Thursday Professional Improvement Tours

1. Northern Everglades Ag Tour (hosts:  Lauren Butler & Taylor Davis)

Discover the beauty and challenges of the relationships between the Florida water system and local agriculture. Start with the Butler Oaks Dairy farm on the Kissimmee River. The dairy has been on the river since 1965. They recycle all their water and strive to improve water as it traverses their varied landscapes before it enters the Kissimmee River. The farm is nestled between the manmade channel like structure that runs from Orlando to Lake Okeechobee and the old meandering runs of the natural system. Next visit one of the oldest and largest cattle ranches in Florida, Lykes Brothers. While the ranch division specializes in cattle, they’re property also diversifies into hunting leases, timber, sod and vegetable production. Visit the ranch and see how their operation and the water shed benefits from water storage and filtration. Then, have lunch at the oldest Livestock Market in Florida, the Okeechobee Livestock Market. Sale days are Monday and Tuesday, but their restaurant is still open for business other days. They make the best hamburger in town! Save room for desert as we go to Milking R Dairy to have homemade ice cream and tour their progressive calf raising facility and maternity barn. We will finish the tour at the top of Lake Okeechobee, where will meet with a water management expert to help explain the lake’s many challenges. Moderate walking required.  Need cash for Ice cream!

2. Cowboys and Ice Cream (host Coleen Larson)

Visit Larson Dairy, Williamson Cattle Company, Milk R Dairy (bring cash for ice cream), and Buck Daniel Ranch all near the historic cattle town of Okeechobee, Florida.

3. Gators, Grass, and Caladiums (host David Austin)

The Caladium Capitol of the World, Lake Placid Florida, holds nearly one thousand acres of this unique and colorful tropical foliage plant. The University of Florida’s breeders help develop new colorful varieties for the farmers in Lake Placid. Nearly 90 percent of the worlds Caladiums are grown there. We’ll visit Happiness Farms, one of the world’s largest caladium producers. A third generation family farm where you’ll tour their packing facility. We then head for Windy Point on the shores of Florida’s Fifth largest Lake, Istokpoga. There we’ll stop for a hamburger lunch hosted by the Highlands County Cattleme’sn Association. Next we visit Duda Sod. The Duda Family is a sixth generation family owned farming operation that started in south Florida. They now produce vegetables and/or citrus in five states and 7 countries. Duda’s Turf division in Lake Placid grows Florida’s Native Grass, St. Augustine “Floratam”. They also grow “Empire” Zoysiagrass.Closed toed shoes and sun protection recommended.

4 Vegetables, Sugar Cane, and Swamp Safari (host Gene McAvoy)

Visit the Everglades Research and Education Center, Hilliard Brothers farm, U.S. Sugar, and complete the day with lunch and airboat tours at Billie’s Swamp Safari.  Tour cost is $42/person.

5. Tropical Fruit Heaven (host Teresa Olcyk)

Join us to visit hidden gems from Miami destination and learn while at it. We will start with 37-acre botanical garden & park containing over 500 varieties of fruit, vegetables, spices & herbs. The next stop is visiting a current researcher working to obtain best types of Vanilla for production in southern Florida (TREC). We will have the opportunity to have lunch with our friends of UF/IFAS Extension located in the heart of agricultural area. For dessert, we will visit a famous fruit stand and you can taste the unusual hundreds of different types of fruit year-round, mostly grown locally in Homestead, Florida. If you like wine or beer made of tropical fruit, this is your spot. We welcome all exotic tropical fruit aficionados. $5/person entrance fee for Fruit & Spice Park.

6. Beautiful Tropical Ornamental Plants (host Vanessa Campoverde)

We will start by visiting a family owned plant nursery with thousands of succulents, pottery, cactus, arrangements, wood art deco, air plants. Next we will visit a 4th-generation family owned bromeliad nursery with the largest selection of small and large Neoregelia’s in the market and species and hybrids produced and grown in house. We will have the opportunity to have lunch with our friends of UF/IFAS Extension located in the heart of agricultural area. In the afternoon, for those orchid lovers, we have a Lush, tropical nursery specializing in flowering orchids, including exotics & rare hybrids. We will finish visiting a top notch nursery specializing in foliage crops.

9. Liquid Vices in the Land of Sunshine (hosts Kate Rotindo, Mark Ritenour, & Amir Rezazadeh)

Join us for this informative and fun tour exploring St. Lucie County’s finest beverages – including the adult variety. We will begin in the morning with a walking tour of a local juice plant – making your second favorite breakfast drink that pairs so well with vodka (not included). Next we visit a commercial kitchen and taste the variety of products made by one of their members. Enjoy mead made with local honey, sour ciders and cold brew coffee then stay for a lunch prepared by other kitchen members. From there, it is a short ride to St. Lucie County’s only winery where we will tempt our palate with the different varieties of tasty wines they offer. Relax, enjoy and learn while you taste what Florida beverages have to offer – and leave the driving to us! This tour will require $15-20/lunch.

10. Indian River Lagoon Tide to Table Tour (host Vincent Encomio)

The Indian River Lagoon (IRL) is considered the most bio-diverse estuary in North America. The rich waters of the IRL supports a burgeoning aquaculture industry producing clams, oysters and fish. We will visit oyster and fish farms and learn how these animals are raised and also sample the delicious bounty from these waters. Join us in this unique “Tide to Table” experience! Maximum is 25 for this tour.  $35/person for the River King Boat ride.

11. Adams Ranch & Indian River REC Tour (host Ken Gioeli and Joe Walter)

Visit historic Adams Ranch the home of the Braford cattle breed and the Indiarn River Research and Education Center.  Max 38 people.

12.  Professional Turf and Sod Farm Tour (host Bryan Unruh)

Visit Gulf Stream Golf Club, Hard Rock Stadium (Miami Dolphins) and King Ranch Sod Farm.

13. Rice-Agronomic Crop Tour (host Ron Rice)

Visit Florida Crystals Agriculture Center of Excellence to learn about sugar cane production, and Sem-Chi rice production, eat lunch at Prado’s Cuban Cafe ($15/person), and end at the Everglades Research and Education Center.

14. Sugar Cane Tour (host Matt Vanwhelden)

Visit Florida Crystals, Tellus, and Okeelanta for all things sugar production