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Tied to Ag: Ellie John, Manatee County

November 2023 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

A Florida native, Ellie John was raised in the town of Duette, located in Manatee County. She was part of the Mighty 4-Hers of Duette and raised pigs during her youth. Growing up, John spent many summers on her great-grandparents’ farm and cousins’ dairy farm, both in New Jersey.  

John attended Manatee Technical College where she became a certified dental assistant. She was blessed to be a stay-at-home mom for 14 years with her children and has worked as a dental assistant at a family-owned practice in Manatee County for the last three years. 

Just like John did, her children participated in 4-H and showed cattle and pigs. Her husband is a fourth-generation cattle producer and actively ranches with John and their four kids. Additionally, the family owns a pasture restoration business and grows hay.  

Agriculture holds a very large part of John’s heart. She has served as the leader for the Myakka Allstock 4-H club for 11 years and is heavily involved in the Manatee County Fair in the supervision of the beef breeding barn.

John’s involvement with Florida Farm Bureau started in 2015 when a longtime family friend and board member asked her to join their newly established women’s committee. John served as a founding member and was the first co-chair, serving for two years. She has served as the committee chair for six years along with Chris Mahoney as her co-chair and 13 committee members, all involved in agriculture.  

“I have also served on the state committee for two years now and love my involvement with Farm Bureau,” said John. “I love the relationships I’ve built and the knowledge I’ve gained to help promote the ag industry.”  

Her favorite part of being involved in Farm Bureau is the Manatee County “Agventure” event, held during Farm-City Week in November. This event is a rotating activity center, with an agricultural themed make-and-take activity. John serves as the timekeeper, and they have more than 1,000 third graders learn about local agriculture. 

“What used to be a one-day event has turned into two days so we can reach more children,” said John. “We want to teach these kids that food doesn’t just come from the grocery store.”  

She is also involved with the Manatee County beef workshop and prospect show which also takes place during Farm-City Week. 

Through her strong community involvement, John is a powerful voice of agriculture in Manatee County. She continues to educate people in her community about the importance of agriculture and show them ways they can be tied to the industry.  

“I am tied to Ag through my involvement with the local 4-H clubs, FFA chapters, the county fair and our county Farm Bureau and use these groups as ways to educate people in our community about the importance of agriculture,” said John. “I also share the importance of farming and ranching through my social media whenever I can.” 

A Guide to Florida Farm Bureau Policy Development

November 2023 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

As a grassroots organization, Florida Farm Bureau’s policies start with recommendations from members at the county level. This is predominantly accomplished through 16 commodity-based advisory committees, which are comprised of nominated members at the county-level and appointed by the organization’s state president.  

Each of the committees are made up of farmers, ranchers and growers, who are voting members on the committee, and industry professionals, who are non-voting technical advisors. These technical advisors serve as expert liaisons to their respective areas and guide Florida Farm Bureau’s policies through education. Technical advisors play a fundamental role in ensuring Florida Farm Bureau members are educated in industry updates to guide decisions that are made in accordance with current and scientifically-sound principles. 

Once policy amendments and new resolutions are proposed at advisory committee meetings, they are presented at the organization’s Annual Meeting to be accepted or rejected by the delegate body. If a policy is accepted and deemed of national importance, it is sent on to American Farm Bureau’s Annual Meeting in January for review. Once a policy is accepted on the state level, the Legislative Affairs Division implements FFBF’s policy book on the Hill by advocating and lobbying on behalf of our membership. 

In the 2023 policy process, 23 policies were amended, one policy was removed, and eight new resolutions were accepted. These changes represent the current needs of agricultural producers in Florida and will give FFBF staff the direction they need to advocate for farmers and ranchers at the local, state, and national level. 

Your Land Grant Partner

November 2023 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

dr angleBy J. Scott Angle
[email protected]

On June 16, 2020, UF/IFAS agronomist and longtime Gadsden County Farm Bureau member David Wright sent a text that doctors had found a golf-ball-sized tumor in his head. Colleague Sheeja George asked how she could help.

“Keep the crew going,” David responded.

George and colleagues revered David for his work ethic, his humility, and his love for agriculture. He had 10 kids and 10 tractors at his family farm in Quincy.

David’s 45-year career at the North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy contributed to the understanding and adoption of what some call conservation farming. That is, he researched and taught producers about sod-based rotation and crop-livestock integration. It produces better yields and better environmental stewardship.

“We would be hard pressed to find a farm in North Florida that Dr. Wright’s shadow has not been on and had a positive effect on it,” wrote the Farm Bureau leaders in Gadsden, Calhoun, Jackson and Santa Rosa counties who nominated David for the Extension Professional of the Year Award.

