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ROOTED IN RESILIENCE: CODY AND COURTNEY DARLING

May 2022 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

Cody and Courtney Darling
YF&R State Leadership Group, District 2

First generation perennial peanut farmers Cody and Courtney Darling have had an unconventional path on their journey to building a farming business and legacy.

The couple grew up with different backgrounds. One in farming, one without. Courtney grew up in the city of Tampa, where her only introduction to farming was at her school’s FFA chapter. Cody grew up in farming. His dad, a retired veterinarian, owned a 100-acre hay farm in Michigan and a 55-acre farm in Indiana. In addition to growing hay, Cody spent a majority of his life around horses.

Their passion for agriculture merged when their paths crossed at the University of Florida where they were both actively involved in many of numerous clubs with a mutual love for agronomy.

Their relationship blossomed during their overlapping time at North Florida Holsteins where Courtney was an intern and Cody was employed.

Shortly after graduating college, the couple were married, and moved to Gilchrist County where their farming career slowly took off after a few peanut jokes turned into a realization of peanuts as a livelihood.

“{Growing peanuts} first started out as a joke, and then we found property with perennial peanuts already planted on it” said Courtney. “We’re both into forages and I really got into it, even in my weed sciences program during college.”

Finding and purchasing land was an indication that the Darlings were heading in the right direction. In addition to their full-time jobs, the pair bought their first plot of land in 2017.

“Our farm started when we purchased peanut sprigs in Bell and we planted an acre by hand,” recalls Cody. “Every couple of years we would spread those. Toward the end of 2017 we bought 20 acres with peanuts already on it and cleared that land. I was working for Generation Farms at the time and gained a wide spread of knowledge about different row crops.”

What started with one-acre quickly grew to 20, and by the end of 2019 they owned nearly 70 acres of perennial peanuts. As homage to Cody’s childhood, the Darlings diversified their crops to perennial peanuts and hay.

“Growing up farming hay, alfalfa was my favorite crop,” said Cody. “If it wasn’t for Courtney, I wouldn’t have moved into perineal peanuts. It was her idea. It’s a high quality forage and there’s a high demand for it. As a farmer, it was an easy niche to get into.”

Recently, they have downsized their hay operation to 40 acres and have dedicated seven acres to a feed peanut crop. They are growing two acres of Valencia peanuts and five acres of Virginia peanuts. Virginia peanuts are harvested while they are still green and are used for boiled peanuts.

As the Darlings grew their farm business, they leaned on other farmers to help and understood the importance of networking with other young farmers. They decided to start a Young Farmers & Ranchers Group in Gilchrist County as a way to share ideas and network with fellow farm families. They leaned on an Alachua County Young Farmers & Ranchers Group board member for guidance.

The couple has since moved to Suwannee County, after Cody received a promotion to serve as the regional agronomist for Black Gold Farms. Since moving to Suwannee County, the Darlings have been focused on starting and growing a new YF&R group.

“There are young people to be a part of the group, but it’s been hard because COVID got in the way, said Cody. “It’s a very struggling experience, but that’s often part of it in this day and age.”

Despite the struggles of building a new group, the Darlings have not given up. They continue to build relationships with new friends and are developing stronger leadership skills by participating in the state Young Farmers & Ranchers Leadership Group.

“There are only a certain amount of people who love to farm and we happen to be one of the few,” said Cody. “I think that is what keeps us going and how we’re rooted in resilience. There’s not many people out there who can nor want to do what it takes to farm.”

Courtney added how important it is to her and Cody to leave a legacy for their children.

“That’s what gets me through the tough times,” added Courtney. “Some days it’s hard but it has a lot of reward and it will be worth it.”

Fertilization Strategies and Pasture Management

April 2022 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

The UF/IFAS NFREC – Suwannee Valley hosted a free event on March 29, 2022 on fertilization strategies and pasture management. The group toured cool season plots and saw four varieties of bahiagrass while hearing from Columbia County Extension Agent Paulette Tomlinson and  Professor of Forage Breeding and Genetics, Dr. Ann Blount.

Following the tour, the group participated in a roundtable discussion, topics included: soil testing, establishing pastures, types of forages and testing hay, grazing management, pasture weeds and insects and managing fertilizer use with the rising costs.

Rooted in Resilience: John Dooner

April 2022 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

John Dooner
YF&R State Leadership Group, District 2

Born and raised in Gadsden County, 7th generation Floridian, John Dooner, does not recall a time in his life when he was not exposed to growing, managing or deriving something from the land.

