Agriculture

A 1915 Sarasota-Venice Company brochure, “Fruit and Vegetable Lands in the Sarasota Bay District,” thoroughly detailed the benefits and techniques of farming in Sarasota. The Sarasota-Venice Company sold land and thus desired to spark interest in people moving to the area. As such, published by the Company itself, the brochure presented a wholly positive view of farming opportunities in Sarasota. The Sarasota-Venice Company sought to appeal to potential newcomers by advertising Sarasota’s favorable climate and its “rich, porous” soil as factors guaranteeing a successful enterprise in the agriculture business.1 The brochure particularly encouraged potential farmers to focus efforts in starting up citrus groves:

Your ultimate aim, of course, is to own a grove. For in South Florida the citrus grove is a permanent income producer. With proper attention, a developed orange or grapefruit grove usually pays annually from $200.00 to $350.00–and more–an acre.2

Sarasota’s location near the Gulf of Mexico created favorable conditions for citrus groves to thrive. Along with oranges and grapefruits, lemons, limes, kumquats, tangerines, and other mandarins were all found to successfully grow in the region.3 

Fig. 1 1914 Map of Sarasota, Florida and the Sarasota Bay District of  Manatee County.
Fig. 1 1914 Map of Sarasota, Florida and the Sarasota Bay District of Manatee County.

However, the Sarasota-Venice Company noted that it took citrus four to five years to reach fruiting maturity. It suggested that while farmers waited for the first few years for the groves to mature, they should attend to growing vegetables and other fruits as an immediate income source. Such produce included celery, lettuce, tomatoes, and strawberries.4

Fig. 2 Orange and grapefruit groves in Sarasota.
Fig. 2 Orange and grapefruit groves in Sarasota.
Fig. 3 A Sarasota celery field.
Fig. 3 A Sarasota celery field.

As Sarasota developed, its economy became decreasingly dependent upon agriculture. Though the 1910s brought the beginnings of a growth boom, through the decade agriculture remained a key part of Sarasota. Along with articles on new railroads and paved roads, the Sarasota-Times published numerous articles on the city’s fantastic crops (see Fig. 5). The August 3, 1916 issue reported one of the largest strawberry crops ever for a farm two miles outside of the city limits.5 The establishment of a market to sell locally-grown produce on December 16, 1916 highlighted the viability of Sarasota’s crops to attract visitors. Regarding the market’s opening, the Sarasota-Times wrote, “From an advertising standpoint, it is not possible to figure this in dollars and cents.”6 

Some articles emphasized the benefit of development to farmers. On January 25, 1917, the newspaper published an article from W. A. McRae, Florida’s Secretary of Agriculture. Secretary McRae stated the need for roads for tourists, but also to “enable the farmers and their families to get easily and cheaply to town, to market, to school, to church, to houses of neighbors and friendly visits.”7 On June 22, 1916, the paper quoted Secretary McRae again, assuring that Sarasota’s crops provided a draw to permanent residents increasingly relocating to the city (see Fig. 4). For the time being, development and the rural way of life existed harmoniously.

Fig. 4 Sarasota-Times, December 7, 1916.
Fig. 5 Sarasota-Times, December 7, 1916.
Fig. 5 Sarasota-Times, June 22, 1916.
Fig. 4 Sarasota-Times, June 22, 1916.

 

 


Image Citations:

Fig. 1. Sarasota Board of Trade, “Sarasota, Florida and the Sarasota Bay District of  Manatee County,” brochure, 1914–1915, courtesy of Sarasota County Historical Resources, Sarasota, Florida.

Fig. 2. Ibid.

Fig. 3. Ibid.

Fig. 4. “Florida’s Advantages Are Told By Commissioner McRae In The Commissioner’s Record,” Sarasota-Times, June 22, 1916, courtesy of Sarasota County Historical Resources, Sarasota, Florida. 

Fig. 5.  “The Crops Are Looking Fine In This Section Of Manatee With Prospects For Bumper Crop,” Sarasota-Times, December 7, 1916, courtesy of Sarasota County Historical Resources, Sarasota, Florida.

Footnotes

  1. Sarasota-Venice Company, “Fruit and Vegetable Lands in the Sarasota Bay District,” brochure, 1915, courtesy of Sarasota County Historical Resources, Sarasota, Florida, 17.
  2. Ibid., 2.
  3. Ibid., 27.
  4. Ibid., 28.
  5. “Strawberry Farm Busy,” Sarasota-Times, August 3, 1916.
  6. “The Opening Market Day Will Be Saturday, At 8:00 A.M.–Every Woman Invited,” Sarasota-Times, December 16, 1916.
  7. “Secretary Of Agriculture W. A. McRae Sends Out The Following Article On The Roads Of Florida,”  Sarasota-Times, January 25, 1917.