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Land Grant Partner

June 2021 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

Every spring, a swarm of children, some not even 10 years old, cart away tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of Don Bennink’s cows with no more collateral than a pledge to bring them back within 48 hours.

This annual rite of spring for 4-Hers and FFAers has been happening at North Florida Holsteins for so long that Bennink can’t get more precise than “about three decades.” 4-H mom Jo Sullivan says simply, that in Gilchrist County, “It’s a thing.”

For Bennink, this is part of providing for the future of agriculture. It’s about giving kids opportunity. It’s also about keeping promises. It’s about taking responsibility for what’s been put in your care.

It was a thing nearly 20 years ago, too, when Lauren Ellison was coming of age. Although she was in 4-H “straight out of the womb,” she said, hosting a heifer at home was not an option.

Ellison enrolled in Bennink’s program, called the free-lease agreement because of its price tag. Bennink’s staff mentored her and her peers as they walked, washed, clipped, fed, learned the body parts and refined their showmanship skills.

At her first show with a Bennink heifer, Ellison got pushed around the ring by an animal 10 times her weight. Part of the experience, Bennink says, is the opportunity to fail and then to come back.

Ellison came back every year through high school. She got so good at handling heifers that Bennink offered her a job teaching the 4-Hers and FFAers. Today she’s in a dairy career at Suwannee Valley Feeds in Trenton.

The free lease program is Bennink’s service to the industry, just like his participation on the Florida Farm Bureau Dairy Advisory Committee is. It’s part of what has made him an agriculture legend, a Florida Ag Hall of Famer, a lawyer-turned-dairyman who opens his farm to youth, to veterinary school interns and to graduate students from around the world.

University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension Gilchrist County 4-H agent Jessica Altum Cooper enlists 4-Hers in the free lease program. She teaches showmanship, like how to dress and how to keep to the dairy’s feeding schedule when a cow is in your care.

Altum Cooper connected Jo Sullivan’s daughter Cayce to North Florida Holsteins. Cayce earned the trust of a Bennink cow through weeks of halter training and grooming to earn the privilege of taking the cow to the Suwannee River Youth Livestock Show and Fair at age 9.

She was thrilled to compete and couldn’t wait to do it again. For the next three years, though, injuries–none of which occurred at Bennink’s dairy nor at 4-H—kept Cayce from participating in the free lease program. They did not keep her from winning ribbons at the fair.

Altum Cooper identified other opportunities for Cayce to compete. Cayce won a blue ribbon for her iridescent photo of a mushroom. She won another for her buttermilk biscuits.

This year, Cayce returned to the ring, health and competitive spirit intact. Her Bennink cow won first in class, and Cayce placed third in showmanship.

Cayce is only 13. If she had to choose a career now, it would be as a veterinarian. But she says she doesn’t want to choose—she wants to do everything. One choice is clear, though. She’ll choose 4-H and Bennink’s generosity for years to come.

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

Cultivating Tomorrow: Madison County Farm Bureau President Richard Terry

June 2021 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

Madison County Farm Bureau President Richard Terry, left, presented the “George Townsend Good Neighbor Award” to Mrs. Deloris Jones at the Madison County Farm Bureau’s Annual Meeting in 2018.

Richard Terry is a Madison County, FL native who has spent his life devoted to agriculture. Terry grew up just outside of Madison, the county seat of Madison County, where he still lives today. He was the middle child of five siblings who were all raised on their family’s farm.

Terry’s parents grew staple crops in the region like tobacco and corn, feed for cattle, raised hogs and cattle for livestock and had a self-sustaining garden that provided the family’s vegetables.

Terry took over his father’s operation in the 1960s and through the years, diversified. He continued to grow tobacco until 2004. In 1967, Terry built two poultry houses and raised boilers for 30 years. Terry explained that in the 1970s, he diversified again and began farming soy beans.

Richard and his wife of nearly 60 years, Edith, are the proud owners of Terry Farms. The couple married on Edith’s birthday when Richard was 18 and Edith was 19 and they have two grown sons, Ernest and Henry.

Today, Terry is slowing down his daily farm operations and says, “I am about two-thirds quit but I am not going to retire until I die.” Terry’s lifetime dedication to agriculture and carrying on the legacy of his family’s farm is a quality to be admired.

The Terrys have been active within Madison County Farm Bureau for nearly 40 years. “Farm Bureau has always been in the front lines of promoting agriculture,” he said. “Meeting people involved in different facets of agriculture has always been one of my favorite things about Farm Bureau.”

