Cattle, Dairies, and Horses
Many people are surprised to learn that there were once large herds of cattle in Palm Beach County, and that the first dairy in the county was located in Palm Beach. In the late 1890s Harlan P. Dye brought dairy cows to the north end of Palm Beach on the grounds of what is now the Palm Beach Country Club. Dye later operated a dairy in Cuba to supply milk to U.S. troops stationed there after the Spanish American War (1898).
There were 16 dairies in the county by the late 1930s. Just after World War II, there were about 12 dairy farms along Military Trail between Atlantic Boulevard in Delray Beach and Boynton Beach Boulevard in Boynton Beach. One dairy in western Delray Beach had 1,500 dairy cows producing 7,000 gallons of milk every day.
Marcus Aeschylus “M.A.” Weaver, came from Alabama in 1907 to then-Boynton. He married into the Knuth dairy family and started his own farm with 90 acres at what is now Old Boynton Road and Military Trail. Twice a day he commuted from their home in town, scrubbed and milked the cows by hand, bottled the milk, and delivered it himself to homes in West Palm Beach. Weaver’s five children bought the dairy from their father in 1954, and grew it into one of the largest dairies in Palm Beach County. Pressured by developers, the family slowly sold off small parcels until 1973, when they sold the dairy herd to an Okeechobee farmer. The Weaver children formed a development company that bought and expanded the Cypress Creek Country Club in Boynton Beach.
There were also cattle ranches in Palm Beach County. In 1940 U.S. Sugar started one of the first large cattle ranches in the Glades. The King Ranch, south of Belle Glade, had 40,000 cattle at one time. Today they are one of the largest sod farms in Florida and grow sugarcane and vegetables.
Courtesy Malene Thyssen
By the 1990s most ranchers had moved their dairy or beef cattle operations to other parts of Florida. Their Palm Beach County property brought them a greater profit sold to developers, who then constructed residential communities and businesses on former pastures.
The equine (horse) industry adds $150-200 million dollars a year to Palm Beach County’s economy. There are about 6,500 horses in the county (out of 500,000 in the state), except during the winter season, when equestrian events are held, and the number climbs to over 13,000 horses. Almost 8,000 acres of land are used for horses, mostly in Wellington, where the sports of polo and professional horse jumping are played. Some of the world’s best polo players come here with their horses to play each winter. Wellington is also a major center for horse shows. One of the leading equestrian centers is located in Boynton Beach, with 200 acres for training race and show horses. However, there is very little commercial horse breeding in our county.