Astin Strawberry Exchange
Sam Astin Sr. moved to Plant City from South Georgia in the early 1920’s. He had saved enough money to buy a small feed store downtown, and a few acres of land. In his spare time, he began farming a few row crops, mainly consisting of corn, pole beans, and a couple rows of strawberries. Those crops were harvested and hauled to the market or sold directly from the farm to locals. The year was 1923, and the legacy was started. Sam Sr. continued to purchase land in eastern Hillsborough County throughout the mid 1920’s and into the depression years. His original two room wood frame house still stands today on one of the original farms.
In 1930, Sam Astin Jr. was born in that little wood framed home. He was brought up in the agricultural community, and eventually followed in the footsteps of his father by taking over the family farm. He continued farming row crops, and gradually increased strawberry production as the fruit gained in popularity. Most of the labor at that time was done by himself and Betty, his wife of over 50 years.
Sam Astin III was born in the 1960’s and was active in the family business during his early years. After graduating high school in 1982 he joined his father full time on the farm, and set out to learn everything he could about the business. It was during this period that strawberries became the top priority of Astin Farms. In the late 1990’s he assumed the management position of the farm and with the help of his father and mentor, aspired to build upon the history and tradition that had been passed down by each generation.
The farm continued to grow and in 2001, the Astin family decided that they were at a size where they could market and sell their own crops. Astin Strawberry Exchange was formed, a state-of-the-art facility was built, and a full-time staff hired to handle the sales, marketing, and distribution of their crops. In 2011, the Astin family decided it was time again to expand the business. Astin Family Farms was established in Riverview, Florida and would act as the packing and cooling facility for the 540 acre south farm. Both Sam’s father and grandfather live on in the contributions they made to this family-owned business. Sam quietly directs the operations of all companies, and sees his job as a continuation of their hard work.
Astin Farms now represents more than 1200 acres of strawberries that produce over 40 million pounds of fruit each season. The berries are sold across the United States and some exported to Canada. During the winter months you can expect to see Astin strawberries at many local grocery stores.