Cultivating Tomorrow

FloridAgriculture eNewsletter 2021

Donna Blommel, Pasco County Farm Bureau President

Fourth generation farmer and Pasco County native Donna Blommel grew up in St. Joe, a small community outside of Dade City. Her parents, and maternal grandparents before them, grew citrus and other crops.

The devastating freezes in the 1980s struck her family’s operation and they were forced to diversify. “My parents and brother started a foliage nursery in 1986 which my brother Mark and I run today,” she said.

The tropical foliage nursery, Jessamine Foliage, is a wholesale operation that grows six types of plants. “We would rather grow a few quality plant types than a lot of different plants with a lower quality,” she mentioned. The farm ships plants to the Apopka area 3-4 times per week.

“The initial plan was to supplement the citrus groves with the nursery,” she explained. “Today, we have no more citrus groves, however, we are thankful for the success we’ve had with the nursery business.”

Donna and her husband Paul have four children, three boys and one girl, and have one granddaughter. The couple is currently renovating Donna’s childhood home and plans to move back into the house that she was raised in, sometime this year.

They also run a small-scale cattle operation with their daughter and grow hay to supplement the cattle.

Donna was elected to serve as Pasco County Farm Bureau (PCFB) President in 2018 and is preceded by Senator Wilton Simpson, the current President of the Florida Senate. She was an active member of the Pasco County Farm Bureau Board of Directors prior to serving in her current role.

She explained that every February, PCFB sponsors the Pasco County Fair. “It’s a special event,” she mentioned. “We sponsor the youth shirts and different aspects of agriculture associated with the fair like plants, cattle, hogs, rabbits, chicken, goats and dairy.”

The week-long event brings the FFA and 4-H kids, urban and senior residents as well as members of the business community together.

“We have had several remarkable kids from Pasco County that grew up showing livestock in the fair who have gone on to do great things for Florida agriculture,” she said. State Representative Josie Tomkow is one of them. Rep. Tomkow is currently serving as a state legislature advocating for Florida agriculture in Tallahassee.”

Donna is an active advocate for agricultural youth education and serves as a 4-H Club Leader. Her club, Progressive 4-H, includes 60 kids ranging in ages from five to 18.

Donna shared with us her favorite family recipe for Chicken Tarragon:

“Here is my Chicken Tarragon recipe.  Hope you try it and enjoy it as much as my family has for years!”

1 Whole chicken, cut up
2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. Tabasco
4 tbsp. Lemon or lime juice
2 tbsp. Vegetable oil
2 tsp. dried tarragon
1 tsp. paprika

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut up chicken (two breasts, two thighs, two drumsticks, two wings), place chicken skin side down in a foil-lined 9×13 baking dish/pan. Combine remaining ingredients and brush over chicken.

Bake at 375 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes, turning after first 25 minutes and brushing occasionally with sauce.

Pasco County Economic Impacts
Agriculture and related industries generate:
36,960 jobs (20.7% of total) in Pasco County
$1.86 billion in Gross Regional Product

Source: UF/IFAS