Along with serving as a board of directors’ member, Terry has also served on multiple Florida Farm Bureau Advisory Committees since the 1960s. Currently, Terry is a member of the Water/Natural Resources Advisory Committee.

Each year, Madison County Farm Bureau sponsors a first-grade poster contest and a fifth-grade essay contest. Elementary students in the Madison School District are eligible to participate. The top winners are selected by the Florida Farm Bureau State Office Public Relations Department in Gainesville.

The winners receive a cash prize, certificate and are honored at their school’s award banquet.

New Citrus Family Harvests First Hemp Crop

June 2021 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

By Phil Attinger, Staff Writer for 

Two families gathered a week ago to harvest a small crop from a greenhouse, one with potential to be worth a couple of billion dollars in the next couple of years.

It’s a crop that Jeff Williams can definitely get behind — hemp for cannabidiol (CBD) oil production — because he’s seen first-hand how it works. His mother, Martha Williams, used a cream with the ingredient to deal with pain in her arm, and the pain was gone within minutes, she said.

The Williams family and the Farr family gathered on Dec. 19 with coolers of water and orange juice, proud grandparents snuggling a new grandbaby, to collect buds from approximately 450 plants in a 2,800-square-foot greenhouse surrounded by orange groves, not unlike early citrus harvests from Florida pioneers.

Williams’ partner, Zack Farr, said he and Williams are pioneers in this crop. It’s not native to subtropical climates and is photoperiodic, Farr said: It thrives best where the sunlight wanes and waxes significantly with the passage of seasons. To get the plants to flower more than once each year, Williams and Farr need to trick them into thinking spring has arrived again.

They hope to do this twice a year, and perhaps coax the plants to flower three times a year, if possible.

The men had fans mounted on the support posts of the greenhouse to dry out the plant. Humidity — of which Florida has a lot — creates problems with mold. They also have to keep any “male” plants away from their crop of females. Females make the seeds; males, the pollen. If the pollen gets to the buds, the seeds are no longer any good for CBD, the men said.

And when the plant flowers, the buds get heavy and weigh down the plant, they said. Any wind in storm-prone Florida will tear the plants apart.

“There are still a lot of processes to figure out,” Farr said.

Why go through all the trouble? For one, the hemp plant they’re growing — cannabis sativa — produces CBD without the psychotropic properties of its euphoria-causing cousin marijuana, still illegal under federal law. Also, industrial and CBD hemp has at least 50 commercial and consumer uses, beyond being medicinal.

As reported this month, hemp has begun to blaze its own trail among Florida’s agriculturalists since it first received clearance for legal cultivation in the state seven months ago. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services first issued hemp cultivation permits on April 27 and a 2018 federal farm bill legalized hemp as an agricultural crop after decades of debate over it.

“I have projected that we are going to have seen, within the next three to five years, nearly 300,000 acres, which is about half of what citrus is,” Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried told members of the Enterprise Florida Board of Directors on Dec. 8. She projects the state to see nearly 300,000 acres of the plant in the next three to five years, slightly less than half of the state’s 700,000 citrus acres.

For now, her forecast for this first year is 35,000 acres, by next April. As a former medical marijuana lobbyist, Fried estimates the current acreage could produce $270 million in economic impact, $136 million in revenue and support more than 8,000 jobs.

Overall, Fried said, the agricultural industry faces a potential $5 billion impact from the coronavirus pandemic but remains one of the state’s biggest economic drivers, with tourism down 34% this year.

In November 2019, Ricardo Alvarez, South Florida regional director for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, said the seeds could be used as soybeans are and could provide pet feed; body oils and lotions; oil for candles, lanterns and paint; clothing, like shirts, pants and towels; plastic; paper; fuel, and construction, through the use of “hempcrete,” a fire resistant mix of plant stalks and lime.

Alvarez also said the plant can even be used to make biodegradable drinking straws, and an acre of hemp could make as much paper as two to four acres of trees.

For now, Williams and Farr are focusing on CBD oil. Williams’ biggest satisfaction from this is the cooperation and support he’s seen from members of the community, including Bagwell Lumber, Robbins Nursery and Sumner Irrigation to build the greenhouse.

“We’ve had a lot of help,” Williams said. “We’re excited.”

There’s also the hope they, in some small way, might help fight the drug war by giving a potentially safer alternative to over-prescribed opioids. He said advocates like Jerry Nunn of Nunn Better Health & Wellness in Lake Placid have helped him see the alternative.

“Sometimes people don’t need them,” Williams said. “This will replace a lot of pain treatments.”

