(SfL) — Solutions from the Land (SfL) extends its sincere congratulations to Jim Strickland, managing partner of Myakka, Florida’s Blackbeard’s Ranch, which has been honored by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) as the winner of the group’s 2019 Environmental Stewardship Award Program (ESAP).
Presented at the 2020 Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show in San Antonio, TX, the award was established in 1991 to recognize examples of outstanding land stewardship in the cattle industry.
NCBA officials say ranchers have been caring for the nation’s natural resources for generations, and as stewards of the land, they recognize the importance of improving environmental management practices and protecting our ecosystems.
Industry leaders cited Blackbeard’s Ranch, which is owned by Galinski Enterprises, as “a leading example of the outstanding stewardship found in our industry and serves as inspiration for producers everywhere.”
“My family has been in Florida for six generations,” Strickland said. “We’ve always been in the cattle business, and we’ve always taken pride in caring for the land to ensure we’re protecting the land, air and water resources that have been entrusted to us”
Strickland is a co-chair of an SfL-sponsored Work Group brought together to lead the Florida Climate Smart Agriculture (FLCSA) Initiative. The work group is composed of state agricultural and forestry thought leaders and value chain partners who have been charged with identifying and implementing pragmatic, proven and innovative solutions to challenges confronting Florida’s farmers, ranchers and foresters in the face of environmental uncertainty. The solutions will aim to support a food system that benefits producers, the public and the planet.
“We commend Jim for his accomplishments and for his leadership in helping transform agriculture in Florida into becoming climate smart,” said SfL Co-Chairman Fred Yoder, an Iowa corn, soybean and wheat farmer. “Jim’s work is moving the sector toward meeting climate and other sustainable development goals.
“A major component of the Work Group’s efforts in Florida,” Yoder continued, “is developing a payment mechanism for ecosystem services that farmers, ranchers and foresters deliver from the land.”
Blackbeard’s Ranch is one of the last large, intact working cow-calf operations in southwest Florida. The cowherd includes approximately 600 head of Beefmaster, Brangus and Charolais cattle, which pasture just east of the sandy beaches and high rises on the Gulf of Mexico.
“In the last five or six years, Jim has really embraced conservation, and actually formed a group of ranchers called the Florida Conservation Group,” said Jim Handley, executive vice president of the Florida Cattlemen’s Association. “They’re all like-minded ranchers who are interested in preserving as much country as possible, keeping it in private hands.”
Strickland worked with USDA’s National Resources Conservation Service to dedicate one-third of the ranch as a permanent conservation easement to protect water quality down-stream, restoring the wetlands and the native hydrological regime on 1,500 acres.
“We’re still grazing cattle on it,” Strickland said. “But that easement program fit for us.”
In the last four years the ranch team focused on thinning dense trees and removing invasive plants. Their plan is to use herbicide treatments and prescribed burns, which means burning 50 to 100 acres at a time to help the land, cattle and the wildlife.
The ranch team installed water troughs driven by wind and solar power to ensure cattle have clean water. Adding five windmills and three solar wells allowed them to implement a rotational grazing plan without depending on ponds that commonly dry up.
“When we bought this ranch, one of the ideas was to have a ranch where conservation and agriculture meet,” said Strickland. “And one of the ways to get our word out initially was to utilize the common bond we have with the residential population of Florida. That common bond was food.”
Strickland expanded the ranch’s products to include beef, honey and pork to maximize income opportunities and share the story of agriculture and conservation. He now regularly hosts busloads of people eager to learn about conservation on Florida ranchlands. Strickland also welcomes legislators, state and federal agencies to the ranch to show how critical ranching is to conserving land to benefit native wildlife populations.
“The real treasure of this operation, the true treasure of Blackbeard, is the land itself,” said Strickland, “and not the gold doubloons the pirates may have hidden on this ranch.”
Source: Solutions from the Land