Dooner hails from a long-line of agriculturalists. His maternal grandfather and great-grandfather, both whom he never met, were shade tobacco growers, a crop that once influenced the entire community of Gadsden County. His great-grandparents moved to Florida from Savannah, Ga., and made a living in the turpentine business.

Dooner’s father, Michael, started the family’s timber consulting firm, Southern Forestry Consultants, in the 1980s. Today, the father and son team manage roughly 2 million acres in Northwest Florida, Southwest Georgia and Northeast Alabama.

“As long as I can remember, I’ve been walking the woods with my dad, and it’s really what instilled the passion in me to generate something from the land,” he said. The Dooners’ have a highly diverse client base. Historically, their focus has been the “non-industrial private landowner” and the properties they manage range anywhere from 40 to 10,000 acres.

Dooner explained that forestry consultants assist their clients with balancing multiple land management objectives. “We are typically growing a crop of timber on behalf of the landowner and representing, them or acting as their agent, when they are ready to sell the timber,” he said.

He explained that while frequently, landowners want to generate revenue from their crop, others like to use their land for recreational purposes like fishing or hunting or enjoy the ecological benefits such as conserving wildlife and unique species.

“It is very rare that we are focusing on one objective at a time,” he said. “It requires us to be true foresters and put our skill set to use.” Dooner said that while farming for other landowners is his daily employment, he and his family also run their own timber operation.

Farm Bureau leadership runs in the family and he grew up learning about Florida Farm Bureau from his father’s involvement. Michael Dooner is a member of the Gadsden County Farm Bureau (GCFB) Board of Directors as well as a member of the FFB State Board of Directors, currently serving as treasurer.

John serves on the GCFB Board of Directors, serves as chair of the GCFB Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee and serves as the District 2 Leadership Chair on the State YF&R Group. He is excited about his role as chair of the GCFB YF&R, explaining that his goal is to make it a more sustainable and effective group.

Dooner enjoys traveling and history and is particularly fond of his Gadsden County heritage. Every year, the GCFB holds an event in conjunction with Farm City-Week at the Shade Tobacco Museum in Havana.

GCFB members and former shade tobacco growers and their families gather for a meal and to bring awareness to the necessary partnerships between urban and rural residents while paying homage and telling stories about the county’s rich shade tobacco history. Local county officials, media and law enforcement are also invited to the event.

“Our heritage is shade tobacco,” he said. “It is a very unique crop that was only grown in three Florida counties, Gadsden being the focal point of production. It’s unique because it was grown under cheese cloth shade, producing a higher quality leaf, which was used to wrap out portions of Cuban cigars.”

The livelihood of the entire Gadsden County community from the growers to supporting industries like grocers, clothing and hardware stores depended on the shade tobacco crop from the late 1800s to the 1960s.

Dooner explained that the county’s rolling topography limited the variety of crops farmers could grow. “The attractive thing about shade tobacco was that it was so valuable on just a ten acre field,” he said. “You could generate enough revenue to make it a feasible operation and in its hay day it was worth more than gold.”

Unfortunately, the development of synthetic wrapper in the 1970s and the inability to compete with cheap and available labor in Central America coupled with the arrival of diseases quickly eradicated the industry.

Dooner stated that it was a tough time for the entire community as producers and business owners were left to start from scratch. Most of the producers pivoted their operations to ornamental nursery, tomatoes and timber.

As an active member of FFB’s YF&R program, Dooner works daily to bridge the gap between  urban and agricultural communities. One way he does this is through the use of his social media channels. “I try to take opportunities to educate about agriculture and give examples of all the good things we do in Ag,” he said.

He is passionate about sharing agriculture’s story with the right people – people who don’t necessarily know or understand the many positive ecological and economic benefits of production agriculture. Dooner believes that the right communication can play a pivotal role in shaping the future of Florida agriculture.

“Farmers and ranchers have proven to be resilient throughout the course of time,” Dooner said. “I think outside of agriculture when I think about resilience. There is an enormous amount of pressure on our state’s resources as we continue to see thousands of people move to Florida every day.

The only way to deal with the unprecedented growth in our state is to recognize the benefits of our Ag land and put a value on them. The population boom is concerning, but I think we can put a positive spin on it and looks at it as an opportunity in agriculture to create value that has not historically existed. As the original stewards of the land, what is more compelling than that?”

