Driving down a well-worn path that winds past row crops at Long and Scott Farms, visitors round the corner of a field of shoulder-high grass and find themselves transported to something like a haven. The wind blows through the branches of trees blossoming with bright yellow Mexican sunflowers, while behind them, a farmers market under a galvanized roof, with bins of multicolored fruits and vegetables, leads the way to a gift shop full of locally made honey, jams, jellies and sauces. A painted scarecrow guards the screen door opening into a cafe, where a chalkboard sign advertises hand-scooped milkshakes and fresh-squeezed lemonade, and patrons sit at tables overlooking bright green fields.
It’s a timeless scene, but by no means is it one out of touch with the ever-changing community it feeds. On the contrary, it’s only through a careful combination of a steady eye on the future and the knowledge of what was learned in the past that Long and Scott Farms has grown into what it is today.
One day in 1963, Billy Long called his longtime friend and fellow farmer Frank Scott with a proposition. Long had come to Florida from Virginia to farm the muck during World War II, while his childhood neighbor Scott was still making a go of it back home.
As Scott’s son Hank describes it, Long saw a better opportunity in Florida’s unique growing seasons and soil: “He knew it was a struggle up there with only one long summer season. If you come to Florida, you’ve got three seasons to grow. We take advantage of the fall, the winter and the spring. He asked Dad to come down here and start a sand farm — which was a more lucrative opportunity to farm.”
Scott agreed, making the trek south with his family, marking the first generation of Long and Scott Farms. Of course, “lucrative” didn’t mean easy. Farming on this land presents unique challenges.
“Anybody can be a farmer on the muck,” Hank Scott said, quoting an old joke between him and the man he knew as Uncle Billy. “But to do this on sand takes a real farmer.”
First the men had to determine what their market was looking for, purchase equipment, and clear the land. Like many in Zellwood, their corn became one of their most popular products, but they found success with cucumbers, cabbage and other crops that continue to sustain them.
Hank Scott recalled the beginning of the transformation: “I still remember pulling into that front gate and seeing no clear land. It was all pine trees and palmettos. They cleared 40 acres to begin with, then a little more, and a little more as they needed it. Now we’re at 1,200 acres.”
The Only Constant
Since the friends first cleared those 40 acres, a lot more has changed than just the size of the operation’s fields. Long and Scott Farms is now the only remaining grower of Zellwood corn in the area, surviving after environmental regulations led the state to buy out most of the muck farms in the late 1990s. Because they grew on the sand instead, Long and Scott remained. Later, they trademarked the name “Scott’s Zellwood Triple-Sweet Gourmet Corn,” created their now-iconic label and partnered with FreshPoint to widen their distribution. Today, the corn is used in kitchens in high-end resorts and restaurants that include those at Walt Disney World, as well as sold in their own farmers market.
Adapting to constantly changing and costly regulations, trends in the market, environmental factors and economic shifts takes a flexibility and tenacity each generation of the Scott family seems to have inherited from the one before. Hank Scott, Frank’s son, is now president, serving as everything from manager and grower to inventor and carpenter. Rebecca Scott Tyndall, Frank’s daughter, oversees Scott’s Maze Adventures, a 6½-acre corn maze added in 2003 when the family recognized a rise in “agritainment.”
“About the time we decided to put in the corn maze, we had lost kind of our supporting cast,” Hank Scott said. “Farmers work together a lot. We were looking for something different to do, and that’s when we started agritainment. My wife and I went around the country looking at what other folks were doing, and we added the corn maze. Rebecca came in to run that aspect.”
The operation has remained a family business even after Billy Long’s retirement in 1998 and Frank Scott’s passing in 2017. Frank Scott’s youngest son, Marks, played a big part in the farm’s growth over the years, and now manages a sod farm in Groveland. Hank Scott’s son Sonny began in land preparation and now serves as farm manager, while Hank’s daughter Haley runs the market and café.
Evidence of the descendants’ impacts can be found around every turn on the land. From the sunflower-covered concession stand Sonny Scott’s wife runs on the weekends to a 60-foot-long super slide built by Hank Scott, every part of the farm has a story shared with a warmth clearly inspired by the people who made today’s operation possible.
Through all the changes, the heart of Long and Scott Farms has remained the same. “You do what you’ve got to do, what you’ve always done,” Hank Scott said. “That’s farming. You keep surviving, you keep persevering, changing with the times and diversifying. History has also taught us what not to do. Now, you still make a lot of mistakes, but you learn to look for the right thing — to be in tune with what’s going on and grow in that same direction.”
Sustaining a Future
Without the company’s history, the inspiration to keep evolving might not be as vivid a presence as it now is for Long and Scott Farms, Hank Scott said. “When you watched your grandfather and your father work so hard for so long, you want to keep that going. It’s not always an easy life, but it’s a good life. We have the opportunity to get out there and see what’s growing, to watch it grow from a seed to something that’s going to feed a lot of people. That’s rewarding. That’s what makes it worthwhile.”
And that’s what the family members work each day to continue for future generations — not just for their own family, but for the families they feed. “Education is so important, and not just in the classroom,” Hank Scott said. “All of that helps, but hands-on learning is irreplaceable. They have to have someone they look up to and learn from.”
The family members look for each opportunity to share their knowledge with their visitors. In the fall of 2018, the corn maze was sponsored by AgAmerica Lending with the theme Advocacy for Agriculture. Activity stations set up throughout the maze were designed to educate current and future generations about the source of what they eat.
The strength of Long and Scott Farms lies in the knowledge that has always been common sense in its line of work: The only way to a sustainable future is through planting a seed.
“It’s an opportunity to educate your future consumers,” Hank Scott said. “They walk away knowing that this is a lot of work. It’s science and faith and hope and prayer — you don’t come through things like the hurricane we had last year without a lot of each.”