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Here’s how you can celebrate partnerships between rural, urban communities in Manatee

Renee Strickland wrapped her arms around a 50-pound sack of feed and hefted it out of a shed to her Gator off-road vehicle.

With one dog running alongside the Gator and another riding in the back of the vehicle, she drove out to a pasture to feed her cattle.

The heavy lifting is what she does to stay in shape, the rancher and cattle broker said, as cattle crowded up to the Gator, nosing for pellets of feed.

It’s a rough, physical life being working around large animals. Injuries, primarily from horses, have put Strickland in the hospital several times. One of the worst was when a horse kicked her in the face.

But Strickland is not complaining. She loves wearing the two hats she wears as a cow-calf operator and a cattle broker.

Strickland Ranch raises calves for beef that are sold when they are six to eight months of age.

She has also brokered cattle international cattle sales to Pakistan, Oman, Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica and elsewhere.

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Cattle quickly surrounded Renee Strickland, seated in her off-road Gator vehicle, after she brought a 50-pound bag of feed pellets to their pasture. James A. Jones Jr. jajones1@bradenton.com

She is partners with Jim Strickland in the cow-calf operation, while the export business is hers alone.

From 8 a.m.-5 p.m. on Nov. 15, participants in the annual Manatee Farm Tour, now in its 28th year, will have an opportunity to learn more about Strickland’s beef businesses and other agricultural operations.

Those who take the bus out to Manatee County’s farms include expert farmers as well as city folk who want to learn more about where their food comes from.

The tours provided local ranchers a chance to learn as well, especially when they have a chance to compare notes with ranchers on the tour from Iowa and elsewhere, Strickland said.

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One of the cows at Strickland Ranch noses up to Renee Strickland’s off-road Gator vehicle at feeding time. Strickland is a rancher and a cattle broker. James A. Jones Jr. jajones1@bradenton.com

Other stops on the farm tour this year include:

Wetlands Resource Center Citrus Grove, which consists of 200 grove acres and 17,000 Valencia oranges trees. The oranges are primarily used for juice. The last three years, the crop has been sold to Tropicana for juice production. The grove was first planted in 1985.

Manatee Floral, which was founded as Manatee Lemon Company in 1892 by a group of Ocala investors with the intent of purchasing land to plant lemons and oranges. In 1911, the name was changed to Manatee Fruit Company, reflecting the new focus on vegetable crop production after the freezes of 1907 and 1908 killed the lemon trees.

The produce was shipped by boat from Terra Ceia Bay to Tampa for reloading. In 1936, the company purchased gladiolus bulbs and by 1945 had shifted from vegetable to gladiolus production.

Now known as Manatee Floral, Inc., the company is a worldwide shipper of high-quality horticultural ornamental flowers and potted plants.

A.P. Bell Fish Company, which is a wholesale saltwater fish company specializing in locally caught seafood and baitfish.

A.P. Bell Fish Company was established in 1940 by Aaron Parx Bell. It is one of the last original “fish houses” in Cortez — and Cortez is one of the last true working waterfronts in the state of Florida.

Today, the A.P. Bell Fish Company is still a family-run business, owned and operated by Aaron Bell’s granddaughter, Karen Bell.

A.P. Bell Fish Company is a wholesale dealer, sourcing seafood products from local fishermen and from their own fleet of inshore and offshore vessels. A.P. Bell specializes in grouper, mullet, shrimp, stone crab and more. Their fishermen provide bait and seafood that’s served in local restaurants as well as being shipped all over the world.

Tickets to the farm tour are available at 2019-farm-city-week-bus-tour.eventbrite.com.

Tickets are $55 per person (plus Eventbrite fee) and include bus transportation, snacks, lunch, bus driver gratuity and entry into all hosting sites (some which are not typically open to the public). Seating is limited.

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