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Manatee County lines up to buy well-known farm — but it might take awhile

  • By Jay Heater
  • | 5:00 a.m. June 12, 2023
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
Manatee County is considering the purchase of Mixon Fruit Farms, which went on the market in February for $15.8 million.
Manatee County is considering the purchase of Mixon Fruit Farms, which went on the market in February for $15.8 million.
Courtesy photo
  • Manatee-Sarasota
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Time could be a factor in Manatee County's potential purchase of the majority of Mixon Fruit Farms  — an acquisition recommended by its Environmental Lands Management and Acquisition Committee.

Charlie Hunsicker, the county's director of natural resources, told the Bradenton City Council May 24 that due diligence in researching the purchase could take up to 18 months before the ELMAC purchase is brought to Manatee County commissioners for approval.

"I just about choked at that moment," Janet Mixon said in a June 2 interview with the East County Observer, sister paper of the Business Observer. "But Charlie told us afterward he doesn't think it will take that long."

Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh maintains, however, that the process is likely to be a long one. "We have certain criteria we have to meet," Baugh says. "This has to be looked at and examined."

Result of referendum

Janet and Dean Mixon put their 39 acres, at 2525 27th St. E., Bradenton, on the market in February for $15.8 million. The business opened in 1939 and the property includes a home, a store, a warehouse, a barn, a pavilion and pastures.

Janet Mixon says they have received offers from developers, but she and her husband prefer to sell to Manatee County. She notes that it also is likely to take any developer almost as long to do due diligence on the property before finalizing a sale.

Manatee County voters, meanwhile, overwhelmingly passed a referendum in 2020 to acquire land for the purpose of environmental protection. Approximately $7 million per year is being generated through a 0.15 mill ad valorem tax over 20 years, and the county also can tap into $50 million in bonds if needed

The referendum, approved by 71.27% of county voters, is dedicated to "finance the acquisition, improvement, and management of land to protect drinking water sources and water quality, preserve fish and wildlife habitat, prevent stormwater runoff pollution and provide parks."

Hunsicker and Debra Childs Woithe, the county's Environmental Lands Division manager, have outlined possible uses for the property that would benefit citizens.

Special uses

Among the uses would be a site for environmental education, special events, bird watching and hiking. The county could ensure the Mixons' family history is preserved, along with their relevance to the area's agricultural sector. The playground and wedding areas could continue to be used for those purposes. An animal rescue that operates on the grounds could continue to operate as a "small zoo."

The City of Bradenton's River Run Golf Course could expand to the property by building a driving range.

"We have to draft a concept map and initiate an appraisal soon," Hunsicker told the city council.

Janet and Dean Mixon are hoping to sell Mixon Fruit Farms to Manatee County instead of a developer.
File photo

The Mixons are excited about the possibilities.

"We were surprised (about the county's interest)," Janet Mixon says. "We had been getting offers from the developers and we had the feeling that was our only option."

Another key part of the possible sale is Bayside Community Church would be able to purchase 3.6 acres in the southwest corner that holds the warehouse and parking lot for its CityServe program.

"We like being a part of that," Janet Mixon says. "It is a good thing for the community. They needed a 45,000 square foot building and our (warehouse) is 60,000 square feet."

Janet Mixon isn't sure if they had to sell to a developer whether they could have sold that part of the land to the church. But now they are going forward with that sale to the church with the hope that Manatee County comes through with its purchase of their land.

Although she expects developers' offers will be greater than Manatee County can offer, she hopes the county will come close.

She notes that it makes sense for the county to keep the pavilion and playground areas intact because those areas "are worth $4 million alone."

She also is glad to hear the county will consider allowing Damen Hurd to continue his animal rescue on the property.

"We were hoping," she said. "People love seeing the animals."

Business shuts down

Mixon Fruit Farms will close July 29, although the business will continue to do weddings into 2024.

Janet Mixon says it just made sense to close now.

"It is slow now, and August and September are our slowest months," she said.

She hopes any move the county makes to preserve the historical significance of the property will include much of the antique machinery on the property.

"We have a lot of stuff," she says.

A key to the sale meeting the requirements of the referendum could be the property's 1,500-foot frontage along Glenn Creek. Manatee County maintains its importance to local water resources is high in preventing stormwater runoff.

Janet Mixon says she and her husband are optimistic their property will continue to be a valuable resource to those living in Manatee County.

"Oh my gosh, we couldn't imagine the idea of them bulldozing everything," she says. "It was heartbreaking. (A park) would be our dream."

Up next? The Mixons intend to launch a food truck in the near future.

"It is not a living," she says. "It is just about seeing the people again."

This article originally appeared on sister site



Jay Heater

Jay Heater is the managing editor of the East County Observer. Overall, he has been in the business more than 41 years, 26 spent at the Contra Costa Times in the San Francisco Bay area as a sportswriter covering college football and basketball, boxing and horse racing.

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