When some crops emerged unevenly, he added a traveling gun for overhead watering. He installed water control structures to manage irrigation and proper drainage.

 “Our goals are to increase productivity on weaker soils and maximize productivity on our best land,” he adds.

He brought in an expert to advise him on implementing fertilization by soil type. He employs a full time scout to identify diseases and insect pests.

“This allows us to fine tune our spraying to save money and become better stewards of the land,” says Long. He also hired a full-time food safety employee who has helped the farm pass food safety audits.

He formed Long Gator, LLC, to hold his real estate investments. He also leases out 650 pasture acres to a cow-calf operation.

 “We plant cover crops of sorghum and sunn hemp. Some of it is baled and sold to dairies and replacement heifer farming operations,” he says. Sunn hemp is a summer annual legume that produces nitrogen while building soil organic matter. Sunn hemp also grows well in low fertility sandy soils.

Long recently planted six acres of alfalfa, and has been pleased with his first three cuttings and alfalfa’s market potential.

In the fall of 2012, he formed Plantation Creek LLC to rent 750 acres five miles from his main farm. “Plantation Creek is designed to bring in as a partner a key employee with 25 years of experience in growing potatoes,” Long explains. This land includes 400 previously farmed acres and 350 acres in unproductive citrus trees that will be cleared and put into crops.

During the past eight years, he has tripled his potato acreage and he now has 25 full time employees. In 2004, hurricanes destroyed his packinghouse. He rebuilt and was back packing potatoes in March of 2005.