After Florida’s buyout of farmson Lake Apopka in 1998 David and Michael Hill could have waved goodbye to farming forever. The Lake Apopka Restoration Act, signed into law by Gov. Lawton Chiles, aimed at making the lake waters pristine once again. The way to do it, of course, was to give farmers the boot.

David Hill farmed that rich muck soil with his father-in-law, Billy Long, with 1,000 acres of carrots, radishes, sweet corn and other crops. Just about everyone in Florida agriculture knew of Billy Long’s exploits at Lake Apopka. After moving there in 1953, he became a top sweet corn grower, introducing new varieties that revolutionized the business.

Long grew some of the first carrots in the Lake Apopka area and owned a large packinghouse that shipped the product around the world. He was instrumental in forming a carrot concentrate co-op, which established the first carrot concentrate plant in the U.S. at Eustis.

In 1965, the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce named Billy Long the nation’s outstanding young farmer. He served on many advisory committees, including those established by the governor of Florida.

But in 1998, the state told Billy Long and David Hill to shut it all down. Seven years later, Long was inducted into the Florida Agriculture Hall of Fame, and continued farming and partnered on another farm at Stuart, Fla. Hill moved on and looked for something different in agriculture, yet with profit potential.

Now, Hill farms with his 25-year-old son, Michael, on high sandy ground outside Clermont, surrounded by orange trees. You won’t find citrus on their place, though — when they moved here and left everything behind in Zellwood they put their money into landscaping trees.

(You can read more vegetable news and features at http://southeastfarmpress.com/vegetables-0).