Sneak Peek

Season 4, Episode 02


Return to Episode: Sunsational!

Old School Florida Lives On At Sunsational Farms

Heirloom Crops and Ancient Ways Lead to TV Appearance

UMATILLA, FL — There used to be an eternal summertime feeling to Florida, a sense that school was always out and work could wait. It was especially real if you were vacationing from out of state and stopped at some neat little roadside attraction where oranges sprouted from trees, trails and playgrounds beckoned, and a store-full of tasty treats and trinkets captivated your attention. That was old school Florida. And of course, it’s mostly gone these days.

Mostly. Welcome to Sunsational Farms. Even though of fairly recent vintage, it’s as much time machine as attraction. The brainchild of two legacy Florida citrus families, Sunsational brings back a sense of Florida as a magical place where summer lasts forever. It’s so compelling The RFD-TV Network’s (DirecTV, Dish, Sling, cable) popular series Where The Food Comes From visited recently for Season 4, Episode 02 “Sunsational!”

Sunsational Farms Storefront

Time has not been kind to Florida citrus. The last two decades have brought an endless onslaught from a lethal disease called citrus greening that’s claimed half of the Sunshine State’s citrus groves. From a peak of over a million acres 20 years ago, just 500,000 remain.

But Florida citrus farmers are fighters. While some have given up and stepped aside and others have sold out to encroaching developers, many are finding creative new ways to stay in the game – even if some of those new ways are actually ancient, as is the case here.

Citrus is still the star of the show, and Sunsational’s lush groves are the work of a pair of long-time Florida citrus families, the Farynas and the Bakers. Fresh-squeezed OJ – literally the best you’ve ever had – is the piece de resistance.

But there’s also an array of fresh organic fruits and veggies, a playground for the kids with an adjacent county park, a grill where you can grab a bite and a shop full of Fresh from Florida goodies and curios that’ll take you back in time.

Sunsational Farms Orange Monument.

Celebrating the past is how the Farynas and Bakers are preserving their future. Both families have battled greening for years in their individual family operations, growing and shipping Florida citrus varieties for fresh sale and mostly juice despite decreasing yields as the disease takes it toll.

Sunsational is their combined effort to build something that will last even as the commercial industry they love is threatened.

Says Bill Baker, “This is how we stay connected to agriculture. This is how we stay connected to the land. We’re not dependent on the commercial citrus market. But this is also our way of giving something back to the community we live in and preserving the heritage that represents.”

You see that in annual events like the fall pumpkin patch and harvest festival (with a haunted trail for older guests) – and in the obvious fact that, for both families, being part of Sunsational means being there to meet and take care of the public, not just phoning it in while hourly workers run the show.

Hands exposing a head of broccoli plant.

Where The Food Comes From travels the country telling stories of food and farming, but many of their favorites are right here in Florida. That’s not surprising since the show calls Tampa Bay home base.

“We go everywhere and look at everything,” says WTFCF Host Chip Carter, who also created and produces the show, now in Season 4 and heading to other networks and channels via a new distribution deal. “I’ve milked water buffaloes in North Carolina, picked corn with a 12-year-old professional farmer in Wisconsin, made blue cheese at Clemson University – but my favorite stories are always the ones we get to tell right in our own backyard. There’s something special and timeless about Florida agriculture. Citrus has been the heart of that for well over a century. I hope we can find ways for it to continue.”

This is not WTFCF’s first look at the Florida citrus industry and its decline as greening continues to wreak havoc. The show pilot was a two-part deep dive on the topic titled “Deadline: Florida Citrus.” And in an upcoming Season 4 episode, “A Day Without Sunshine,” WTFCF visits Dundee Growers – featured in that original pilot – for an update on the creative ways growers are fighting what’s by far the industry’s greatest challenge, in Florida and in other regions like Asia and Brazil where the disease has also spread unchecked.




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