Meet Florida’s New Crop Of Agricultural Environmental Leaders

Meet Florida’s New Crop Of Agricultural Environmental Leaders

Three more farming operations in the Sunshine State are being recognized for stepping up to the environmental innovation plate and knocking it out of the park. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services have announced the recipients of the 2016 Agricultural Environmental Leadership Award.

This year’s winners are Jones Potato Farm in Parrish, Cherry Lake Tree Farm in Groveland, and Alliance Dairies in Trenton.

The award has been presented annually since 1994 and recognizes nominees from all parts of the industry committed to protect and preserve Florida’s resources while providing agriculture products.

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“These award recipients are meeting consumers’ growing demands while using cutting-edge technology and methods that protect Florida’s environment and natural resources,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam.

The winners will be recognized at the Florida Farm Bureau’s Convention at the Commissioner’s Ag-Environmental Leadership Breakfast in October.

Get to know more about the winners:

Jones Potato Farm field in Parrish, FL

Photo courtesy of Jones Potato Farm

Jones Potato Farm in Parrish grows 2,800 acres of a variety of specialty potatoes. An additional 700 acres is used to rotate green beans behind the fall and spring potatoes, acting as a nitrogen fixer while also adding organic matter back into the soils. Jones has implemented the 4R Nutritional Stewardship Program and was the first in Florida to receive the 4R Nutrient Advocate Award. Through the use of a grid system and GPS band fertilizer spreader, Jones has reduced his fertilizer use by 30%. Jones Potato Farms operate off low volume electric pivot irrigation systems, reducing water use by nearly 70%.

Rolling landscape of Cherry Lake Tree Farm in Groveland, FL

Photo courtesy of Cherry Lake Tree Farm

Cherry Lake Tree Farm in Groveland has been in business for more than 30 years, and uses soil moisture sensor and evapotranspiration-based irrigation. Over the past five years, the farm has reduced its water consumption by 15%, while simultaneously increasing production by 15%. Nursery trees and plants with similar irrigation needs are strategically grouped together to further reduce irrigation, and the farm is converting to a new irrigation system to save an additional 70 to 80 million gallons of water per year.

Main entrance to Alliance Dairies in Trenton, FL

Photo courtesy of Alliance Dairies

Alliance Dairies in Trenton is the largest free-stall dairy in one location within the state, encompassing 2,100 acres with an additional 4,500 acres of rented land for replacement heifer and crops. The company employs 140 people. As part of Alliance’s sustainable agriculture mission, they recycle nearly all the water used on the dairy, recycle 80% of the sand used for bedding, use and recycle effluent as fertilizer on crops fed to cattle, and compost manure for bedding to fertilize grass and to dry irrigation corners. In addition, Alliance cows eat about 33,000 pounds of by-products such as canola meal, soybean meal and hulls, brewers grain and citrus pulp. Ron St. John is the first dairy farmer in the southeast to implement the use of a methane digester to convert cow manure into electricity, which supplies 70% of Alliance’s energy needs.