Richard Alger is one of South Florida’s most successful agriculturists, the owner of Alger Farms, Inc., which harvests over 1,200 acres of sweet corn and 200 acres of trees in Miami-Dade County. Alger is an effective leader of and spokesman for his industry. A Yale-educated plant scientist, he is a strong voice for agriculture in a county facing the challenges of explosive growth and rapid urbanization.
Richard Alger was born in 1931 in Brockton, Massachusetts. His parents, Mason and Dorothy Alger, moved the family to Florida when Richard was still an infant. In Homestead they established what is now known as Alger Farms, Inc., producing sweet corn, potatoes, snap beans and trees. Growing up, young Richard worked in the fields with his father during summer vacations. He attended Exeter Academy and later Yale University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in 1953.
After graduating from college, Alger became a full partner in the family business. During his farming career, he wore many hats. He ran a potato packinghouse, a sweet corn hydro-cooler and a farm shop. He also worked as a tractor driver, office manager and packinghouse manager.
He always made sure his operations utilized the most current technology, and he was a great supporter of agricultural research. In the 1980s, for example, he donated $30,000 to the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences for a study on the control of silk fly. He also funded a study on the hydro-cooling of potatoes. His contributions prompted other growers to pitch in too.
Farming is a demanding profession, and many in the industry are content to focus exclusively on their own crops and production. Not Richard Alger. He always found time to represent industry-wide interests, monitoring the work of the local, state, and federal governments in their regulation of agriculture. He served on the board of many prominent agricultural organizations, including the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association. He is a past president of the Dade County Farm Bureau and the South Florida Tomato and Vegetable Growers Association. During his recent service on the South Miami-Dade Watershed Study Advisory Committee, he won the respect of everyone he worked with through his fairness and reliance on sound logic.
Alger is simply a great communicator. He has excellent people skills and knows how to talk to everyone from environmentalists to policymakers in a way that is friendly and nonconfrontational yet forthright and effective. Never afraid to speak up, he has been interviewed many times by local, state, and national media in their coverage of agricultural issues. He has a special ability to help urban residents understand the challenges facing agriculture as well as the benefits agriculture can bring to a community.
Alger is actively involved in many civic and charitable organizations, including the Homestead Housing Authority, Baptist Hospital Foundation, and Civitan Club. He was the first donor to Farm Share, a non-profit dedicated to recovering, sorting, packing, and distributing food to people in need. His donation of 10,000 pounds of potatoes encouraged other farmers to follow suit. Since Alger’s initial contribution, Farm Share has distributed over 215 million pounds of food to the poor.
Alger’s leadership in his industry and community has brought him many honors. In 1986 he was inducted into the Dade County Farm Bureau’s Hall of Honor and presented with the Chairman’s Council Award by the South Florida Soil and Water Conservation District. The Dade County Kiwanis Club honored him with its Agribusiness Award in 1976. The Greater Homestead-Florida City Chamber of Commerce named him Agriculturist of the Year in 1983 and Citizen of the Year in 2005.
Richard Alger has four grown children, Barbara, John, Cathy, and Ray, and 15 grandchildren. He lives in Homestead with his wife, Jolayne.