Manatee County agricultural icon died Aug. 17

vmannix@bradenton.comAugust 21, 2013 

Jim Hunsader

MANATEE -- When the annual Hunsader Farms Pumpkin Festival arrived every October, Donald James "Jim" Hunsader, was like a kid again.

He'd set up the scarecrows and ride around the grounds in his golf cart during the event.

"He made sure everything was going all right," his brother, Paul, said.

"The pumpkin festival always brought a smile to his face," said Joe Cincotta, a neighboring farmer.

Alas, Mr. Hunsader's smile will be missed when the Pumpkin Festival begins Oct. 12. The next-to-last Hunsader Farms patriarch passed Aug. 17. He was 85.

A former U.S. Marine, Korean War veteran and father of five, Mr. Hunsader was one of three brothers -- Robert, now deceased, was the other -- who brought their families to rural Manatee County in 1967 from Manitowoc, Wis.

They put down roots on 1,700 acres of property off State Road 675.

"When they began clearing land, they probably had no idea hundreds of thousands of people would be coming out to their farm to pick pumpkins, enjoy hayrides and take pictures," said Jim Strickland, longtime agricultural appraiser for the Manatee County Property Office. "That's kind of cool."

The Hunsaders were successful dairy farmers, wbut moving here presented a different challenge.

"We had to learn a whole new set or rules," Paul Hunsader said.

Cincotta, who began farming in Manatee County in 1955, remembered their determination to make it work.

"The three brothers didn't know much about tomato farming," Cincotta said. "When a guy they hired asked, 'Who's your labor?' They said, 'We are.' They learned to prune and tie and spray and got help, of course. But they were physical hard-working guys from Wisconsin who learned the business and learned it well."

Strickland agreed.

"They adapted to Florida, adapted to changing times and the next generation brought them forward," he said.

The Hunsader brothers retired in 1990.

Mr. Hunsader's sons, Mike and David, run the farm now.

"Jim and his brothers were fine people, a credit to the county," Cincotta said.

Visitation is 6-8 p.m. Friday at Shannon Funeral Home Westview Chapel, 5610 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

A Mass of Christian burial is noon Saturday at Sts. Peter & Paul the Apostles Catholic Church, 2850 75th St. W., Bradenton.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Foundation for Dreams, wfoundationfordreams.org, 16110 Dream Oaks Place, Bradenton, FL 34212, or Tidewell Hospice.

Condolences may be made online at shannonfuneralhomes.com.

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter:@vinmannix

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