Citrus farmers find new market in organic bamboo

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There's a forest of bamboo growing behind Mixon Fruit Farms in Bradenton.

Calving Yang with OnlyMoso helped with the first public harvest. A crowd gathered to watch. 

After 81 years of growing citrus, the Mixons decided to add something new. They planted two types of bamboo, Asper and Moso bamboo. 

"We had so much trouble with all of the citrus and all of the diseases. We’ve had trees that were planted in the 1800s and we’ve lost them all," said Janet Mixon. 

She said the money they might spend trying to save their citrus trees goes much further with bamboo. But making the switch wasn't an easy choice.

"It was a chance, especially being the first ones," she said. 

The Mixons said they're the first farm in the US to grow organic bamboo for edible purposes. Distributor OnlyMoso has partnered with them to get their products to market.

OnlyMoso turns the bamboo into edible products, and will soon do so in a processing plant in the middle of the state. 

The bamboo shoots hold lots of promise. 

"It helps everything. It’s an anti-cancer, it’s heart disease, it helps with your blood pressure, it helps wounds," said Mixon. 

The Mixon family planted their crops of bamboo two and a half years ago and they hope by this fall to have more than a ton of it harvested.

"It's all been an outgo which is not a good thing, but as we start harvesting, it’s supposed to yield more than what an acre of citrus is supposed to yield," said Mixon. 

After the harvest, chefs went to work to steam the bamboo and whip it into recipes for guests. 

"I'm making a bamboo and spinach dip. It really doesn’t have a flavor to it. It's more used for its benefits like a vegetable," said Elle Yang. 

Taste-testers give it two thumbs up. If the Mixons are successful, they project they'll bring in $35,000 an acre every year and become a model for other farmers. 

"It was something we could start and it gave people a place where they could see it and then do it," said Mixon. 

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