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2017 Farm City Awards and Festival Highlights

The 44th annual Jackson County Farm City Celebration, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, was held on November 3 and 4, 2017.  The celebration began with a breakfast sponsored by Farm Credit of Northwest Florida that was held at Rivertown Community Church, in Marianna.  Ten farm families were honored, and five farms received the “This Farm Cares” recognition.

The following were the award presentation notes, as well as a highlight video of the two days of events that make up the 2017 Farm City Festival.

Laramie Pooser – Ed Jowers Farm City Scholarship

Each year the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce awards the Ed Jowers Farm City “Future of Agriculture” Scholarship to a recipient displaying exemplary scholastic, extracurricular & agriculturally centered achievements.

The Farmc City Schloarship recipient for 2017 is Miss Laramie Pooser. Laramie is a 2017 graduate of Cottondale High School, where she was honored as a valedictorian.

Laramie was actively involved in numerous organizations while in high school. She was an officer in Cottondale High School’s FFA chapter and participated on multiple teams, including Parliamentary Procedure, Agricultural Sales and Service, and Livestock Judging. Laramie was integral in her teams’ winning state championships for Agricultural Sales & Services in 2015 and Agricultural Communications in 2017, with Laramie receiving second high individual in the state in 2017. She has also served as a spokesperson for the agriculture industry during events such as career fairs. Laramie has also been actively involved with the Senior Beta Club, Backpacks for Kids, and Hope School. She was even  a volunteer for Habitat for Humanities and has assisted with multiple local banquets.

Laramie is currently continuing her education at Chipola College. She plans to transfer to the University of Florida and obtain a degree in both Animal Science, and  Microbiology and Cell Science. She has aspirations of becoming either a veterinarian or an agricultural teacher.

The Farm City Scholarship is selected by the Scholarship Committee of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce.  The selection criteria for this scholarship include:  a student from a farm family, pursuing a college degree in agriculture, and leadership and participation in 4-H and FFA activities. 

Michael Thompson Family 2017 Outstanding Farm Family

In 1947, J.R. and Bruce Thompson bought 80 acres of land and started farming together as partners.  In the beginning, they were mainly row crop farmers, with a small herd of commercial cows.  In 1955, the Thompsons purchased their first registered Angus cows from R.D Bennett.  More than 60 years later, the family farm is still going strong into the third generation.  Over that time-frame more than 200,000 calves have been sired by Thompson Brothers Angus Bulls with a T freeze branded on their hip.  The efforts of this entire family has made a significant impact on the Florida Cattle Industry.

In 1993, when his father Ronald became confined to a wheelchair, Michael took over running the day-today operation of Thompson Brothers Angus.  Michael’s Mom, JoAnn and his sister Amy share the load of managing the finances of the family business and Michael severs as the general manager of the family farm corporation.  They also employ two full-time employees and some part-time help during crop harvest season.

While Thompson Bothers Angus Farm is primarily known for their registered cattle operation, they are fully engaged in crop production as well.  They grow peanuts, soybeans, corn, oats and hay to provide additional income for the farm. Recently they have added selling sod as they transition from pasture to peanut production in their crop rotation.

Herd nutrition has always been a major element for managing a herd of cattle.  In the beginning, the farm provided much of the supplemental byproduct feeds, but when Michael took over help was short and he needed to find an alternative.  You might say Michael earned a Master’s Degree in Cattle Nutrition from the University of “We Tried That”.  Over the years he experimented with almost every type of bulk by-product feed on the market.  Through his willingness to try different byproducts, he came across one in particular with real merit, “Peanut skins.”  The paper-thin red skins on each individual peanut can be purchased by the truckload and fed to cattle.  While it is a pain to handle those fluffy skins that blow in the wind, they provide some real benefit as a supplemental feed.  The bitter taste from tannic acid and the bulkiness of fluffy skins keep cattle from overconsuming a blended feed.  So instead of having to hand feed every day, Michael developed a feed blend that could be fed with hay a few times per week all winter.

