florida Museum
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7900 Old Kings Rd. N.
Palm Coast, FL 32137

386-446-7630

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Click the arrows below to view a slideshow of images:

  • Timucuan Indians planting and tilling. Etching by Theodor de Bry from an original drawingby French explorer Jacques LeMoyne. 1591 Timucuan Indians planting and tilling. Etching by Theodor de Bry from an original drawingby French explorer Jacques LeMoyne. 1591
  • Broadside advertising Orange City, 1878 and residence with new citrus grove. Broadside advertising Orange City, 1878 and residence with new citrus grove.
  • Fruit and vegetable display at the Subtropical Exposition in Jacksonville, Florida, 1887 Fruit and vegetable display at the Subtropical Exposition in Jacksonville, Florida, 1887
  • Harvesting cocoanuts. 1891 Harvesting cocoanuts. 1891
  • Cutting sugar cane. 1910 Cutting sugar cane. 1910
  • Workers washing oranges. ca 1911 Workers washing oranges. ca 1911
  • Sadie and Ferdy Ventling sold their prized strawberries to tourists arriving by train in GlenSaint Mary. 1915 Sadie and Ferdy Ventling sold their prized strawberries to tourists arriving by train in GlenSaint Mary. 1915
  • Alachua County Peanut Club boy proud of his yield. 1919 Alachua County Peanut Club boy proud of his yield. 1919
  • Grading Irish potatoes in Osceola County. 1920s Grading Irish potatoes in Osceola County. 1920s
  • Seminole Indians picking tomatoes in Ockopee. 1920 Seminole Indians picking tomatoes in Ockopee. 1920
  • Agricultural laborers in a strawberry field. ca. 1910-1929 Agricultural laborers in a strawberry field. ca. 1910-1929
  • African American laborers in cotton fields. 1900s African American laborers in cotton fields. 1900s
  • Dwelling for migrant workers. 1900s Dwelling for migrant workers. 1900s
  • Cattle in Gadsden County.1900s Cattle in Gadsden County.1900s
  • Migrant orange picker holding ladder in Polk County. 1937 Migrant orange picker holding ladder in Polk County. 1937
  • Young girl with freshly picked strawberries, Plant City. 1946 Young girl with freshly picked strawberries, Plant City. 1946
  • Harvesting watermelons, Monticello. 1946 Harvesting watermelons, Monticello. 1946
  • Planting machine and planters in a celery field, Belle Glade. 1947 Planting machine and planters in a celery field, Belle Glade. 1947
  • Carrying a basket of cucumbers, Ruskin. 1947 Carrying a basket of cucumbers, Ruskin. 1947
  • Seminole Indian cowboys herding cattle, Brighton Reservation. 1950 Seminole Indian cowboys herding cattle, Brighton Reservation. 1950
  • Picking oranges. 1951 Picking oranges. 1951
  • Farmer Eng in his Chinese cabbage field, Fort Lauderdale. 1957 Farmer Eng in his Chinese cabbage field, Fort Lauderdale. 1957
  • Tomatoes loaded on conveyor belt,Princeton.1957 Tomatoes loaded on conveyor belt,Princeton.1957
  • Plowing with an ox in west Leon County. 1958 Plowing with an ox in west Leon County. 1958
  • Crates of cabbages, Bean City. 1960 Crates of cabbages, Bean City. 1960
  • Harvesting snap beans, Pompano Beach. 1960 Harvesting snap beans, Pompano Beach. 1960