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Mike Lott


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Mike Lott
Series Title:
West Central Florida land use oral history project
Physical Description:
1 sound file ( 66 min.) : digital, MPEG4 file + ;
Lott, Mike, 1955-
Mansfield, Bill
University of South Florida Libraries -- Florida Studies Center. -- Oral History Program
University of South Florida -- Tampa Library
University of South Florida Tampa Library
Place of Publication:
Tampa, Fla
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Strawberries -- Florida -- Hillsborough County   ( lcsh )
Land use, Rural -- Florida -- Hillsborough County   ( lcsh )
Oral history   ( local )
Online audio   ( local )
Oral history.   ( local )
Online audio.   ( local )
interview   ( marcgt )


Mike Lott, career strawberry farmer, talks about his experiences with agriculture and development, and focuses on the changes in these areas. He discusses issues of farming strawberries, the effect of development on farming, the Environmental Protection Agency, pesticides, rural land development, surface water usage and selling agricultural goods.
Interview conducted June 23, 2006, in Seffner, Fla.
System Details:
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
System Details:
Streaming audio.
Statement of Responsibility:
interviewed by William Mansfield.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of South Florida Library
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University of South Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 028708405
oclc - 206922915
usfldc doi - W34-00012
usfldc handle - w34.12
System ID:

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C O P Y R I G H T N O T I C E T h i s O r a l H i s t o r y i s c o p y r i g h t e d b y t h e U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a L i b r a r i e s O r a l H i s t o r y P r o g r a m o n b e h a l f o f t h e B o a r d o f T r u s t e e s o f t h e U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a C o p y r i g h t 2 0 0 7 U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a A l l r i g h t s r e s e r v e d T h i s o r a l h i s t o r y m a y b e u s e d f o r r e s e a r c h i n s t r u c t i o n a n d p r i v a t e s t u d y u n d e r t h e p r o v i s i o n s o f t h e F a i r U s e F a i r U s e i s a p r o v i s i o n o f t h e U n i t e d S t a t e s C o p y r i g h t L a w ( U n i t e d S t a t e s C o d e T i t l e 1 7 s e c t i o n 1 0 7 ) w h i c h a l l o w s l i m i t e d u s e o f c o p y r i g h t e d m a t e r i a l s u n d e r c e r t a i n c o n d i t i o n s F a i r U s e l i m i t s t h e a m o u n t o f m a t e r i a l t h a t m a y b e u s e d F o r a l l o t h e r p e r m i s s i o n s a n d r e q u e s t s c o n t a c t t h e U N I V E R S I T Y O F S O U T H F L O R I D A L I B R A R I E S O R A L H I S T O R Y P R O G R A M a t t h e U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a 4 2 0 2 E F o w l e r A v e n u e L I B 1 2 2 T a m p a F L 3 3 6 2 0


Land Use Oral History Project Patel Center for Global Solutions University of South Florida Interview with: Mr. Mike Lott Interviewed by: William Mansfield Location: Seffner, Florida Date: June 23, 2006 Transcribed by: Wm. Mansfield Edited by: Wm. Mansfield Audit Edit: Kyle Bradford Burke Audit Edit Date: February 1, 2008 WM: We always put a label on the disc by saying: That is Bill Mansfield from the [Patel] Center for Global Solutions at the University of South Florida talking to Mr. Mike Lott Hillsborough County and the surrounding area. We always start by getting people to state their name and telling us when they were born and where they were born. So let her go. ML: life. WM: Okay. And your occupation? ML: Farmer. WM: Farmer? What do you all ? MK: Primarily strawberries. WM: Strawberries? Okay, cause Chip Hinton said y talked to him first. [See Chip Hinton interview with Bill Mansfield 2 28 06] How long have you been farming? had cattle, when I was youn ger. WM: Uh huh. other row crops].


