OUR STORY

To promote the commercial development of tropical and subtropical fruit crops in Southern Florida through scientific research, education and publication, to engage in any other legal activities which its members deem consistent with such these objectives and goals and to engage in all activities permitted by and not inconsistent with the Florida Not-For-Profit Corporation Act, Florida Statue Sec. 617.et seq. and section 501(c)3 of the United States Internal Revenue Code.

Since the 1980’s, the Tropical Fruit Growers of South Florida, TFGSF, have exemplified what can happen when a group of people share common goals, are determined, and work hard. TFGSF members have volunteered their time and money over the years to help Florida’s tropical fruit industry reach for the prominence in the marketplace that the growers have long felt it deserves through means of education, acquisition of funds, and lots of legwork.

The TFGSF idea began in late 1987 when Fruit & Spice Park director, Chris Rollins, urged a group of local tropical fruit growers to form an organization to support the “minor” crop industry (the major acreage of avocado, lime and mango were already represented). The group’s goals were to educate themselves to become better growers, and to promote research and marketing of Florida tropical fruit. In 1988, this group incorporated and became known as the Tropical Fruit Growers of South Florida, Inc.

The group immediately began to make a name for themselves by attempting to form an advisory group to represent the industry at the state level. TFGSF member and Homestead attorney Brent Probinsky volunteered many hours working toward this goal, and he ultimately led a small group that created the Tropical Fruit Policy Act which was passed by the Florida State Legislature in 1990. This act called for the formation of the Tropical Fruit Advisory Committee, which advises Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture on issues affecting the tropical fruit industry of Florida, and is made up of individuals from the Florida tropical fruit industry (i.e., growers, packers, shippers).

 

At the same time, other board members were at work advising the County on policies regarding local farming issues. This group eventually evolved into the Miami-Dade County Agricultural Practices Board which continues today helping the County to understand the unique issues that confront all farmers in Miami-Dade County, and it provides recommendations to the County on those issues that affect Miami-Dade agriculture.

 

While these efforts were underway, TFGSF continued on with its mission to help its members become better at growing their crops by supporting research. In the early 1990’s the carambola growers within TFGSF formed a research committee that established a 1¢/pound assessment for packed carambola. With the $270,000 they raised, six research projects on carambola were funded through the University of Florida’s Tropical Research and Education Center, TREC. The results of these projects, as well as all other projects since then, have been presented to the industry at commodity meetings throughout the years. Educational brochures and tropical fruit cookbooks were also created and distributed.

 

In 1992, Florida’s tropical fruit industry was severely set back by the damage caused by Hurricane Andrew. Trees were broken, toppled, and in some areas, completely pulled out of the ground by the 200+ mph winds. It was a very difficult time for all citizens of South Miami-Dade County. TFGSF members aimed their efforts at securing funding from the state to help the tropical fruit industry get back on its feet. Members traveled to Tallahassee, made phone calls, wrote letters, met with local legislators, and eventually, were successful in obtaining special funding appropriations through the State Legislature and Governor’s Office. For four of the next five years the tropical fruit industry received a total of $1.1 million for research and promotion of tropical fruit. The research money generated 72 scientific projects through the University of Florida’s Tropical Research and Education Center, TREC, United States Department of Agriculture, and Fairchild Tropical Gardens, and addressed topics on pests, diseases, post-harvest studies, plant nutrition, various cultural practices, etc. The marketing funds produced two videos, additional cookbooks, posters, and educational brochures, and an award winning website all created through the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services graphics and marketing departments.

Over the years, TFGSF has received several USDA Specialty Crop Block grants, through the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, FDACS, for promotional and educational projects. Among many projects, these grants have funded:

  • instore demonstrations that introduced consumers to Florida tropical fruits;

  • the redesign and printing of promotional brochures;

  • a detailed nutritional analysis of the anti-oxidant content of 10 Florida tropical fruits;

  • participation in several state and regional trade shows promoting Florida tropical fruits;

  • the creation and implementation of a bi-lingual educational program to area tropical fruit and vegetable growers that introduced and helped growers create their own Food Safety Plans for their groves;

  • the creation of a duplicate tropical fruit growers website in Spanish

 These grant funded projects have been instrumental in helping our organization to promote Florida tropical fruits throughout the United States and neighboring countries.

The global marketplace demands that the Florida tropical fruit industry become more creative and thoughtful in their marketing practices while at the same time exposing our industry to ever changing threats from imported diseases and pests. The Tropical Fruit Growers of South Florida, Inc. will continue to search for ways to help the growers meet and overcome these challenges so that consumers can be introduced to, and continue to enjoy the exotic flavors of Florida’s tropical fruits.

© 2020 by Tropical Fruit Growers of South Florida - Photo Credits: Ian Maguire & Shaun Wright