SAINT AUGUSTINE – Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam was featured as keynote speaker at the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Council’s (EDC) quarterly breakfast on Feb.24. The agriculture focused event was held at Blue Sky Farms in Elkton, and attracted an over capacity crowd as nearly 250 Chamber members, guests and dignitaries filled Blue Sky’s processing facility.
During the event Commissioner Putnam deflected questions about a possible run for Governor by stating that any announcement would come after the legislative session, which ends on May 5.
Instead, the two-term agricultural commissioner discussed the importance of farming now and in Florida’s future. Citing the $171 million impact of farming on St. Johns County’s economy, Putnam built a compelling case for agriculture and segued naturally into water policy without straying from his topic. “We need a statewide water policy that recognizes the importance of water everywhere,” said Putnam, while stating that he believes current guidelines best benefits southern Florida.
The University of Florida graduate also discussed how farmers can choose to diversify their revenue through agritourism, as the agricultural tourism corridor in St. Johns County gains momentum. “Florida, the mermaids, the produce stands, the smell of orange blossoms that was the original tourist attraction. That’s why people loaded up their Model T’s and came down here, to see this garden of Eden that is Florida,” said Putnam.
The Chamber EDC’s goal for the event was to shed light on the importance of agriculture in our county and the state, according to Chamber president and CEO Isabelle Rodriguez. “Our sincere appreciation goes to Blue Sky Farms for pausing their operations to provide the business community with this unique opportunity. We would also like to thank Commissioner Adam Putnam for shining a light onto this often overlooked aspect of our success and an important part of our community,” said Rodriguez.
As part of the chamber’s effort to educate, the function also featured a farm business expo and livestock gallery. “We want to continue talking about the importance of agriculture and share the diversity that St. Johns County possesses within the industry,” said Greg Voss, the Chamber’s Vice President of Operations. “We are lucky to have such a rich agricultural community here. It adds a great deal to our quality of life.”
The event even featured a locally-sourced gourmet breakfast prepared by Chef David Bearl from the University of Florida Agricultural Extension Office with food from St. Johns County farms and businesses including Blue Sky Farms, Frederick Farm and Smith Farm, and baked goods made by members of Project WARM.
For more information about the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce, visit http://www.sjcchamber.com or call 904.829.5681. The EDC Quarterly Breakfast was sponsored in part by the St. Augustine & St. Johns County Board of Realtors, Ameris Bank, Putnam – St. Johns County Farm Bureau, The Browning
Agency, and North Avenue Capital, LLC.