It was the U.S. Army’s hope that forts and garrisons would be more self-sufficient and not depend on supplies from the Army. On September 11, 1818, a general departmental order stated, “the commanding officer of every permanent garrison…will annually cultivate a garden, by the troops under his command…” It is unknown whether Fort King had a garrison run garden during its operation. What we do know is there were many agricultural and food traditions in Florida during the 1800’s.
The Seminole have an extensive and rich agricultural history, with large gardens hidden in the hammocks and amongst their villages. The Spanish brought cattle, sheep, and pigs to Florida along with their own food traditions. African agricultural practices and food culture entered Florida by way of escaped slaves and Black Seminole. The European soldiers and pioneers coming from the north brought with them seeds and recipes from their cultures that were introduced to the region.
All of these practices influenced the agriculture and food that was produced in Florida. Different cultures adapted their traditional gardening and food cultures to the untamed land to ensure survival. Fifteen years would pass before the Army would finally abandon its attempts at farming, concluding that is was not a reliable way of obtaining supplies.
The crops you see here today are representative of what would have been grown in Florida during the Fort King time period.
TO ALL WHO READ THIS – know that David Laffey was dedicated to telling the true story of Fort King, the soldiers’ and the Seminole’s story as it happened. David Laffey was a native of Ocala. He served 5 years on the Fort King Heritage Association board, of which three were as its president (2015-2018). For his leadership and vision, he will always be remembered as an integral part of the Fort King National Historic Landmark.
David Laffey – January 30, 1948-January 1, 2019