TWENTY-MILE BEND — A shiny, fresh “Welcome to the Everglades Agricultural Area” marker will greet travelers en route to the Glades region of Palm Beach County in the future, to let them know they are riding through America’s winter vegetable source.
Palm Beach County District 6 Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, along with other dignitaries, will gather Wednesday, Oct. 7, at 9:30 a.m. at “Twenty-Mile Bend,” the heavily traveled intersection of State Road 80/U.S. 98/441 and County Road 880 — known for generations among county residents as “Twentymile Bend,” or “20-Mile Bend” (depending on whom you ask).
It will be a quick, socially distanced gathering to dedicate the new marker in celebration of the farmers of the EAA, who are by and large the spine of the Glades’ economic activity.
The Lake Okeechobee Regional Economic (LORE) Alliance of Palm Beach County contributed to this project, as LORE Executive Director Christine Radentz pointed out, to support the growers and farmworkers who drive the Tri-Cities economy.
A news release from McKinlay’s office outlined the reasons for the new “Everglades Agricultural Area” sign:
“(It is) ... the gateway to the Glades in western Palm Beach County. The Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) is the winter vegetable capital of the country and a major economic engine for Palm Beach County. The EAA is also the nation’s largest producer of fresh sweet corn and sugarcane.
“The replacement sign, designed in coordination with Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association and Florikan, depicts the important goods produced locally, including sweet corn, radishes, celery, sugarcane, lettuce, cabbage, rice and mangoes.
“In terms of total agricultural receipts, Palm Beach County continues to be the largest county east of the Mississippi River. The EAA is the epicenter of agricultural production — primarily sugarcane and 30 types of vegetables, with 500,000 acres annually harvested.
This community project was spearheaded by (LORE) and supported by area farmers and local officials in the Glades.”
It was highlighted by a Facebook post put up by Healthier Glades Executive Director Antoinita (Annie) Ifill on Sunday, Sept. 27: “Today I drove by 20 Mile Bend and I saw the sign that everyone sees entering Western Palm Beach County. As the saying goes, ‘First impressions are lasting ones.’ Previously I had a conversation with someone who drives to the Glades daily and asked why we haven’t expressed to the county to upgrade the sign.
“Change doesn’t happens in communities like the Glades until we make ‘good trouble’ and demand the actions that we seek. Too often many people view the Glades in a negative light. Think about how upgrading this sign can have a significant impact and show visitors the pride that we have for our communities. I’m sure that county leadership is aware of this and probably working on updating the sign.” (In fact, they were indeed, but the project had been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and pandemonium.)
“One of the areas that Healthier Glades focuses on is changing the narrative and showcasing the positive things that are happening in our communities. This could be the first of many more positive things to come,” Ifill wrote.
Anyone interested in more information about the productivity of some of the United States’ most fertile and valuable farmland is encouraged to contact McKinlay’s office at 561-355-2206, or email her chief of staff, Kelley Burke, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other information, from LORE, may be accessed at the organization’s website, http://www.lorealliancepbc.org/, by calling the alliance at 561-763-5550 or by following their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/lorepbc.
To learn more about Healthier Glades, go to https://healthiertogetherpbc.org/our-communities/healthier-glades/.
The group is sponsored by the Palm Health Foundation.