2 In high school I grew some zucchini squash an d different crops like that. Probably 50 we probably went full time farming when I was twenty five [years old]. So probably twenty eight y ears. WM: Okay. So you started farming right here? ML: No, no. WM: Where did you start farming? ML: Well actually we did start farming on the other side of the property. Then we leased some land from Jim Walden, the first year I quit working and went full time. That was probably 1970 Before that we had raised eggplants and other crops and actually raised a few strawberries, a couple of acres of strawberries. Then I bought this place, I bou ght this farm something like that. WM: So that was about twenty four years ago I guess. ML: Yes. ince 1982? ML: Right. WM: And when did you first start noticing development creeping out? ML: When we were actually building this farm here, this subdivision around me was in [the] permitting stage. And it was one of the older farmers in the area that w as helping. there was some burst in our industry, so when a new farm went in, it drew a lot of attention. So when this farm went in, Glenn Williamson close friends, they were older farmers a nd had been doing it for years They came and we were taking the fences down, and tearing the old barn down. It [had been] pasture. WM: Uh huh. ML: He was standing here and he looked over at the subdivision and he said that I would this never happened.


3 WM: What kinds of comments were there when you put the farm in here. Were peo ple encouraging? Were they disparaging? ML: There were no subdivisions here. I was here first. The [agriculture] was here first. WM: Okay. ML: And this subdivision has only been here for three years. ML: No, this subdivision here the L shape ML: (draws a diagram) We built the first phase here, where the house is, the first phase of the farm here [drawing map]. In fact there is a pond here, they built the retention pond. Thi s is on their property. This is my property line. This [indicating diagram] is the entrance to the subdivision. They built this original built this Phase I and then Phas e II and then they actually came back in here and built Phase III. So they were moving this dirt here almost within a year of me building this farm. But all the permitting when they sold these lots, they sold the lots on this little pond here as water fr ont [property] and they got five grand more an acre, $5,000 a lot more for water front [property] and $5,000 to $7,000 a lot more for farm front [property]. They actually sold [the lots] as farm front or waterfront. So the developers actually used the fa rm [as a selling point]. And I really think that was WM: Uh huh. ML: And actually I think that kind of with the first phase of people that build around the farm, they paid extra to be on the farm. [They] choose to be on the farm and so I had no problems. WM: Okay. ML: They wanted to be there and when they sold their homes and the things, we really bought wit


4 bad about letting his pool overf WM: (laughs) fortunate from you k odors or smells. But I go beyond the limit to try and not do anything to aggravate the neighbors. ML: Well if I see them for fertilizer or anything [with a strong odor]. We can, Florida Statutes, Section 823.14 restricts nuisance suits against farmers]. You cannot do this interview without digging up the Right to Farm Act and having that law in there. I used to have the signs posted everywhere. When they built the subdivision, I put a big sign right out here [points toward the road] so when people bought in there they could read the signs. WM: W hat did the signs say? ML: The Right to Farm? It basically says that this is an ongoing commercial agricultural [enterprise] and there will be odors, sprays, noise from equipment running at night, and just kind of gives a on. If you call Judy, if you know Judy, or Chip [Hinton] can get it for you. WM: Okay. Florida law and into. ML: We put that around the edges [of the farm] when everybody moved in. I should have kept signs up, but it gets to be a pain. And the just things that we you know we


5 but we really do it [to improve relationships with our neighbors]. was strong enough we ue. Now we had an issue when they built this subdivision across the road. They wanted to re route the wetlands water. And subdivision did not want [the other] subdivis of our property up. Keeps our lending WM: You can use that for loans? ML: You can use it for loans, or capital or you know when you finally [retire] not out something. So a lot of us, the gold watch at the end of your career is selling the real estate sell your farm. Whether you do or not, the capability is there. When you reach 60 or 65 years old and a checkbook, there is a chance to retire. So when this g uy life. I felt like he had the right to develop it. But the neighborhood hired lawyers to fight it. They took on the opinion that they were going to save the farm. That was their justif ication for [opposing] the subdivision. They originally stated it would change the style of the community. It would be different housing, or what ever. But when they finally settled down to what most people were using as the niche, that it would run the farm out and that was ruining the community. And, you know, there is some truth to that, I guess. But when I testified, I testified that I believed that owners have property rights. WM: Uh huh. e to buy this place and you have the right to sell it to the highest bidder.