Michael currently serves as a member of the Jackson County Farm Bureau Board and has served in the past on the Cattlemen’s Board of Directors.  Michael’s greatest asset to the farming community is his willingness to help his fellow farmers.  Whether it is selling his special recipe feed blend, suggestions about cattle production, or just common sense farming ideas, Michael is never too busy to stop working and talk for a few minutes to help someone.  I can assure you, if you ask his opinion, you will not leave wondering where he stands.

The Outstanding Farm Family is selected each year by a committee of past recipients of the recognition for the Jackson County Farm Bureau.  Michael, Joann, and Amy Thompson were selected as the 2017 Outstanding Jackson County Farm Family.  Michael’s grandfather J.R., and father, Ronald Thompson were honored as the Farm Family back in 1988.  So, this is the third generation of Thompsons to be honored as Jackson County’s Outstanding Farm Family. 

Danny Melvin – 2017 Cattlemen of the Year

Danny Melvin is the fifth generation of the Folsom, Dykes, Stuart, and now Melvin Families that have farmed and raised cattle in the Rocky Creek Community.  They originally homesteaded back in the 1800’s when the railroad came through this area.  For more than 100 years, the family has gathered every fall for a “Hog Killing,” which is a three-day family event.  As Danny says it they, “Process the whole hog from the rooter to the tooter.”

Danny’s father taught him the love of cattle ranching.  His father was in the Angus business, but the herd had to be liquidated upon his death.  Danny got his start as a part-time rancher ten years ago when he purchased Simmental heifers from Sewell Farms in Chipley and L&L Cattle Company in Marianna.  Both of his kids showed Simmental heifers while in high school, with the highlight of winning Grand Champion at the Florida Simmental Association State Show several years ago. Currently Danny has 20 head of registered females, but has plans to build up to 40 head in the near future. Every calf he raises is halter broken, so his cattle are extremely gentle.  He does all cattle herd work by himself, so there are no crazy cattle in his herd.  He takes great pride in being able to handle every animal without any assistance.

While the cattle herd is his passion, Danny’s primary business is operating Melvin’s Mobile Home Park.  There are 27 families who rent space in his 11-acre trailer park located on Destiny lane in the Rocky Creek Community.  Danny handles all of the maintenance of the park including the water, sewer, and grounds by himself.

Danny has been a member of the Jackson County Cattlemen’s Board of Directors since 2013.  He has served on numerous committees, but is most known for his work serving on their famous “Cooking Crew,” that smokes steaks and grills hamburgers for a number of community events. Danny has a passion for the work the Association does with 4-H and FFA youth.  He says, “They are the future of the cattle industry, and the future leaders in our community.”  Danny has donated his time for the past five years to provide a meal to every kid and their family members who participates in the annual livestock judging contest and beef shows at the Panhandle Youth Expo (PYE) and County Steer Show.  Just a few weeks ago, he and other members of the Cooking Crew provided over 200 meals for 4-H and FFA members at the PYE.  Danny has also served as the Cattlemen’s liaison on the Farm City Festival Committee the past three years.

In spite of all of the irons Danny keeps in the fire, his number one priority is his family.  He met his wife, Julie 27 years ago peddling watermelons.  He brought her melons and fell in love.  The two have been together ever since.  Danny and Julie have two grown children, Jordan 25, and Mason 22.  In the few hours a week he is not working or volunteering, Danny can be found spending time with his family in his favorite place.  He loves fishing, boating, and swimming on the Chipola River.

The Cattlemen of the Year is selected each year by the Jackson County Cattlemen’s Association. 

Larry & Jim McArthur – 2017 Peanut Farmers of the Year

The Peanut Farmers of the Year are a father and son team, Larry and Jim McArthur. Larry has been growing peanuts since he started farming at age 18.  Jim helped on the family farm from a young age and began to farm full time when he was 24.

