Everything moves so fast these days, but not at Ecofarm in Plant City. They make sugar cane syrup the old-fashioned way, in the open air with a vintage mill and giant cauldron.
"I think old-timers had it right," said John Walter, a volunteer there. "It is an art in our way of thinking."
Ecofarm is a 50-acre farm that is self-sustaining. Along with producing the cane syrup, the farm grows organic vegetables, which it sells at Green Markets.
"It is a hard life, but when you go to a farmer's market, and they're patting you on the back, you feel like a king really," said Jon Butts, who founded the place and runs it with his wife Debbie. They also have volunteers who come for the day or longer.
The syrup takes two days to produce. The first day, the cane is cut. The second day, they process it.
In the days of old, cracker families would harness up a mule or other animal to power the mill. At Ecofarm now, someone drives a solar-powered golf cart around the mill, which causes it to turn and squeeze the juice out of the stalks.
The syrup is boiled for about three hours. Impurities are skimmed off, and it is bottled. Approximately one quart costs about $14.
It is just one of Butt's projects. Another is his green radio show. It is called "Sustainable Living," and airs on WMNF radio, Mondays from 10 to 11 am.