When Jacob Lozovik Carmi took his grandson John out to the orange groves (circa 1940, above), I doubt he could imagine that seventy seven years and four generations later the family would still make its livelihood by growing crops; yet here we are, still strong (same John with his own grandson Ido, at Milestone’s main facility, 2001). I asked my father what he remembers from working with his grandpa on the farm. He said, “you know, it’s the most unpleasant tasks that come to mind: digging irrigation ditches and pruning roses. Somehow, though, so many years removed, they all seem like great memories and not the torturous tasks they truly used to be.”
So here we are: fourth generation of Carmi’s living off the land. The groves are gone, as are the roses (and the dairy cows); Citrus was replaced with foliage, irrigation ditches with PVC pipes. Yet the heart of the matter remains: we spend every day laboring to try and produce beautiful green goods that people will appreciate and love, so much that they rewards us with some of their hard-earned cash in exchange.
When John Carmi founded Milestone in 1988, he had been mostly removed from Agriculture for quite a while. An MIT graduate, world traveler, entrepreneur and adventurer, he started the business to capitalize on an opportunity to bring together Israel’s advanced fern TC technology with the U.S. market. Starting off at a rented 10,000 SF facility in the old “Tree house” location in downtown Apopka, he initially focused on importing 273 cp Boston liners and transplanting into 72 cells. As the business evolved and grew, Milestone expanded initially to 40,000 SF at the same location, and eventually to its maximum size, with nearly 6 acres under cover on 50 acres of land. The company regularly ranked among the worlds largest fern producers, with at least 5 million fern liners and a million potted ferns consistently grown and sold every year since 2002.
My wife Revi & I joined the business in 1998. While through my high-school years I was involved in greenhouse and hydroponic vegetable production, I spent the first few years of my post-military career away from agriculture (guess it takes the distance to appreciate what you have…) Eventually, I came to my senses (or as some would claim, lost my mind) and joined the family farm. I completed my education in Horticulture / Business at Florida Southern and labored my way through the ranks as assistant grower, section grower, head grower, and operations manager into eventually allowing my father to retire and taking over management of the company.
In late 2013, we were able to complete the transition from the family owned Milestone to our personal endeavor, ARC Ferns. In our new company, we keep the tradition and pride ourselves on 25 years of experience in fern and fern liner production. We strive to be widely accepted as the best fern supplier on the planet, and for:
1. Supplying unparalleled quality
2. Maintaining superb order-fulfillment ratios
3. Providing the best customer support, service, and experience.
In everything that we do, from how we grow our plants, through how we treat our customers and employees and how we deal with our vendors and creditors, I cannot help but wonder whether we would make great-Grandpa Jacob proud.
I sure hope so.
ARC Ferns, LLC