Agriculture Education Services & Technology Assistant Director

0995 AEST Assistant Director

SUMMARY: This position works in close partnership with the Director of AEST to accomplish the goals of Agriculture Education Services and Technology, Inc. (AEST) and other agriculture education initiatives. This position will be responsible for assisting with all activities to promote AEST certifications and develop curriculum, training items and reference materials to support certifications. This position is also responsible for coordinating with the webmaster to maintain the AEST websites. This position serves as the primary management contact for industry partners as it relates to the Hire.Ag job board. Excellent organizational, communication and project management skills are essential, as are critical thinking and effective team working skills.

ESSENTIAL DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES: Include the following:
Assist with the daily operations of AEST and the testing platform including, but not limited to, user account maintenance, technical support and fielding program questions.
Proctor certification exams to various audiences as needed.
Create and deliver press releases, media relations content, success stories, newsletter content, social media content and speeches.
Promote and market AEST certifications to various audiences. This requires a strong understanding of AEST certification exams and includes developing creative and appropriate promotional materials, participating in industry trade shows and meetings, and establishing effective industry partnerships.
Develop sound and engaging curriculum, training items and reference materials. Experience writing and editing the work of others is preferred.
Coordinate with webmaster to maintain AEST websites—Certify.Ag, Verify.Ag and Hire.Ag.
Attend meetings and/or make presentations to various audiences. This includes developing audience appropriate engaging presentation materials. Excellent presentation, facilitation and listening skills are necessary.
Assist in identifying opportunities pertaining to endorsements, certification areas and grants.
Develop, manage and execute Hire.Ag marketing activities in an effort to build the program and drive industry participation.
Provide input for planning to increase brand awareness using excellent analytical, critical thinking and decision-making skills.
Perform other duties as assigned.

EDUCATION AND/OR EXPERIENCE: Bachelors’ degree from a four-year college or university with 1 to 3 years related experience or equivalent combination of education and experience.  An agricultural education or agricultural communications background is preferred

COMPUTER SKILLS: Advanced knowledge of computers to include Microsoft Word, Outlook, PowerPoint, Publisher and Internet usage are required.  Preferred candidate will possess graphic design skills and have a working knowledge of Word Press, Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator.

LANGUAGE SKILLSAbility to read, analyze and interpret general business periodicals, professional journals, technical procedures or government regulations.  Ability to effectively write reports, business correspondences and procedure manuals.  Ability to effectively present information and respond to questions from groups of managers, clients, customers and the general public.  Please provide a two page-writing sample and a self-created promotional flyer.

REASONING SKILLSAbility to solve practical problem situations where only limited information exists.  Ability to interpret and follow a variety of instructions furnished in written, oral, diagram or schedule form.  Analytical ability, including the ability to exercise judgement and make sound recommendations.  Ability to multitask and manage multiple tasks through strong organizational and time management skills.

Must possess a valid State of Florida driver’s licenses.  A current Florida Teaching Certificate is preferred

The above statements are intended to describe the general nature and level of work being performed.  They are not intended to be construed as an exhaustive list of all the essential duties, responsibilities and requirements of personnel.

No Phones Calls Please

APPLY NOW

The above statements are intended to describe the general nature and level of work being performed. They are not intended to be construed as an exhaustive list of all the essential duties, responsibilities and requirements of personnel.

Rooted in Resilience: Brandt and Samantha Hendricks

March 2022 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

Brandt and Samantha Hendricks represent counties in District 1 on the Florida Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers and Ranchers State Leadership Committee. Counties  include Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Holmes, Jackson, Washington, Bay, Calhoun and Gulf.

Brandt is a third generation farmer from Jay. His father and grandfather both served in leadership positions within Santa Rosa County Farm Bureau where Brandt has been a life-long member.

The University of Alabama graduate returned home after college to work on his family’s cotton and peanut farm, like his father and grandfather before him. The Hendricks also raise cattle for their cow/calf operation and grow hay.

Samantha was born and raised in Huntsville, Alabama and discovered her passion for agriculture while studying at Auburn University. She began her career with the Alabama Farmers’ Cooperative after graduating and met Brandt while on the job filming a project.

“We met in the middle of a cotton field thanks to Brandt’s dad,” she said. “Brandt was planting cotton seed and I was filming for work, the rest is history.” The newlyweds were married last April and are expecting their first child this summer.

Samantha won the Alabama Farmers Federation’s (ALFA) Excellence in Ag award in 2018 prior to becoming a Florida Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers member. She says that their favorite thing about being involved in Farm Bureau is “The relationships we have made and continue to build. Farm Bureau provides the platform we need to tell our story and advocate for agriculture.”

