Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame inductee Wayne Hawkins died Nov. 19 at the age of 85.
He led the Florida Tomato Committee for 25 years, beginning in 1974. He had previously organized the Florida Sweet Corn Exchange, the South Florida Vegetable Exchange, the Zellwood Sweet Corn Exchange, the Leaf and Radish Exchange and the North Florida Vegetable Growers Exchange. Later he started the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange. The establishment of those groups and others allowed growers to standardize practices and control production to facilitate better returns, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which added Hawkins to its hall of fame in 2007.
“Wayne gave leadership to the industry during a period when it was going through a lot of changes,” said Florida Tomato Committee manager Reggie Brown, referencing the beginning of increased competition from Mexico.
Brown knew Hawkins for many years across several roles in the industry and said the groups Hawkins formed are still making a difference.
“Those exchanges have continued to contribute to the well-being of those commodities groups in the state,” Brown said.
When the Florida Tomato Committee honored Hawkins with a charity golf tournament and auction for his retirement in 1999, one industry member commended Hawkins for his leadership and described him as “a tenacious advocate for the Florida tomato industry when we really needed it,” according to The Packer archives.
Brown gave a similar account, noting that Hawkins was a sharp observer quick to defend the needs of the Florida tomato industry.
“Wayne was one of a kind,” Brown said. “We’ll miss him.”
Hawkins is survived by his wife, three sons, three grandchildren, one great-grandchild and by his brother, according to his obituary.