And this compliment is recorded in a memory book at David’s retirement: “You don’t really ‘deliver’ a solution; you partner with many and ‘design’ them knowing that there is a human at the other end who is receiving and using it.”

Isn’t that what Extension is at its best?

David was cherished as a man as well as a scientist, so it’s very meaningful to us at UF/IFAS that the Florida Farm Bureau spotlighted Wright’s legacy by posthumously honoring him last month in Orlando. And it was meaningful to David that the Farm Bureau told him about the award before his death in July.

David recognized that science is in part a social phenomenon. In addition to hypotheses, observation and measurement, it depends on trust.

He built that connection and credibility with a question to colleagues: “Do you want to walk a few rounds?” The walk-and-talks around a pond at NFREC explored scientific challenges and built camaraderie.

The line between work and family was thin at best. Most of his kids have helped out at NFREC in some capacity. He considered clients to be friends and would knock on their doors, call them after hours and get to know their spouses and children.

He shared information with scientists nationwide that helped control soybean rust when it first hit the U.S. He also emphasized shared bonds, like when he gave a lobster hat to a departing USDA colleague who was moving to Maine, or when he helped a graduate student find funds to visit his family in Ghana.

David called me as his health deteriorated, and he urged me to start looking for a successor so that important science would not be interrupted. I think it was his way of telling me, “Keep the crew going!”

J. Scott Angle is the University of Florida’s Interim Provost. Since 2020 he has served as UF’s Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources and leader of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).



AFBF Convention Registration Open Now

Join your fellow Ag professionals and enthusiasts and attend the 2024 American Farm Bureau Federation’s Annual Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah, January 19-24, 2024. Farm Bureau members and non-members alike are welcome to be a part of our nation’s largest general Ag organization. At this celebration you will hear motivational keynote speakers, be able to cheer on our state award competitors, and interact with exhibitors while learning about their products on the trade show floor. Networking with fellow Ag leaders and attending educational sessions is also an important part of the AFBF Convention. Salt Lake City Farm Tours are on Saturday, January 20 and Tuesday, January 23 and are listed on the registration form.

Read more about the convention or register now here.

Your Land Grant Partner

October 2023 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

dr angleBy J. Scott Angle
[email protected]

When the Florida Farm Bureau Federation and UF/IFAS work together, we can help a youth from Live Oak develop into a voice for farmers and ranchers nationwide.

John Walt Boatright has returned the favor with years of service to both our organizations.

In fact, he started serving while he was still a student at the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS). As a CALS ambassador, Boatright was the student speaker at our first Dinner of Distinction in 2012.

It’s our annual event honoring our staunchest supporters. Boatright has attended nearly all of them.

UF/IFAS Advancement’s Dinner of Distinction 2023. Photo taken 09-15-23

Boatright got to the podium again this year. This time he was silent as someone else spoke. Dean Elaine Turner told an audience of hundreds, “We are proud to have a part in his story through college and beyond,” before announcing Boatright as the recipient of the 2023 CALS Alumni and Friends Horizon Award for outstanding contributions to the College.

On the path from student speaker to guest of honor, Boatright established himself as a leading voice for agriculture policy. During his five and a half years in Gainesville, he regularly shared insights from his job as your FFBF director of national affairs with our faculty and students.

In fact, Boatright says, he understood that sharing those insights with UF/IFAS to be part of his job. He was told a major part of the reason FFBF headquarters is in Gainesville is to be close to UF, IFAS and CALS.

His sharing has taken many forms. Boatright served on the UF/IFAS Department of Agronomys industry advisory committee as well as on the Leadership Council for the UF/IFAS Department of Food and Resource Economics (FRE), his academic home as an undergraduate. He has spoken at every FRE Agricultural Policy Outlook Conference since his start at FFBF.

He’s been a repeat volunteer for CALS “Coffee and Careers” events on campus at which he meets with current undergraduates to review resumes and talk about his path from undergraduate to national leader.

CALS and FFBF both helped him along that path. Boatright acknowledges current FRE Chair Lisa House, who was his agribusiness management instructor a decade ago. FRE’s Mike Olexa taught him agricultural law.

Then-FFBF assistant to the president Kevin Morgan helped Boatright find just the right place in the organization. And Boatright’s former boss Jaime Jerrels mentored him in the policy arena.

So, it all seemed a bit surreal to Boatright to be held up as an honoree with his double-Gator Dad and House and Morgan in the audience, a dean handing him an award, a photographer documenting the moment, and this year’s CALS ambassadors greeting him.

