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FruitScapes / Pine Island Tropicals honored

Island businesses among Martha Stewart's 2015 ‘American Made’ honorees

December 23, 2015
By ED FRANKS (edfranks@breezenewspapers.com) , Pine Island Eagle

Martha Stewart's fourth annual "American Made" program recently announced its 2015 honorees. Among the winners were Pine Island's FruitScapes and Pine Island Tropicals.

Stewart and a panel of judges carefully selected 10 companies from across the country as honorees in the fields of "Food," "Crafts," "Style" and "Design." The program celebrates the next generation of makers who have turned their passions into American businesses.

Pine Island Tropicals has been selling tropical organic plants, fruits and homemade food products since 1993. Newcomer FruitScapes specializes in growing new varieties of mangoes and other unusual fruits and plants. Together these two companies are building a successful market in Southwest Florida.

Article Photos

The sign at Pine Island Tropical Fruit Market / FruitScapes on Stringfellow Road.

ED?FRANKS

Steve Cucura is co-owner of FruitScapes. He and his partner Jesse Avolos have been on Pine island for about 16 years.

"I moved to Florida from Norfolk, Va., to attend St. Leo University north of Tampa," Cucura said. "After graduating with a degree in business management and accounting, I worked as an accountant for a few years. But my passion is really farming and I knew that this area (Pine Island) was the best place to do what I wanted to do and where the property was affordable."

In 1999, Cucura moved to Pine Island to work for Pine Island Tropical Fruit Market and Treehouse Nursery. In 2008, he and his partner purchased Pine Island Tropical Fruit Market and turned it into FruitScapes / Pine Island Tropicals. They now operate 10 acres on Stringfellow Road, half of which is a fruit orchard, and the other half a nursery.

"Practice is where you learn agriculture," Cucura said. "You can't learn what you need to know to be successful in the classroom because every year is different. Here in Southwest Florida the weather patterns change every year and every crop is affected differently. The key to successful agriculture is diversification.

"About seven years ago we purchased 5 acres and then a few years later we purchased an additional 5 acres," Cucura said. "Originally this operation was only open on the weekends during the summer. Five years ago we turned it into a full-time operation selling fruit during the summer and fruit trees during the winter."

Cucura grows several varieties of mangoes: CAC, Coconut Cream, Carrie, Cogshall, Juliet, Kent, Valencia Pride and several others. FruitScapes serves about 30 nurseries in the state from Orlando to Miami.

"Donna and Gary Schneider man the fruit stand in the front where we sell everything we grow out back," Cucura said.

The most popular winter fruit is pomelo and looks like a large grapefruit. Pomelo was hybridized from a grapefruit and tangerine. "

Pomelos taste much better but most people have never seen one before," Cucura said. "This time of year we sell more of the obscure fruits.

"Martha Stewart's organization found us because what we do here is unique," Cucura said. "We will take a local farmer's product to sell here. Donna and Gary Schneider of Pine Island Tropicals are like partners because they sell their product and help man the fruit stand and we encourage the community to come together here."

This year's honorees were celebrated at the 2015 Martha Stewart American Made Summit on Saturday, Nov. 7. Guests joined Stewart, Arianna Huffington, Dylan Lauren and Emeril Lagasse at an exclusive reception the night before at the World Trade Center Observatory in New York City.

"It was a great honor to be recognized by Martha Stewart," Cucura said. "And several people have stopped in to mention it. It is an honor to have that recognition. I understand there will be an article in Martha Stewart magazine in January."

FruitScapes / Pine Island Tropicals is at 12870 Stringfellow Road (2 1/2 miles north of the The Center. For additional information, call 239-462-2341.

 
 

 

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