Farmers understand the importance of protecting the environment, and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services recognizes exemplary producers with the annual Agricultural- Environmental Leadership Awards. The following 2015 winners were honored for their environmentally innovative farming practices.
Owner of Dasher Farms in McAlpin, Randall Dasher says when he took over the family farm, which includes cattle ranching, peanuts and a seed processing facility, he was determined to make better use of the land, water and agriculture on the property. “We really got back into conservation tillage practices in 2005, when we got back into peanuts again,” he says. “We started looking at the strip-till information and getting into that and using cover crops, and the last five years, we’ve been finding success with that. We don’t have any sand erosion now, we’re using less fertilizer and the crops are all doing better.” Dasher also adopted a process to farm row crops without irrigation, and he was the first in the area to adopt hydroponic farming techniques. “We started with hydroponics in ’86 and always thought there would be a place for it,” he says. “Growing the herbs under the controlled environment has worked for us.”
Owner of Carlton and Carlton Ranch in Tampa, Dennis Carlton operates a 35,000-acre ranch that consists of cattle, citrus, sod and strawberries. The seventh-generation Floridian has implemented policies at the ranch designed to improve the wetlands, provide corridors for protected wildlife and filter storm water on the property. A former president of the Hillsborough County Farm Bureau, Carlton recycles citrus pulp into feed for cattle, replanted thousands of pines and oaks and collects rainfall to help water his crops and protect them from freezing weather.
Owner of Bull Hammock Ranch in Fort Pierce, Wes Carlton is a fourth-generation cattle rancher praised around the industry for his environmental stewardship. Carlton implemented a surface water management system that stores more than 1,800 acres of water and significantly reduces the nitrogen and phosphorous released back into the environment. His ranch also utilizes a number of Best Management Practices, including rotational grazing of the herds, planting of a variety of forage plants, nutrient management and exotic species eradication.