The Hendricks are excited to build their local EscaRosa Young Farmers and Ranchers Group. “Our goal is to share our passion for agriculture with our peers,” she said. “Our hopes are to leave the program better than we found it and encourage future leadership roles within the group.”

Brandt and Samantha are leaving a legacy for the next generation of young farmer and rancher leaders. “Being involved in production agriculture has a lot of unknowns,” they said. “We plant the seed and pray every day for it to put roots down and grow.”

Rooted in Resilience: Jacob Wangle

February 2022 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

Jacob Wangle represents counties in District 1 on the Florida Farm Bureau’ Young Farmers and Ranchers State Leadership Committee. Counties in his district include Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Holmes, Jackson, Washington, Bay, Calhoun and Gulf. He and his wife, Emma, live in Jackson County but have farm operations in both Jackson and Holmes counties. Wangle also serves as a member of the Holmes County Farm Bureau Board of Directors. He grows peanuts and cotton and raises beef cattle along with his grandfather.

Originally from south of Atlanta, Georgia, Wangle did not grow up involved in production agriculture. It was after he moved to Florida when he was 10 years-old that he had his first experience in Ag. One summer growing up, Wangle and his best friend came upon several ponds that they desperately wanted to fish. The ponds belonged to a hay farmer that was in need of help hauling his square bales. After an exchange of words, the man told Wangle that he could fish all he wanted if he could help him load his hay.

“We loaded that trailer as fast as we could so we get to fishing,” he explained. “Ever since that day, my interest peaked in how the world of agriculture in a small community really was. I believe I will get to leave this earth still wishing I could get to visit just one more farm or talk with one more farmer and listen to his/her stories about life on the farm.”

Wangle’s relationship grew with the farmer and he continued to work for him all through his high school years. “Our friendship grew over time and now we are like family,” he said. “I call him grandpa.”

Wangle pursued a degree in agricultural mechanics . He began his career as a field technician for Atlantic and Southern, an AGCO dealer in Dothan, AL. It was during this time that he began his row crop operation.  He later took an opportunity to work for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) in the Office of Ag Water Policy where he helped implement the Best Management Practices (BMPs) program.

“I really enjoyed my time with FDACS and helping local farmers and ranchers implement the best conservation practices,” he said. Wangle is currently back at Atlantic Southern working as a field technician.

“My favorite thing about being involved in Farm Bureau is the amount of like-minded people I have been able to meet and work with on any given day,” he mentioned. “The opportunity to have my opinions valued means a great deal to me.”

“For me, rooted in resilience means that no matter what situations or circumstances arise, agriculture in the state of Florida will always be standing strong at the end of the day,” Wangle stated. “Farmers and ranchers in this state share a passion in our blood to strive for excellence in agriculture, be stewards of the land and make Florida a better place for future generations.”

 

Food Check-Out Week will be Celebrated February 14-18, 2022

February 2022 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

Farm Bureau volunteers statewide will be celebrating Food Check-Out Week Feb. 14-18. The celebrations spotlight the healthy, nutritious food supply available to Floridians.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, when applied to a calendar year, the average American earns enough income to pay for an annual supply of food in just seven weeks. By comparison, the same person must work until mid-April to pay for annual yearly income taxes.

The average American is now at least three-generations removed from the farm. To help better link Americans with the sources of their food, clothing, shelter and energy, Farm Bureau volunteers will host various interactive community events statewide.

Sample events include educational and food displays at local grocery stores including food giveaways, collections for food banks and donations to various charities, such as Ronald McDonald House Charities.

To find out what events are taking place in your community, contact your local Farm Bureau county office by visiting https://www.floridafarmbureau.org/county-farm-bureaus/. For assistance in planning an event, view our Food Check-Out Week Toolkit.

In The Community: Clay County Farm Bureau Young Farmers & Ranchers Host 4th annual Showdown in the Springs

February 2022 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

The Clay County Young Farmers and Ranchers group hosted their fourth annual Showdown in the Springs on Saturday, January 15. Drawing exhibitors from all over Florida and Georgia, this show is part of the Florida Junior Swine Circuit. More than 200 exhibitors participated. Ages ranged from two years-old  to 18 years-old.

“This show has become another opportunity for the agricultural community to work together to invest in youth,” said Kelly Mosley, a Clay County Farm Bureau board member. “It provides a chance for former 4-H and FFA members to give back to the community that has given them so much.”

