Mike Lott has been growing Florida strawberries for the last three decades. He and his wife run Mike Lott Farms, which boasts 42 acres of red and delicious Florida strawberries. He has been a Florida Strawberry Growers Association board member since the 1980s and even served three terms as the FSGA President with two terms as Vice President.
Mike is first and foremost a family man. Check out the video below to learn more about Mike Lott Farms, the benefits of purchasing Florida strawberries, just how they are farmed and the beautiful family that makes up this family farm.
Mike comes from a long line of farmers, like many of the other Florida Strawberry Growers Association members. In fact, his grandfather was a strawberry farmer during the days of the Strawberry Schools! Mike got his start farming right out of high school, growing small vegetables like squash and eggplant, around the citrus groves his father owned.
It was through a unique circumstance that Mike first got into strawberry farming. The husband of a friend, who was a strawberry farmer, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Mike was asked to help finish out their season. With the help of his wife, the Lotts were able to have a very successful season, and help out a dear friend. It was working that season of strawberries that Mike says got him hooked on agriculture.
This is from our vacation in Colorado. Mark and I went jeeping and site seeing with Mike and Sandy Lott.
Mike and his wife took the profits from that year and invested them into eggplant farming. All agricultural ventures come with great risk and sadly they ended up losing everything. But in 1979 Mike took another stab at farming Florida strawberries and in 1983 had his first crop. Once again luck was not on his side as that was the year of the “Christmas Freeze“.
Once again the Lotts stood fast and continued the hard work of building and expanding their farm to the successful business it is today. Their farm has grown to 89 acres of land with almost half of it dedicated to Florida strawberries.
Farmer Lee at the Florida Strawberry Festival “Ask a Farmer” booth
Mike and Mark at the 2012 Florida Strawberry Festival with their FSGA scarecrow
Chefs walk into Mike Lott’s strawberry field at the 2012 Florida Strawberry Harvest Tour
2013 FSGA Booth at the Strawberry Festival
Mike Lott talks to Florida chefs at the 2011 Florida Strawberry Harvest Tour
Chefs with Mike Lott at the 2012 Florida Strawberry Harvest Tour
Mark and Sue with Sandy and Mike in Colorado
Mike and Billy Simmons are talking to festival growers at our “Ask a Farmer” booth.
Applying the Plastic Sheeting
Sandy Lott, Chef Frank of The Wave and Mike Lott
Mike has also been a great supporter of our efforts to get the word out about Florida strawberries. Mike has been a leader in the layout and construction of FSGA booth at the Strawberry Festival for 23 years now. From hosting chefs and media to harvest tours, to providing delicious strawberries for television and print media outreach; Mike has always jumped at the opportunity to help the Association.
Upload your favorite Florida strawberry photo for a chance to win a $50 gift card and the latest Florida Strawberry Growers Association cookbook!
The Florida Strawberry Growers Association is hosting a contest to celebrate making it to 4,000 Facebook fans! We aren’t quite there yet but we will be any day now. Over the last few months we’ve more than doubled the number of people talking about Florida strawberries on Facebook! To thank all of you for helping make this possible we’re giving away some fun prizes.
First prize is a $50 gift card and a copy of our latest Florida Strawberry Growers Association’s cookbook in a gift bag. Two runner-up winners will receive a copy of the same cookbook and gift bag. Who knows, we might even throw in a few extra goodies!
Recruit your friends and family to vote for your entry, one vote per day per entry!
The entry with the most votes will win first prize, the next two entries with the most votes will win the runner up prize.
Grand Prize (1) – One contest entrant will win a $50 gift card and a copy of the latest Florida Strawberry Growers Association cookbook. Runner up prize (2) – Two contest entrants will win a copy of the latest Florida Strawberry Growers Association cookbook. One prize per person, per household. Contest ends March 14 at Midnight EST.
Brooklyn New York artist Julia Rothman created this illustration of thirteen of the (relatively) more common forks.
But over thirty, how can that be? And did you know there is even a fork made especially for strawberries? As it turns out, there’s a lot of history surrounding the strawberry fork. Are you ready for this?
Prior to the 1800s, silver was a metal so precious that the only people with access to it were the very wealthy. It was primarily used to back the world’s currencies, used to create expensive jewelry and sometimes even to prevent the spoilage of food like milk and vinegar. Formal place settings weren’t for the masses until the 1750s. Prior to that, people often carried their eating utensils with them when they traveled!
