Welcome to 2021, a New Year, and a year for celebration for the cattle industry. 2021, as you know, marks 500 years of cattle being present on our peninsular Florida. Thank you, to our Lord for providing Ponce De Leon and Spain the means and winds to bring cattle to the shores of Florida in 1521. And thank you to our true native peoples like the Seminole for recognizing the value and role that cattle would play as a food supply and management tool for keeping our open spaces of Florida open to this very day. This long history leads us to the recognition that our cattle industry has perseverance and endurance over time. My hopes, that I know you all share, is that those that follow us will be as thankful 500 years from now as we are in this 2021 year.
The end of 2020 brought me continued county visits and our December end of the year quarterly. I know I may sound like a broken record, but I thank each and every one in our association for allowing me this great privilege to serve as your President over this last 6 months. I look forward to my remaining 6 months ahead. As we launched this 6 months ago, my goal was simply to make a small difference so that we may all continue our way of life and help educate people around us today that do not understand the significance and importance that cattle ranching means for our lands, waters, and wildlife in our state of Florida. It’s vital we all understand and communicate to others the significance that agriculture has on our society into the future. I want to say, “Thank You to Manatee County for inviting me to their annual dinner. And a double Thank You goes out to Highlands County, my home county, for inviting me to their annual dinner as well as hosting the December quarterly.” My calendar is filling up with Okeechobee’s annual County Christmas party and St. Lucie County as well. A message to all other counties – we are willing to come, we want to hear from you, and attend your gatherings and meetings. If you can let us know, we will get your dates on our calendars and we will be there. Let’s make 2020 and COVID-19 a past memory that we persevered through and recognize it was just one of those hurdles that made us stronger for living through it.
Let us mark 2021 as a come-back year for our industry and our country. Let us shout and spread the word that cattle have been in Florida for 500 years and we are proud of it. All we must do is pick our heads up and search for the solution to our issues verse sticking our heads in the sand and allowing stalemates to stand in our way. And as I thought of our trials over the past year, I recognized that COVID simply can be broken out to C-Commitment, O-Open Up, V-Vibrantly, I- Inclusive, and D–Dedication. I might be crazy, but we cannot progress forward without commitment. This commitment lies in our story of land stewardship and protection of those lands, water, and the wildlife that are maintained on these ranching landscapes. We must open our minds and be willing to open our gates to show “what we do” in order to educate the public about the importance that our industry has for our state and for society. We must take action vibrantly, meaning with enthusiasm and get out and help educate those around us so they understand what our industry is about and what agriculture means to their livelihoods. We must recognize that our story and our way of life can no longer be exclusive, rather we must be inclusive and share our messages with ALL people, especially those that do not know the role that agriculture as whole plays in their lives. When we get tired, we must pick each other up and press on with determination, because our work and our story will always be before us. This commitment and opening of minds and gates vibrantly is exactly the action and direction your association will be heading in 2021. We have recognized that we are in a new era and new days. Moving forward we must become more proactive in our approach to how we interact with decision makers in our state at all levels. Out of necessity we must leave our comfort zones in order to get our story to those that can make a difference.
As NCBA President Marty Smith threw out the other day, whether we dislike it or hate the word, sustainability is here and it is here to stay. So, folks we must embrace this fact that we must realize this word has no set definition and to many it means our story needs to be told, that we are an industry that is economically, environmentally, and socially responsible. This leads me to a big part of our story and what our cattle ranches bring in the terms of Biodiversity. Today our ranchlands are for production and our cattle are a tool and source of protein. But, let us not forget what many recognize: as stewards of the land, we are protecting the waters, land, and biodiversity for generations to come. Mr. Fred Fanizzi mentioned the other day that an individual from an environmental group once said that, “We should make it mandatory that these private landowners hold 1/3 of their property for wildlife etc. Fred responded, “Why would you do that? We already conserve 100% of it for the wildlife to roam.” I am proud to say this is exactly what Archbold’s Buck Island Ranch has been working at over the last 30 years – studying the interaction of our operational activities with the natural surroundings. I can tell you our scientists are committed, open-minded, and vibrant in their work, very inclusive with who they share our findings, and dedicated to finding solutions. That is our mission and has been for Archbold’s 79 year history and Buck Island’s 31 years. “To build and share the scientific knowledge needed to protect the life, lands, and waters of the heart of Florida and beyond.” So, please read Part 2: Biodiversity on Florida Cattle Ranches. Thank you, Dr. Hilary Swain, Dr. Betsey Boughton, and Dr. Raoul Boughton for your commitment and dedication to the vital research, education, and continuous messaging on the need for conservation of our ranchlands and remaining open spaces. In closing, life is about balance, the sooner we all recognize this fact the better we all will be. As it says in Hebrews 12:1 – Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset [us], and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
“IN GOD We Trust”