History of florida agriculture
When the first Europeans arrived in 1565 in what is now St. Augustine, Florida, the indigenous people here were farming maize, beans, squash and sunflowers to supplement their diet of wild plants and animals. The settlers came with high expectations of creating a colony that replicated their life in Spain. But the wheat, olives and grapes they brought did not take hold in the poorly drained soil and sheep did not acclimate to the hot, humid climate. Citrus thrived though, and chickens, pigs, goats, horses and cattle eventually adapted. The use of domesticated animals began to change the way of life in the New World.
Commercial enterprise eventually overtook farming just for subsistence. The Spanish imported the cattle ranching they had perfected in Europe. The British created plantations that grew indigo, cotton, rice, citrus, and sugar for export to national and international markets. When the American government purchased Florida from Spain in 1819, agriculture was the economic mainstay of the region. Prosperity grew as millions of oranges were exported annually. But early agricultural success would not have been possible without the intensive labor of slaves imported from Africa and their descendants.
Steady changes in technology affected farming methods, storage and transportation to markets. Florida remained mostly rural for a long time, but increasing population growth and urban development have changed the landscape. The Florida Agricultural Museum is dedicated to preserving the heritage of Florida's rural past.
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