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Rooted in Resilience: Cady Smith

June 2022 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

Cady Smith accepts the Activity Award for Putnam/St. Johns County YF&R during the 2021 Y&FR Leadership Conference.

Being the sixth generation to grow up on her family’s farm in St. Johns County, Cady Smith’s involvement in agriculture has always come as second nature to her. Smith’s Farm Bureau involvement began when she was just an infant. Her parents, Jeb and Wendy Smith, have been active Farm Bureau members for many years and have encouraged their children to be involved in the organization.

In addition to her full-time administrative role at St. Johns River State College, Smith serves as the accountant for her family’s farm. She also helps as needed on the farm, where her family grows perennial peanut hay, sod and timber and raises grass-fed beef and tilapia.

Throughout her involvement with the organization, Smith has enjoyed numerous networking opportunities and recalls some of her longest and dearest friendships are those made through Farm Bureau. She has enjoyed sharing her passion for agriculture and her family’s farming heritage through local and statewide events.

“I can’t tell you enough how excited I get to draw a new member into our realm,” said Smith. “Finding someone who loves agriculture and bringing them into Farm Bureau and showing them how useful their mind is for our cause and watching them blossom even more as a person will always bring me joy.”

One of Smith’s favorite annual events is the Putnam/St. Johns County (PSJC) Farm Bureau Sporting Clay Shoot. This event, hosted each spring by the PSJC Young Farmers & Ranchers Group, draws people of all ages together to network and learn about the benefits of being a Farm Bureau member.

“We have gained a good number of members from this event as well as created new friendships and connections in our area,” said Smith. “It is something that everyone looks forward to each year. Through sponsorships and competitors, we have a collaboration of which I am most definitely proud.”

As Smith continues to grow her network and leadership skills through the Young Farmers & Ranchers Leadership Group, she reflects on how important it is to educate her community and peers about the importance of agriculture. She believes the farming lifestyle will be quickly forgotten by those who do not understand its importance.

“Farm Bureau runs based on faith, family, and farm. These are our roots,” she said. “When we stand strong in what we believe and who we believe in, we will always come out on top. Rooted in Resilience then blooms in success.”

Soil & Water Conservation Districts Qualifying Period June 13-17

June 2022 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

The Association of Florida Conservation Districts (AFCD) was formed in 1937 in conjunction with Florida’s Soil and Water Conservation Law.  According to AFCD, “Soil and water conservation districts were created to serve as a liaison between federal government and local landowners in order to address local conservation needs.”

The qualifying period for soil and water boards begins on Monday, June 13 and ends on Friday, June 17.  Florida Farm Bureau encourages involvement in these local boards by active members to ensure agriculture has a seat at the table.

In regards to qualifications, the candidate must be a registered voter of the county and live within boundaries of the water management district.  The candidate must be actively engaged in agriculture as outlined by the statute.  The candidate must also be employed by an agricultural producer.  Lastly, the candidate must own, lease, or be actively employed on land classified as agricultural use.

If elected, the candidate serves a four-year term in office with no compensation.

Contact Charles Shinn at 352-316-2685 or for additional information.


In The Community: District 3 Women Provide for Mothers in Need

June 2022 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

Farm Bureau women from across district 3 gathered in Baker County at South Prong Plantation on May 21 for their annual district women’s conference.

In addition to the plantation tour and guest speakers, attendees participated in a philanthropic event to support the First Coast Women’s Center.  The mission of this non-profit organization is to provide life-saving counseling and medical services for unplanned pregnancies free of charge.  Baby items, including clothing, diapers and infant toys were donated to support a direct need for the Macclenny location.

First Coast Women’s Center houses six locations throughout Baker and Duval Counties, serving hundreds of women and men in need each year.  During the event, Clay County Farm Bureau presented an additional monetary donation to Mrs. Barbara Wright.

View photos from the event.

Your Land Grant Partner

June 2022 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

By J. Scott Angle


Jeb Smith’s family began farming in Hastings 100 years ago. The UF Potato Investigation Lab moved into the neighborhood the next year. The Smiths and UF/IFAS have worked together ever since.

