Florida"s strawberry industry honored one of its leaders.
At the Florida Strawberry Growers Association"s strawberry jam awards banquet on Dec. 11, members of the Dover-based organization presented grower Sam Astin III and Buffy Astin, his wife, the organization"s Strawberry Hall of Fame award.
Sam Astin owns the Plant City, Fla.-based Astin Strawberry Exchange LLC, which has become one of Florida"s largest strawberry grower-shippers.
The award is the association"s most prestigious honor, presented to a person or group that has devoted a lifetime to support Florida Strawberries, said Tiffany Dale, the association"s director of member services and community relations.
For five consecutive years through 2012, Astin Strawberry Exchange won the industry"s handler of the year award.
The handler awards recognize the top production averages of the state"s strawberry handlers.
The association didn"t honor any handlers this year because production information was not forwarded, said Sue Harrell, director of marketing.
Astin Strawberry Exchange also grows blueberries and this season, plans to ship 5 million flats of strawberries from 1,300 acres, compared with 4.3 million flats shipped from 1,100 acres last season.