Paper by Sigismond Diettrich entitled, "Two Decades of Florida's Truck Crop Industry: 1933/34-1952/53" (8 pages)

Material Information

Paper by Sigismond Diettrich entitled, "Two Decades of Florida's Truck Crop Industry: 1933/34-1952/53" (8 pages)
Series Title:
Two Decades of Florida's Truck Crop Industry: 1933/34-1952/53
Diettrich, Sigismond de Rudesheim, 1906-1987
Publication Date:
Physical Location:
Two Decades of Florida's Truck Crop Industry: 1933/34-1952/53


Subjects / Keywords:
Diettrich, Sigismond
University of Florida
Spatial Coverage:
North America -- United States of America -- Florida -- Alachua -- Gainesville

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida Archives
Rights Management:
Copyright Board of Trustees of the University of Florida
Resource Identifier:
MS Coll 36

Full Text
1933/34 TO 1952/53

By: Sigismond deR. Diettrich

The last two decades of Florida's history were marked by a dynamic growth of its population

and a rapid expansion of its economic activities. Emerging, first slowly, from the disastrous

effects of the collapse of the Boom and of the Great Depression the State's population almost

doubled and its economic activities expanded beyond expectations. One would think that a tragic

calamity like World War II would cause at least a slow-down in an area's growth and development,

however, in the case of Florida and some other states, this was not true. Utilizing the special

geographic advantages of the State through carefully planning for defense, the War actually

accelerated the economic growth of Florida. At the same time the general increase in national

employment and productivity swelled many fold the nation's consuming capacity for the products

of Florida. At the same time, a large number of people in the armed forces became acquainted

with and accustomed to many hitherto unknown products of the State. Finally, the need for con-

serving space in the shipment of bulky commodities lead to technological developments which

ultimately revolutionized the marketing of some of the leading agricultural products of Florida.

The transition from war to cold war-defense economy was swift and the readjustment painless.

The large civilian and defense demands at home and abroad maintained a.high-.ate of employment

and productivity in the United States which helped not only to keep up but to increase the demand

for Florida's products, of which vegetables and mixed fruits other th~a citrus, usually desig-

nated as truck crops found an important part.

Ever since the development of modern Florida truck crops played a leading part in the State's


economic development. As a matter of fact it was the possibility of establishing winter time

agriculture in South Florida what inspired Flagler and ohher heading pioneers to open up the

southern half of the Peninsula in the early years of the present century. Whether the story

fresh tomatoes brought back from Miami right after the Big Freese has killed everything in the

settled parts of the State prompted Flagler to plan the expansion of the Florida Westcoast Line

to Miami is authentic or not it is symbolic and in that sense true. Besides the lure of the

tourists there was the potentiality of winter cropping.

During the last two decades truck crop production was one of the major sources of Florida's

agricultural income. Truck crops represent anywhere from 23 to 30 per cent of the State's

agricultural income, with an average of 26 per cent for the last decade. In absolute figures the

value of truck crops increased from 34 million dollars in 1933/34 to 157 million in 1952/53 with an

all time high of 177 million reached in 1951/52. This represents an almost 5 fold increase in the

value of the industry. Citrus production with an increase from $42 million to $218 million shows a

similar increase. Thus the relative position of these two important activities has not danamge;

during the

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Thus Truck crop production not only maintained its relative position but was a leader among

the expanding economic activities of Florida. It has increased from a production of 54,654 carloads

of vegetables and mixed fruits, excluding citrus, grown on 160,650 acres and valued at $25,314,000

in 1932/33, to 144,181 carloads of truck crops grown on 369,100 acres, valued at $157,145,000 at the


end of the 1952/53 season. These represent increases of 89,527 carloads in the volume of 208,450

acres in the area and of $131,831,000 in the value of truck crops. These increases represent 164

per cent, 129 per cent and 521 per cent growth respectively. It may be stated th8f that the

volume of truck crop production is now over 2j times that of twenty years ago, the acreage is 24

times as large, while the value of the present production is over 6 times as high as it was in the

midst of the depression. During the same time, the average value per carload increased from

$463 to $1,089, a difference of $626 per carload or 135 per cent, meaning that the average value of

truck crops per carload today is 2 1/3 as much as it was twenty years ago.

These figures point towards two significant facts. One is that since the volume of pro-

duction increased more than the acreage there must ;havetkklca place an improvement in production

which resulted in higher yields per acre now than in 1932/33. The second fact is that not only

production but the unit value of produce increased considerably. This was due partially to the

revaluation of the dollar in 1933 but mainly to the inflationary tendencies since the War. The

large increase in gross value can be misleading since it does not signify a proportionate increase

in net returns to the producer whose labor, material and marketing costs and taxes have increased

almost as fast, if not faster, than the value of his produce. Consequently, the per acre net

returns are probably similar now to those of the earlier period. Though the individual producer

gained mostly from the expansion of production, the State's economy gained through the higher wages

and greater use of fertilizers, sprays and other materials, much of which is manufactured in Florida,

as well as through the expanded truck crop production.


The truck crops of Florida have undergone little changes save for the increased acreage and

production during the past two decades. Tomatoes and snap beans are the two leading vegetables grown

in Florida, Tomatoes rank consistently as the most valuable truck crop, while snap beans are first

in acreage and volume. These two crops usually represent about 40 per cent of the total value of

Florida's vegetables and non-citrus fruit crop. This fact attests to the remarkable degree of

specialization and concentration in the industry.

The next ranking vegetables are celery and potatoes viewing for the third and fourth rank in

value, with peppers, cucumbers, cabbage and watermelons alternating as fifth in value. The five

leading truck crops are usually responsible for over 60 per cent of the total value of Florida's

vegetable and mixed fruit production. This further proves the industry's strong concentration upon

the production of a limited number of highly specialized crops.