6 All I wanted them to do was to guarantee me that mak [It] actually is the only standing case in Hillsborough County where they are legally bound and responsible not to [above or below] ground, affect my drainage situation. WM: How did you had there not been this ML: Hillsborough Estates. WM: So Hickory Hills is the first one and ML: And Hillsbor ough Estates is on the other side, and this is Lake Weeks Estate. WM: Okay. So if Hickory Hills Estate had not contested Lake Weeks [Estates], would you have paid attention to the water issues? ML: Yeah, oh yeah! We have an enclosed capture right here. The county built the road through this wetlands, means for that water to go anywhere. They just divided the bay head and trapped the water. I was very concerned about they w ere doing over there. And we had a lot of issues with them [Lake Weeks Estate] actually. I made my one and only call, ever, to the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency]. They had sand piles over there that was blowing sand and was tearing the strawberrie s up pretty bad. WM: Sand is very abrasive. ith the EPA and his job is [to monitor] construction site sand blowing. I called this guy and he comes out. He was a real meek guy and I thought [he would been really ugly with me. I was wanting a big guy with a gun, or a big stick or something.


7 WM: (Laughs) at he wanted them to do. He shut the job down. I mean [makes a crashing sound] on the spot! (Laughs) I mean that their equipment off and go home. Leave it sitting. (Grandchildren come over to talk with Mr. Lott.) WM: So the EPA guy shut them down? ML: Yeah, but that was on sand blowing. That was just your construction phase. It had nothing to do with, urban encroachment. I mean, I guess it did during the construction phase. We had a little actually it was kind of funny. hung for i So they called the University of Florida up there. And when it all boiled down, that also g ot their attention, it was a more valuable crop than they had anticipated it would be. And thinking it would be worth that much. people are Market].


8 ML: But the reality of it is a lot of it comes from overseas. And you have no control of that. WM: I know. ML: Five years ago nobody would have thought that Venezuela would have been against WM: Well people complain when they can get oil, or they complain about the price of gasoline. But you need [food] more than the gasoline. But you said that when they started building across the road, you were concerned about how that would affect the f arm? ML: Just from water. Not from people just from drainage. WM: Your drainage? Water from the farm here would mess up them or water from the development would mess up you? ML: [I feared] the development would mess up me. WM: Okay. So how did you sta y on top of that [issue]? ML: Well we just went to the County Commissioners, Rhonda Storms was still on [the from this area and got a pretty good agricultural base. We ca lled Rhonda and talked to her. The County Commissioners said that as they went through the phase it was kind of an unusual thing the County Commissioners did. Their engineers had to satisfy us before they could go through with it. They had to guarantee m onetarily and, you know, in WM: I think it is fascinating, because [of] the misunderstandings of agriculture. Most Commissioners, does that mean you and your family, or were there others? ML: No, it was me and my family. WM: Okay, so it was an individual effort on your part. ML: Right. WM: Could you describe it?


9 ML: Well, we contacted a couple of them, employees of the county actually. The ag liaison Stephen Gran interview with Bill Mansfield. 6 23 06] WM: Okay. When you found out that, that [property] was going to be turned into a subdivision, did you go immediately to the Commission? ML: No. Actually I missed the first public County Commission, I sent my wife. I was somewhere else doing something an But their entrance was supposed to be right across the road from the Hickory Hills subdivision entrance. Which I thought was a great idea because it would be a perfect place to put a four way stop and slow the traffic down. Well, I had is sues with that, cause I was really concerned about having thirty or forty school kids, every morning tempted [to get strawberries out of my field] when I may have sprayed the night before, while they were asleep. If they run out there and jump in the field they may get sick, or something. ecause not on this side of the field, because the kids are sitting there. WM: But you went to the County Commissioners meeting and what did you listen for? here a lon was the approach I took with them. And I think we came with pretty good odds. WM: Tha


10 ML: This was after they had already been permitted. They were building the subdivision. This was a real high piece of ground, so th ey had stockpiled dirt and sold it. Had a huge amount of dirt out there. I had called them a couple of times [about] other things. When they first pushed [down] all the trees they piled them right here. They went to burn them and I called them up. I [had] called them when they started piling them and I said, ML: It burns holes what, but some talking huge amounts of timber. WM: Oh yeah, I can imagine. ML: Then they had to come in there with loaders and load it and haul it. And then they ended up grinding it. So they did spend spending. But I was probably not their [favorite] person at the time. But I had talked to them before they ever did it. ML: Then, when they actually started sel ling the lots (Mrs. Lott and the grandchildren depart for a trip to Cypress Gardens.) ML: I lost my train of thought. WM: You were talking about monitoring the development, to ensure that their drainage ML since the subdivision was built, the duck pond was drying up and he wanted to cut through the wetlands and drain water into th drains the water towards Lake Weeks.


