Category Archives: Uncategorized

Tied to Ag: Jorin Ouwinga

April 2024 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

Jorin Ouwinga
YF&R Leadership Group, Western Palm Beach County, District 9

Jorin Ouwinga grew up in northern Michigan’s Missaukee county, where he was surrounded by farms and rural life. His grandparents on both sides were farmers, which influenced his interest and involvement in farming. He started working on the farm when he was thirteen and has stayed connected to it ever since. 

He got his Bachelor of Science in agribusiness management from Michigan State University, then moved to Florida to pursue his MBA at the University of Florida. 

After spending two years in Gainesville, Ouwinga relocated to Loxahatchee, a small community in western Palm Beach County. He works as a supply chain manager for Florida Crystals in the procurement department, using his skills to handle the challenges of the agricultural industry. 

Besides his professional work, Ouwinga has also enjoyed the fellowship of Farm Bureau. 

“I like interacting with others who have a common goal; to educate the community about agriculture,” said Ouwinga. 

His involvement with Farm Bureau goes back to his childhood; his parents were active members, creating an early connection to the organization. 

During his college years at Michigan State University, Ouwinga kept his involvement going by joining the collegiate Farm Bureau. When he moved to Florida, he was introduced to the Florida Farm Bureau Young Farmers & Ranchers (YF&R) program when he met Kevin Lussier, an active member of the Alachua County YF&R Leadership Group, during a sales call. 

As members of the Alachua County YF&R group, Ouwinga and his wife, Gabi, helped with the establishment of the Alachua County Food & Agriculture Festival, held in downtown Gainesville at the Cade Museum in the fall. 

“We were part of the first group that organized it,” said Ouwinga. “Gabi and I were pretty involved in that.” 

Despite the demands of his professional life, Ouwinga remains close to agriculture in different ways. From having a backyard farm with chickens and bees to selling products at the office, he actively raises awareness about agriculture’s essential role in our daily lives. Even within an agricultural company, he understands the need to educate others about where their food comes from.  

Your Land Grant Partner

April 2024 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

By Rob Gilbert
[email protected]

Vivek Sharma has grant money, soil moisture probes, a lab, brilliant graduate students, and the full backing of a UF/IFAS faculty appointment to figure out how to get maximum yield with minimal environmental impact.

Gilchrist County Farm Bureau board member BJ Wilkerson he’ll have about 40 harvests in his lifetime and a young daughter interested in farming to figure out the same thing.

Sharma develops the science that underpins best management practices. Wilkerson makes changes to his practices based on observation, and thanks, to UF/IFAS, increasingly based on consultation with his daughter.

Sharma and the Wilkersons’ combined expertise has developed a better understanding of what works for corn. Their partnership exemplifies UF/IFAS and Florida Farm Bureau’s decades-long cooperation.

We even jointly throw a party to highlight the farmers who demonstrate their environmental stewardship through best management practices, or BMPs. The Farm Bureau funds Suwannee CARES, and UF/IFAS hosts an awards night – this year on May 2 – at its North Florida Research and Education Center—Suwannee Valley (NFREC-SV) in Live Oak.

Improving water quality is one of Florida’s greatest challenges, but because of the partnership between UF/IFAS and the Florida Farm Bureau, it can also be one of our greatest scientific, environmental, and agricultural successes.

The Wilkerson family was recognized at Suwannee CARES in 2022 as one of those successes. And they’re looking to achieve even more with Sharma, NFREC-SV assistant center director Bob Hochmuth and Gilchrist County agriculture and natural resources Extension agent Tyler Pitman.

Hochmuth has run watermelon trials on Wilkerson’s farm in Trenton. Pitman is currently experimenting with controlled release fertilizers on Wilkerson’s land.

Two years ago, Sharma set up Florida Stakeholder Engagement Program (STEP) Corn Contest plots for 10 farmers at NFREC-SV, thanks to funding from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. He put out a call for participants. The idea was to do the farming for them as they directed and give them data and photos, and the farmers would respond with decisions on seeding rate, nitrogen management, irrigation, insurance selection and grain marketing.

