Vick Family Awarded “Farm Family of the Year”

Dade County Farm Bureau honors family after a century of family farming.

The Dade County Farm Bureau based in Homestead, each year celebrates a leading farming family at its annual luncheon. Installation of the board and a new president are the standard procedures at this annual gathering that brings together farmers, growers, agriculture experts and local politicians that

support Florida’s second largest economic driver.

   This year’s ‘family of the year’ is the Vick family. Local historian, Bob Jensen, introduced the family with his personal reflections of his friends, Wilber and Willis Vick. Jensen had several slides of Vick family farm implements and a few anecdotes of his friend Wilber.

     After the Civil War, the Vick Family decided to leave their home in Virginia.  Some headed west settling in Iowa, others made their way to California while another segment of the clan set their roots in Ohio.

   Wilfred Vick had farming in his blood but was not a lover of cold winters nor the herd of cattle he needed to help plow the land.  He, his wife and 3 children, Eloise, Elizabeth and Wilber headed to south Florida in 1917 where they fell in love with the Princeton area. When the family first moved to South Dade they built a home-made ‘RV’. It was a wooden structure fixed atop an old Ford chassis they traveled in on the long journey from Ohio. They returned to Ohio where Wilfred bought a  Model T that he converted into a tractor by removing the rear end and installing tracks. Now that a substitute for plowing animals was discovered, goodbye cattle. 

  1918 found the Vick family back in Florida where the “original 20 acres” were purchased.  After clearing the sawgrass, a crop was planted without success.  Wilfred sent a soil sample for testing with the results coming back, “nothing will grow in that soil but sawgrass without adding ammonia nitrate.” The following season brought an abundant crop thus the Vick Farming Enterprise was born.

  Under the ‘Aristocrat’ label, starting in the 1920’s, the Vick family sold potatoes, Chinese cabbage, cabbage, carrots, beets, celery and more.  With hard work came success as the family accumulated over 600 acres. Along the way, a fourth child, Willis, blessed the Vick family.   

  Yes, there were setbacks.  At times, futures on potato crops were sold to large corporations who manufactured chips.  If the price of potatoes went up, the farmer could not capitalize on the market but if prices fell, the large companies always found a loophole to escape their obligations. In the end, government regulation and the Dept. of Environmental Resources Management that put the final nail in the coffin of the South Dade potato farmer. 

Many farms folded and their packing houses lay abandoned but the Vick family was flexible and had converted much of their land into successful palm nurseries.  That industry would take a terrible beating during Hurricane Andrew in 1992 so the family diversified into maintenance and landscaping.  The operation remained in business until 2005. Somewhere along the way a spark would ignite as great grandson Tommy Vick, son of Fred Vick and his wife, Pam, started a small farm on 10 acres.  Today, “little Tommy” farms 1,000 acres with row crops and fruit trees.  His sister, Jessica Vick Borek plays a major role with her husband in their own farming enterprise.

  Time will tell how many more challenges the farming industry of South Dade will face but be assured as long as farming exists there will be a member of the Vick family tilling the soil.  After all it’s been in their blood for 100 years and counting!

Erik Tietig of Pine Island Nursery will serve as the president of the bureau for the next 12 months. All in attendance agreed he was very capable of filling the very big shoes left by the outgoing president, Ivonne Alexander. Tietig told the packed Homestead Woman’s Club facility that among the many things he finds fulfilling about being in the ‘ag business’ is the terrific quality of life that comes with it.

Florida State Representative Holly Raschein swore in Tietig and the Board of Director’s at the conclusion of the meeting.