Orbital View: The Matrix, or Mother Nature?

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

It’s hard to tell at first glance:

Agricultural development is seen in Loxahatchee, Florida, USA. Can anyone help us identify what is being grown here?

A photo posted by Daily Overview (@dailyoverview) on

In response to the questioned posed above, one commenter guesses:

With all those different colors I would say that it is mixed baby greens. They plant strips of different lettuces 1-5 acres in the same field. Harvest to order from the supplier. All in a less than 40 day cycle. All sprinkler irrigated (I would say that is the vertical cross stripes). Very short season but very intensive farming.

But the consensus among the commenters is sugar cane. Another one is full of wishful thinking: “After the upcoming elections in November, it will be ganja!” Details from the Bradenton Herald:

Organizers of a medical marijuana ballot initiative announced last week that medical marijuana would officially appear on the 2016 ballot, but efforts to get recreational marijuana on this year’s Florida ballot are struggling significantly.


Also in South Florida news this week was Lake Okeechobee, which is located near the farm featured above:

Ten billion gallons of pollution-laden water was pumped into Lake Okeechobee during four days of emergency measures to avert South Florida flooding, officials disclosed Monday. Amid an already rainier-than-usual winter, heavy rains last week triggered the controversial “back pumping” of water from South Florida’s vast farming region, the Everglades Agricultural Area, north into the lake. That helped protect lakeside towns as well as sugar cane fields and vegetable farms from flooding, but at the expense of allowing fertilizers and other pollutants that wash off the land to end up in the lake.

(See all Orbital Views here)