Larry and his wife Pam have been married for 42 years and have 3 children- Joanna, Jennifer, and Jim. Pam tends to the books of the farming operation and helps manage McArthur Company, the farm supply store that she and Larry own. They have also been blessed with 4 grandchildren. Joanna and her husband Lee have two kids, Hunter and Trevor. Jim and his wife Damara have been married for nine years, and have two kids, 6 year old Atlynn, and Cassidy who is 2. Damara works as a stay at home mother and is currently homeschooling Atlynn.

Larry has been involved in agriculture all his life, thanks largely to the influence of his parents Jimmy and Ramona McArthur. His first year farming, Larry had a Massey Ferguson 135 tractor, a turning plow, a disk, and a planter. He managed about 50 acres and grew peanuts and soybeans. Several years later, he had his first pivot irrigation system installed on the farm. Larry partnered with eight farmers who own the Malone Peanut Company. He and Jim are both members of the Florida Peanut Producers Association, Farm Bureau, and the Cloverleaf Cotton Gin.

Jim says, “I really enjoy getting to work with my father every day.  It’s rare to have that type of partnership nowadays”. This year, the duo grew 870 acres of cotton and 485 acres of peanut. They grow 450 to 500 acres of peanut in a typical year. Today, their farm is 90% irrigated, and they grow twin row Georgia 06G peanuts. This was the first year that Larry and Jim have tried the nematicide Velum on their farm. They used Velum under the entire peanut crop, and have been pleased with the results.  Their best field averaged 6,400 pounds/acre this year. The McArthurs also collaborate with Barry Tillman, the UF/IFAS Peanut Breeder to host an on-farm variety trial in the Malone area. The trial consists of 1.5 acres of field length strips for four varieties. The varieties tested included Georgia 06G, TUFRunner 511, TUFRunner 297, and FloRun 157. The highest yielding variety in their on-farm test was TUFRunner 511, which provided 6,300 pounds of peanuts per acre.

Joining Larry and Jim today is Larry’s mother Ramona McArthur, along with their wives, Pam and Damara, as well as Jim and Damara’s kids- Atlynn and Cassidy.

The Peanut Farmer of the Year is selected each year by the Jackson County Extension Service with the assistance from the Florida Peanut Producers.

Terry Whitehead – 2017 Cotton Farmer of the Year

The Whitehead family has been farming in the Cottondale area for 5 generations. Terry Whitehead has been farming his entire life, starting at an early age helping his parents Donnell and Edna Whitehead on their family farm. He branched out and started farming on his own farm in 1999, but continued farming in conjunction with his dad as well. Terry has been growing cotton for nearly 20 years on his own farm. He is a member of the Florida Peanut Producers Association as well as Sowega Cotton Gin. This year, Terry grew 241 acres of Georgia 06G peanuts, 33 acres of soybeans, and 250 acres of dryland cotton. His farm consisted of 5 cotton varieties from three companies planted on 36inch rows. The variety lines were Delta Pine 1646, PhytoGen 444 & 490, as well as Stoneville 6182 & 6448.

When asked about production, Terry said that like any farm, “I always have fields I’m proud of, but sometimes there are also ones I hope no one sees”. With factors like weather and pests influencing the crop each year, Terry finds it important to continue testing different varieties. What performed well this year may or may not perform the same next year, with continuously varying weather conditons. He says, dryland farming can be tricky, because your success depends greatly on good weather, but in recent years, he has averaged 2-bales of cotton per acre. He was especially proud of his 2012 crop, his best to date, achieving 1400 pounds. Currently, Terry is gearing up to start picking his cotton crop, it looks good overall, but only time will tell. He has a good working relationship with his dad, and between the two farms, they have 450 acres of cotton to pick in the coming weeks.

Terry is joined here today by his wife Tracey.  They celebrated their three-year anniversary a week ago today.   They have five kids: Hunter, Will, Jeff, Tannor, and McKenize.