Smith had plenty of family history to share when I visited his farm in April, and UF/IFAS figured into much of it. He drove me by a fishpond that now-retired Extension agent Edsel Redden had helped him install and stock, for example.

Smith was a graduating 4-Her and incoming UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences freshman when he attended a 4-H event on campus. It was there he met an animal sciences undergraduate named Wendy Poole. During my visit, Smith introduced Wendy to me as his wife of 28 years.

In a photo on the mantle, Smith’s son Jared wore a green jacket—a third generation 4-Her. Wendy spoke with reverence for Nettie Ruth Brown, who was the 4-H agent for both Jeb and his father and in her retirement was Jared’s volunteer club leader.

Smith showed me where his family had hosted UF/IFAS field trials. He spoke about how his father and grandfather earned ag economics degrees from CALS. Smith knew about how his father and grandfather had worked with long-ago UF/IFAS faculty members such as D.R. Hensel on irrigation and Freddie Johnson on what later became known as integrated pest management.

The history was evident in what I couldn’t see, too: potatoes. But I sure heard about it. Nearly 20 years ago, Smith told me, his family found they could not follow UF/IFAS potato nutrient recommendations and make a profit.

He’s tried many things since: forestry, aquaculture, row crops, vegetables, perennial peanut, cotton and more. “I’ve lost money on all these things!” he said with a laugh.

He’s done well enough in timber, sod and cattle to have a sense of humor about the transition from his family’s former crop. In fact, he’s even donated machinery to our Hastings Agricultural Extension Center that’s used in potato trials.

I’ve called for more research and secured funding so that those trials can include an update of our potato nutrient recommendations.

I can’t say whether those updates will allow potatoes to sprout anew on Smith’s farm. In fact, Smith and I may not agree on how much fertilizer best achieves both yield and protection of water quality.

But as we toured the farm and talked, it became evident that we agree that the science of sustainability has to point the way toward profitability. If you can’t make money on a crop, it’s not sustainable. And we also shared a sense that as relatively new leaders of our respective organizations, we’re writing the next chapter in a long history.

Another thing we agreed on is that we want a fifth and sixth generation of Smith farmers. That’s good for the Smiths, good for the people they feed, good for the community they serve and good for the land for which they’ve been stewards for a century.

Smith and I will be doing plenty together in board rooms, in Tallahassee, on regular phone calls and at industry events.

By visiting Hastings, though, I got to sit in Smith’s living room and hear from the farmer and family man. I’m thankful to Smith for opening his home and farm to me. He taught me not only about his operation but about the one I lead.

Like our agents, I consider house calls important to building the relationships upon which both our organizations depend. The Smith-UF/IFAS history reminded me that Smith and I are the heirs to a strong, longstanding Farm Bureau-university relationship. We aim to bequeath it yet stronger.

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).


Governor DeSantis Signs DERM Bill

June 2022 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

HB 909 clarifies that the Secretary of Environmental Protection has exclusive jurisdiction in setting standards for evaluating environmental conditions and assessing potential liability for the presence of contaminants on land that is classified as agricultural, and is being converted to a nonagricultural use. This legislation was approved by Governor DeSantis on May 18, 2022 and becomes effective July 1, 2022.

House Bill 909, sponsored by Rep. Bobby Payne and Sen. Ben Albritton, prevents local governments from forcing unnecessary additional site assessments simply because agricultural chemicals have been applied on the property. Recently, the Miami-Dade County Division of Environmental Resource Management (DERM) enacted a guidance that essentially presumes that all current or former agricultural lands are contaminated because they may have had agricultural chemicals applied to them. This guidance would force any current or former agricultural land that would be going through a land use change to receive a phase 2 site assessment.

These assessments are costly, time consuming and unnecessary unless customary assessments show the need for them. This requirement goes far beyond the current requirements and customary assessments in other parts of the state. Dade County Farm Bureau worked to oppose this guidance at the local level.

Florida Farm Bureau Federation believes in the validity of the federal registration process for agricultural chemicals as well as the legal requirement to adhere to labeling restrictions. When used in accordance to the law, agricultural chemicals are safe and in no way should create a presumption that agricultural lands are contaminated.