This event came to fruition after Ashlee Hughes, a Clay County Young Farmers and Ranchers member, presented the idea to the Clay County Farm Bureau board of directors nearly five years ago. Her vision was to provide 4-H and FFA members in the community an additional opportunity to show their swine before the Clay County Fair.

“It provides a chance for former 4-H and FFA members to give back to the community that has given them so much,” said Mosley. “It’s also an opportunity for Clay County Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers and Ranchers program to increase membership and participation.”

For more information about Florida Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers and Ranchers program, contact your  local county Farm Bureau.

Photo courtesy of TK Photography

Cattle Transparency Act Should Not Mandate Cash Purchases

February 2022 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

American Farm Bureau Federation announced on Jan. 21 its support of the Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act of 2021, with the exception of the bill’s establishment of mandatory minimums for negotiated purchases. AFBF delegates voted to revise 2022 Farm Bureau policy at the 2022 Annual Convention in Atlanta in January. While Farm Bureau supports robust negotiated sales, delegates voted to oppose government mandates that force livestock processing facilities to purchase a set percentage of their live animal supply via cash bids.  

The press release by American Farm Bureau can be found at: Farm Bureau Seeks Revision to Cattle Transparency Act (fb.org) .

For additional information, contact Jaime Jerrels, Director of Ag Policy or Geoffrey Patterson, Assistant Director of Ag Policy. 

Land Grant Partner: J. Scott Angle

February 2022 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

By J. Scott Angle
jangle@ufl.edu
@IFAS_VP

Even when Ronald Norris breaks even growing corn on his 70 acres north of Lake City, he says, it’s not by much. Yet he owns a soil moisture sensor, a no-till drill and a side dressing rig to apply fertilizer by the row instead of broadcasting it.

Norris monitors his plants’ health and whether nutrients escape his farm by sending soil and tissue samples to labs. He dedicates part of his acreage to experiments to identify how to be more efficient with fertilizer. He also owns something money can’t buy—Farm Bureau recognition as an environmental steward. 

UF/IFAS Columbia County Extension agent Jay Capasso has a hand in just about all of it. His hands take samples, harvest corn and assists with calibrating equipment. They also strike the right keys on a computer that has allowed Norris to accumulate the equipment and know-how that have kept him in business.  

Norris says that without Capasso, he likely would have quit farming. Capasso has been a pipeline to the funding that has covered almost all of the tens of thousands of dollars invested in the machines, lab testing and harvesting on experimental plots.  

Capasso showed up three years ago on Norris’s farm with modest grant funding and the desire to make an impact. Norris was intrigued by an opportunity to learn. The two put a $5,000 Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) grant to use testing different ways to fertilize corn. Capasso kept writing grant proposals.

On the advice of UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center-Suwannee Valley BMP outreach coordinator Joel Love, Capasso secured more than $30,000 for a no-till drill to plant cover crops without disturbing Norris’s soil. 

Capasso helped Norris learn how to use the soil moisture sensor that cost the farmer only pennies on the dollar through the Suwannee River Water Management District’s (SRWMD) agricultural cost-share program. It has saved him hundreds of dollars in reduced water bills through a 40 percent reduction in irrigation without sacrificing yield. 

Capasso is still active on the keyboard, securing further FDACS funding to continue research on the Ronald Norris Farm on how best to apply fertilizer to his corn.  

Last year Capasso supported a nomination submitted to the Florida Farm Bureau that earned him an award from Suwannee CARES, a cooperative effort of the Farm Bureau, UF/IFAS, SRWMD, FDACS and the Suwannee River Partnership to honor environmental stewards. 

Norris loves producing food and treasures the heritage of growing corn on land his grandfather and great-grandfather worked. He loves it so much that he spent 34 years farming on the side after hours during a career at the Florida Department of Transportation before becoming a full-time farmer. 

Now he has more time to spend on science and with a scientist whose career is just getting started. As farmers face increasing scrutiny of their management of nutrients, you need that science more than ever. 

That puts a land-grant university in a position to help you more than ever. We’re hard at work updating statewide nutrient recommendations.  At the same time, right source, right rate, right time and right place are farm-to-farm things. Capasso and Norris are figuring out those 4Rs in Deep Creek. In so doing, they’re figuring out how a small farmer can afford to do what he loves to do. 

J. Scott Angle is the University of Florida’s Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources and leader of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).