Each year around April the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) awards the prestigious Agricultural-Environmental Leadership Award to three agriculture operations that stand out for their demonstration of “a sustained commitment to conserving Florida’s natural resources and improving our environment.” Florida ag has long known that it holds a stewardship role for the unique environments and ecosystems found throughout The Sunshine State. The Agricultural-Environmental Leadership Award recognizes that continued commitment.

The high praises of the 2016 winners were described by Florida Ag Commissioner, Adam Putnam, in a December 1st GrowingProduce.com article. Putnam wrote that, “Florida’s farmers and ranchers not only fuel our people and economy, they have proven themselves as responsible and innovative stewards of our land and world-renowned natural resources.”

Florida Ag Operations Recognized by Putnam

  • Alliance Dairies. Located in Trenton, Florida, Alliance Dairies is the largest free-stall dairy in the state, and their commitment to the environment is shown in their strong focus on sustainable agriculture. The list of what they recycle is substantial. They recycle: the water used on the dairy, the sand used for bedding in the barn, fertilizer, and manure. They also use a methane digester to transform cow manure into electricity, and they feed their cows a long list of recycled by-products from other Florida ag industries.
  • Cherry Lake Tree Farm. Located in Groveland, Florida, and in business for over 30 years, the operation has reduced its water usage by 15% while increasing its production by the same percentage. The tree farm uses a variety of water usage “best practices,” such as grouping plants by water needs, technologies like soil moisture sensors and evapotranspiration-based irrigation.
  • Jones Potato Farm. Located in Manatee County, Florida, the farm has integrated precision ag into their operation, added a GPS-guided variable-rate fertilizer application to reduce fertilizer use by about 30%. They also use a low-volume irrigation system that reduces water use by about 70%. This conserves over one million gallons of water per day!

Putnam maintained that each winner was a credit to the profession, and the he’s proud to recognize their efforts. It a sentiment echoed by all in Florida ag.