A native of Virginia’s Eastern Shore, John Scott Long answered a call to manage a cucumber farm in South Florida.

He later bought this land near Palm City, Fla., to raise vegetables. His Agri-Gators farming operation has since become a successful producer of sweet corn and potatoes consumed throughout the eastern U.S.

As a result of his success as a vegetable grower, Long has been selected as the Florida state winner of the 2013 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award.

Long now joins nine other state winners from the Southeast as finalists for the award. The overall winner will be announced on Tuesday, Oct. 15 at the Sunbelt Ag Expo farm show in Moultrie, Ga.

His uncle, Billy Long of Apopka, was Florida Farmer of the Year in 1994. A full-time farmer for 25 years, John Scott Long first grew cucumbers for pickles during the 1990s. By 2005, he stopped growing cucumbers to focus on potatoes and sweet corn.

His farm now encompasses 2,858 acres, 938 acres of rented land and 1,920 acres of owned land. His major crops include 900 acres of potatoes yielding 250 to 300 hundredweight per acre and 500 to 600 acres of sweet corn yielding 400 to 450 crates per acre.

He increased potato acreage from 40 acres in 2000 to 900 acres in 2012. During this expansion, he built a shop and pole barns to house his equipment. In 2012, he built a 7,500-square foot cold room along with a 12,500-square foot packing facility.

“These buildings gave us extra space for cooling and grading to keep our operation growing,” he explains. A new hydrocooler to be built this fall will allow him to sell sweet corn directly and save on costs for hauling to Belle Glade, Fla., for hydrocooling.

He markets potatoes through Southeast Farms Inc., of Hastings, Fla. This company has been his exclusive potato sales agent for 13 years.

“Our relationship is built on trust and integrity,” says Long. Until he started using this firm, he was disappointed in the lack of control over marketing decisions when he sold his crops.

Long goes to great lengths to limit waste of natural resources. Global positioning ensures sub-inch accuracy in digging rows for his crops. Using tools as traditional as a dirt pan and as advanced as laser guidance, he’s able to level his land for irrigation.