Wilkerson was among those who heard from Sharma. At the time his daughter was telling Wilkerson she wanted to be a farmer just like her dad, grandfather, and great-grandfather. Wilkerson also wanted to do everything he could to protect the land and natural resources on which Kelsey would be depending 40 harvests from now.

They were one of winners of the competition and collected a $1,000 check as the top overall performers. You can guess who ultimately cashed it.

I’m excited to attend this year’s Suwannee CARES to hear more inspiring stories about how university-Farm Bureau-agency partnerships are using BMPs to protect water quality.

The scientist-grower partnership really hits home with me, because I came up through the ranks of UF/IFAS at the Everglades Research and Education Center. Scientists, growers, and agency officials working together there have used BMPs to reduce phosphorus runoff by 57 percent.

Farmers, of course, see themselves as environmental stewards. But they can’t build environmental stewardship into the price of their crop, and they can’t even convince some people that it’s part of their practices and ethic.

In that atmosphere, the daddy-daughter victory and the CARES award mean a lot to Wilkerson.

“We get put down a whole lot more than we get picked up,” Wilkerson says. “It’s nice to know at least somebody thinks we’re headed in the right direction.”

Rob Gilbert is the University of Florida’s interim senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources and leader of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).

Deer Depredation in Florida Panhandle

April 2024 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

Private landowners often encourage wildlife on their properties, with white-tailed deer being a popular species in Florida. However, certain wildlife activities, particularly those of deer, can lead to substantial damage to field crops and ornamental plantings. Reports of wildlife damage to agricultural crops have increased over time, with varying degrees of impact on different growers. A nationwide survey in the early 1990s highlighted severe economic losses in the Southeast due to wildlife depredation. It is extremely difficult to develop accurate cost estimates associated with wildlife damage to crops. However, approximations of these costs can be useful to illustrate the magnitude of the problems faced by agricultural operators. 

For the last decade, FFBF has been receiving complaints from our active membership in the Panhandle and surrounding counties about substantial crop losses due to deer depredation. These losses are a direct result from urban encroachment, forcing wildlife onto rural agricultural landscapes, poor management practices by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), as well as strict rules implemented by FWC that disallow harvest rates and practices that help to manage a healthy and harmonious population of deer within the landscape. 

In Holmes County, the surface of Chronic Waste Disease (CWD) has forced FWC to implement a rule that eliminates a landowner’s ability to utilize deer feeding stations as a means to attract deer to those stations and away from productive and highly valuable agricultural cash crops. The unintended consequence of that particular rule is that now, deer congregate to agricultural lands, which is their only abundant source of food many parts of the year. FFBF members in that county have reported hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue. 

In Santa Rosa County, urban encroachment and ongoing development have significantly reduced wildlife habitat, again, forcing deer to search for a food source. Although deer feeding stations are allowed in this county, at the end of hunting season, landowners remove those feeding stations, just in time for the planting of peanut and cotton crops, quickly attracting the wildlife to the most abundant food source, that being on agricultural lands and causing significant damage and loss of revenue to our growers. 

FFBF has been and will continue to work closely with County Farm Bureaus, impacted members and legislative representatives to raise awareness of the issue as well as come to a resolution that maintains a balance of wildlife and agricultural production within the region. 

Tied to Ag: Dallas Hull

March 2024 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

Dallas Hull grew up in New Smyrna Beach where she was involved in her local 4-H and FFA programs. Her father was a Volusia County Fair Association Director during Hull’s childhood, which led to her involvement showing livestock at the county fair. She has always been around agriculture in some facet, and over the last few years, has truly grown into a strong advocate and leader in her county.  

Hull attended college in Gainesville on a softball scholarship before continuing her education at the University of Central Florida. There, she received her Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology. Hull is currently working on her second degree in Public Administration with a minor in homeland security. 