11 He said that he had reviewed the County Commissioners response on how they had set this up and it was in there that nothing could be done without my approval. And I told without some study or something. affecting us. When they were selling the property their salesman told the potential buyers that they had already bough this farm and it would be Phase III. But they never bought it. WM: Did they approach you about buying the farm? ML: They had never approached me. That was just hearsay. Some of the people had been told [our farm] was part of Phase III for that subdivision and they were wondering when they w ere going to start building it? And this subdivision, like a lot of the [housing] boom around here, was supposed to have and they were sold out within fourteen mont hs, or two years of even starting the thing. I mean it went quick. WM: Wow. You said that because of the subdivision over here [Lake Weeks Estate] that you were careful about when you sprayed and you know ML: Both subdivisions! [Lake Weeks Estate and Hickory Hills]. is that? Maybe responsibility would be a better word to use. I purpose, but if my headlights flash in your window at midnight, so be it. not supposed protection. (laughs)


12 WM: But anyway down there, where the babies were born deformed. The media grabbed that and ran with it. The company was a pretty good sized company and they were trying to do everything will even buy that label. They had to throw that label a way. Nobody will even buy the label. LM: Two years ago AgMart WM: Okay, let me put this on pause. pause in recording adversely affecting your neighbors? ML: Right. WM: How has that added to your workload? been able to work around it. Some of the new products that are When we lost methyl bromide, the EPA jumped on her not really the EPA the Clean Air Act, jumped on methyl bromide in 1992 and they promised us a replacement. I was paying sixty y opinion, a replacement is a product that works as well, is at least as safe and cost somewhere in the ballpark, the same t get another crop out. Well really this is shaky ground. Some of the new products methyl iodide is one of the [products] they hope has a chance of doing [the job] they are saying [it will cost] $9.00 or $10.00 a pound. WM: (whistles) a fully impermeable plastic which is Tape 1, side 1 ends; tape 2 begins.


13 ed for it. to them. And some of the setbacks they are talking about is; if you have a forty acre farm in the middle of that farm. the middle of 40. Those are horizons, problems, things that are going to have to be dealt with in the future. California has dealt with the m for a long time. development. ML: Right. A developer comes in setbacks off of the farm, because they know the farm was t here first. But, you know WM: Have you ever been approached by developers or real estate people about selling your farm? ML: I get five or six letters a week. WM: Wow. ML: Mostly, I may have the wrong o pinion of this, somebody sends me a interested, big interested. o Money Down WM: (laughs) WM: Yeah. ML: I think, that I mentioned it to Chip several tim some point we all need to look a little harder at what steps we need to take to prepare ourselves for development. Do we need to go ahead and plot our land early? I was told,


14 think about it. Actually another interesting thing, when they built this subdivision I was twenty six when they buil t this subdivision here and if my farm is here (indicating diagram) this This subdivision went in and applied for higher density, per acre, three [housing units] per acre, or whatever. Well when I was twenty six, a ll I was going to do was get rich But they actually drew the urban development line like this (indicates diagram). And there is a road here. There is a road right through here. It would be ah the smartest thing or the County It are because of that. It would actually help this subdivision too, because that line went through them. They got a higher destiny here than they do here (indicating diagram). That was something. That kind of information would be good for us to know. WM: W that? WM: Plat? ML: You could plat the land, go ahead and have it platted and leave i t as agriculture but the county commissioners would already have that plat in place for some many units. And if they wanted to build a road platted, they have to take that number of units into considerati on for your infrastructure. But that was one of my projects this summer, was to look into that. development, because when I talked to Dr. Hinton he talked about do ing things to keep agriculture in the area and working out cooperatives so that agriculture could exist with subdivisions. So you are thinking about preparing for development?


