A Fruitful Operation
On the job with Mike Greenwell of 31 Produce in Alva.
31 Produce has expanded beyond the original farm stand. What is your typical day like now?
I have a lot of irons in the fire. We have a restaurant, ice cream shop and bakery; we sell local crafts; we pickle products; and we have an amusement park. I do a lot of maintenance for the amusement park, which my sons run. I’m either here or at a different farm we own, with 1,000 acres and cattle. Between all three, I have a 60- or 70-hour workweek. I enjoy it. I enjoy building things and going from project to project. I think that’s the reason I made it in baseball, because I was so driven.
What career skills did you bring from the Red Sox into 31 Produce?
To me, sports are family oriented. Every business venture I get into now seems to involve kids and families. For example, we do school tours for thousands of kids on the farm and at the amusement park each year. We’re really big on family, that’s why we expanded and put in a petting zoo. People spend hours here, whether it’s picking strawberries or tomatoes, visiting the animals or getting ice cream.
You have the World’s Largest Strawberry Man. How did that come about?
When my kids were little, we would travel and go take photos with things like the World’s Largest Watermelon. When we built the farm, my kids said we needed to have the world’s largest something. Since we’re strawberry growers, I decided to build an 8-foot, 2-inch tall strawberry man, out of steel and styrofoam and with a resin coating, to beat the former record. It’s become our logo. He brings in a lot of tourists. I spent 16 years in the major leagues but my strawberry man has had more pictures taken than I have.
What are you hoping to teach people about produce?
It’s obviously better to eat fresh. We haven’t sprayed restricted chemicals on our fruit. We grow about 70 percent of what we sell, and there aren’t too many places in Florida that do that. Fresh and local is as good as it can get.
We’re already talking about getting some pigs to keep the miniature goats, donkeys, sheep, rabbits, guinea pigs, ducks, tortoises and chickens company.