As an FFBF professional and CALS Ambassador alumnus, Boatright has connected our two organizations in many ways, including speaking at meetings of the UF chapter of Collegiate Farm Bureau. It’s yet another way UF/IFAS and FFBF are growing Florida’s future.

Boatright wouldn’t be who he is and where he is if not for both our organizations. We thanked him for the decade he’s spent thanking us with his service.

Scott Angle is the University of Florida’s Interim Provost. Since 2020 he has served as UF’s Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources and leader of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).




Growing Forward: Ivan Howard

October 2023 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

Ivan Howard grew up in Immokalee, Fla. on his family’s farm. His father was a farmer and his mother was a teacher. Howard raises beef cattle and grass.

After receiving his master’s in polymer science engineering from the University of Florida, Howard continued his education and completed his MBA at Mercer University. He has worked in capital markets and banking for 27 years and has owned a cattle ranch in Hendry County for 20 years. Howard is the executive director at Banco Santander, a European bank focused on private banking. He has served as head of the Hendry County Farm Service Agency board for five years and is on the biomedical engineering external advisory board for UF and serves as a Tenon Medical board member.

Howard’s parents were active Farm Bureau members, serving in various roles in the community and on the county board. Howard has been actively involved with the Collier County Farm Bureau for five years and now serves as the Collier County president. He has enjoyed watching young people in his community show interest in agriculture and partake in various programs, like the Young Farmers & Ranchers.

“Our Young Farmers & Ranchers program is really important,” said Howard. “Ag throughout the country is shrinking rapidly and will continue to do so if we don’t get our young people involved.”

One of Howard’s favorite Farm Bureau events is their county annual meeting. This meeting is a great opportunity to mingle with other members, learn more about the benefits Farm Bureau offers and focus on community outreach efforts.

Howard continues to grow agriculture forward in his leadership roles and in the community. He strongly urges young people in Collier County to get involved in local agriculture programs and emphasizes the importance of agricultural education.

“The future of the industry is the younger generation,” said Howard. “The state and other agencies are taking land out of ag production. We need to emphasize the importance of ag in our communities and support innovative technologies and growth in the industry.”

Growing Forward, Valerie Ansell

September 2023 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

Surrounded by beef cattle and citrus groves, Valerie Ansell grew up running around on her family’s farm in Pasco County. Her father purchased part of the property when he was in high school, and bit by bit, purchased more pieces of land as they became available. Growing up, Ansell and her brother were involved in their local 4-H program, both raising dairy heifers and participating in various leadership projects.

Ansell took a different path through life and felt called to motherhood instead of pursuing a college education out of high school. Her and her family moved to Duval County where she raised her three sons. It was during her time in Jacksonville that she became involved with Florida Farm Bureau.

“My family has always had Farm Bureau insurance and dad even worked as a claims adjuster for a short time,” said Ansell. “My oldest son, Tyler, participated in the Duval County Farm Bureau speech contest and next thing I knew I was volunteering and serving as the women’s chair.”

After living in Duval County for 20 years, Ansell moved to Hernando County in 2016 to be closer to the family farm, and during this time, took a break from volunteer work. Her break only lasted a short time due to her passion for educating others about agriculture. Ansell connected with a young lady employed by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and together, they created an ag tour for policy makers in the area. The event is held annually and is centered around educating policy makers about agriculture in their district.

In addition to the farm tour, Ansell is proud of her work in Duval County through the Food Check-Out Week, held every February. She spearheaded the secret shopper event at a local grocery store to purchase customers’ groceries. They also work with local food banks to donate buy-one-get-one-free items that are purchased.

“One of our members loads up his mules and wagon with groceries from Publix and he parades it through the parking lot and past a nearby preschool,” said Ansell. “Our field representative, Greg Harden, talks to the preschoolers about agriculture when we stop.”

As her sons grew older and started their own families, Ansell went back to school and completed her interdisciplinary degree from Liberty University, majoring in education, business and psychology.

Currently, Ansell helps out with the family farm, Jimmy Mc’s, and manages photographer requests for the family sunflower u-pick. She is the proud owner of Frank, a 1964 F-100, that is used in numerous photoshoots throughout the year. She also works part-time at Stable Faith Cowboy Church as the outreach director. Ansell enjoys using this role to connect agriculture programs to her church family and community members.

One of Ansell’s favorite parts about Farm Bureau are the relationships she has built throughout her life and continues to build.

