Already the second month of 2021, the year we celebrate 500 years of Cattle in Florida. My hope is that the articles from Buck Island Ranch have been inspiring, educational, straight-forward and have #opengatesopenminds. We know the opening gates part is a little harder in these odd times we are living in today. Speaking of odd, as you all are aware, we will not be having our March quarterly in Tallahassee which brings me to this month’s message—a call for commitment and outreach. We are calling on all County Presidents and State Directors to rally our county members to make calls, plan visits to all your local, state, federal representatives, congressman— you name it—to reach out and tell our ranching story, tell them your concerns, and our legislative priorities. If you have not recognized it yet, we better all start becoming more proactive in engagement with our elected officials, our state agencies. We need to speak up that “We the People” are who they are representing and that our agricultural industries here in Florida are not only essential, but also serve as the backbone of our state and nation, and the moral fiber that keeps our society somewhat civil and held together.
As we know agricultural has always stepped up and kept pace with a vast growing population. In Florida we need to be on all those new roof tops telling our story and pointing out we are the only state that can commemorate 500 years of cattle grazing on the North American continent. We need to advocate that we are not the enemy, rather we play a key role in implementing solutions for the health of our open lands, green space, water, and wildlife’s continued existence into the future. We understand our ranching and agricultural practices today are complex as are the management activities that we have been practicing to mitigate for any potential negative impacts from our operations. This complexity is part of our message and why it is vital to have a robust research and education system like we have here in Florida. Our public are hungry for scientific information. This is why FCA has a strong relationship and supports the Institute of Food and Agricultural and Sciences (IFAS), and also supports the work that Archbold has done on the environment for the past 80 years. It is essential we get the word out and tell our story, and back it up with science. #opengatesopenminds.
Our call to commitment and outreach has already begun. We teamed up with Firefly, the publisher of the Florida Ranches Calendar, and Carlton Ward over the last few months and we have sent out close to 200 of the Florida Ranches Calendar to the Florida Cabinet, to the House, the Senate (both the state and federal seats), and to the Board members and Executive Directors of all 5 water management districts, as well as key staff at FDCAS and FDEP. This Calendar is an educational piece to help inform our elected officials that this year we are celebrating 500 years of cattle grazing in Florida. The photo here is the post card that accompanied the calendars at delivery. The card is personally signed by Mr. Carlton Ward, photographer of many of the photos in our calendar.
“The year 2021, commemorates 500 years of cattle grazing in Florida. As we enter into the new year, we would like to share this unique calendar that tells the story of Florida cattle ranches and the critical role they play in preserving Florida’s environmental, agricultural and cultural heritage. It showcases the ranchers whose operations are helping to ensure the sustainability of these special places for future generations. These natural lands are vital for storing water, hydrating wetlands and recharging aquifers thereby protecting the headwaters of much of Florida’s water supply. May the pictures and captions help you experience ranching and bring a smile to your face each month knowing that we all are working together to preserve our precious waters and green Earth.”
Our call for commitment and outreach is simple. We invite every member to participate in our Zoom meetings scheduled for the month of March. We are asking our County Presidents and State Directors to reach out to all county members to join us in the Zoom meetings that we have scheduled and outlined here. The Zoom platform is the perfect opportunity for all members to take part in a core committee meeting or the Board of Directors meeting. The outline of the March Zoom schedule is:
March 1-4 core committees meet via Zoom. We encourage all members to participate in as many of these meetings as possible. We will schedule them all far enough apart that members can attend every one of these meetings.
March 9-10 your Executive Board will be holding a face-to-face meeting in Tallahassee. There will be a limited space due to COVID-19 restrictions and rules. We will have a 4-5-hour session the first day and make a few appointments with key legislators that have been prearranged.
March 18th 2:00 p.m., – 4:30 p.m. we will hold a Zoom Board of Directors meeting and we encourage all county Presidents and State Directors to please attend, as well inviting all members. This board meeting is when we will provide the information on our legislative priorities that we should support or question as an association. To start with, we will strongly support and request: IFAS needs and budget request; appropriate funding for Rural and Family Lands conservation easements; and our green belt laws. These are just three examples of items we typically support. Our lobbyist will have full list of priorities for us to reach out and discuss with our elected officials in local areas.
Let’s get out there and share all this with elected officials. Remember, our lobbyists are here to help guide us in the directions we should go. They are the ones in Tallahassee daily, keeping a pulse on the activities that may affect our industry and livelihoods. Please, this call for commitment and outreach is a request for all members to engage, take the knowledge and information you know of, and can speak about, to all the decision makers in your area. Tell them about our 500 years of cattle grazing in Florida and how we have, and will continue, to make a difference!
Shifting gears before I close, I want to be sure that I draw your attention to this month featured article by Dr. Betsey Boughton, Dr. Hilary Swain and Dr. Maria Silveira titled, “Teaming up for sustainable national agriculture.” I might be a little biased, but it amazes me all the variation and great work that our scientist are conducting here at Archbold’s Buck Island Ranch and the partnership forged with the University of Florida’s (IFAS) scientists that is building the science addressing water, soil, and other environmental questions that is so vitally needed for our industry’s survival. You will read in this article, that for the last 4 years we (Archbold) and the University of Florida were selected to be one of 18 sites as part of the USDA’s Long-term Agroecosystem Research (LTAR) network. I am not going to take away from the article, so I am going to stop here. But folks, I can tell you this we are blessed to have such a great team of scientists that are working on our behalf and finding solutions to our issues and are on the cutting edge of the key topics such as carbon sequestration, and the overused, dreaded word that I have brought up numerous times—sustainability. Please take time to read their article, I know you will find it interesting as well as make you proud that we, FCA, have two working partners engaged on a national basis, studying and finding solutions to the security of our food systems, natural resources, environment, and cultural heritage for generations to come.
In closing, my hope for us all is to pray daily, stay positive, press forward with no fear, and most importantly, never give up no matter what life throws our way.
“IN GOD We Trust”