This article courtesy of

Scientists Pluck Insects Out of the Sky for Research

June 2021 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

A suction trap (center) with several agricultural engineering students with the University of Chicago at Urbana-Champaign. (Photo by Doris Lagos-Kutz, ARS)

Glen Hartman and Doris Lagos-Kutz, two scientists with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), are hard at work keeping nuisance insects out of the air across the United States. They have developed a 20-foot-tall suction trap, driven by fans, to remove these pests straight from the air.

The traps draw in air at a rate that is also strong enough to suck in the insects, and then they preserve them using a solution inside a plastic jar. This solution is used to further research into the species’ distribution and migration patterns.

In the future, Hartman and Lagos-Kutz believe the use of these traps can broaden scientists’ understanding of how certain conditions impact insect populations and what role humans play in the environment.  For more information on this research, read the full article here.


Recent Survey Finds Farming at Top of Important Florida Industries

June 2021 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

A recent survey, commissioned by Florida Ag Coalition, found that a sweeping 98% of Floridians consider farming and ranching important. This survey was conducted among registered voters across the state.

The consumer’s trust in Florida agriculture is stronger than ever before. Three in four respondents expressed a favorable viewpoint of Florida farmers. When asked of their approval of farmers’ efforts to keep stores supplied during the pandemic, 93% of voters agreed.

“It’s great to confirm that the public sees that agriculture is incredibly important to our state,” said Adam Basford, Director of State Legislative Affairs for Florida Farm Bureau Federation. “This year, Florida Farm Bureau and the entire Ag Coalition worked hard to help pass a Right to Farm Bill that protects Florida’s farms and ranches as well or better than any other state.  This survey shows that Florida voters think that agriculture is worth protecting and that they strongly support elected officials who do that.“

Additionally, the survey demonstrated strong support of Florida farmers’ contribution of a safe, wholesome food supply. Eighty-eight percent show appreciation of safe, wholesome and sustainable food produced by Florida farms. Eight in ten respondents also know the valuable role Florida farmers play in protecting the environment and natural resources.

The survey was conducted by the Tyson Group.

Membership Acquisition Manager Position Now Open


Florida Farm Bureau Federation is the Sunshine State’s oldest and largest general agriculture organization. We pride ourselves in being the voice of Florida’s farmers and ranchers and keeping their traditions, values and heritage alive for generations to come. Since our founding in 1941, members have been an integral part of the success of our organization. The Membership Acquisition Manager plays a central role in improving retention and increasing recruitment. This career requires a person with a deep passion for agriculture, a servant leader’s heart and the motivation to succeed.
As a member of the Florida Farm Bureau team reporting to the Director of Field Services, everyone is expected to personally exhibit, at all times, three standards: uncompromising integrity, unyielding work ethic and a positive attitude. Furthermore, our team members are energetic, high achievers with a genuine love for people, and seek to consistently improve our personal and professional abilities.


  • Develop and implement a comprehensive membership marketing plan to meet or exceed membership growth goals.
  • Coordinate and execute an organizational membership effort with all departments and county Farm Bureaus. This may include direct mail. campaigns, marketing campaigns membership processing and outreach.
  • Manage Member Benefits Marketing Representative and Membership Assistant.
  • Work with Field Staff and County Farm Bureaus to organize and execute a successful membership campaign.
  • Implement annual campaign to engage existing members in membership recruitment. Identify and implement new tactics to increase program’s return.
  • Develop and deliver training to support County Farm Bureaus, volunteer leaders and field staff membership programs and outreach efforts.
  • Work with Member Benefits Marketing Representative to engage benefit partners and others on the value of membership.
  • Develop metrics related to membership trends and assist with membership forecasting.
  • Work with IT to improve Federation membership data for organizational use.
  • Leverage data to deliver segmented messaging across retention and recruitment campaigns.
  • Work with Public Relations department to develop marketing and promotional graphics ensuring consistent membership messaging.
  • Work closely with member benefits providers to train and inform staff and sales team.
  • Other duties as assigned by supervisor.



Bachelor’s degree in marketing, communications, sales, business administration, or a related field.

Work Experience:

  • Three or more years of work experience in a marketing capacity, ideally in a professional association environment. Acquisition/Sales marketing experience is a plus.
  • Proven success in writing copy for membership acquisition and retention as well as executing and managing traditional and digital campaigns.
  • Experience using analytics to interpret outcomes, identify campaign opportunities, and drive membership-marketing decisions, preferred.
  • Database experience, ideally with CRM software platform.


  • Excellent writing and oral communications skills.
  • Proven project management skills with ability to execute and deliver on multiple projects.
  • Google Analytics and Lead Generation software experience required. Proficient in Microsoft Office and knowledge of association management systems, CMS helpful.