“I feel like if I was driving through the state and I broke down, I could phone a Farm Bureau friend that was nearby and they would help me,” said Ansell. “It’s great having not just local friends, but friends across the state and even across the country that I’ve met through American Farm Bureau.”

Ansell continues to foster those relationships as she works toward growing agriculture in her community forward.

“My passion is teaching our youth about agriculture,” said Ansell. “One of the ways I do that is by promoting the Florida Farm Bureau Federation classroom mini-grant program to teachers in my district.”

The Giant African Land Snail Detected in South Florida

September 2023 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

The Giant African Land Snail (GALS) has been detected in South Florida after two previous eradications in the state. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the most recent population of GALS has been found in Pasco County and have a lighter flesh compared to the previous GALS.

The snail was first introduced to South Florida in the 1960s and was then eradicated in 1975. It was later eradicated in 2021 from a detection in 2011. They are typically introduced through illegal imports to be used as pets or food.

Quarantines have been placed in Pasco, Lee and Broward counties. Although this quarantine is in place, it is unlawful to move these snails without a compliance agreement. The primary treatment for this pest is the pesticide Metaldehyde, which is applied to the ground around plants and disrupts the mucus production of GALS, causing dehydration, and ultimately death. The USDA recommends using extreme caution around GALS.  If it is necessary to handle a snail, wear gloves and wash your hands afterward. If you live in an area where this pest is found, wash fresh produce thoroughly and avoid consuming uncooked vegetables.

According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) the snail eats and destroys over 500 types of plants, which threatens Florida’s agriculture and natural areas. When plants are unavailable, the snail has been known to eat paint and stucco off of South Florida homes. They can grow up to eight inches long and five inches wide, which is roughly the size of a human fist. Additionally, they carry a parasite called rat lungworm, which causes meningitis in humans. Because the snail has no natural enemies and reproduces very quickly, they are a serious risk to Florida’s natural resources and population.

FDACS has many resources to help Floridians control these invasive species and protect Florida’s natural areas. Click here to learn more.

Land Grant Partner

September 2023 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

dr angleBy J. Scott Angle
[email protected]

It was music to my ears to hear District 17 State Director Mark Sodders talk about how UF/IFAS keeps him in business. It was comedy to hear District 5 State Director Rod Land say of Lafayette County: “That’s where you go when you die… if you’re good!”

And it was poetry to hear President Jeb Smith talk about the strong bonds between UF/IFAS and the Florida Farm Bureau.

I’m proud to serve the university as interim provost, but as I told the gathering at the Extension Professional Associations of Florida annual Farm Bureau appreciation dinner last month, I’m eager to get back to leading UF/IFAS full time.

It’s not like I needed a reminder of why, but the dinner at the Alachua County Extension Office in Newberry reconnected me with friends new and old and drove home the sense of community and kinship I feel with Farm Bureau folks.

From Jeb’s bear hug to talking fertilizer with Mark to meeting a number of the Farm Bureau’s communiGators—the corps of recent UF grads who help Rachael Smith tell the Florida ag story, I felt at home.

I was enthused by District 19 State Director Mark Wilson’s interest in artificial intelligence in agriculture. Women’s Leadership Committee Chair Danielle Daum prompted an important discussion about broadening our thinking about qualifications as we recruit professionals for Extension positions.

It’s going to be tougher to escape the administration building unnoticed if I do an overnight in Orlando rather than just an after-hours local visit like the one in Newberry. Still, I hope to see you all at the annual meeting at the Caribe Royale.

It’ll be worth the trip just to see you honor the Extension Professional of the Year. But I know it will also include the mix of music, comedy and poetry I’ve come to expect from visits with FFBF, that sense of kinship and community.

I work for you. Thanks for making it feel like a family business.

Scott Angle is the University of Florida’s Interim Provost. Since 2020 he has served as UF’s Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources and leader of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).

Enter to Win Ultimate Tailgate Prizes

August 2023 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

Florida Farm Bureau Federation will celebrate football and agriculture by serving as the game-day sponsor for the Florida State University vs. Southern Miss game on Sept. 9 at Doak Campbell Stadium and again for the University of Florida homecoming game against Vanderbilt University on Oct. 7 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.  

Both tailgate events are free to the public and will provide football fans with an interactive agricultural experience that highlights assorted products grown statewide. The event will also include educational exhibits, games, food samples and activities for the whole family.  

In addition to these interactive exhibits, you can also enter for a chance to win the ultimate tailgating prizes! These prizes include a 52 quart hard cooler,  SONOS Roam speaker and 40 oz Stanely tumbler.

For more information on The Home Field AGvantage celebration and to register for an ultimate tailgate  giveaway, visit