The Cotton Farmer of the Year is selected each year by the Jackson County Extension Staff with the assistance of the local agricultural supply dealers. 

Dietrich Farms – 2017 Corn Farmers of the Year – 262 Bu./acre

Each year, the Jackson County Extension Service performs standardized corn yield checks across the county for all interested growers. Annually, the farm or grower with the highest yield check earns this award. In 2017, the highest yielding test was measured at Dietrich Farms.

This year, Dietrich Farms grew 300 acres of cotton, 270 acres of peanut, and 225 acres of corn, while also managing a 100-cow commercial cattle herd. Christopher says, “Corn fits nicely with our three year rotational plan of peanuts and cotton. Corn may not always be the most profitable crop choice, but the benefits to other crops in the rotation are something we factor in”. On average, they grow about 225 acres of corn each year, and are planning on 220 acres for the upcoming 2018 cropping season.

Dietrich Farms is truly a family business. The matriarch of the family is Charlotte Dietrich. Gordon, Lady, and their two sons Christopher and Nicholas manage the day-to-day activities on the farm. Gordon, Christopher, and Nicholas do the field and tractor work, and Lady is responsible for bookkeeping. Gordon and Lady’s daughter Hannah and her family live in Chipley, helping out when they visit. Today, the fourth generation also gets to help out and experience the farm first hand. Christopher and his wife Holly have three kids, Jackson, Cale, and JB. When Holly isn’t teaching 2nd grade at Kate Smith Elementary School, she helps on the farm and enjoys working with the cattle. Hannah and her husband Mark also have three kids, Shelby, Cooper, and Cannon.

The Dietrich’s grow crops on 30-inch row spacing, and all their corn is irrigated. This year they provided custom farming of a spring and fall corn crop for Southern Cattle Company. In 2017, they evaluated six corn variety lines on their farm: Dekalb 6208, Dekalb 6520, Dekalb 6697, Pioneer 1197, Pioneer 1916, and Terral 28HR20. The average corn yield for tests performed across all of their fields and varieties for was 238.3 bu/acre. The Dietrichs’ official top yield for 2017 was 262 bu/acre, achieved with Dekalb 6208. Irrigation for this variety differed from the others.  Rather than using center irrigation pivot, this small 16-acre field was irrigated using subsurface drip tape. This is the third year they have experimented with the subsurface irrigation, and they are very pleased with the results thus far. Following their corn crop, they planted oats and rye, which is currently being grazed by their cattle herd.

Fertility management is an important factor for a successful corn cropping system. In the past, the Dietrichs applied chicken litter and strip tilled 150 lbs of anhydrous ammonia (N) every 30 inches in line with the row. They found that this caused a shift in the soil pH, sometimes leading to a magnesium deficiency in their corn. This year, to correct that issue, they tried something new.  Using their pasture fertilizer applicator theyapplied anhydrous ammonia (N) every 15 inches. This allowed them to maintain the same 150 lbs rate per acre, by split applying 75 lbs of fertilizer on either side of each row.

The Dietrichs would also like to express their appreciation to Josh Thompson, Helena Chemical Company, and Ronald Barber, Campbellton Farm Service for all the input and assistance they provide to help make their farming operation successful.

The Corn Farmer of the Year Award is based on standardized yield checks provided by the Jackson County Extension Service. 

Bill Conrad – Hay Farmer of the YearRFQ Score 229

Bill Conrad is a 4th generation Jackson County farmer.  Over the years, he has raised a number of traditional crops:  peanuts, soybeans, corn, wheat, triticale, and pine trees.  For the past few years, however, he has shifted his acres to become a quality forage producer for horse, goat, beef and dairy farms.  Bill and his sons also provide a custom harvest service, using their combines to harvest wheat, oats, corn, and soybeans for farms in the area.

