Big Hopkins Tract is Coming Potato Country Over Six Hundred Acres of "Spuds" Now Growing Where none grew before ---Thousands of Acres Being Sold on the Crop Payment Plan to Farmers ---Not Speculators [left column] (Reprint Melbourne Times, March 21, 1918,) Some time ago the Jacksonville Times-Union contained an interesting write up of the Deer Park Proposition, known in this section of Florida as the "Hopkins Tract." And in the main the story told is absolutely true, with the exception of a slight mistake in Mr. Hopkins' age. He is seventy-three years young instead of eighty years old, as the Times-Union reporter would have the readers of that paper believe. Let it be said also that Mr. Hopkins is a stickler for the truth which he says is always good enough, or bad enough- as the case may be. Here is what the Times-Union said several months ago, to which will be added an account of what has been ac- complished on the big tract since that time: "Youth may be demonstrated at eighty and a man may prove a community builder even after he passed three-score years and ten. George W. Hopkins, who purchased a large tract of land located in the western part of Osceola counties about seventeen years ago, has performed this feat. "For the first time in the history of Florida, the methods of the Western railways is being applied to land development on the Hopkins tract. Farms of forty acres and preferably those of one-quarter to a whole section are available to those who would become a part of this great development. "But to begin at the beginning and tell what has been accomplished and upon what material this remarkable work has been wrought it must be stated that the Hopkins tract contains approximately 104,000 acres, of which about 58,000 is timbered with pine and cypress, and the remainder, or about 46,000 acres is prairie land. The latter is practically clear, ready for the plow, except for the hammocks of cabbage palm and oak, which dot the landscape here and there giving relief and variety to the wide expanse and affording desirable sites for homes and farm building. The entire area is covered with a luxuriant growth of wild grasses and affords excellent grazing for the herd of some eighteen thousand native cattle that are maintained upon it. "The surface soil is for the most part a dark-colored sandy loam, well filled with humus. Along the streams are beds of well matured, rotted muck ripe for cultivation of many acres. The entire area is underlaid with clay, which in places is mixed with deposits of shell or marl. This subsoil is generally found at a depth varying from two to three feet, but is some what neared to the surface at places, and at other places lies deeper. It is impervious to water, and therefore the land must be provided with a drainage system to carry off the surplus water from the heavy rainfall occurring at certain seasons of the year. For this purpose canals having a width of twelve feet at the top, and an average depth of about five and one-half feet, are now being dug. These canals will traverse the tract at intervals of one-half mile, and will afford a drainage outlet for each ten- acre tract or larger unit. The canals which have already been dug have an aggregate length of more than fifty miles. "To the casual observer, the land appears perfectly level. There is, however, an average fall of about two feet to the mile toward the St. Johns river which is ample to insure a good flok [sic] of water in the canals. "A part of the Hopkins tract lying from the edge of the marsh on the east to Deer Park is now being of- [center column] fered for sale in forty-acre tracts to to [sic] a section or more - and near laid out villages, in smaller tracts if desired the immediate vicinity of Deer Park is now being offered for sale in five and ten-acre lots, and in larger areas of such size as may be desired. The area at present open for settlement contains 18,000 acres, and is known as Deer Park farm lands. The land is representative of the Hopkins tract as a whole, which has already been described, and includes all three types, viz: Open prairie, muck beds, and hammock land; with a considerable proportion of the latter two. In some respects Deer Park farm lands are the most desirable part of the entire tract, being close to the town of Deer Park, and being elevated sufficiently to insure ample drainage. "Deer Park is located on a ridge rising about forty-five feet above sea level or about thirty feet above the St. Johns river, low water, and fifteen feet above the upper part of the prairie, which it faces on the east. This elevation affords perfect drainage for surface water, and adds great- ly to the healthfulness of the location. Also on account of the elevation and good drainage, there are practically no mosquitoes. "The Kissimmee-Melbourne road, a branch of the Dixie Highway, forms the main street of the town (Center street). The portion of this road which extends from Kissimmee to Deer Park and across the Hopkins tract, is now open to travel, and it is expected that the portion lying in Brevard county is open for travel, but not entirely completed across the St. Johns marsh towards Melbourne which is eventually to be hard surfaced. In Osceola county, reaching two miles east of Deer Park, the contract is let for a sand asphalt road. And when connected up in the near future these roads will form an important highway for cross-state travel. The entire road will be built with hard surface (sand asphalt in Osceola county and shell in Brevard county), and will be an important highway for cross-state travel. "When Mr. Hopkins started his development of this remarkable tract, he realized the necessity of making it accessible, so he built his own railroad from Hopkins Station, on the Florida East Coast, three-quarters