Around the 19th century the price of silver dropped dramatically as countries like the United States moved from silver coins to paper notes. American companies began searching for new and creative ways to sell silver and thus the specialty silverware industry was born. Companies like William A. Rogers, Ltd., Elkington and Tiffany & Co. created decorative forks, spoons and knives; each with their own unique purpose. People with means purchased these ornate utensils to show off wealth and prestige. Think Downton Abbey.
The strawberry fork was made for “piercing a berry and dipping it into an accompanying dish of sugar, whipped cream, or sour cream” (Osterberg, Richard F. and Betty Smith, Silver Flatware Dictionary. New York: A.S. Barnes, 1981: 114). It typically had two or three prongs to pierce the strawberry and an intricately designed handle, often times with strawberry plants and blossoms carved into the silver face.
Into the 20th century, these sorts of specialty pieces grew out of fashion but still live on today in antique stores and family silverware collections passed down through inheritance. So keep your eye out for one, you never know when you might come across some early American strawberry history!
The process from start to finish is as easy as it is fun for the entire family. All you need are fresh Florida strawberries, whipped cream (fresh whipped cream in a pastry bag works best) and some toasted sesame seeds (or poppy seeds if you have those handy). I’ll let Kristopher show you how to do it, just click this link and you’ll find out all details with step-by-step photos. Couldn’t be easier!
The Mama Tea blog added whipped cream buttons to her Santas for a little more realism. What a great Christmas party treat for your guests! Something like this can be made the day ahead and chilled in the refrigerator until your guests are ready to enjoy. But wait a minute. Isn’t Santa’s real name Kristopher Kringle? Kristopher at Fresh From Florida, I’ve got my eye on you!
Mark and I met through friends in high school, my friend Shirley was dating a guy that graduated from a rival school and his best friend, and coworker, was Mark. I didn’t date until my senior year of high school and Mark was only the second person I had ever dated. We each agreed to a blind date to go bowling (I had never bowled!). I said yes after Shirley took me to see what he looked like outside his workplace, I think they call that some sort of stalking now! He also had seen pictures of me and I never knew it till later so maybe it wasn’t a totally blind date!
Mark had a ‘55 Chevy Pickup truck he had refurbished in his grandfathers shop I really liked. I thought he was cool. It was a fun night but, come to think of it, we have went bowling together again! I wonder why? Mark was and still is a sharp dresser somedays you would never know he was a farmer. I had to look no further. We got married a year after I graduated high school. Like all men when you date he said he liked to dance. Well after we got married he said he hated dancing but did it because I like it. After thirty-six years thats the only thing to this day he does not do!
The first year we were married it snowed as we both worked on his parents’ strawberry and vegetable farm. That kind of snow is not good for berries. Cut to seven years later we have one of the worst winters ever. On a brighter note it was also the year our first son was born.
We were beginning to think we were a jinx. But having our little red head son Christopher (named after Christopher Robin from Winnie the Poo) was the best thing we could of done. Chris grew up on the farm around neighborhood kids of the same age. They grew up driving farm trucks and tractors at twelve! When they got into trouble they had to mend fence, which they hated but accomplished two goals at once. We got a new fence and they got a lesson, haha. We took the Christopher and his friends all on our family vacations fishing in South Florida many times. To this day they have all remained friends and have grown up to be fine young men and fathers.
Chris now works off the farm for a commercial refrigeration company. He marred Candace, his high school sweetheart, in 2008. Like father like son! Candace works for a truck brokerage company so you see we are all tied to the agriculture industry. Two years later we now have a beautiful grand daughter Stevie Adalynn. Stevie loves to ride in her dads 4×4 Monster truck, it’s loud and scares most kids and adults! She also loves to cook us dinner in her make-believe kitchen. Sounds like she growing up right tough but also a lady!
Mark takes her on tractor rides but now since she two she thinks she should drive! I like a take charge kinds girl wonder where she gets it?
We are truly blessed with the life we have and everyone in it!
Chef Julia Child shows a "Salade Nicoise" she prepared in the kitchen of her vacation home in Southern France.
Today would have been Julia Child‘s 100th birthday. Seems hard to believe that little girl from Pasadena California would become perhaps the biggest influence on American cuisine.
Julia was truly an inspiration for wanna-be cooks around the world. If it weren’t for her we may never know how wonderful butter can be!
Julia wasn’t just a famous cookbook writer, she was also a world-renowned television personality. Her cooking shows taught us that we can make mistakes, that cooking was as much about the process and fun as it was about the end result.
Learn how to cook – try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless and above all have fun.
Who knows, if it wasn’t for Julia Child, we may also have never have shot the cooking segments we did for this very blog!