15 ML: I think, that personal opinion. I think that agricu lture is very important. We need to do everything in our power to keep it here. What it does for green ways, what it does for the environment what it does I know at least the local agriculture is very good stewards for the land. Some of these strawberry fa rms I can take you to have been growing actively for 80, 85 years. Same row! Not just the same field. Irrigation is permanent, so it is the same three inches of ground where that berry plant sits years and years and years. And if you can do that on [a] concentrated piece of ground. Everybody was talking years ago they were talking about that we needed to go organic, we needed to be more creative. All of that involves crop rotation. So then if yo u want a hundred acres of berries you got to have four to five hundred of acres of land cut up, so you leave a lot of green way in there, you know. Anyway oh I got off track now. WM: You were talking about preparing for development. ML: But my thought is that as a businessman, you know this is a business. Citrus, half of the citrus here in the last five years there were what fifteen thousand acres of citrus in Hillsborough County? Maybe it was more than that. Anyway, the tristeza and Japanese beetles moved into the area. Most of the citrus was on sour root. real estate boom, all came together at one time and all that dead citrus this used to be That land went on the market fast, and if the real estate boom had not hit, timed perfectly, they might not have gotten so much money for their property. And its agriculture. Wonder [what would happen] if we loose methyl bromide. Wonder [what would happen] if there are setbac half a mile of a house? of] methyl bromide we have seen half mile setbacks discussed. Of cou impractical. What they end up with is still too much. But if those things did happen Immigration! This immigration issue is huge. We have to have we have to have this WM: Oh yeah.


16 ed [migrant laborers] too. urban areas is another one. You get enough political push, I mean you can close the public boat ramp, so the rich people can have their private lake and now the sinkhole has eaten it up. I mean you get the right people around you, and they can put pressure [on politicians]. When that happens with a business you have to be able to get out with the most money in alking about, that we also need to be experienced in how to deal with development. That is our highest out. WM: You can make the most of it rather than having to sell out to whoever is willing to pay. ML: Glenn Williams is a dear farmer in the area and they have one of the large, large elop it. unless the county wants to buy it and look at it. Even that, you have to be prepared [for that possibility]. If the county wants to buy it to set aside, or a park or something, you need to be able to be in position to get your money out of it. Agriculture was the would have possibly been forced into selling. It was an eye


17 you get a little confidence, you get money in the ban done pretty good. So now I can sit back. My grandkids absolutely love this place. The little one that was under the table, knowing just as happy to stay here. (laughs) WM: (laughs). ML: He would rather have stayed here than go to Cypress Gardens, to be honest with money I got in the bank now, maybe term plan for years has been [to reach] 65, sell this thing and I got a little place over on Lake Louise and go live there. WM: I think it very wi it. ML: Absolutely. You got to have a plan too. WM: What have you done to maintain this farm? When I say maintain, I mean to keep from being developed out. WM: Well, you talked about watching the water usage, the drainage system that went up on the development that went up across the road. That sounds kind of like a defensive measure. WM: Uh huh. reet, I WM: I ask that question because when I interviewed Chip Hinton he talked about educating farmers about land policy and working with county governments and state ning and find that a law has been passed that will make it difficult for you to farm. uh asides and you can get tax rebates and deductions on it. But generally speaking, in our agriculture, the agriculture in


