RUSKIN, Fla. — Ruskin has a rich history of farming here in the Tampa Bay area and we've seen how growers are working to adapt to changing economic times. Now, growers are showing how they're competing with larger farms across the country.
The Council Growers Farm has been on the scene in the Ruskin and Wimauma communities for more than a hundred years. Their business is based in Ruskin but they have a large sod farm in Wimauma.
"It's neat to have a history in an area," said Travis Council, the current owner of Council Growers in South Hillsborough County. "It's just my heritage."
While they've grown everything from citrus to tomatoes, now, their main crop is sod. The farm services homes, businesses, and government agencies across the Tampa Bay area.
But like many growers across South Hillsborough County, they've worked to adapt to the pandemic and changing economic times.
"In the world of sod farms, we're a small sod farm. But we've had to automate, simply because of labor," Council said.
The company has invested in one piece of equipment that they're calling "a game-changer." They say their automated sod harvester is allowing them to compete with larger companies.
The automated sod harvester allows workers to get perfect squares of St. Augustine sod, as well as several other varieties of grass and ground cover.
It is then automatically cut and placed into pallet after pallet with the push of a button, far different than when Council was growing up. It's almost instantly ready for wholesale or residential purchase.
"It's gotten our product to our customers faster and kept us open, because like I said, it's tough to find folks right now," he said.
In the meantime, Council Growers plan on being there at least another hundred years, all thanks to the tight-knit network of family and friends making this possible.
I'm just the current Council running Council Growers," Council said. "We're a small enough business that we truly are a family and that all makes your days go by better."