16 July 2006


Ranchers Leaving Central Florida

I started coming to Florida before there was a Disney World -- maybe late 1950s, before I can remember. First my family went to Daytona Beach for the beach and the races, then my folks got involved in the golf scene and started going to a hotel in Sebring during the winter to play golf and hang out with my dad's friends from the rag business. From that, my dad got involved in a golf course development in Polk County, what started as Arrowhead Lakes Golf and Country Club but evolved into Grenelefe Resort (sorry, the best I can come up with is this 2004 Orlando Business Journal story - doesn't sound good). My folks ended up with homes down here as well as our real home in Tennessee. After my dad died, my mom lived at Grenelefe, then after she remarried, moved to Daytona Beach.

I went to a prep school, now non-existent, in Lake County near Mt. Plymouth for the 8th and 9th grades (1969-1971). I ended up living in Central Florida -- Polk County, Orange County, Osceola County -- for a while during 1977-1978, and Mack and I have been in Volusia County now since 2000.

Cattle, ranching, and beef had been part of the Central Florida equation from the first times we started coming down here. When I was in school here, some of the other kids were from cattle ranches in Polk County. Where I lived in Osceola County was within eyesight of the Silver Spurs Rodeo.

Now, cattle familes are pulling out of Central Florida. They've been beat by accelerating land values that leave them land rich but cash -- i.e., tax -- poor and by encroaching development. Today's Orlando Sentinel has a special feature -- story, photos, narrated photo essay, "in their own words" videos, etc., here on one Osceola County family's move to Texas so they can continue raising cattle. (I don't think there's a registration involved. If there is, I can e-mail you a PDF of the story.)

Addendum: When I visited the Black Hills last year, I met a guy, about my age, who lived and worked on his parents ranch near Spearfish Sundance, Wyoming. They were dealing with similar issues: Accelerating property values due to the subdivision of larger ranches into "mini ranches" for people retiring from Colorado, Arizona, and California. His concern was that increasing property values leading to increasing property tax bills would eventually force them to sell their own ranch. My point: This isn't just a local Central Florida issue. The impact of changing development patterns on previously rural lives is a nationwide issue and impacts many.

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