  • Enthusiastic, creative self-starter who can multi-task and thrive in a busy, fast–paced environment.
  • Strong business acumen with ability to think both strategically and tactically.
  • Excellent interpersonal skills, with the ability to get along with diverse constituencies and personalities, including members, volunteer leaders, staff, and contacts at external organizations.


Land Grant Partner

May 2021 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

The Collegiate Farm Bureau at the University of Florida is a student organization on the rise. The pandemic hasn’t slowed its efforts to promote agricultural awareness and develop its members through connections to Florida agriculture and the Florida Farm Bureau Federation.

More CFB members means a lot of prospective Young Farmers & Ranchers in the next few years. It means people ready to contribute to the industry as professionals. And it means people who get started speaking up for Florida agriculture as teens and 20-somethings.

Maybe the Collegiate Farm Bureau boom is fueled by the success of its recent alumni:

  • Jamie Fussell is director of labor relations at the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association.
  • Logan Luse is the FFB District 7 field representative.
  • Elise Stoddard Cruce is managing director of leadership development for the American Farm Bureau Federation.
  • Others have started careers at U.S. Sugar, Nutrien, Deloitte, Farm Credit, Columbia County Schools and even the U.S. District Court.

I got a look last month at how then-Collegiate Farm Bureau President Gabe Lucero is already working on the future of Florida farming here on campus. Gabe brought the family of a 13-year-old aspiring animal sciences student to my office after giving them a campus tour and making a pitch for the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS).

Gabe is a senior double majoring in biological engineering and food science who joined CFB in his first month on campus in 2016. He knew Farm Bureau was a big organization, but it was only after he joined that he realized how much Florida Farm Bureau does for its members. He learned from John Hoblick, Jason Davison, Michelle Curts and other FFBF staff members who spoke during club meetings.

And the CFB got him onto farms, like that of U.S. Sugar in Clewiston (thanks in part to Bryce Lawson, who was a CFB member before getting a job at U.S. Sugar), where a busload of members visited to get an inside look at how sugar is made and what the company does to produce the highest yields with the lowest environmental impact.

This is exactly the kind of beyond-the-classroom experience you’ve seen me promote in this space before. I want more students to join clubs, visit farms, work at internships and compete like Gabe did in FFBF Collegiate Discussion Meet, a simulated committee meeting that encourages cooperation and communication in seeking solutions to agricultural issues.

To grow food, we also have to grow talent. Getting our future leaders involved in Florida Farm Bureau as students is a great opportunity to expose them to the importance of advocacy. We want our graduates to be as comfortable with gaveling as they are with gardening.

Charlotte Emerson in the CALS dean’s office advises the club. She shares my philosophy—in fact, she implements it—that our students needn’t wait until graduation to affiliate with Florida Farm Bureau.

Emerson connects students with opportunity. She recruited Gabe to become a CALS ambassador, which put him in the tour guide role that brought him to my office last month.

While Gabe is recruiting for us, we’re prepping him for FFBF membership. At the very least, Gabe plans to become active in his county Farm Bureau when he starts a career. And Emerson will continue to identify and recruit students of agriculture to become voices for agriculture.

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

Virtual Hill to the Field Encourages Local Advocacy

May 2021 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

Due to the pandemic and strictly regulated travel, the annual Field to the Hill advocacy trip to Washington, D.C. will not take place this year. Instead, Florida Farm Bureau has planned a Hill to the Field Advocacy Week beginning June 1, 2021.

The week encourages county Farm Bureau members to engage and meet with their congressional offices. Florida Farm Bureau will be scheduling webinar educational sessions leading up to the advocacy week on key priority topics to help members prepare for in-district meetings.

“We are very excited to provide this opportunity to our grassroots members,” said National Affairs Director John Walt Boatright. “The week provides flexibility to our members so that they can schedule and coordinate meetings with their elected officials. Meetings can be hosted at the local county Farm Bureau office, member farms, at the in-district Congressional office or virtually,” added Boatright.

The weeklong advocacy event will take place June 1-4, 2021. For more information, contact John Walt Boatright or visit the event website.

USDA Listening Session for Beginning Farmers and Ranchers

May 2021 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

On Thursday, May 6, from 1:30-3:30 p.m. EST, the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will be hosting a virtual listening session with beginning farmers and ranchers to hear how COVID-19 has impacted their farming operations — from market disruptions to supply chain issues. Beginning farmers and ranchers are invited to share their experiences in navigating United States Department of Agriculture (USDA’s) resources for assistance, discuss how their businesses have been impacted and share how they are adapting their operations.

If you are interested in sharing your story, register now.