Bill’s forage operation is very unique.  He takes great pride in producing high quality alfalfa, perennial peanut, and Bermudagrass hay, which is sold to horse, cattle, and goat producers.  He has even been experimenting with a hayfield of Bermudgrass interplanted with alfalfa to boost both yield and quality.  His primary business is square baled hay, but also provides custom hay harvest service of round bale hay for local farms in the area.

The Jackson County Hay Contest is based on locally grown hay with the highest Relative Forage Quality or RFQ score.  RFQ is a single number index that takes into account the protein, energy, fiber, and digestibility of the hay and allows for easier comparisons between cuttings and even different forage types.  An RFQ index of 100 is equal to very mature, or low quality alfalfa hay.

In 2017, Bill sent in 12 forage samples for quality testing.  His best hay was an April cutting of alfalfa square bales.  Bill’s alfalfa hay had a (RFQ) index of 229, with an estimated animal dry matter intake of over 4 % of body weight. The alfalfa hay was preserved at 15% moisture, with 27% Crude Protein (CP), and 70 % Total Digestible Nutrients (TDN), on a dry matter basis.  This is the fourth year in a row that Bill has been recognized for having the highest quality hay in the county.

Bill has been married to his wife Donna for 30 years, and they have five children:  B.J., Rachael, Joseph, Elijah, and Heidi.  B.J. and his wife Charity have two children Breanna and Ben.  Conrad farms is not a one-man show, and is truly a family operation.  It takes the entire family working together long hours to keep their custom harvesting and their forage businesses going.

The Hay Farmer of the Year is based on standardized quality testing of forage samples submitted through the Extension Service. 

Cherokee Satsumas – 2017 Specialty Crop Farmers of the Year

In 1971, Mack Glass and his wife, Alicia, moved back from Pensacola to manage the family 3,800 acre timber and cattle ranch in Jackson County.  Mack decided to give satsumas a try after attending a future of farming conference hosted by the University of Florida and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.  While attending the conference, Mack spoke with retired UF/IFAS Citrus Breeder, Wayne Sherman, who suggested that he give satsumas a try.  Satsuma is a cold hardy citrus variety known for having excellent eating quality.  Satsuma was once a major crop in the Gulf States, reaching a peak 20,000 acres in 1923.  Unfortunately, freezes in the 20s and 30s completely wiped out the industry.

Mack deserves a lot of credit for bringing the citrus industry back to the Panhandle.  his six-acre grove was planted in 2002.  Marketing began in 2005 when the satsumas were harvested for the first time, and Cherokee Satsumas was born.  A citrus packing house was constructed in 2011, with the help from Mack and Alicia’s son Grant.  Now Grant is responsible for the regular grove maintenance, such as spraying and mowing.  Mack’s wife Alicia is tasked with keeping up-to-date on changing food safety regulations.  During harvest season, however, the entire family helps pitches in.

A diversified marketing strategy is one of the aspects that makes Cherokee Satsumas stand out.  The farm utilizes the “Farm to School” program to market their fruit directly to the food service systems in Duval, Orange, and Hillsborough counties.  In addition, schools and civic groups spanning from Pensacola to Tallahassee purchase satsumas to direct-sell for organizational fundraisers.  Some of their satsumas are still sold straight out of their packing house, normally within three days of harvest.

Mack is a true leader in the Agriculture Industry.  Even though he stays very busy on the farm, he makes the time to mentor other farmers in North Florida and Georgia who are interested in satsuma or cattle production.    Mack serves on the Board of the Georgia Citrus Association, and is a State Committee Chairman for the Florida Cattlemen’s Association.  He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Jackson Soil and Water Conservation District, the Jackson County Cattlemen’s Association, and the County Farm Bureau.   Mack is also a member of several UF/IFAS advisory committees that support both research and extension programs in the region.

The Specialty Crop Farmer of the Year was selected by the Jackson County Extension Service with assistance from the local farming industry.

