Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam announced the recipients of the Commissioner’s Agricultural-Environmental Leadership Award, which recognizes the environmentally innovative farming techniques of Florida’s farmers and ranchers. This year’s recipients are Brad and Meghan Austin and Dale and Cindy Eade of Cindale Farms in Marianna; Greg Davis of Speedling Incorporated in Ruskin; and Brittany Lee of Florida Blue Farms, INC., in Waldo.
“These award recipients use innovative technology and methods to protect Florida’s environment and natural resources while contributing to Florida’s $120 billion agriculture industry,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam.
Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture has presented this award annually since 1994 to Florida’s growers and ranchers committed to preserving Florida’s resources while providing agriculture products.
Brad and Meghan Austin co-own and manage Cindale Farms in Marianna with Meghan’s parents, Dale and Cindy Eade. Dale and Cindy founded the small dairy farm and now manage the family’s ice cream business, Southern Craft Creamery, which uses milk products produced by their own cows. Cindale Farms prioritizes conservation and was one of the first farms to enroll in the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Dairy Best Management Practices. They have participated in nutrient management programs, such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, to implement a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan, rainwater, and storage plan, erosion control, and prescribed grazing management. They also partnered with the Natural Resources Conservation Service to develop a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan that forms a baseline for fertilizer use.
Speedling, Incorporated was established in 1968 in Sun City, home of the Speedling corporate office, original nursery and EPS manufacturing facility. The company has eight nurseries throughout the country and two in Florida, where moisture levels are carefully analyzed to improve performance and consistency of transplant operations. The Sun City nursery boasts over 800,000 square feet of greenhouse space equipped with overhead water trolleys that utilize the one-to-five moisture scale to reduce water usage and prevent run-off by only irrigating the exact moisture level needed. At their second location, Speedling circulates 4 million gallons of water throughout the 700,000-square foot growing space with a sub-irrigation circulation system, which uses 80 percent less than overhead and waters the plant without wetting the foliage. Speedling uses their overhead irrigation system and sub-irrigation system to recycle water into tanks for future use.
In 2009, Brittany Lee began working with her parents to convert their 50 acres of Silverculure land in Waldo into a Southern Highbush blueberry farm. Lee is Vice President and General Manager of Florida Blue Farms, which now consists of 90 acres of production. Florida Blue Farms implements the department’s Specialty Fruit and Nut Crop BMPs to incorporate weather stations for accurate on-site weather conditions; drip irrigation and ground cover to reduce irrigation needs and inputs; soil moisture monitoring; and plant tissue and root growth monitoring and testing to assess herbicide application. The farm’s drainage system collects water into a two-acre tailwater recovery pond for future use during freeze events. Florida Blue minimizes the impact on waterways by using filter strips and EnviroGrid Geocell Systems throughout the farm and fertigation systems to apply spoon-fed nutrients directly to the root zone.
For more information on the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, visit FreshFromFlorida.com.