If you haven’t seen the film, Julie and Julia, I highly recommend you give it a watch. Meryl Streep does an incredible job of bringing the very essence of this inspirational woman onto the big screen. And why not watch it while eating one of her famous recipes? I found this beautiful “Gateau in a Cage” that features strawberries like you’ve never seen them before!
Julia Child’s Gateau in a Cage created by Tara Noland, author of Noshing With The Noland’s
How often do you make a cake topped with strawberries and then trap the delicious dish inside a cage made of sugar? Hats off to Tara Noland of Noshing with the Nolands for this recipe adaptation and fabulous photos. You can find a collection of other Julia Child recipes curated by Chow right here.
We love it when other pros help promote our Florida strawberries.
The Florida Strawberry Growers Association was mentioned in the Winter/Spring 2012 issue of Culinlogy Currents, the official newsletter of the Research Chefs Association (RCA) about our hosting them on a tour of our Florida strawberry fields and farms during our most recent harvest.
Members of the southwestern region of RCA were invited to learn how we grow and market our high-quality seasonal, regional berries. The activity that garnered the most enthusiasm was our invitation to the chefs to pick as many strawberries as they could carry.
Sue Harrell and Mike Lott host Research Chefs Association members, Kevin Anderson, Jamila Muhammad, Chef Jeff Cofer, Bobbie Huston, Sandy Gibilisco, Deanna Smith and Alexa Hart Bosshardt for harvest tour.
Research Chefs Association was formed in 1996 by a group of food professionals with a common interest in the challenges facing the profession. Today there are more than 2,000 members. RCA has become the premier source of culinary and technical information for the food industry, with a professionally diverse membership including chefs, food scientists, and others. We feel privileged to have had the opportunity to show these influential food professionals all about our industry, straight up.
We exhibited at their International Conference in San Antonio just a few weeks ago. We handed out recipe cards featuring Florida strawberries contributed by some top celebrity chefs including Norman Van Aken, J. Hugh McCoy, and Jason Gronlund. Thanks guys, for supporting Florida’s strawberry farmers.
Wishnatzki Farms, now best known as Wish Farms, is the classic tale of the American Dream. It’s all starts in 1900 when Harris Wishnatzki immigrates to New York City from Russia as a pushcart peddler selling fresh fruits and vegetables. In 1922 Harris partners with fellow peddler Daniel Nathel to grow their business into a fleet of pushcarts.
By the late 1920′s, Harris becomes involved with the blossoming produce industry in Florida, envisioning bringing fresh strawberries to fruit-deprived consumers in the North. Harris moves his family to Central Florida in 1929 to start a producing shipping operation right here in Plant City! Daniel stays in New York City to run their local distribution system.
Through World War II and into the 1990s, Wishnatzki & Nathel continues as a joint-family business providing fresh produce up the eastern seaboard. The section major transition comes in 2001 when Harris and Daniel break off the Florida division into Wishnatzki Farms to focus on growing and shipping produce.
Over the years Wishnatzki Farms continues to grow into premier Florida produce grower and shipper. They pioneer produce traceability, quality assurance techniques and grower/shipper accountability; ultimately providing their customers with a superior produce experience.
In 2010 Wishnatzki Farms begins another major transition with the launch of its new consumer brand, Wish Farms, featuring Misty the Garden Pixie. The purpose is to provide consumers with a memorable icon. They are now handling over 30 million pounds of strawberries from 1,200 acres; and they keep growing!
I met with Marcus Caswell, Wishnatzki Farms’ Sales Associate and Quality Assurance Manager last year to get the low-down on what they do and how they do it.
It’s sad, but true. We have no fresh strawberries from Florida during this time of the year. Not even one. It’s just too hot! With that said, you may be surprised when I suggest that you eat them anyway—all year round. Why?
Once you’re in the habit of including strawberries on your shopping list each week, you’ll be hooked on their deliciousness and we’ll catch you as a customer from Thanksgiving through April. No worries.
The reality is that there are no better-tasting berries than those that come from our Florida family farms, but you’ll discover that for yourself. As our markets expand further and further westward, chefs and consumers are appreciating the sweet, succulent strawberries that we grow and harvest. Think about it—Florida strawberries—a taste of summer all winter long.
We do hope you’ll insist on U.S. grown strawberries and let your grocer know how you feel about homegrown. It’s so important that we support products made and grown in our own country and in doing so support the people who produce them for our pleasure.
Following are a few tips to help you enjoy our berries this coming fall and winter and those grown in other states in the spring and summer, too.
It’s best to eat strawberries on the same day they’re purchased.
Strawberries are at their best when allowed to come to room temperature.
Use the clamshell packaging as a colander. All you need to do is rinse them with cool water right in the container, drain, remove the caps (or calyx) and eat them out of hand or use in a favorite recipe.
