Commissioner Putnam Announces Winners of Agricultural-Environmental Leadership Awards

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From the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services:

FDACSTALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam today announced the three winners of the state’s Agricultural-Environmental Leadership Award, which recognizes agricultural producers who are practicing environmentally innovative farming practices.

“These recipients have each shown a commitment to improving Florida’s environment and conserving our natural resources, especially water,” Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam said. “From cattle ranching to growing citrus and strawberries to producing seeds and peanuts, these producers are proving that agriculture production and environmental protection can go hand-in-hand.”

The recipients are:

• Dennis Carlton, owner of Carlton and Carlton Ranch in Tampa. Dennis Carlton is a seventh-generation Floridian whose 35,000-acre ranch includes cattle, citrus, sod and strawberries. Since taking over the ranchland, Dennis Carlton has restored and improved wetlands, provided corridors for protected wildlife and filtered stormwater on the property. After several hurricanes in 2004 devastated parts of the ranch, Dennis Carlton replanted thousands of pines and oaks. He recycles citrus pulp into feed for cattle and collects rainfall to help water his crops and protect them from freezing weather. Dennis Carlton is a former president of the Hillsborough County Farm Bureau and currently sits on the Florida Farm Bureau’s Citrus Advisory Committee. In 2014, he was named the Sunbelt Ag Expo’s Florida Farmer of the Year.

• Wes Carlton, owner of Bull Hammock Ranch in Fort Pierce, and a fourth-generation cattle rancher. Bull Hammock is a showcase for water storage and environmental stewardship, including a unique surface water management system that stores more than 1,800 acre feet of water and drastically reduces the nitrogen and phosphorous released back into the environment. This innovative system restores and rehydrates wetlands, improves water quality and allows wildlife to flourish, all within the Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection Area. Bull Hammock Ranch, a 7,500 acre cow/calf operation, has been owned and operated by the Carlton family since 1947. In addition to its water storage programs, the ranch has implemented a number of agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs), including rotational grazing of the herds, planting a variety of forage plants, nutrient management and exotic species eradication. Wes Carlton has served as president of the St. Lucie County Cattleman’s Association and is very active in the Florida Cattleman’s Association. He is a spokesperson for the cattle industry and frequently opens his ranch to environmental organizations to tour and see firsthand the effects of new technology and BMPs on the environment.

• Randall Dasher, owner of Dasher Farms in McAlpin. When Randall Dasher took over his family’s Suwannee County farm, he instituted new technology to make the most efficient use of the land, water and agriculture on his property, which includes cattle ranching, peanuts, seed crops and a seed processing facility. He adopted conservation tillage practices, crop rotations, cover crops and a process to farm row crops without irrigation. He also was the first in the area to adopt hydroponic farming techniques. Randall Dasher is a self-proclaimed “weather watcher,” keeping decades of rainfall information about his ranch to establish patterns on the best times to plant crops. Dasher Farms is the main supplier of fresh produce for the Farm to School program in Suwannee County. Randall Dasher is the president of the Suwannee County Farm Bureau and has served in various capacities in the Florida Farm Bureau.

Nominees from different areas of Florida’s agriculture industry were reviewed by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and industry and environmental groups. Environmental practices considered in the nominations include: Wildlife Protection and Habitat Conservation, Pesticide/Nutrient Management, Water Quality, Soil and Water Conservation and Waste Management/Recycling.

The Commissioner’s Agricultural-Environmental Leadership Award has been presented annually since 1994. The program spotlights the environmentally innovative farming practices of the state’s growers and ranchers. The winners will be recognized at the Florida Farm Bureau’s Convention at the Commissioner’s Ag Environmental Leadership Breakfast in October. Information about previous winners is available here.

For more information about the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, visit