Most visitors to Florida don't realize that the Sunshine State is more than beaches and great attractions. Florida's mild climate makes it one of the most productive agricultural areas in the world – agriculture is Florida's second leading industry behind tourism. In 1998, Florida farmers produced more than 35 billion pounds of food – 20% of the nation's fresh vegetables.
What does Florida grow? I'm sure many of you responded oranges. You're right, Florida has been the nation's leading citrus producer for more than 100 years. But, there is more to Florida agriculture than oranges – what about tomatoes, sugarcane, green peppers, peanuts, potatoes, strawberries, sweet corn, and cucumbers? These are just a few of the vast number of crops farmed in the state. Add to that, the fact that Florida consistently ranks among the top ten states in dockside fresh seafood production, and you can are beginning to get the bigger picture.
Florida celebrates the harvesting of these crops with festivals that have all the ingredients of great family fun – plenty of fresh Florida produce and specialties of the sea stirred with a little arts and crafts and lots of entertainment. Check out what's cooking here...
Florida Keys Seafood Festival
Key West, Florida
Savor fresh seafood, enjoy live music and support local non-profit groups and the Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen. Fun for the whole family includes games and activities for the kids. Admission is free for the day-long event held in Key West's Bayview Park.
Contact the Monroe County Extension Office at 305-292-4501 for further information.
Florida Strawberry Festival
February & March
Plant City, Florida
Fresh strawberries smothered in chocolate, piled high atop shortcake, drenched in sweet cream, and made into pies are just some of the mouth-watering and delectable ways to enjoy plentiful strawberries at the 71th Annual Florida Strawberry Festival held in Plant City, the "Winter Strawberry Capital of the World."
You'll want to walk off that waistline at the various agricultural exhibits and displays, but if you like excitement, then the midway features over 60 stomach-churning rides. The younger set can enjoy carnival rides, puppet shows, and a petting zoo at the Berry Patch Kiddie Corral. And everyone loves the toe-tapping country entertainment well-known stars!
Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival
Fernandina Beach, Florida
The Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Fesitval has been named on the the Southeast Tourism Society's Top 20 events for five consecutive years. The place that gave birth to the modern shrimping industry celebrates with extraordinary shrimp, arts and plenty of fun, including roudy pirates that "invade" Amelia Island's historic city. First held in 1963 to celebrate the traditional blessing of the shrimp fleet, more than 120,000 people now attend the weekend event.
More than 300 artists and craftspeople display their treasures and live entertainment fill numerous concert stages, but it is the Atlantic White Shrimp that adds its distinctive mark on the event.
Zellwood Sweet Corn Festival
You're always in for a treat at the Zellwood Sweet Corn Festival! Stroll through arts and crafts booths, enjoy all the sweet corn you can eat, and listen to some of your favorite entertainers.
Pensacola Seafood Festival
The Annual Pensacola Seafood Festival will feature continuous local entertainment in Fountain Park and at the Gazebo in Seville Square and seafood galore. Seafood vendors are selected carefully and will offer a wide assortment of delicious Gulf Coast seafood.
Florida Seafood Festival
October or November
The two-day Florida Seafood Festival is the state's oldest maritime celebration. It draws thousands of visitors to this scenic seaside historic town to enjoy feasting on delicious seafood, strolling the arts and crafts exhibits and taking in the seafood-related events and displays.
Apalachicola's Battery Park is the location for the events that includes oyster shucking, a parade, a 5k Redfish Run and a blessing of the fleet.More information is available by visiting www.floridaseafoodfestival.com.
Ruskin Tomato & Heritage Festival
In a little community south of Tampa, the Ruskin Tomato & Heritage Festival marks a two-day celebration of the bright red fruit — or is it really a vegetable? Enjoy tomatoes in a variety of dishes, crafts or take some home!