Nearly 500 kindergarten and first-grade students at Cypress Ridge, Mascotte, and Groveland Elementary schools enjoyed a change in their schedule yesterday with Agriculture in the Classroom’s Ag Literacy Day. Employees from Cherrylake brought their passion for farming and cartons of fresh Florida citrus to their class to teach them where their food comes from.
Ag Literacy Day, by Florida’s Agriculture in the Classroom, is a program designed in partnership with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Fresh from Florida to teach kids about the importance of agriculture and where your food actually comes from, which surprising to many of the kids, isn’t the grocery store.
This year’s book focused on Florida’s fruit industry, from mangos and avocados in Dade county to olives and pecans in Gilchrist and Alachua. Of course, no tour of Florida agriculture would be complete without a look at citrus, and Cherrylake is uniquely positioned to teach kids about citrus farming.
Back in the 1980s, the land that Cherrylake is currently located on, was all citrus groves. After several hard freezes destroying the crops in Groveland, the company diversified, with their citrus operation, IMG Citrus, moving south to the sandy soils of Indian River County. Today, Cherrylake is one of the largest wholesale producers of ornamental trees, palms and shrubs in the Southeast United States, as well as one of the fastest growing landscape and maintenance construction companies in Central Florida.
Coming back to their roots, Cherrylake brought IMG Citrus’ fresh Valencia oranges to classes, teaching the students why Florida citrus sometimes looks green or has wind scars on the skin. Florida’s climate doesn’t color the skin as dramatically, even when the fruit is ripe. In addition, the temperatures signal the tree to divert sugar to the fruit, not the leaves, which can reduce the buffer between branches and the skin and lead to scarring. On Florida citrus, these scars are an indication of a sweet pick.
Cherrylake’s participation in Ag Literacy Day helps build a bridge for kids to one of the largest industries in Florida. There’s more to Ag than meets the eye, and these inquisitive young minds are taking us into the future, one day at a time.