Drizzle a small amount of balsamic vinegar over prepared berries. You’ll be surprised at how tasty they are when served this way.
Look for strawberries that are fully ripe and deep red in color. They don’t continue to ripen after they are picked.
Seek out berries where the color has spread from one end to the other. Also look for berries where the calyx, the strawberry’s leafy cap, is fresh and green.
Strawberry Ambassadors David, Haley, Kelsey and Megan at the Florida State Fair
FSGA is proud to be an exhibitor at the Florida State Fair each year. This year Sarah, Glenda and our Florida Strawberry Growers Association Ambassadors helped man the booth. And, as you can see Jammer, our sought-after animated mascot, even made an appearance. If we do say so, our booth is one of the most popular booths at the Fair! After all, who doesn’t love fresh, flavorful, Florida strawberries?
The finest produce, livestock and poultry Florida has to offer the very latest farm equipment and technological advances in agriculture are featured at the Fair. More than 500 4-H members and nearly 1,000 FFA members exhibited a variety of farm animals including steers, dairy cows, swine, goats, poultry, rabbits, sheep, llamas and dogs.
Sue and Glenda, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnman, Haley Ours, Kelsey Bozeman, David Walden at Taste of Florida Agriculture at the Florida State Fair
Strawberry Ambassadors David, Megan, Haley and Kelsey at the Florida Strawberry Growers Association Jam Awards Banquet
Sue, Haley, Megan, Jammer and Kelsey pose at the Florida State Fair
Ambassadors Megan, David and Kelsey at the Florida Legislative Appreciation Reception
Strawberry Ambassador Megan Dipping Strawberries at the Florida State Fair
Florida Strawberry Ambassadors David, Megan and Haley at the Florida State Fair
Strawberry Ambassadors David, Haley, Kelsey and Megan at the Florida State Fair
Kelsey getting a strawberry tattoo
If you missed the Fair this year plan now for next year. Be sure to come by our booth. We’ll be looking for you.
Last year, the Florida State Fair attracted more than 480,000 visitors. Every year, the Fair supports the local economy and creates countless jobs in Florida, contributing nearly $150 million in sales to the local economy and more than $35 million in wages and salaries. Check it out.
I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday and a chance to enjoy some of our delicious Florida winter strawberries. It’s been just over a month since we started harvesting.
We’ve been busy picking berries and are looking forward to a record crop for 2011-2012. This year we’re harvesting an extra 1,000 acres!
Back to the holidays. We decorated Christmas hats during our annual Christmas Eve dinner at Mark’s sister’s home. It’s always so much fun making these crazy hats. But don’t think that because we’re just having a little fun, we taking it seriously. There’s even a competition behind this event! Mark was a good sport and ended up winning most creative.
Mark and Candace modeling their hats
Stevie’s big gift this year was her first kitchen. She’s learning to cook at an early age and already seems to enjoy mixing and watching me in the kitchen. Who knows, she might soon be featured in our Culinary Chronicles! Note, the strawberry red color. What else, right?
Stevie and her first kitchen
￼The sink was her favorite thing, though I have an idea that when she gets older she’ll change her mind.
I wanted to share a great idea for a Christmas centerpiece that’s even more delicious than it is beautiful—an edible Christmas tree! Every year friends and family look forward to this beautiful and sumptuous decoration. Read on to learn how to create your very own. There’s a video at the end that brings it all together. Here goes!
All you’ll need for this project are five things. A large foam cone from a local craft store, white dipping chocolate, romaine lettuce, toothpicks and fresh and flavorful Florida winter strawberries.
Rinse the berries and let them dry while the white dipping chocolate warms in a crock pot. Once the berries are dry and the chocolate is warm and creamy, dip the tips of the strawberries into the chocolate. Set berries on parchment paper to cool.
While the chocolate sets on the berries, it’s time to begin working on the tree. Attach pieces of lettuce to the foam cone with toothpicks starting from the bottom and layering upwards.
After the cone is covered with lettuce, begin adding the the chocolate-tipped strawberries onto the lettuce with toothpicks. In no time you’ll have a beautiful, edible Christmas tree that is sure to impress! As guests remove strawberries from the tree, the attractive green base of the lettuce mimics branches of a real tree.
Want to take your entertaining up a notch? It’s so easy and you’ll save a lot of money too! Have you ever priced ready-made chocolate-dipped berries? Why not dress up your extra berries in tuxedos yourself? Check out the video below for a step-by-step guide to making this edible Christmas tree with a special bonus of easy-to-make chocolate tuxedo strawberries!