Today I took a trip 20 minutes down the road from our St Augustine offices to the Smiths Farm broccoli growing operation in Hastings, FL. It was a beautiful sunny drive as I headed down Highway 1 watching the palm trees give way to fields and farm land.
When I arrived I met Gary, our go to guy for the Hastings operation and Greg, a partner in Smith Farms. We started with a ride down the road to meet the crew as they harvested fresh broccoli from the fields. As we turned a corner I gazed upon seemingly miles of farmland and spotted a group of workers with farming machinery and colorful beach umbrellas shading them.
We got out of the car and trudged through the rows of plants to where the crew was working. With expert efficiency the people harvesting cut off the broccoli stalks and crowns that were ready to go to market and left behind the ones that still needed to grow. An amazing amount of organization took the broccoli from the plant through a number of people assigned different tasks which found the product sorted, rubber banded, crated and palleted all right there.
After watching mesmerized for some time and exploring all the “baby” broccoli heads around me, we headed back to the packing area so Greg could show me what happens next.
Massive coolers and ice machines filled and held product that had been packed and ready to ship. Other areas housed crates being sanitized between loads. Next we visited an area where the workers took the banded broccoli from the coolers and shrink wrapped it and applied the familiar Stag Broccoli label. I even got to take a “bouquet” of broccoli home.
Now I’ve been eating broccoli all my life… but seeing what went in to the growing and packing of the broccoli, not to mention planting and shipping, made this broccoli seem really special. I hope I never again take for granted what a gift it is to have beautiful, carefully grown produce at my table and to work for such a great family owned company that grows it.