3 Innovative Florida Farmers Win 2016 Agricultural Environmental Leadership Award
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam announced Wednesday the recipients of the 2016 Agricultural Environmental Leadership Award, which recognizes agricultural producers who are practicing environmentally innovative farming techniques. This year’s recipients are Alliance Dairies of Trenton, Cherry Lake Tree Farm of Groveland and Jones Potato Farm of Parrish.
“These award recipients are meeting consumers’ growing demands while using cutting-edge technology and methods that protect Florida’s environment and natural resources,” Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam said in a prepared statement. “I am proud to recognize the visionaries in our industry who continue to propel Florida agriculture into the future.”
The Agricultural Environmental Leadership 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.
Alliance Dairies of 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 percent 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 percent of Alliance’s energy needs.
Cherry Lake Tree Farm of 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 percent, while simultaneously increasing production by 15 percent. 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.
Jones Potato Farm of 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 percent. Jones Potato Farms operate off low volume electric pivot irrigation systems, reducing water use by nearly 70 percent.
The winners will be recognized at the Florida Farm Bureau's Convention at the Commissioner's Ag-Environmental Leadership Breakfast in October.
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