“I’m a crime analyst for Volusia Sheriff’s Office,” said Hull. “I’m hoping my second degree will one day help me in my professional career and on the agricultural side with food security.” 

After moving back home, she started volunteering at the county fair and became involved with the cattlewomen’s association. She was introduced to Florida Farm Bureau in 2020 by Victoria Hunter, Florida Farm Bureau State Women’s Leadership Committee Chair, and has been very involved since. She serves as the Volusia County Young Farmers & Ranchers committee chair and has been a driving force behind the Taste of Volusia, a successful event that was started with funding from Farm Bureau’s County Action Program.  

Taste of Volusia is a farm-to-table style social highlighting Volusia County farms, ranches and other agricultural organizations and businesses. Attendees visit with local farmers and ranchers while sampling and learning about different Volusia County agriculture commodities and the farms or ranches that they are grown on. The YF&R committee was recognized by American Farm Bureau for its inaugural event in 2022. Committee members attended the American Farm Bureau Convention in Puerto Rico, where they had a trade show booth and were able to share the success of the event and exchange ideas with other Farm Bureau members from around the country.  

“I am so proud of the Taste of Volusia,” said Hull. “We’ve grown this event so much and are going on year three. It keeps getting bigger and better and it is great seeing how much our community loves it and looks forward to it. The best part is that it helps ensure our local food supply, our farmers and ranchers really appreciate it.” 

Hull currently lives in Seville with her fiancé, Franklin Nolan, where they own a small cow/calf operation. Her fiancé is a welder and uses his trade to support agriculture in their area. This year, the couple is hoping to offer heifers to 4-H and FFA kids to lease and show to help them get involved in agriculture.

“Franklin’s granddad won the achievement in agriculture award in 1980,” said Hull. “We would love to one day apply for that award as well and hopefully have two achievements in agriculture award recipients in the family.” 

Hull continues to strengthen her tie to agriculture through her community involvement and sharing her passion for the industry with whomever she can. 

Your Land Grant Partner

March 2024 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

By Rob Gilbert
[email protected]

I see my job as the new leader of UF/IFAS as supporting the discovery and delivery of knowledge that helps you make a living.

I can’t do it all from the office. I’ll be making a lot of trips across town to Florida Farm Bureau Federation headquarters and across the state to hear from you.

My view of my new job is shaped by my old jobs. I spent years in the field as a researcher listening to growers. I was chair of the Department of Agronomy – the science of seeking maximum yield from an acre of soil.

I saw how much farmers’ field observations and partnership with our researchers contribute to discovery during my five years as dean of UF/IFAS research.

I take over as the University of Floridas interim senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources with the conviction that there’s no better time for a strong UF/IFAS-Farm Bureau relationship than now.

Our partnership will be essential to taking advantage of favorable political conditions. For the next couple of years, people who actually understand agriculture will be in positions in Tallahassee to help craft policy and appropriate resources the industry needs to thrive.

I plan to work closely with President Smith to present a united front to policy makers on what we need to keep Florida growing food and fiber.

2023 Woman of the Year in Agriculture Luncheon honoring Dr. Saundra TenBroeck. Photo taken 02-12-24.

This coming era also holds the promise of technological advances, the likes of which we see only once in a generation. UF/IFAS is working hard to put artificial intelligence to work on your farms. I’ll be asking you what we should be putting it to work on and continuing to consult with President Smith about how to make it happen.

Yet another opportunity is a great partner in President Smith. He has already been a mentor to me with his knowledge of cropping systems in the Hastings area, his connections in and understanding of Florida politics, and his example of servant leadership.

You’ll be top of mind as I work hard to make the most of these favorable forces.

While I don’t make a living off my land, I am married to a Master Gardener, so I’ve enjoyed citrus, lettuce, nectarines and tomatoes grown right on my property. That increases my appreciation of how much work it takes and strengthens my resolve to help you feed Florida.

