Dade County Farm Bureau Spotlight

20170701

Former Dade County Farm Bureau Board member John Alger, left, presents an award to Ivonne Alexander.
Former Dade County Farm Bureau Board member John Alger, left, presents an award to Ivonne Alexander.

Dade County Farm Bureau (DCFB) President Ivonne  Alexander has a storied agricultural past that has led her to where she is today. Alexander was born in Cuba and spent most of her childhood living in the suburbs of Havana.

Her family had a business in the city and a farm on the outskirts where they raised chickens, cattle and grew vegetables. “Some of my most fond memories are at the farm with my cousins,” Alexander said. “We would ride our horses into the woods, swim in the river and pick fresh vegetables for family dinner.”

Alexander and her family began migrating to the United States in 1960 to escape communism. “We had a great life in Cuba but it all changed when Castro took over,” she said. “Miami, where we came on vacation every year, became our home.”

“In 1972, I accepted a position with Farm Credit (then Production Credit Association and the Federal Land Bank) and started working as a clerk in the accounting department while attending Florida International University, seeking a degree in accounting and finance,” Alexander stated.

Alexander went on to be named the first female loan officer and certified appraiser in the Farm Credit system nationwide. She credits Charlie Long, the association’s president at the time, for his mentorship and her success.

Alexander became senior vice president and head of the association’s auditing team as well as branch manager of the Homestead office, a branch that she designed and had built just before Hurricane Andrew made landfall in Dade County in 1992.

“Andrew put the wills of south Dade to the test without success and made us stronger as a community,” she said. “Our farmers bounced back with great determination and the rest is history.”

After serving 23 years with Farm Credit, Alexander took her expertise elsewhere. “After I retired, I went on to assist farmers like Mike Costa and Dawn Wilson with their operations,” she stated.

“I was bit by the farming bug and started Happy Days Nursery with good friend and former assistant, Fred Bimbler, and another colleague.”  Recently, she leased out the nursery to a family seeking the American dream of business ownership.

Alexander also owns and operates a consulting firm, Management & Business Consultants, Inc., which works exclusively with farm businesses on a wide range of services from finances to government and regulation issues.

In 1994, Alexander brought her extensive finance and agricultural knowledge to DCFB and its 3,000+ members. “Our number-one priority is not only to promote agriculture but to fight the battles in preserving agriculture in south Dade,” she said.

She explains that with an inevitable rising population and demand for food and resources, it is imperative to ensure that the agricultural communities, not only in Dade County, but the entire state of Florida, remain strong.

Alexander is not alone in the fight for agriculture in Dade County. Agency Manager Hal Arve, Women’s Committee Chair Carol Harris, Executive Director Jorge Abreu, along with the entire DCFB Board of Directors are all credited for promoting agriculture and staying actively  involved in all issues affecting agriculture at the local, county, state and federal levels.

The biggest event of the year is the Annual BBQ and “Fun” Raiser. The event  is known as the largest farm-to-table barbecue in south Florida. The family-friendly event takes place every spring on the last Saturday in April.

“It is an end of harvest celebration!” Alexander said.  Over 1,000 people come to celebrate the many contributions that volunteers and local farmers give back to the community.

“Our board members, staff and their families cook and serve prime rib, smoked chicken and pork along with locally-grown vegetables,” Alexander said. Representatives from local banks and lending institutions, politicians, schools and local businesses that support agriculture are also in attendance.

Each year, one lucky friend of Farm Bureau receives a new truck from the truck donation drawing. The vehicle is donated by a local dealership after bids are open for donation.

Other miscellaneous hunting and fishing items and even cruises are also donated by businesses in the community and raffled off at the event. “There is music, food and fellowship at our barbecue every year,” she stated.

“Next year we will celebrate our 40th anniversary of the barbecue,” Alexander said. “The event is truly a big farm family reunion.”

While farming is a passion and eating is one of life’s greatest enjoyments for her, Alexander facetiously admits that cooking is not her forte. One of her favorite recipes is Jorge Abreu’s flan and she adds, “It is not your ordinary flan.”

 Flan
Courtesy of Jorge Abreu

Ingredients

1 cup of sugar
6 eggs
½ cup of whole milk
1 can of condensed milk
1 can of evaporated milk
1 tbsp. of vanilla extract

 Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Melt the sugar on stovetop using low to low-med heat to get sugar a golden color. We use the eight-inch dish we cook the flan in. Coat the sides and let cool.

Mix the other ingredients by hand.  Do not use a blender as it will create air pockets in the finished product.  Pour into a cooled dish of sugar, cover with aluminum foil and place in a water bath in the oven for one hour.

Let cool, score the sides to separate from dish and flip onto the serving plate.

 

 

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