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PALM BEACH POST: How a relatively small amount of acreage feeds a lot of people

By Susan Salisbury – Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Half a million acres

When it comes to Palm Beach County agriculture, there are plenty of big numbers that tell its story, such as a half million acres in production.

The vastness of the fertile fields around Lake Okeechobee often amazes people when they view them for the first time and even for the zillionth time.

Volunteers working with Cros Ministries pick peppers during a gleaning event on a farm owned by Bedner’s Farm Fresh Market in Delray Beach on April 3, 2016. The peppers will be distributed to over 100 locations through the Palm Beach County Food Bank. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)
Volunteers working with Cros Ministries pick peppers during a gleaning event on a farm owned by Bedner’s Farm Fresh Market in Delray Beach on April 3, 2016. The peppers will be distributed to over 100 locations through the Palm Beach County Food Bank. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

A new report, “Economic Contributions of Agriculture, Natural resources and Food Industries in Palm Beach County,” was presented last week at the Palm Beach International Agricultural Summit by Scott Barnhart, associate professor, Florida Atlantic University, and Alan Hodges, extension scientist, University of Florida. To read the report, go to pbias.org/

The county’s agricultural products are valued at about $1 billion at the farm level, the report says.

Here’s the breakdown…

It’s tough to visualize just how much sugarcane, corn and other types of fresh produce that is, so John S. Hundley, vice president of Hundley Farms, a major grower based Belle Glade, came up with these estimates for Palm Beach County’s production:

Sugar: Enough to supply 65 million people for a year

Sweet corn: Enough to supply 1 billion people one ear a day for two months

Rice: Enough to supply 150 million people a serving per day for 2 months

Lettuce: 1 billion salads a year

Radishes: 36 million pounds a year

Chef Justin Timineri, a culinary ambassador for the Florida Department of Agriculture, conducts a cooking show using food from South Florida during the Palm Beach International Agricultural Summit held Wednesday, May 4, 2016 at the Palm Beach County Convention Center. Business and industry leaders from around the state and elsewhere gathered to address agriculture and its role in advancing Florida’s economy and quality of life. Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post
Chef Justin Timineri, a culinary ambassador for the Florida Department of Agriculture, conducts a cooking show using food from South Florida during the Palm Beach International Agricultural Summit held Wednesday, May 4, 2016 at the Palm Beach County Convention Center. Business and industry leaders from around the state and elsewhere gathered to address agriculture and its role in advancing Florida’s economy and quality of life. Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post

Celery: 120 million stalks a year

Cabbage: 250 million servings of coleslaw per year

Fresh Green Beans: 350 million servings per year

More than business

“So many people go hungry every day and it breaks my heart,” Hundley said.

Hundley said he got the idea for calculating the estimates after meeting with teachers from Broward, Palm Beach and Martin counties on a recent farm tour.

But there is more to farm production than dollars and cents, he said. He wants people to know that Palm Beach County farmers also donate a lot of produce to help people in poverty and in need.

“Yes, this is how we earn our living but we are a generous group. I was recently part of volunteer effort to feed 350,000 people. I donated 32,000 pounds of rice. It only took seven acres of rice to feed that many people,” he said. “I said to myself we are so blessed in Palm Beach County. So I began to do the math and look up per capita consumption.”

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