Putnam Recognizes Ag-Environmental Leadership Award Recipients

Randall Weiseman Florida

Putnam addressing the crowd at the FFB annual meeting.

Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam awarded the recipients of the Ag-Environmental Leadership Award during the last breakfast at the Florida Farm Bureau’s (FFB) annual meeting.

Southeast AgNet’s Abbey Taylor was able to catch up with Putnam after the breakfast, where they discussed this award and its recipients this year.

The winners of the award included Florida agriculture professionals that proved to be stewards of the environment.

Blackbeards’ Ranch is a 4,530-acre commercial cow-calf operation in Manatee County. Managing partner Jim Strickland is an acclaimed steward of the land, implementing practices that sustain wildlife, support land restoration, combat invasive plants and renew water quality. Blackbeards’ Ranch serves as a site for many conservation studies, including a partnership with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to study the Florida panther. Restored wetlands store clean water that is provided to the city of North Port, Myakka River and Charlotte Harbor estuary as necessary. Additionally, to help ease the impact of invasive plants, Strickland was one of the first landowners to participate in a mole cricket control project. Strickland has worked to preserve the ranch’s working agricultural lands and their immense environmental benefits by participating in the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, Florida Forever and the National Resource Conservation Service’s easement program.

Wild Goose Farms, owned and operated by Chuck Allison, is a family-run, 905-acre farm. The family operation includes citrus, blueberries, cattle and hay. To maximize irrigation and fertilizer efficiency, reduce leaching and deep percolation, Allison implemented a multifaceted approach to water conservation and nutrient management, including soil moisture sensors, drip irrigation and a fertilizer injection system. In their blueberry production, this technology reduced water usage by 20 percent and increased the yield by 30 percent. Due to the success with their blueberries, Allison recently replicated this technology in their citrus production. Wild Goose Farms emphasizes environmental stewardship through an outreach program of farm tours, workshops, local school programs and student visits.

Shinn Groves/ Tree O’Groves, Inc. in Lake Alfred has been family owned and operated for 37 years, and is currently headed by James Shinn. The innovative family operation includes citrus, cattle and peach orchards. Shinn was an early adopter of best management practices, and he helped shape certain practices that have now been formally integrated into the statewide best management practices for citrus. Shinn implements composting, slow-release fertilizers and rotational cattle grazing to help protect Florida’s natural resources and reduce water run-off. Border areas surround the groves as a buffer to preserve habitats and provide a wildlife corridor. Shinn also samples new varieties of citrus and peaches for improved resiliency, and he shares this knowledge with the community and nearby growers.

Following the awards, FFB President John Hoblick thanked Putnam for his eight years of service to the Florida Agriculture industry. Stay tuned for more reports from the FFB annual meeting.