Ronny and Mary Leah Williams – 2017 Tree Farmers of the Year

Ronny and Mary Leah Williams have made their home on the family property, where Ronny was born, for the past 46 years.  In 2014, Ronny inherited property located north of Sneads, from the estate of his parents, T.E. and Hazel Williams. This property was part of a diversified row-crop operation, which T. E. had begun converting into a tree farm several years before his passing in 2013. The land includes timberland, natural areas of mast-bearing trees, ponds, garden spaces, wildlife food plots, as well as the Williams’ home place, which is nestled in the middle of a portion of the timberland. Prior to Ronny assuming ownership of the timberland, there were stands of pine ranging in age from 11 to 30 years old.  Since 2014, the Williams’ have been enrolled in the Forest Stewardship Program and have followed recommended tree farming practices, in regard to clear-cutting and replanting, thinning, and other management practices to promote tree health to reduce damage from southern pine beetle infestations.

Ronny and Mary Leah are both nature lovers, avid bird-watchers, and wildlife conservationists. Their Forest Stewardship Plan set the stage for further development of wildlife habitat, with special emphasis on threatened species, including bobwhite quail, red-headed woodpecker, and fox squirrel, all of which already have become more prevalent on the property. The Wiliams’ efforts include conversion of firebreaks used for prescribed burns into seasonal walking trails, and the installation of nesting boxes for songbirds and wood ducks. They also continue to plant and maintain year-round wildlife foraging plots. Mary Leah is a photography buff, with nature and wildlife being her favorite subjects; the pine forest surrounding the family home provides tremendous opportunities to enjoy her hobby. Daily wildlife visitors to the front yard or in the pines just beyond the fence include deer, wild turkey, quail, grey fox, fox squirrels, grey squirrels, and far too many species of songbirds to name. There also are a variety of seasonal wild flowers and flowering vines growing beneath the forest canopy and along the firebreaks, which attract an abundance of butterflies and bees, as well as provide browsing for wildlife.

Since some of the Williams’ land is highly erodible, they recognize the value of growing pine trees to maximize the prevention of soil loss, which also enhances the quality of surrounding surface waters. Ronny and Mary Leah’s desire, as Jackson County tree farmers and participants in the American Tree Farm System, is to continue developing their timberland for family recreation, as a wildlife, soil and water conservation area, and as an aesthetically appealing source of income. The Williams are grateful to Barry Stafford, Jackson County Forester, and to the Florida Forest Service for all of the professional guidance and expert advice on achieving their goals.

Ronny and Mary Leah have a daughter, Dr. K.C. Williams, who lives in Fort Walton Beach with her husband Kelcey Hall, and their three children, Kai, Brittany, and Ethan.

 The Tree Farmer of the Year is selected each year by the Florida Forest Service’s County Forester, Barry Stafford. 

Springland Plantation – 2017 Conservationists of the Year

John Meadows and his wife purchased the Running M Ranch & Groves in 2009 and formed the Springland Plantation Corporation.  The original property consisted of 320 acres of row-crop and forested land.  Various tenants had rented the cropland on the farm for a number of years.  The pivot irrigation systems were old and in a poor state of repair, and the original terrace systems had deteriorated significantly.  As John, the managing member of Springland Plantation, surveyed all of the restoration this farm required, he realized that he needed some expert advice and financial assistance, so he contacted the local Natural Resource and Conservation Service (NRCS) staff.

John had concerns regarding his severely degraded terraced cropland, as well as the aged and inefficient, center-pivot irrigation systems. His main concern was protecting his soil and water resources, but he was also interested in reducing the overall water consumption of the irrigation systems. His goal was to develop a sustainable system for highly productive crop farming while also protecting the natural resources. John’s philosophy is that it his duty to conserve what he has been blessed with, while God’s land is in his care.

The first step was to have Mark Miles and the Mobile Irrigation Lab team evaluate the overhead irrigation systems on the plantation.  They determined that one of the center pivot systems needed complete replacement.  Mary Jane Nelson, Cindy Jordan, and Randy English, on the local NRCS staff, developed a conservation plan that included the reconstruction of terraces, grassed waterways, as well as irrigation efficiency improvement.  As they worked through the conservation plan, John also decided to remove some fencerows, and trees along field edges to reestablish some of the tillable acres that had been lost over time. Once the new center-pivot was constructed, it could now swing in a full circle to irrigate additional acres more efficiently than with the old system.