18 Hillsborough County anyway, better be using all of your land. WM: Uh huh. ML: (chuckles) I mean, w e were probably I think property values are down a little now. Things are sagging a little bit. But six months ago we could have probably I was told by realtors that we could have gotten a hundred grand an acre on this place. WM: Wow. ML: You know, seven ty looking at that kind of land values. Actually to buy and build a farm right now, a strawberry farm If somebody gives you the piece of proper ty and you developed it. If somebody gives you an old grove and you pushed the [trees over] and drilled you a well, put you a pump on the well, out your pipes in the ground, layered the ground, so your drainage was proper, dealt with the county I mean we d id a forty acre grove and I got 14.5 acres net, because I had to re route the water a different way [from how it had been] flowing for a million years. They wanted it to flow another way. But to go through all of that stuff and to get that farm, not plant ed, no plastic on it, no [strawberries] bedded, no single year crop expenses, just to make it a potential strawberry up money. [And this is] on top of the land purchase. So even if you found the land for twenty grand an acre, or twenty So a lot of the setbacks, a lot of the estuary things and stuff, farm. Could you tell me more about that? ML: Well, to drill a well, to get the water, if you pump the water on top of the ground, water, you have to get a permit for to get that water permit you have to have a s urface It took me three years to get the permits to take a grove that was actively in agriculture for a hundred years for as long as I know, before we ever bought it just to switch it from oranges to strawberries. It took me three years.


19 WM: Wow. Most people I had no idea it was that involved. I figured if you had the land ML: Well, I did it during the time when we were just following that big drought. Everybody had tightened the screws real hard on permits. Actually, when they got through with it, they give me the same water allotment that I had for the grove. Forty acres of strawberries uses more water than forty acres of citrus. Not that it uses more daily, but during the frost protection surges, during emergency surges, you use more. WM: Uh huh. ML: I needed to drill a bigger well to do that. When they got through diddling around and everything else, about 14.5 acres of strawberries uses the amount of water that was bigger permit. And I used the same well, so it turned out that they won, I guess. But they actually sent me a letter saying that the farm was unfit for agriculture. I said, year battle began. Not all projects take three years. I had some unusual circumstances. WM: But you took it back and proved to the m that it was fit for agriculture? ML: I just think it was unfortunate that the guy who wrote the letter had written it the way he did. The way he wrote the letter was very negative. So when I presented the letter to the local people it was (laughs). WM: Well, who was that? Was it the County Commissioners? ML: No, actually I showed it to Chip [Hinton] and I showed it to Hugh, not Hugh Grant (laughs) I showed it to SWIFTMUD [Southwest Florida Water Management District]. I showed it to different guys and WM: But who was the board, the group, and the body [that sent the letter]. ML: There was nobody, there was no one body that I went to. WM: No. I mean, to get the allocation for the water. ML: SWIFTMUD.


20 WM: Oh. Okay. ML: SWIFTMUD is who you deal with water. But to get to that point who had to get surface water. WM: Uh huh. dea They came out and did a walk of seeing the EPA today and getting the wetlands guy the next day, they all come in a group. WM: Uh huh. ML: In theory that works great, but I mean they drove around the farm and walked is no problem wit back to their office and one of them sends me a letter saying the place is unfit for agriculture. Bing! Then we start. [I asked] Why? And then its just, you know, we got it done. J ust part of doing business. seems. ML: It probably would have been simpler to get forgiveness that permission. (laughs) ask for forgiveness than permission. sellout or keep it for your grandchildren. ML: No. WM: Tell me why is that?


21 ML: It I When I started growing strawberrie you WM: Uh huh. ML: I mean the hotel, and every building [in town was named after strawberries.] The hotel, the Strawberry Patch, Strawberry Public every thing was strawberries. The whole town was consumed in it, the Strawberry Festival. Right out of high school I went to work in one Association. I was actually rebuilding the spray pumps for the farmers. WM: Uh huh. ML: I got to meet all of the farmers and every thing else. One of the farmers came in to Swiss Chard. They grew some of the more odd stuff. I was making about $125 a week, with a wife and a kid. This guy got cancer; we were running paper routes at night, and working a job. Doing everything we could to make a living. So we farmed it on halves. Well, he sold everything on the Tampa Market. So we would harvest it personally me ad come in and Tampa market. Sell it and then go to work at seven. I went from [making] $125.00 a week [to making good money]. I bought a nice used pick up truck. Had m oney in my pocket. The Tampa Market but it is all cash sales [there]. WM: Uh huh.


