I pray that everyone is safe and healthy during these strange times. These will be challenging months, although with challenges, opportunities arise. By the end of my term as President you will all be saying, “This man sounds like a broken record,” but I know repetition can get a message across. We have an opportunity to bring ranching and other agriculture industries together and bring food production and distribution to the forefront. This is of utmost importance for our state, our society, and our national security. To accomplish this, we must be willing to Open Gates, engage with Open Minds and bring all stakeholders in ‘OUR’ Florida to the table. We must be willing to discuss and educate the public that ‘OUR’ agriculture systems are complex. We must open the eyes and minds of others to show them that these systems require extensive management and inputs for agriculture to produce readily available, healthy, safe, and economic foods. Our job as producers is to tell our stories and show the public what we are truly doing to mitigate impacts to our environment. We must seize the window of opportunity to bring our production systems to the forefront, otherwise the future of ranching in Florida might be greatly diminished. Let’s work together to take advantage of the narrowly open gate to inform and educate consumers and the public that Florida’s agriculture is not only fundamental to our state’s economic stability, but an anchor to our society, and our national security. Without food there is no society and no security.
Each month I am going to utilize the place I call home and work and combine my knowledge of this place with the understanding of the onsite team of scientists. The place I am referring to is Archbold’s, Buck Island Ranch (BIR). Archbold has operated BIR since 1988 as a 10,500-acre full-scale working cattle ranch and as a natural laboratory for scientific research to understand the relationships among agricultural production and environmental issues of public concern such as biodiversity, wetland conservation, water quality, and carbon and nutrient cycling. There is no other site that I know of that has a focused history of intensive agroecology research and is also a full-scale working ranch. Combining research with knowledge of ranch operations has provided me, Archbold scientists, and the ranching industry with some unique insights into complex environmental problems. I like to say that Buck Island Ranch serves as ‘Florida’s Ranch’. Please read Intro to Legacy Phosphorus (P) on page 32.
As you read Intro to Legacy Phosphorus (P) I would like for you to have the following question in mind. Do we remain silent and stay in our lanes about P or do we #opengatesopenminds ?, It makes you wonder how this will affect us if the wrong person gets in your camp. I know by now many of you have heard about and perhaps read the article this past month in the Tampa Bay Times, ‘Polluted-by-Politics’. I spent hours visiting with the investigative reporter who wrote this article, as did BIR scientists. I was extremely open. Rather than reading the detailed information he was provided and explaining the complexity of the P issue, he resorted to a piece of muckraking journalism to try and stir conflict. I was truly upset. Nevertheless, I cannot let one bad seed detour our mission. We must take the high road. There are good reporters out there capable of writing on difficult science and agriculture issues. I will be more careful in future to do a little more background research on visiting reporters. We must be willing to talk about the tough subjects and work through them to find solutions. I know, Mark 3:25, “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” Accepting that we will never all agree on everything, let us get back to a society where our differences build strengths. That is where the reporter got it all wrong. Rather than stoking discontent, he missed the real story, the exciting story is finding solutions to the complexity of Florida’s waters and lands. A rapidly growing population of 22.5 million residents, and over 125 million visitors yearly. Large shifts in land use. Expansive areas of agricultural lands. Extensive drainage, floods, and droughts across the state. All these factors play a role in the issues facing Florida’s ecosystems, ‘OUR’ ecosystems.
My goal for us during this year is to engage and talk about the tough subjects. I am not too good at kicking cans down the road. Ecclesiastes 3:1, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens”. Our time is now! We need to engage and be part of the discussions, for if we are not at the table, someone else will be, and we will not like the outcome.
My Contact information can be found on page 6 of this magazine, Please never hesitate to call, email, or text.
“IN GOD We Trust”