Looking for a unique holiday gift for friends, your spouse, or even Aunt Ethel up in Grand Rapids?
Then look no further than Florida's agricultural bounty. Here are a few ideas I've come across in the past few weeks.
1. Citrus gift baskets. If you're like me, then your mailbox has probably filled up the past few weeks with catalogs. It's so nice of retailers to think of us this time of year (bah, humbug). However, I admittedly enjoy the citrus gift catalogs that come straight from the Sunshine State's groves - in fact, for the past two years, I've sent some of my closest friends up north navel orange or grapefruit baskets for Christmas. The citrus companies have all sorts of gift basket options available, ranging from the traditional citrus to even tomatoes and monthly baskets that offer whatever is in season. There are also gift baskets that include Florida honey, jams and candies. Your loved ones are bound to enjoy the kitschy names that accompany these boxes, including "Gator Bee-ware" (including "Gator fudge"), "Kissed with Key Lime," and "Seven Kinds of Sweetness."
2. Wines. I'm a big fan of Florida wines, which often infuse fruit flavors or use the Muscadine grape - known for its sweeter taste. Still, the wineries have options that can fit anyone's palate. Whether your gift recipient likes red or white, sweet or dry, there's something available for them from our state's wineries. The wineries also have gotten creative with frozen drink mixes and even individual servings of wine that are perfect for the beach or picnics.
Although I didn't find any holiday specials on some of the bigger winery websites, I can tell you that they'll ship their product across the country. However, some states limit mail-order wine shipments, so you'll want to check that before your order.
3. Books. There are a number of books available related to Florida agriculture, from picture books to investigative reporting regarding the state's large farm-based commodities. One book I recently came across that would make a great gift is "Field to Feast: Celebrating Florida Farmers, Chefs and Artisans," an award-winning tome released last year that covers Florida's diverse and modern food offerings. The other book is "Florida Cattle Ranching: Five Centuries of Tradition," published this year by the Florida Cattlemen's Foundation. It includes captivating pictures and text detailing the history of and current practices in the cattle industry. The latter is a potential gift for any cowboy - or cowboy at heart - who you know.
4. Holiday cards. It's no secret that the migrants who pick our produce do not make a hearty income. So I found it interesting to learn that the Redlands Christian Migrant Association, a state-wide group that offers childcare and education to the children of migrant workers, sells both holiday cards and all-occasion cards designed by children. Money made from the cards, sold for $15 for a 10 pack, help the organization to receive matching funds that go toward educational materials and programs. If you want to take your support a step further, the organization accepts donations.
Also accepting donations is ECHO, a farm in North Ft. Myers that teaches farmers in impoverished countries how to maximize the natural resources available in their area.
5. Jellies, jams, and other ideas. Looking for smaller gifts? Then how about Florida-made sauces, honey, jellies, jams, dressings and candies? Those are fairly abundant at grocery stores and farm markets. You can find anything from tongue-burning spicy to savory and sweet options. For the meat lovers in your life, then gator jerky could be a perfect stocking stuffer.
On a final note - one more way you can support the state's agriculture this season is by purchasing Florida-grown produce, fish, poultry, or meat for your holiday meals.