Growing Bamboo in Bradenton, FL
As more and more citrus crops succumb to insect infestation, it’s becoming apparent that many grove owners are seeking alternatives to sustain their businesses. Several years ago, Only MOSO of Sunrise,FL approached the owners of Mixon Fruit Farms with an intriguing proposal. They wanted to see if bamboo could grow in their fields and eventually be harvested and sold. Mixon Fruit Farms became the first to plant the bamboo plants.
I spoke with Janet Mixon, who along with her husband, Dean, own Mixon Fruit Farms. According to Mixon, the decline of citrus crops, as well as some other fruits and vegetables, is due to the NAFTA regulations and how shipments are inspected when they arrive in ports. When an overseas shipment is inspected, it is unloaded first and if it has bugs carrying disease, it is then sent back to the ship––but the damage is done. The bugs remain and infect crops of all kinds––not just citrus. These diseases are destroying apple orchards and tomato farms as well.
Fourteen years ago, the first infestation affected the Mixon citrus crops and 20,000 trees had to be destroyed. This happened again the following year and continues to affect the groves.
Bamboo is a $99 billion industry and Florida’s climate is an ideal fit to grow and harvest the plant. The Mixon farm started with an area of 8 acres. Some of that had to be replanted due to the soil, but there is an area that should be ready to harvest this April. According to Mixon, “it’s tall, really cool looking” The trees can reach up to 92 feet and make a natural canopy.
From the Only MOSO website:
“Facts About Moso Bamboo: It is a temperate species of giant timber bamboo native to China and Taiwan and naturalized elsewhere. The Edulis part of the Latin name is a reference to the fact that it produces edible shoots. This bamboo can reach heights of up to 92 feet. This particular species of bamboo is the most common species used in the bamboo textile industry. Its physical properties boast an average breaking tenacity more than three times that of cotton, wool, rayon, or polyester.”
Edible bamboo is an ideal crop. Each part of the plant is useful. The cone is the edible part. The rest of the stalk can be used to make clothing, furniture and flooring. The health benefits of the bamboo is quite remarkable. It is high in antioxidants helpful in lowering LDL cholesterol, fighting cancer and lowering blood pressure. It’s a very low calorie food that’s also high in fiber––it’s been touted as a superfood, and Mixon hopes to capitalize on this once the bamboo is harvested and they are able to sell the edible bamboo in their own store as well as to chefs and restaurants.
It’s a very exciting time for Mixon and her staff as they anticipate the first bamboo harvest. She is confident in their plans to market the bamboo, especially knowing its health benefits.
Photos by Heidi Schild and Drone Shot by Sande Caplin & Associates.