Operator Bases Packages on Visits to Local Agricultural Sites



Reed Travel Features

LOXAHATCHEE -- If agents have repeat Palm Beach County clients seeking a change of scenery from the Worth Avenue shops, they should consider contacting Palm Beach County Growing Tours.

The firm offers behind-the-scenes tours of the area's agricultural industry as well as of environmentally interesting sites.

Among the many things visitors can see up-close is how rice gets from the paddies in the field into the cardboard boxes on shelves in supermarkets.

How sugar cane from area fields eventually reaches consumers is explained, as well.

The rice business is the full-time activity of the Sem-Chi Rice Mill near Belle Glade, one of the many stops that the tour firm can arrange.

Palm Beach County Growing Tours, formed last December with county government funding, so far has carried more than 1,000 visitors on its agricultural and ecological trolley tours, according to Stanley Bronson, acting executive director.

Bronson is on loan to the tour operation from Callery-Judge citrus groves, west of West Palm Beach, where he is the manager.

In fact, the tour operation is based at the groves, and it is from there that the trolley tours originate.

At the citrus groves, about two hours of the typical tour are spent learning about the cultivation of oranges and grapefruit and what happens to them after they are picked.

Typical rates for individuals age 13 and older are $10 for the first stop, $8 for the second stop and $5 for each stop thereafter. Children, ages 4 to 12, pay $7.50, $6 and $3, respectively.

There is a $6 fee per person for a trip to a restaurant -- not including the cost of the meal.

Palm Beach County Growing Tours is group oriented.

If agents or operators refer a group of 15 or more, net group rates are extended; they are 20% less than the cost to the public.

A group also can be picked up from area hotels and motels by one of the two 27-seat trolleys the firm uses, Bronson said.

The net-rate group tours operate on demand, he said.

The 10 a.m. public tours leave from the grove, Bronson said.

These tours operate Wednesdays and Fridays; agents who refer individuals will be compensated, Bronson said, adding that inquiries are welcome.

Richard Howard, a former Sea World of Florida executive, is the tourism consultant for the operation.

Other staffers consist of three guides who have specialized knowledge of agriculture, ecology, wildlife and plants.

Another stop is the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Preserve, where birds and other animals can be viewed.

A visitors center there provides the orientation.

Bronson predicted that demand to see Wakodahathee, a similar site, will gain as ecotourism grows more popular.

Here, visitors learn how water is reclaimed from a sewage plant and then dispersed over a marshland thriving with wildlife.

In addition, tropical growers in Wellington and Boynton Beach explain how gardeners' favorite plants and exotic flowers are grown.

Historical sites will be added to the itinerary choices by May, Bronson said, once access is arranged to such attractions.

Bronson said that a two-night tour eventually will be packaged for special-interest groups.

Products from all tour sites can be purchased during the visit to the groves.

For more information, contact Palm Beach County Growing Tours, 4001 Seminole-Praatt Whitney Road, Loxahatchee, 33470.

The number is (800) 754-7683.

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