Commissioner Adam H. Putnam

Florida Agriculture: 500 Years in the Making

Florida's Agricultural Heritage in Paintings by Robert Butler

Tomato Garden

Tomato Garden

The tomato harvest was not a place for the lax, the day’s work was always fierce. The skill and diligence of the farmer had produced a bountiful crop; now many could reap the rewards.

Upon arrival, the workers soon scattered into the field of red. Myriad colors and shapes blended to bring animation to the endless rows of ripened fruit. One could get the sense of being part of something important. But more realistic was the anticipation of the day’s wages.

In the late 1950s, tomato farming was big business in my hometown of Okeechobee, Fla. Canning operations were centered in my town, and provided employment for many neighbors and citizens. Making a living was the business of the day and not much thought was given to the origin of the fruit bearing our good fortune.

I remember the long bus rides before daylight with a busload of migrant workers. I remember stopping at our special store to purchase RC Cola and Moon Pies. It was all so routine.

"Life was good in the tomato fields of my youth!"

— Robert Butler, 1999

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