Fifth generation farmer and Sarasota County native Robbie Martin is continuing a family tradition that began over 100 years ago. Martin’s great-grandfather and his brother cleared the Southwest Florida property they purchased in 1900 using only a cross-cut saw and a grubbing hoe.
The land was good to the Martin family over the last century and today, continues to provide for the Martins. Citrus, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, spinach, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, greens and beets grew in abundance where they were sold at the family’s fruit and vegetable stand. Robbie and his brother Rory became involved in the 1980s when they worked full-time with their grandfather at the stand.
“We sold fresh, hand-squeezed juice back in those days before we purchased an electric juicer,” Martin said. “In the summertime we grew black eyed peas, corn and okra and year-round we had cattle.”
Today, Martin and his wife, Leaha, along with their son, Chase (10), live on the family farm in a home they built in 2007. Martin also has a son, Hunter (22), who lives in New Jersey. The Martins produce citrus for juice and manage a small cattle herd.
In November of 2019, Robbie was elected president of Sarasota County Farm Bureau (SCFB). His brother, Rory, was his predecessor, serving a total of 23 years as SCFB president.
“I wanted to continue the good job my brother did serving our Farm Bureau for our county and for agriculture,” he said. Robbie and Rory’s grandparents also served as directors for SCFB in past years.
Last year, SCFB held its inaugural Clay Shoot Fundraiser, which raised $11,000 directly towards youth development and leadership programs for young farmers and ranchers in Sarasota County.
The successful event was held at the Knights Tale Gun Range in Sarasota. Planning for the second Clay Shoot is underway and will be held on Jan. 25, 2020. “So far, we have had an outstanding response to the event,” Martin mentioned. “I am anticipating 200-plus shooters to participate.”
SCFB strives to support the local community year-round. “We do Farm-City Week proclamations with county commissioners in the fall and our Young Farmers and Ranchers organize food drives and donate items to local pantries,” Martin said.
Robbie has served his county as an Agricultural Deputy for the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Department for 17 years where he specializes in cattle and horse issues, trespassing, animal cruelty cases and illegal hunting. He and his family are active members of their local church, Bayside Community Church. He is also a member of the Florida Agricultural Crimes and Intelligence Unit.
“To know that I am farming land that my grandfather and great-grandfather farmed makes me proud,” Martin stated. “It is nice to have a piece of family history that a lot of blood sweat and tears were poured into. It feels good to be able to continue to do that.”
Robbie shared a family favorite and highly requested recipe below:
Broccoli Rice Casserole
1 stick salted butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 boxes frozen chopped broccoli
2 large bags (boil on bag rice)
1 small can cream of mushroom soup
1 small can cream of celery soup
1 small jar Cheez whiz
Melt butter in pan on medium heat, meanwhile, boil rice. Add chopped onions and chopped celery to melted butter. When the celery and onions start to brown slightly, add both boxes of chopped broccoli.
Cook broccoli, chopped celery, onions and butter on medium heat for 15-20 minutes. Using a large mixing bowl, combine all the cooked ingredients with the soups and cheez whiz together. Stir until blended well.
Using a 13 X 9 baking dish, cook uncovered for approximately 30 minutes on 350 degrees or until the top of the casserole starts to brown slightly and/or starts bubbling around the edges. The dish should serve 12-15, depending on the appetite of the eaters. Total prep and cook time –approx. 1 hour – 1 hour 15 minutes.