John Scott Hundley’s family has been farming in the Everglades Agricultural Area since the 1930s. Beginning with John Scott’s grandfather Lloyd and continuing with his father John to today, it has continued to succeed by walking the fine line between risk-taking and playing it safe. Hundley says he hopes to continue the tradition in the years to come. “We’ve been very fortunate. We’ve been blessed, so I hope we can be in farming for the foreseeable future,” said John Scott.
The Hundley Farms South Florida operation today grows sweet corn, green beans, sugar cane, radishes and rice. It also partners with RC Hatton Farms to grow celery and has expanded toward the east into land composed of sandy soils to give it more options with sweet corn and beans. “Potentially, from late fall up to early January, there’s a bit of a window we haven’t been too fortunate to hit over the past few years. By growing over there, this past year was good. It doesn’t mean every year will be like that, but we’re going to continue to do that. We’ve got a good relationship with the land owner, so we’ve got a long term lease on the property.”
The operation also benefits from technology. For several years, it has been on the cutting edge of the movement to use mapping technology to maximize yields through proper crop rotation and land use. It also benefits from its new packing facility. “We’ve gone to packing our sweet corn within our packinghouse on a packing line. It’s a pretty substantial packing line that we built last spring. This was the first spring that we got to use it to near its fullest capacity,” Hundley said.
Additionally, Hundley Farms has been steadily moving to mechanical harvesting over hand harvesting. “We got our feet wet with that about 5 years ago. We’ve expanded the number of harvesters that we have and we might expand that even further. We’ve committed to mechanical harvesting. We have more control. It gives us the control and flexibility that we need to be able to harvest the crop in a timely fashion. It really puts the ball in our court to be able to make those decisions, whereas before it would be limited potentially to how the labor would harvest the crop,” Hundley said.
Two issues are very important to John Scott Hundley – food safety and conservation.
“We’re always involved with conservation. One way it through USDA’s EQIP program,” Hundley said. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) provides financial assistance to help plan and implement conservation practices. (www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/programs/financial/eqip/) “It helps us with soil conservation through new culvert installations and laser leveling. It offers many different ways to improve our Best Management Practices, and it helps control sediments into the canals. It’s very good for the environment because it really helps with our drainage and with irrigation practices,” Hundley said.
The Hundley operation is also GlobalG.A.P certified. GlobalG.A.P. sets food safety and traceability standards that are accepted and respected worldwide. ( http://www1.globalgap.org/north-america/front_content.php?idart=2662 ) “We take food safety very seriously. We realize we’re in the fresh market business and we have to handle all of our products with extreme caution and safety,” said Hundley. “We know that the consumer needs to know we provide a safe food supply. We hope all growers are taking it seriously, because all growers suffer if they fall into a category where food safety was somehow breached and people got sick.”
Keeping those objectives in mind, Hundley Farms tries to balance cost savings and the need to turn out a bountiful crop. “It’s a fine line,” Hundley said. “You want to cut costs but without the proper level of inputs, yield suffers, especially when you have adverse weather conditions. We are as intensive as we know how to be without spending more money than we need to in order to harvest a quality crop.”
In spite of weather and other challenges, John Scott Hundley loves what he does. “I have to say I am proud to be a farmer. I feel proud to be part of the food supply chain in the United States, and we want to do our part to make sure that consumers in this country and elsewhere have a safe, steady and constant food supply for the foods we grow in the fresh market industry.”