient, thus, leading to the rise of transported goods. Unfortunately,  Railroad monopolies discovered their unique business partnership and exploited farmers who wished to ship their goods to the east. The railroad moguls increased the shipping rates on farmers, which made earning a living difficult.


Oliver Hudson Kelly was an innovator who wanted to create a group of farmers to discuss agricultural practices and growing styles in an effort to collaborate on more efficient growing methods. However, new practices weren’t the only thing he learned at meetings. Oliver formed an alliance with like-minded farmers who shared their views of the monopolistic railway system. Thus, in 1867, the Grangers were born. These small town farmers had no choice but to concede to the high prices of the railway system and cut their profits, but not without a fight.

Illinois was the first state to pass an act that would charge, “just, reasonable, and uniform rates” in 1869. Despite the new act, enforcement was a problem thus leading to the evolution of a constitution which set a maximum freight rate, but again the railroads refused to comply.

In spite of the new constitution, the Grangers created the “Farmers Declaration of Independence” on July 4, 1873. This declaration cited the Grangers objections and their pledge to resolve them.

Soon after, Munn vs. Illinois was brought to the courts due to the pressure from the Grangers who were in favor of setting and enforcing “maximum rates that private companies could charge for storage and transport of agricultural products.” The case was between the legislature of Illinois and the Chicago grain warehouse firm of Munn and Scott. The judge ruled against Munn stating that because grain facilities were devoted to public use, their rates were subject to public regulation. The Granger movement brought to light the unfortunate influence monopolies have on small groups such as farmers.

So today we celebrate the independence of our country and the independence of our farmers. Have a safe and happy Fourth of July!




Florida Cracker Cattle were introduced by the Spaniards as they colonized Florida. Black, dark red, and dark brown in color, they are the ancestors of the modern fighting bull.


One of the oldest breeds found in the U.S., Florida Cracker cattle were shaped primarily by natural selection in an environment that is generally hostile to cattle.

They are heat-tolerant, long-lived, resistant to parasites and diseases, and able to survive on the low-quality forage that is typical of the grasslands and swamps of the deep South.

Learn more about Florida’s heritage livestock by visiting the Florida Agricultural Museum web page.

TBT: Name the modern tourist mecca that does not appear on this vintage post card.


Giant African land snails slime their way into our summer reading

SharSkinSuiteHere at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry (DPI), we spend a lot of time inspecting for, catching and studying the giant African land snail, and reaching out to the public with information about it.

The snail is a scary invasive pest. It can grow up to eight inches long. It threatens more than 500 plants, including important agricultural crops. It poses a health threat to human and animal health and even consumes concrete from structures to obtain calcium for its thick shell.

In our leisure time, some of us who read for fun have noted the massive mollusk has sliming its way into our summer fiction. Tim Dorsey’s newest book, Shark Skin Suite, places the invasive snails in the company of giant iguanas and Burmese pythons in the South Florida environment. In fact, they show up on the first page of Chapter One.

Dorsey’s books celebrate the foibles and occasional weirdness of Florida. Fans will not be surprised that this one, once again, features Florida amateur historian, movie buff and psychotic killer Surge Storms as he helps an attractive young female attorney obtain justice for ordinary people caught up in the aftermath of the housing bubble. The giant African land snails contribute to the mayhem by puncturing vehicle tires and occasionally chowing down on buildings.

While the plot is centered in Miami and Key West, Storms and his troubled sidekick  travel the state from the Keys to Tampa and Orlando and on to North Florida, where he delights in the ambiance and history of Micanopy and expounds on the unique ecology of Paynes Prairie. The prairie, incidentally, is where one of the villains meets his end in a way that could only happen there.

But let’s get back to those snails.

It is by fictive license that the snails are placed in the Keys’ landscape. In reality, the giant African land snails have so far been detected only in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. See a map of core areas where GALS have been found here.

But absent the continuing, intensive efforts of USDA, FDACS and other agencies to contain and eradicate them, they could indeed cause major damage to agriculture, the ecology, human and animal health and structures, elsewhere in the state.

That is why we continue to ask all Floridians to “Watch for Them and Report Them.”

Report suspects to our FDACS Helpline, 1-888-397-1517.


Remembering Florida’s first major Mediterranean fruit fly eradication program

This week, Dr. Tyson Emery, Bureau Chief, Plant and Apiary Inspection, Division of Plant Industry, reviewed the Plant Industry Fruit Fly Program for the employees of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The fruit fly detection and control program is a model for other states. In his presentation, Dr. Emery reviewed the long history of the program, which began when that is now the Division of Plant Industry was known as the State Plant Board.

During his presentation, Dr. Emery reviewed the history of fruit fly eradication programs in Florida. The state’s first Medfly eradication program began in 1929 after a state nursery inspector found maggots in grapefruit near Orlando. Shortly afterward, tell-tale fruit drop was observed in an Orlando grapefruit grove. The pest was positively  identified as Mediterranean fruit fly.

State and federal agencies threw all available forces into the eradication work. Where flies were detected, host plants were destroyed, infested areas were sprayed and fruit was stripped from infested groves and destroyed.


Spray trucks were used in 1929 Medfly eradication.

A quarantine was imposed to stop the movement of material from infested areas. National Guardsmen enforced the quarantine at checkpoints on major highways. Movement of host fruits and vegetables from Florida in to 18 Southern and Western states was restricted.

By the time the Medfly was finally declared eradicated in 1930, the program had cost about $7.5 million. Florida would be Medfly-free for the next quarter century, but officials would institute other Medfly eradication programs in the 1950s and 1990s.

Today, as Dr. Emery explained in his presentation, the FDACS Division of Plant Industry remains ever-vigilant. Our inspectors and those from USDA monitor fly traps on a regular basis and follow a strict protocol when suspect flies are found.

We’ll recall later eradication programs on future TBTs.




Florida’s first citrus Foundation Grove was located at the intersection of U.S. Highway 27 and Interstate 4, eight miles north of Haines City. This photo, taken in 1959, shows the land being prepared.

By 1960 the land had been cleared and rootstocks planted across 20 acres of the approximately 50 available acres. With what proved to be valuable foresight, nucellar seedlings of the major commercial varieties were planted in order to obtain trees free of graft-transmissible diseases. Of these trees, the selections from Valencia seedlings became particularly valuable and comprise a significant percentage of the commercial Valencia propagations in use today.


Throwback Thursday

February 26, 2015



Veteran Florida citrus growers remember these grove heaters well. Grove owners and workers spent a lot of time placing heaters among the trees in the fall and collecting them, generally after March 1, when the danger of further cold was diminished. This photo was taken in 1964. Towering gasoline-powered wind machines were also used for cold protection. The heaters and wind machines were in general use through the 1980s.


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