Rising Fuel Costs Only Further America’s Economic Issues

June 2022 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

A question that is on the mind of many Florida farmers and ranchers is “How do I remain viable with the never-ending costs of inputs”?  Near the end of 2021, many conversations on and off the farm were centered on rising fertilizer costs and the availability of inputs necessary for production.  Now, just six months into 2022, record-breaking fuel prices have been added to the mix.

It is critical to note that increased prices of goods sold does not guarantee higher profit margins for any business.  With increased costs and lack of availability, farmers and ranchers are struggling to maintain existing profit margins and meet production goals.

Buck Carpenter, a sixth generation perennial peanut hay farmer and cattle rancher from Madison County, shared, “This inflated economy is severely impacting my family operation.  Last week, I purchased fertilizer at $2,000 per load compared to this same time last year when I paid only $800 per load.”

In addition, Florida agriculture relies heavily on refrigerated transportation to transport food products, such as milk and fresh vegetables, as well as heavy equipment to conduct work each growing season.  Fuel is a necessary cost for a farm enterprise.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, diesel prices have risen more than 37% in just 10 weeks since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, setting a new nominal record of $5.62 a gallon in May. What is being done to ease this burden on Americans and how are farmers and ranchers being taken into consideration?

The Biden Administration has lifted the summer sales of E15 for all grades of gasoline.  Retailers are now required to sell summer-blend gas from June 1 to Sept. 15 to help drive down prices at the pump.  However, projections from the U.S. Energy Information Administration still signal another increase in gas prices to $6.20 per gallon in August.

Under consideration is the release of one million barrels of diesel fuel from federal reserves to help drive prices back down and prevent outages in areas like the East Coast.  To many farmers like Carpenter, who drive diesel trucks and use diesel fuel for equipment, this could prove to be a positive, but short-term solution.

Carpenter said he regularly fuels three one-ton trucks and a fleet of working tractors.  He stated, “Increased inputs and fuel prices are impacting not only my bottom line but also our consumers who are the end users.  If fuel becomes less available that will lead to severe ramifications for consumers.  Releasing barrels of diesel from federal reserves will at least keep supply adequate.  From there, we can work on reducing prices by implementing immediate innovations, whether through agency cost-share programs or other methods.”

Carpenter went on to share a valuable piece of wisdom that he is applying to his efforts to combat these ongoing issues, “In these desperate times, we have to help each other prevail or we won’t have a future.  I am blessed to farm every day amidst all of the endless challenges.  Our farmers are relentless optimists and that is where I hang my hat.”



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.”

Frostproof Student Receives Full Scholarship to Attend Warner University

May 2022 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

The Florida Farm Bureau’s state board of directors approved a $24,500 scholarship a year (for two years) to provide a student the opportunity to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Studies at Warner University.

This scholarship will provide a student enrolled in the agriculture program the opportunity to gain hands-on agricultural experience by managing various aspects of the Swindle Ag Complex on campus. The student’s management experience will include a citrus test plot, raised vegetable beds, chicken coops, welding and more.

“We are delighted to help students achieve their dreams as they pursue their agricultural career,” said Florida Farm Bureau President Jeb S. Smith. “It is a Farm Bureau tradition to support the next generation of agrarian leaders.”

Florida Farm Bureau has granted $40,000 in scholarships towards students’ tuition at Warner University over the past few years. The organization has been a regular supporter of the Apples of Gold Women’s Scholarship Fund and has donated $25,000 toward the construction of the Swindle Agriculture Complex in 2015.

The first recipient of this scholarship and management position is Payton Ogburn from Frostproof, Fla. After interviewing multiple students and reading through letters of recommendations and resumes, the committee at Warner chose Payton because of his sharp analytical skills and hard work ethic, in addition to maintaining his grades.

“Warner University appreciates the partnership that Florida Farm Bureau has entered into with us,” says Leigh Ann Wynn, Asst. Vice President of Advancement at Warner. “Payton has already hit the ground running with his new position and the financial assistance is a real blessing to him.”