of a mile south of Melbourne, westward, a distance of twenty miles to Deer Park, which is the center of the tract and development project. At the present time planters have 700 acres in Irish potatoes and field crops such as corn and beans and forage. Two ditching machines are busily engaged in drainage work, while the other equipment consists of seven tractors and other modern implements." By this time some one will be asking the question: How much is Hopkins paying the Times for booming the sale of his lands? And, so, let it be said right here that the Times has been endeavoring to get a photograph of the man who is doing this great development work for some time; but if we are able to secure a cut to run it in connection with this article, it will not be through the assistance of Mr. Hopkins. He is not a seeker after personal publicity and he has repeatedly made the statement that the lands he is now placing on the market do not require any advertising. And, so far as the Times is aware, not an acre of the more than 16,000 acres sold during the past year and a half has passed into the hands of a land speculator. George W. Hopkins is his own land agent. He shows the land himself, drives his own car and the land with the crops growing thereon shows for itself. But what are the methods of the [right column] western railways, now being applied on the Hopkins, as quoted above? Farms may be available to those who would become a part of this great development, but how? Perhaps the relating of the following incident will throw more light on the methods used by Mr. Hopkins: A man from the north, who was making an extensive investigation of general farming in Florida and who was familiar with the methods in vogue by the numerous land companies in the state, accompanied Mr. Hopkins on a drive over the tract and talked with a number of the potato growers-just at planting time, this was; and the man became very much impressed with the proposition. When they got back to town the man asked Mr. Hopkins what his price and terms were, and his answer was, after naming the price: "There are no terms! You simply go on the land and go to work. Pay me out of the potato crops, one- third of the value until the land is paid for." Mr. Hopkins figures that a man who wants a farm badly enough to get down to business and work for it is entitled to a chance; and he is so confident that his land will make good that he is willing to back the right kind of men in getting the right kind of a start. Instead of demanding a cash payment form buyers he has in a number of instances furnished the wherewith to purchase seed potatoes and the fertilizer, and in every case he has cut the main drainage ditches and has drilled an artesian well on every farm, to be used in case irrigation is needed to produce the maximum results. He has also furnished the lumber and other material for building the farm homes and fences, and his judgment tells him that the land will pay for all these, providing, of course, that the farmer will do his part in an intelligent way. And now what are the net results to date of the Hopkins methods of agricultural development in Florida? Over 700 acres of Irish potatoes growing on a dozen or more farms, that now promise to yield one of the best crops ever produced in Florida. Providential interference could, of course, prevent the maturing of this crop, but there are no pessimists on the job. Mr. Hopkins takes no chances with that kind of a farmer. Today these potato fields are attracting many sightseers from this section as well as many growers from other parts of the state. In fact, the men who have the largest fields of potatoes on the tract have had experience in the Hastings and Bunnell districts. W. A. Mack and H. C. Avant each have ninety acres that are a wonderful sight, and these men declare that in all their experience they have never seen a more promising yield of "spuds." Men who arrived on the ground too late to plant a crop of potatoes this spring have contracted for land and are now preparing the soil for crops of castor beans, and approximately 300 acres of these beans will be plant ed within the next two weeks. The farm tractors are kept going from daylight to dark and the acreage to be prepared for this and other crops depends upon the capacity of the tractors to do the work and at the rate that land is now being contracted for it will take a dozen motor tractors to prepare all of the farms for next year's crops. Mr. Hopkins takes his pay for the land and for other advances made out of one-third of the potato crop. What the farmer produces in the way of second crops, such as corn, hay, etc, to provide for his stock is a side issue so far as Mr. Hopkins is concerned- and he has little use for the man who will not take advantage of every opportunity to better his condition. He believes that responsibilities gravitate to the shoulders that can bear them, and that life is too short to spend much sympathy on the drone. The great need of Florida today is more men like George W. Hopkins, of Hopkins, Florida. Men who are not content to let their idle lands wait for the unearned increments, that will some day encourage idleness on the part of future generations, but who want to see things done here and now-while they are still alive. Mr. Hopkins has faith in himself and faith in the Irish potato, the cow and the hog, as mediums of exchange for a farm in the Deer Park country.
State Library of Florida: Florida Collection, BR0057
Response to article about Deer Park Proposition, known as Hopkins Tract, in Jacksonville Times-Union. Article from Jacksonville Times-Union is repeated in first column and most of second column. Last two paragraphs in second column and third column are comments from the Melbourne Times article.