Agriculture Still a Viable Industry in Jackson County

Agriculture still a viable industry in Jackson County

Dairy cows wander the 460-acre Cindale Farms between milkings. These “dry” cows are on a two-month break.

Photo by Scott Holstein

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Cotton, peanuts and beef cattle make up most of Jackson County’s agricultural output today, while advances in automated farming, improved soil management and increased efficiencies in beef production mean greater yield, better quality and less waste than ever before.

“Obviously the efficiency in farming equipment and technique is so much greater,” said John Alter, chairman of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce and owner/manager of about a thousand acres of farm and pine plantation land. “We’re more efficient nowadays. These guys can go out with GPS and get more out of a given acre or whatever than their daddy could. We’re still very much an agricultural county.”

Pine trees — the longleaf variety — and hardwoods were an important economic staple of North Florida back when the timber was harvested and processed for naval stores and material for ship masts. Today, that “silviculture” is still very much with us, Alter said.

“The harvesting cycle is years instead of weeks or months, but it is still a crop and part of the food and fiber base of Florida’s agriculture,” he said.

But in Jackson County at least, the king and queen of local agriculture is peanuts and cotton. That’s not to say there are no other endeavors going on.

“We joke that we grow three things: pines, peanuts and prisons. But the yearly harvest is peanuts and cotton; not only that, but tomatoes and cucumbers. The produce variety of agriculture is kind of developing a little bit more. You’ll see large fields of tomatoes, acres and acres of them, and there is a subset of smaller farms that do certain business in the summer crops.”

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