22 ML: So you go from having not a penny in your pocket to coming home every morning with $500.00 or $1,000.00 in your pockets. Well you had to spend the money or put it in (laughs) WM: I can well imagine that. bus Griffins and the Dukes and the Williamsons were the original berry growers in this area. And for m sitting in a restaurant, half of the people that come in, we know them. I would like them to have that small town feeling and to be part of agriculture. I love it. WM: Uh huh. ML successful. And some of those opportunities there, they could go that route along avenues that he has laid. ing is that there grandchildren [to have to do that]. ML: Right. And when we first started growing berries we used to grow strawberries only, and make a living. This is a always been a joke about the berry farmers only working half a year. And we made a good living doing tha t. We really did! But with the cost of gas, the cost of plastic, cost of still getting mu ch more]. The cost per box, every flat of berries you sell has a certain [cost attached to it]. The box, the labor and even if you raise it cheaper the freight, the shipping. We raise cantaloupes too and we paid $60.00 a bin for freight to ship cantalou pes. I got almost $80.00 a bin in cantaloupes now picking and freight. If I get that cantaloupe to New York and you decide [not to buy] them, I eat the freight [charges] I eat the bins. I eat falls back to me. (laughs) WM: Uh huh.


23 ML: The same with strawberries. We were at $0.60 for a flat, now were at a $1.75 for a thrown away when you take it home But I had to buy it! Those expenses have reached the point that we are now farming all but thirty days a year. We grow [yellow] squash, we grow zucchini, we grow cantaloupes, we grow strawberries. We double crop the land, just to survive, where we used to do it in six months. So the fact that you got six months a year off, that is just gone. That was one of the (laughs) nice parts about [raising strawberries]. Now if we get four to five weeks off in two weeks in the year? WM: Uh huh. days, not counting Christmas and the other holidays. WM: Yeah. Sometimes you do have to work on Sundays. M L: Right. ML: No. I might have talked too much involved and that will be in the interview for other people to benefit from. Can you think of anyone else it would be worthwhile to talk with about these land use issu es? ML: Chip and them know what the county is doing and they are working. There has been a lot of work [done] to put things in place. Easier permitting for labor camps. Easier lp to keep [the land] in agriculture. And I hope we all I hope that I stay in agriculture, at least another ten years, you know.


24 a place where people evidently want to live. (laughs) WM: Uh huh. ML: There is a battle there. One of my biggest fears is that they paint us in a corner. and then it has no value. And then we have k ept the land and fed the people and then we that it all goes into place Tape 1, side 2 ends; Tape 2 begins. ML: to protect us in that. That gives us the right to farm it longer. WM: Uh huh. ML: But let us have, you know, to protect our zoning in a way, that if I want to farm sell. neighbors had sold [their land] for. ML: Right. Right. There really needs to be something in place for that. Whether we get it or not, I really think that [would help ]. And it could be abused. I mean, it needs to be active agriculture. (laughs) But I do think [that] if somebody is willing to [keep land in agriculture], we ought to be able to [sell our land at the going rate, when the time comes]. You can ride down the road and see development and [there are] houses, houses, houses. to do that. WM: You want to be able to protect your options? ML: Right. it. And I alw in this interview will be deposited in the Special Collections of the University of South intervi ew for research.


25 ML: You got it. that I need to get you to sign. Today is June 23 rd (Sounds of signing) ML: My daughter graduated from USF. WM: When did she graduate? ML: Four years ago, maybe five years. WM: What did she major in? ML: Primary education, is that what they call it? First, second, third, forth grades. Something like that. WM: My wife grew up on a farm in eastern historian. end of interview

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Mike Lott
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interviewed by William Mansfield.
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1 sound file ( 66 min.) :
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West Central Florida land use oral history project
Mike Lott, career strawberry farmer, talks about his experiences with agriculture and development, and focuses on the changes in these areas. He discusses issues of farming strawberries, the effect of development on farming, the Environmental Protection Agency, pesticides, rural land development, surface water usage and selling agricultural goods.
Interview conducted June 23, 2006, in Seffner, Fla.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Streaming audio.
Lott, Mike
z Florida
Hillsborough County.
Land use, Rural
Hillsborough County.
7 655
Oral history.
2 local
Online audio.
Mansfield, Bill.
University of South Florida Libraries.
Florida Studies Center.
Oral History Program.
University of South Florida.
Tampa Library.
4 856