Meet the Amazing Florida Crystals® Owls
At Florida Crystals, innovation is at the heart of all that we do. Our Research & Development department includes 30 scientists, all united in the search for sustainable, more eco-friendly farming techniques. One example is our barn owl program, which was developed by the University of Florida. The program has created a symbiotic relationship between native barn owls and our sugarcane farms. By providing nesting homes, the owls get green space that allows them to thrive, while our farmers control pests in a natural way.
Farming Organic Sugarcane and Conserving Wildlife in South Florida
Pest control is critical to growing healthy and productive crops. On Florida Crystals’ organic farms, we implemented a unique means of pest defense by enlisting the help of a few winged assistants: our beloved barn owls. As a result, not only are we able to farm without the use of synthetic pesticides, but today our farming area has one of the highest concentrations of barn owls in North America.
Our Owl Program
For more than 15 years we have been working with working Dr. Richard Reid of the University of Florida on our barn owl program. In 2017, we added 20 owl boxes to our organic farms in the hopes that they would attract these nocturnal, notoriously hungry birds. Currently, the program houses over 2,500 barn owls in more than 2,000 owl boxes our Florida Crystals farms.
The more boxes we add, the more owls make our sugarcane farms their home. That’s helpful for our crops, because while an adult owl eats one rodent on average per night, their growing youngsters consume up to five. That means a family of 5-6 owls can eat over 3,000 pests during a single growing season. This allows us to grow healthier, more productive sugarcane plants while following a low-impact farming approach that integrates the local ecosystem into our agricultural challenge – in this case pest control without the use of synthetic pesticides. This is one of the many pieces that directly enables us to craft the only organic raw cane sugars made from sugarcane grown in the U.S.
As part of our barn owl program, we monitor the number of owls on our farms twice a year. Our scientists conduct our very own owl census by counting the owls in October and then again in March. They’ve observed that due to the migration pattern of owls, 50-60% of our owl boxes are full in October, and up to 97% are occupied in March when the sugarcane is at its sweetest and pest control is most critical. Another revealing piece that shows how nature has a way of keeping all its pieces in sync.
Fun Facts About our Native Barn Owls
- They’re cute! White, heart-shaped faces make them easy to distinguish.
- They’re light! Owls are mostly feathers, so even females (who are larger than males) only weigh a single pound.
- They’re skilled! Exceptional night vision, nearly silent flying and long talons make them excellent hunters.
- They’re hungry! Barn owls primarily eat mice, voles, rats, muskrats and marsh rabbits, but sometimes feed on lizards or other small birds.
- They’re territorial! Barn owls stake out their turf and will defend it against both pests and predators.
At Florida Crystals, we’re extremely proud of our owl program and are always searching for additional, sustainable ways to grow sugarcane and craft cane sugars that are as kind to you as they are to the planet. That’s what creating Honest To Goodness Sugar™ is all about.