For Oscar Fonseca, founder, owner and operator of FPE Palms, the cultivation of palm trees and native South Florida plants has always been a labor of love. A computer products exporter for 25 years, he began bringing the best palms he could find to Miami in 1999, planting them in long rows in a 15-acre field he owns in the Redlands at 25355 SW 167 Ave. What he then considered a hobby brought him a welcome serenity to counteract the pressures of his work. Fifteen years later, Fonseca’s farm boasts one of the largest private collections of tropical palms in South Florida.
“My work was very stressful,” Fonseca says. “I wanted to do something different that brought me peace and enjoyment, and that’s what plants do for me. Some people like boats, cars or skiing. But me? I love plants.”
His foray into local agriculture coincided with a boom in the plant business. Palm trees were being sold at recordhigh prices, with royal palms selling for more than $100 per foot of grey wood. When the economy changed and many of his contemporaries went out of business due to a halt in sales, Fonseca persevered.
“Many of my colleagues and neighbors went out of business, but I was able to sustain my nursery because I had little debt,” he says. “The hobby-turned-business once again returned to my weekend escape. I had to reduce the number of employees and cut expenses all around.”
After retiring from the export business, Fonseca refocused his efforts entirely on FPE Palms. Working primarily for local developers and municipalities, he participates regularly with local architects in achieving their vision. “It’s very gratifying to see South Florida counties and municipalities demand that all constructions that take place have a specific percentage of their space dedicated towards green areas,” he says.“It’s rewarding to see my work going towards helping this cause.
In cases where local plants are needed for schools or nonprofit organizations, FPE Palms provides the trees for free, charging only for their transportation and installation. Locations that have received FPE palms include the Doral Police Department, the City of Doral Parks and Recreation Department, Doral’s busy Airport-West warehousing districts, North Bay Village and the 360 Condominium in North Bay Village and Fuddruckers at Palmetto Bay. Most recently, FPE installed more than 500 native palms and trees inside the 55-acre campus of Palmer-Trinity School.
“Life is not just about making money,” Fonseca says. “You have to help others, and there is a joy in giving. If there are any non-for-profit groups or municipalities that we can donate trees to, we are delighted to contribute.”
Though not politically involved with the green movement, Fonseca identifies himself as an environmentalist. His nursery only uses the highest grade natural fertilizers and virtually no herbicides. He is a card-carrying member of Fairchild Tropical Gardens, participating regularly in their events, and in his Palmetto Bay home the majority of his sizable art collection depicts the natural world. He even owns a fully electric Tesla automobile Model S.
“Being conscientious of the environment is never a bad thing,” he says. “It’s good for people, for the environment, and it’s rewarding. Constantly surrounded by the concrete jungle of the city, you forget about nature, but as soon as you walk into a beautiful garden you are instantly reminded of how beautiful nature really is.”
FPE Palms is very much a family business. Fonseca’s wife handles the accounting and his sons assist him with contracting and logistics. Entering his 15th year in the business, he has no intention of stopping.
“I’m an economist by profession, but deep in my heart I’m a farmer and I don’t see myself retiring,” he says. “I want to do this as long as I live.”
For more information, call 786-429- 3507 or email <ofonseca@full powerusa.com>. Oscar Fonseca, palm tree expert