Northern Everglades farmers receive accolades for environmental stewardship

Everglades(OKEECHOBEE, Fla.) – Twenty-nine farmers were honored for their environmental stewardship Thursday at the Okeechobee County Agri-Civic Center.

The owners of the agricultural operations were recognized by Florida Farm Bureau’s County Alliance for Responsible Environmental Stewardship (CARES) program for their outstanding efforts in implementing Best Management Practices (BMPs).

Rep. Denise Grimsley hosted the event along with Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson, Florida Farm Bureau President John L. Hoblick and Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Mike Sole attending to help recognize the farmers.

The farms recognized wereTree Locators Garden Center Plants and More, The Graham Farms Sugarcane, Eagle Island Farms, Inc., Milking R, Inc.; Larson Dairy, Inc. Barn # 5; Butler Oaks Farm, Inc.; B-4, Inc.; Southern Accent Farms: Allen and Nicki Smith; Dog Creek Ranch; B & C Management: Bruce Carter; Lake Cattle Company: Buck Daniel; Florida Commission Company; Dees Cattle Company; Coffee Cup Ranch; Seminole Land and Cattle; Daniel and Marcia Candler; Amistad Ranch: Jose P. Fanjul; Montsdeoca Ranch; The Dixie Ranch; Dixie West; W Bar E Ranch; The Lockett Place; Syfrett Ranch; Street’s Ranch; 4A Hereford Polled Hereford and Crossbred Cattle; Hamrick and Sons, Inc.; Newcomer Ranch; Triple A Ranch and M Cross Ranch.

CARES began in 1999 with the formation of the Suwannee River Partnership in North Florida. CARES and the Partnership were formed to address environmental concerns, and promote economically viable BMPs and conservation planning while recognizing farmers as stewards. The Northern Everglades CARES program works in conjunction with the University of Florida IFAS, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Florida Department of Environmental Protection and South Florida Water Management District. This program also supports incentive based, voluntary programs instead of command and control regulation.

“We feel that it is important to recognize these 29 farmers for taking the time and effort to implement practices that are environmentally friendly,” said Hoblick. “I am pleased that we have been able to expand the CARES program into the Northern Everglades area. We see these operations as examples of the steps that Florida’s farmers and ranchers are taking to produce safe, affordable and abundant food while being good stewards of the environment.”

The CARES recipients were recognized in front of their peers at the Okeechobee County Agri-Civic Center on Thursday evening. Each received a plaque and a farm sign identifying them as a farmer who cares.

In addition to recognizing the farmers for being environmentally conscious, the CARES banquet itself was a ‘green’ event. Farm Credit of South Florida provided unique plates, drinking cups, napkins and eating utensils that were designed to quickly decompose.

The 1,000 plates and beverage cups used at the event were 100 percent biodegradable and made of an agricultural, compostable product called bagasse; a byproduct of the sugar refining process. The 1,000 forks and knives were made from potato-starch, a byproduct of the frozen potato product industry, and are also biodegradable and compostable.

Representatives of Farm Credit of South Florida said that the company strives to be environmentally friendly and support both agriculture and the environment through the use of sustainable products.

The event would not have been possible without the dedicated assistance of the Okeechobee Agri-Council. This group of local farmers and ranchers prepared the meal and helped with event logistics.