John and Andy Wells, his farm leasee, have worked cooperatively with NRCS to fulfill their mission of “Helping people help the land” through the reduction of soil erosion, and water consumption, while improving soil and water quality fish and wildlife habitat, and also protecting wetlands. John’s conservation objectives have been achieved with the implementation of a conservation plan on more than 235 acres of cropland. The best management practices he selected to implement included a terrace system, grassed water ways, cover crops, strip-till planting, nutrient management, efficient irrigation systems, and wetland conservation.

For the NRCS staff, it has been a pleasure to work with John Meadows and Springland Plantation.  They look forward to future opportunities to develop a conservation plan for his forested acreage.  John is also very appreciative of the assistance he has received from the local NRCS staff, and the Mobile Irrigation Lab team to reach his land conservation goals.

The Conservationist of the Year is selected each year by the staff of the Jackson District of the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). 

Farm Bureau CARES Recognition

Cacee Hilliard, Coordinator for the County Alliance for Responsible Environmental Stewardship, or CARES, Program, sponsored by Florida Farm Bureau, provided the following recognition for five county farms that received the “This Farm CARES” recognition.

The CARES Program started in 2001 to publicly recognize farmers and ranchers who have voluntarily implemented Best Management Practices (or BMPs) to promote environmentally sound and economically viable farming practices on Florida farms.  Through the implementation of BMPs, farmers and ranchers show a commitment to protecting and preserving Florida’s natural resources, and Farm Bureau is proud to recognize them for their efforts.

To accomplish the mission of the CARES Program, Florida Farm Bureau partners with the Florida Department of Agriculture’s Office of Ag Water, UF/IFAS Extension, and local Water Conservation District field staff.

The official “This Farm CARES” signs our recipients receive provides a platform and opportunity to educate and demonstrate to the public that Florida agriculture is actively involved in protecting our natural resources. Florida Farm Bureau and the CARES program will always support reliable courses of action that combine the ability to maintain our farm families’ livelihoods, and improve our society, as we continue to care for the natural world around us.

Cindale Farms

Cindale Farms is a multi- generational dairy farm that began operating in 1994. Brad and Meghan Austin are second-generation dairy farmers who co-own, care for, and operate the family farm. Meghan’s parents, Dale and Cindy Eade, founded Cindale Farms and now manage the family’s ice cream business, Southern Craft Creamery, which uses milk produced by their own cows. In 2014, Brad and Meghan became responsible for management of the 467-acre farm. It is home to 300 Jersey & Jersey crossed cows who are milked twice daily.

Environmental stewardship has been a priority to the family since Cindale Farm’s was established. They were one of the first farms to enroll in the Department of Agriculture’s Dairy Best Management Practices, and have taken advantage of many environmental stewardship programs to implement nutrient management programs. USDA Conservation programs include the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP). Through EQIP, Cindale Farms used cost-share dollars to implement a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan, rainwater management and storage plan, erosion control and prescribed grazing management. WHIP cost-share funds were used to establish a field border, which provides wildlife food and cover benefits. The farm has also partnered with NRCS to develop and implement a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan, forming a baseline of fertilizer use for their operation, and proving that these standards are accessible to farms of all sizes.

Florida Farm Bureau and the CARES Program are proud to recognize this farm family for maximizing the use of BMPs and effectively preserving the natural resources found on and around their farm.

Flying Y Ranch

Flying Y Ranch is a family run operation that started in the fall of 2012, when land was purchased to begin a cow/calf operation.  Since then, Flying Y Ranch has raised grass-fed beef, and will soon be raising Florida Cracker Cattle. The use of BMPs started when the ranch first began.  Owner, Rick Hanshew and his wife, Lynn Yarborough, shared that when the family comes out to complete work on the ranch, time is also made to monitor their impacts on the local environment.