In addition, sweet corn, strawberries, squash and escarole-endive rank among the first ten

truck crops in the State. During the last half decade there were all told twenty-three crops

reported in the group. In addition to those mentioned previously the following ones are grown in

Florida: limabeans, eggplant, lettuce, butterbeans, cauliflower, field peas, and radishes of the

vegetable group and avocados, limes and mangoes of the fruit group. Other "miscellaneous fruits and

vegetables" are also produced but on such a limited individual scale that they are included into

these catch-all classifications.

The relative stability of the leading truck crops in Florida is remarkable. Comparing today's

list with that for thel921/22-30/31 decade it becomes apparent that eight of today's leaders were


leading then. There is one minor change which involved problems of classification, lettuce

presently is a minor crop while during the 1922-31 decade it was among the first ten. But then it

included escarole-endives which are still included intb..the first ten group. The other change is

significant because it illustrates the effect of technological improvements. English peas were

originally one of the important truck crops of Florida. Since the introduction of fresh frozen

peas into the market the production of English peas rapidly dwindled from the maximum area of

8,200 acres in 1935/36, from of over a half a million bushels of

1937/38, and from the highest value of $648,000 in 1938/39 to 350 acres, with 24,000 bushels, valued

at $68,000 in 1950/51, the ast season English peas were reported individually.

While technological improvements ruined Florid's English pea::production, other discoveries

have brought to the ore the oldest known crop of Florida, corn. Under the favorable conditions

prevailing on the peninsula bugs, worms and other pests find life just as favorable for them as

it is for human beings and their crops. Though a minimum amount of green corn was always produced

its marketability was greatly reduced by the frequency of worms and borers ruining the appearance

and consumer appeal of Floridian corn on the cob. During the War brand new highly effective insecti-

cides were developed and released for civilian use immediately thereafter. These solved the problem

of insect pests whi"h was leby a rapid expansion of green corn production. The first sizeable

acreage and production occurred in the 1947/48 season when on 6,000 acres 480,000 crates of green

corn were produced vdued at $1,320,000. Thence it increased to 30,400 acres with 4,413,000 crates

of production at $10,130,000 during the 1952/53 season.


Other new vegetable crops, or crops gaining new impetus are: cauliflower, radishes and

squash. Carrots were tried but unsuccessfully. Among the fruits, cantaloups, avocados and limes

have made considerable progress with mangoes being added to the list. Since 1929 avqAo production

increased from 16,800 bushels to 348,000 bushels in 1953 with a change from $59,640 to $1,061,000

in value. Similarly Persian limes have risen from 12,800 bushels at $36,000 in 1929 to 530,000

bushels with a value of $1,139,000. Mangoes are still in more or less an experimental 6tage but

seem to have a promise of great future. These latter developments not only point to a slight

tendency of much needed diversification of actual field operations but they also signify a fuller

utilization of Florida's climatic potentialities.

The heavy concentration of Florida's truck crop production expresses itself not only in

the great concentration upon a few crops but it is also shown in its spacial distribution. During

the past two decades there were twenty counties in Florida each of which had at least one percent

of the State's truck acreage. Only in five seasons, 1938/39, 1939/40, 1950/51, 1951/52 and

1952/53 did the number of these counties rise to twenty-four and twenty-five. It is a significant

fact, however, that during the last three seasons the increase in total truck crop acreage from

327,350 to 369,100 acres was not accompanied by parallel increases in the acreages of the leading

ten counties but by the increase in the number of counties having at least one percent of the

State's total truck acreage.

The areal distribution of the counties shows the direct dependence of the industry upon the

climatic advantages offered by the Peninsula of Florida. There are only four Mainland counties


which occasionally rank among the first twenty-five truck producing counties. These are Jackson,

Jefferson, Levy and Suwannee counties. They are usually near the bottom of the list in acreage

and their presence can be explained in the terms of one single crop which dominates their truck

acreage: watermelons. This is the only truck product which is grown in almost equal proportions

between the Peninsula, the Mainland and the Transitional Zone of the State.

Even among the 20 to 25 leading counties the dominance of three, Palm Beach, Dade and

Broward counties is remarkable. Expressed in averages the Big Three counties included 44.8

percent of the State's truck crop acreages for the whole twenty years' period with 45.9 percent

for the first and 43.7 percent for the second decade. This shows a relative weakening of the Big

Three counties. This is even more pronounced if the average percentage of their acreage for the

last five years is considered; this amounts to only 40.3 percent. These decreases in the per-

centage figures for the leading counties further substantiate the statement that the continued

increase in truck production means an expansion of production into new areas rather than a further

expansion of acreage in threading counties. Nevertheless, South Florida is and will remain for

a long time the leader in Florida's truck crop production.

Palm Beach County is the leading truck producing county of the State. Zts acreage represents

on the average 27.3 percent of Florida's total land devoted to truck production for both decades

and for the period as a whole. Favorable climate and rich muck soils have well rewarded the

efforts of men who dug drainage canals, built roads and railroads in order to open up this part

of Florida for agriculture. The role of the second and third largest truck county has changed


during the 1948/49 season when Dade County exceeded the truck acreage of Broward County for the

first time. Ever since Dade ha aeld on successfully its second position while Broward is being

seriously challenged by Hillsborough County which latter trailed Broward only by a mere 25 acres

during the 1952/53 season.

Other important counties acreage wise are Alachua and Mari4n viewing for the fifth position,

with St. Johns usually in the seventh place. Lake, Lee, Orange, Seminole and Sumter counties

occur alternatingly among the first ten ranking counties, which represent on the average, 66

percent of the State's truck acreage.

Full Text
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