July-August - 6

GROWER PROFILE
Central Florida
LEAFY GREENS
High tunnels help Sugar Top Farms fight insects, heat
BY DOUG OHLEMEIER
ASSISTANT EDITOR
S
ugar Top Farms employs high tunnels to battle
insects and winds. The tunnels help the central
Florida area farm grow leafy greens on the
highest point on the Florida peninsula.
After discovering a lack of local produce in the
greater Orlando, Florida, area, Jordan and Jessica
Cooper left corporate careers to grow salad greens
and other vegetables at 312 feet above sea level on
Sugarloaf Mountain, a hill in Clermont.
With fruit being more available, the Coopers wanted
to create a center where shoppers could purchase local
vegetables, which previously required driving nearly
two hours to Gainesville.
Sugar Top started with lettuce and though it attempted
to grow many greens for restaurant and farm market
customers, the Coopers decided to focus on salad greens
because few other growers had them, Jordan Cooper
said. Baby arugula is the company's specialty, and
Cooper prefers growing lightweight and high-value
leafy greens, leaving the others to larger farms.
6 | JULY/AUGUST 2023
At different times from the fall to spring,
the Coopers grow a variety of vegetables and
microgreens, including turnips, radish, kale, collards,
bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, eggplant,
tomatoes, onions, squash and edible flowers. The
farm is increasing production on its 2.5 acres.
For Sugar Top, which began dabbling in tunnels in
2016 and expanded growing in them in 2021, tunnels
protect crops from central Florida's oppressive heat,
which can limit production and quality.
" Heat is always something, " Cooper said.
Spring's heat and high winds mix with sandy land,
drying the soil, which is highly hydrophobic, repelling
or dissolving water.
" It's always a battle, " he said.
Tunnel differences
Because plants require extra light, the Coopers
were surprised to discover some of its lettuce grew
better during the winter in open fields.
" Tunnels are not always a catch-all, " Cooper said.
" We are always learning from it and how the tunnels

July-August

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of July-August

Editor's Letter
Grower Profile: Central Florida leafy greens
GLVPN Veg Connection: Vegetable crop yields
Organic Grower
Ag Tech: Fields of drones
Plant & Soil Health: Fusarium wilt
Great Lakes EXPO News: Connecting growers through the digital market space
Farm Market & Agritourism: Agreements between growers provide additional opportunities
Ag Labor Review
Classifieds
Advertiser Index
July-August - 1
July-August - 2
July-August - 3
July-August - Editor's Letter
July-August - 5
July-August - Grower Profile: Central Florida leafy greens
July-August - 7
July-August - 8
July-August - 9
July-August - GLVPN Veg Connection: Vegetable crop yields
July-August - 11
July-August - 12
July-August - 13
July-August - 14
July-August - Organic Grower
July-August - 16
July-August - 17
July-August - 18
July-August - 19
July-August - 20
July-August - 21
July-August - 22
July-August - 23
July-August - 24
July-August - 25
July-August - 26
July-August - 27
July-August - 28
July-August - Ag Tech: Fields of drones
July-August - 30
July-August - 31
July-August - Plant & Soil Health: Fusarium wilt
July-August - 33
July-August - 34
July-August - 35
July-August - Great Lakes EXPO News: Connecting growers through the digital market space
July-August - 37
July-August - Farm Market & Agritourism: Agreements between growers provide additional opportunities
July-August - 39
July-August - Ag Labor Review
July-August - 41
July-August - Classifieds
July-August - Advertiser Index
July-August - 44
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