Warner University is a private Christian college that has awarded student scholarships totaling more than $6.1 million, which has reduced their tuition fee by 35%.

Your Land Grant Partner

May 2022 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

By J. Scott Angle 


On her desk in Farm Bureau headquarters, Staci Sims keeps what she calls “The Little Green Book.” It’s a who’s who of Florida agriculture, and anyone in it will drop what they’re doing and take her call when she conjures the name “Wedgworth.”

The actual title is the “Alumni Association of the Wedgworth Leadership Institute Membership Directory.” It’s the network, in paper form, that Sims was inducted into when she completed the two-year Wedgworth Leadership Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources.

She leans on it to do her job as legal counsel, connecting her and the Farm Bureau with leaders in Florida’s agricultural industry, including farmers, ranchers, commodity associations as well as environmental groups and government agencies. The network is an important way she knows someone is listening when she speaks as the Voice of Agriculture and a useful way to listen to the rest of the industry.

For Sims, Wedgworth programming provided insight on issues facing the industry, but more importantly, understanding of perspectives and social issues affecting our local, state, federal and international communities.

It’s an understanding she uses regularly as she advocates for 134,000 members who can’t legislate from their farms and ranches.

Curt Williams, assistant director of government and community affairs at the Farm Bureau, didn’t need to be sold on the program. He’d heard Sims and the many other Farm Bureau staffers who are alumni evangelize about the program.

It was only a question of confidence: Could he fully commit to developing himself into an even more effective leader on your behalf while upholding existing commitments to Farm Bureau, family and family farm?

His Wedgworth classmates helped him answer it in short order. They experienced the same struggle of commitment. They, too soon saw that the long-term payoff of Wedgworth participation, for themselves and for their industries, outweighed the costs of being away from their jobs and families.

Williams learned enough about himself through Wedgworth that he’s been inspired to be more involved in leadership positions.

Wedgworth has changed his focus to how important it is to be involved and to never fall prey to someone-else-will-do-it thinking.

The question isn’t “Am I worthy?” Sims concurs. It’s, “How can I serve?”

Wedgworth helps participants answer that through two years of multi-day sessions every other month at which they study contentious issues and meet the principals at the heart of those issues. They not only take a deep dive into the facts of issues confronting agriculture, but they get practice and experience in interacting with people with whom they may disagree.

Such practice in empathy and understanding the point of view of someone who’s on the other side of an issue is essential to the search for common ground and preventing stalemates that Florida agriculture cannot afford.

Wedgworth celebrates 30 years of programming this year, and Class XI graduates in July. Applications will open in late spring 2023. For more information about the program, contact Christy Chiarelli at

Farm Bureau has sent a staffer and sometimes a board member almost every one of those years. Don’t doubt whether you’re worthy. Just ask yourself, like Sims, how you can serve.

Already the Wedgworth experience has prompted Williams to become a leader in local civic organizations, his church and on the advisory board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

He’s scheduled to graduate this summer with more finely honed leadership skills to serve you. With the addition of his and 29 more names, the Little Green Book will get a little bigger.

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).

In The Community: One Idea with a Great Impact

May 2022 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

Highlands County Farm Bureau is a highly respected organization throughout its local communities because of the exemplary efforts taken to care for those in need.  What started out as one simple idea has now made an enormous impact on local families in Sebring and the surrounding areas.

During the Highlands County Fair Livestock Auction this past February, Highlands County Farm Bureau announced a challenge to local businesses.  For every hog donated, they would cover all processing fees and donate the meat to families in need. Seven whole hogs were donated and sent to processing to be made into sausage.  Alan Jay Fleet Sales, Glades Electric Cooperative, Howard Fertilizer, Howerton Services, and M E Stephens & Sons Fruit Co. were among the local businesses who partnered on this worthy cause.

On March 18 Highlands County Farm Bureau, Heartland Food Bank & Feeding Tampa Bay hosted a food drop at the Highlands Community Church in Sebring.  700 pounds of sausage were given to local families in need in addition to other pantry staples.

Highlands County Farm Bureau is committed to giving back to its local communities and this effort is just one more example of their desire to serve others in meaningful ways.