On an annual basis, the Hernando Citrus Farm Bureau, UF/IFAS Extension, Stable Faith Cowboy Church, Florida Dept. of Agriculture, and others team up to highlight innovative agriculture operations in Hernando and Citrus counties. This year, the event was held at Fenco Farms in Floral City, just over the border in Citrus County. There were three farms highlighted, as well as different speakers highlighting agricultural-related resources.
It is important to highlight the agricultural industry, as in some years it is Florida’s largest industry; in other years, the largest industry is tourism. Locally, we are seeing a reduction in acreage dedicated to agriculture. In 2017, Hernando County had 50,285 acres of agriculture, and in 2023, that has been reduced to 42,246 acres. In Citrus County, the acreage decline has been even more pronounced, with 55,754 acres in 2017 and 35,413 acres in 2023.
Fenco Farms has operations in five counties: Citrus, Lake, Marion, Pasco and Sumter counties. The founders of Fenco Farms are Jim and Lynda Fenton, who have been involved in Florida agriculture for a while. They operate Ferris Groves as well and are involved with citrus crops, strawberries and blueberries.
Fenco Farms has three main divisions: Registered Brangus, Club Calf, and Commercial Cow Calf. They pride themselves on being a data driven farm. The amount of data that they collect on each calf is amazing. Shortly after birth, a calf has their DNA taken, is tagged with an RFID tag and a visual tag, and is freeze branded.
They track the cattle from birth to a side of beef in the slaughterhouse. Information about the disposition of the cuts is returned as data. They do not need to harvest the cattle to learn what types of steaks are on the animal. They utilize ultrasounds to examine the meat on the hoof.
The cattle are kept in grass pastures and they use Purina limiters to reduce the amount of grass that each cow must consume. A limiter is a feed mixture that reduces the cattle’s need to eat by providing nutrients that are difficult to obtain from grass. In addition, trace minerals are provided that the cows can use to supplement their diet. This was described as a multivitamin for cows.
Lecanto Pastured Poultry
The farm is a 9.5 acre multispecies operation, but the main operation is chicken. They process around 200 chickens a month and sell them directly to the public as well as through farmers’ markets. You can order chicken from their website.
Lecanto Pastured Poultry raises cornish cross chickens. Over time, they have reduced the mortality rates of the chickens to under 10 percent, which makes their farm more sustainable. A major cause of mortality is young chicks huddling together for warmth, which sometimes leads to some of the chicks suffocating. By increasing the temperature on the brooders, they were able to reduce the chicks desire to huddle together. Another cause of mortality is when the chicks are a little older, they tend to jump on each other’s backs, causing injury and death. They were able to calm the chicks with a mineral substitute to reduce these incidents.
Lecanto Pastured Poultry has a focus on sustainability and practices regenerative farming, where organic materials are returned to the soil. They also practice rotational grazing, moving the animals to different grazing areas to prevent the grass from getting too worn down.
In addition to the farm, they also have a STEM program where they work with students from Lecanto High School. These STEM students also learn about radio controlled airplanes as well as farming.
Barco Farms is a cow/calf and hay operation. They also provide services to other local farmers, including spreading and spraying fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides.
The farm is owned by Kason and Morgan Sundberg. In addition to the farm, they also have Sundberg Enterprises, which includes the farm and six restaurants: Loft Bar and Grill, several Lollygaggers Sports Pub & Grills, and Kane’s Cattle Co.
Barco Farms originally supplied the beef for Kane’s Cattle Co, but they quickly outgrew their supply. They are proud to supply Fresh From Florida beef.