Two From Polk in Agriculture Hall of Fame
Lakeland Ledger – October 19, 2011
LAKELAND | Two men with Polk County ties — Gerald Mixon Sr., a former Haines City resident, and Sid Sumner of Bartow — will be inducted into the Florida Agriculture Hall of Fame in February.
They will join beekeeper Laurence Cutts of Chipley and orchid grower Robert Fuchs of Homestead at the Feb. 14 induction banquet during the Florida State Fair in Tampa, according to a press statement from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which runs the hall.
Mixon was credited as an early pioneer of blueberry growing in Florida, which has now become a major crop.
“We were just lucky,” Mixon, 73, who now lives in Sutherland Bluff, Ga., told The Ledger on Wednesday. “We did a few things right as it turned out, but it was a big gamble.”
Mixon started his first blueberry farm in 1992 in Haines City. His company, SunnyRidge Farms, now has about 300 acres there, he said.
Florida blueberries expanded from 1,200 acres with a crop value of $3.4 million in 1992 to 3,500 acres with a $48 million value last year, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics.
Mixon sold his interest in the family company, SunnyRidge Farms Inc., to his three sons — Greg, Keith and Gerald Mixon Jr. — in 2004. They sold SunnyRidge to the Dole Food Co. earlier this month.
Sumner was credited with developing the Florida cattle industry as a beef producer, consultant, industry representative, extension agent, and a strong supporter of youth agriculture programs.
Sumner, 71, said he hadn’t known he was nominated before being informed of his induction 10 days ago.
“It came as a surprise,” he said.