Florida strawberry industry honors growers, handlers

12/03/2012 02:59:00 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

RIVERVIEW, Fla. — The Florida Strawberry Growers Association honored top grower-shippers and marked its 30th anniversary at the annual Strawberry Jam banquet.

Astin Strawberry Exchange, Hinton Farms ProduceDoug OhlemeierGrower Sam Astin III (left), owner of Plant City-based Astin Strawberry Exchange LLC, and Jake Raburn, who does sales and marketing for Plant City-based Hinton Farms Produce Inc., accepted awards for their organizations at the Dec. 2 Florida Strawberry Growers Association’s strawberry jam awards banquet. Astin and Hinton Farms won the industry’s top handler awards. At the Dec. 1 event, Plant City-based Astin Strawberry Exchange LLC received the Handler of the Year Award for more than 200 acres, and Plant City-based Hinton Farms Produce Inc. received the Handler of the Year for less than 200 acres.

The awards recognize the top production averages of the state’s strawberry handlers.

This year marks the fifth consecutive year Astin Strawberry Exchange, which is owned by Sam Astin III, has won the award.

Andy McDonald, association president and farming operations manager of Plant City-based Sweet Life Farms LLC, won this year’s Workhorse Award which recognizes hardworking individuals who help the industry.

“He’s truly focused on the good of this organization and is very deserving of this award,” Ted Campbell, the association’s executive director, said.

The group also inducted into its hall of fame Ronnie Maxwell, a longtime grower and former association board member who died in 2011, and Russell and EvaNell Griffin.

An association board member and grower, Russell Griffin sells through Akin & Porter Produce of Plant City Inc.

The event also distributed $14,000 in scholarships.

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