The BMPs implemented on Flying Y Ranch include fencing off wetlands to protect the property’s five small natural springs, identifying set back limits for applying fertilizer or herbicides, managing soil test zones before applying fertilizer, and pasture rotation to limit waste run-off, and allow for re- growth.  BMPs allow Flying Y Ranch to preserve their land for the next generation of ranchers.

Florida Farm Bureau and The CARES Program are proud to recognize this farm family for their efforts in growing their ranch while protecting the natural resources in and around their property.

Back 40 Farms

Ken Godfrey has been an active participant with the University of Florida-North Florida Research and Education Center, and Jackson County Extension on best management practices (BMP) management in the Blue Springs Basin in Jackson County. Back 40 Farms is located in the heart of the Blue Springs Basin, an area that has been identified by Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) as a region of critical concern for nitrates in our watershed. Ken Godfrey has worked with UF faculty to develop a winter forage program at his ranch that utilizes a mixture of cool-season legumes and grasses to minimize his nitrogen fertilizer needs.  By incorporating legumes into his winter grazing year after year, he has been able to build up his soil’s health, increasing the organic matter in a pasture system, and provide a year-round, rotational grazing system.  Ultimately, this should minimize his nitrogen fertilization needs, and support a more sustainable pasture system. Ken actively supports the use of BMPs in his ranching operation, and has been a staunch advocate for BMP practices in Jackson County.

Florida Farm Bureau and The CARES Program are proud to recognize Back 40 Farms, Ken Godfrey and his family with a 2017 CARES Award.

Florida Foundation Seed

Florida Foundation Seed is a corporate-owned farm that was formed in order to provide high- quality crop and nursery seed stock to Florida producers.  They work in conjunction with the University of Florida to utilize research findings to provide more productive crop cultivars with farmers in the region.  Florida Foundation Seed Producers has been in business since the 1940’s.  BMPs are utilized throughout the farm to ensure they preserve their property and its resources for future use and therefore, future business.  By implementing conservation strips to reduce runoff and erosion, using soil moisture sensors to optimize the use of water and nutrients, and GPS-guided equipment for fertilizer application, Tommy Hamilton of Florida Foundation Seed is effectively reducing water use, improving local water quality, and are managing their use of supplemental nutrients.

Florida Farm Bureau and the CARES Program are proud to recognize Tommy Hamilton and Florida Foundation Seed Producers, Incorporated for their efforts to protect Florida’s water resources through implementation of BMPs.

Forrester Farms 

Forrester Farms is a family run operation that started in 2005.  Arnie and Lynn Forrester grow 200 acres of cantaloupes, 600 acres of peanuts, and 1,000 acres of cotton.

The Forresters implement several advanced level BMPs on their farm using the latest technology and crop science.  They utilize micro-drip irrigation for the cantaloupe crop for maximum efficiency and high yield.  Soil moisture meters have been installed on all of their irrigated crop fields to further improve water use efficiency and to minimize nutrient loss.  Variable rate, GPS-guided fertilizer application equipment allows the Forresters to pinpoint fertilizer to the zones of fields that need more or less than the average.  They also utilize plant tissue analysis in midseason to monitor plant nutrient need and to develop future precision fertilizer applications.

Over the last 10 years, Forrester Farms have developed their farm management system to include numerous BMPs to protect soil and water resources, but have also made their farm more efficient.  Utilizing the latest technology along with federal and state conservation programs, their farm proves that BMPs do work without sacrificing yield and crop quality.  Florida Farm Bureau is proud to recognize Forrester Farms for their dedication to outstanding environmental stewardship.

Farm City Festival Highlight Video


Permanent link to this article: http://jackson.ifas.ufl.edu/agriculture/2017/11/20/2017-farm-city-awards-and-festival-highlights/