Harvest is tough work. There are no days off and the days are long. We face a constant stream of problems to solve. “The refrigerator truck broke down! “There is a storm coming that could harm the berries!" "We have so much fruit going blue, that there are not enough harvesters to pick it all!" Most days are like that during the harvest.
It's hard to describe, however, the feeling that you get when you see hundreds of families-people of all ages, races, and backgrounds enjoying the Jubilee Experience. Kitty and I are smiling as we watch kids playing with the pet bunnies, riding the ponies, and dancing to the band on the porch. And it's so gratifying, after the hard work in the orchards over the past year, to witness folks enjoying walking through the rows and picking this terrific fruit.
When we decided over three years ago to transition our orchards to all organic cultivation, we left behind not just conventional fruit but also conventional thinking. Farmers, consultants, and fruit distributors warned us not to go organic. They said its too hard in Florida- too many bugs, too many weeds, too much humidity, and heat. And it's very expensive, they warned, to convert to organic growing with high, high costs of labor and necessary nutrients. All those challenges are real, but what is also true is that if you want to grow the best berries, the safest to eat, and the most environmentally friendly, you grow organically. We are very proud to be designated a Best Management Farm by the Florida Department of Agriculture and a CARES FARM, for outstanding environmental stewardship by the Florida Farm Bureau.
Loving the land and caring deeply for Florida's precious environment was bred into our whole family by my Dad, Governor Lawton Chiles. It's so encouraging to us to hear so many fond reminiscences of his leadership made by the people who visit our orchards. I know my parents would both be delighted to see Jubilee, the place they loved so much and where they now rest, opening its gates to people to enjoy a great day outdoors in the Red Hills of North Florida.