I’m looking forward to serving as UF/IFAS cheerleader-in-chief and working hard to secure and direct resources to support the science you need to make a living off the land.

Please invite me to your farms and your meetings. Let me know how I can serve. Let’s be partners in making the most of the tremendous opportunities that lie ahead.

Rob Gilbert is the University of Florida’s interim senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources and leader of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).


Florida Farm Bureau Provides Comments on Dicamba Solution

March 2024 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

On February 6, 2024, a federal court in Arizona issued a ruling stating the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must vacate the 2020 registrations for over-the-top use of three dicamba-based pesticides; XtendiMax, Engenia, and Tavium.  

This ruling is a result of a lawsuit (Center for Biological Diversity v. U.S. EPA) that found the EPA in violation of their legal agreements under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). This is the second ruling that has ordered EPA to vacate a dicamba registration, following a ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which overturned the then-current over-the-top dicamba registration in June 2020. While the decision from the Arizona court relies on different legal arguments than the Ninth Circuit’s 2020 decision, the outcome is the same.  

On February 14th, EPA issued an existing stocks order. This order allows farmers to use dicamba directly onto crops during the 2024 growing season, as long as the pesticides were “labeled, packaged, and released for shipment” prior to February 6. After the 2024 season, it is unclear if these three dicamba products will be available for over-the-top use. More than 75% of the cotton acres across the Cotton Belt were planted with dicamba-tolerant traits in the 2023 season. 

Florida Farm Bureau Federation is committed to working alongside the EPA to find a more feasible solution that will meet the EPA’s legal obligations to the ESA and FIFRA, while also maintaining access to the necessary tools that producers need. Please reach out to Maddie Campbell with any questions or concerns. More information can be found here.  

Tied to Ag: Matthew and Blaire Fisher

Matt and Blaire Fisher grew up in Florida’s Panhandle. Blaire grew up in Jackson County and Matt in Washington County, and the couple currently reside in Matt’s hometown of Chipley. Together, they have two sons; Brett and Brody.  

The Fishers raise and sell grass fed, grain fed and Waygu beef cattle as well as grow and bale Bahia and perennial peanut hay. They attend community farmers’ markets on the weekends to sell their locally grown beef. Matt works full-time on the family farm managing the cow/calf operation and overseeing the growth and baling of hay. Blaire works for Johnson Roofing Solutions, where she is responsible for scheduling all final inspections and assisting with permit pulling.  

The couple is eager to expand their involvement in Farm Bureau and learn more about agriculture across the state.  Matt’s dad is the Washington County president, and the couple is eager to represent their local county at the state level and continue their involvement locally. 

“Farm Bureau gives us the opportunity to meet new people and learn about new operations,” said Blaire. “We also learn how beneficial and important Farm Bureau is to members and how they help in each challenge that comes in between different operations.”  

Matt and Blaire’s community involvement through their local farmers’ market has given them the opportunity to educate customers about where their food comes from. Helping  more people learn about the importance of agriculture and its impact on the local economy is something that both Matt and Blaire are very passionate about.  

“We are tied to ag by going to local Farmer’s Markets every weekend and sharing our production of beef with the community,” said Blaire. “We have the inventory to give people the opportunity to buy Farm to Table beef and know where it is coming from. We explain how our operation works and we plan to be even more successful in 2024 with our beef production.” 

Your Land Grant Partner: J. Scott Angle

February 2024 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

dr angleBy J. Scott Angle
[email protected]

When I arrived in Florida three and a half years ago to lead UF/IFAS, my message to Farm Bureau members was, “I work for you.”

I still do, but no longer as UF’s senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. They’ve made me provost, the academic leader of the entire university. This is my last FloridAgriculture column.

That doesn’t mean I’ll stop working for you. As I told Florida Farm Bureau members gathered in Tallahassee last month for a day of legislative visits, there are experts in many UF colleges, not just the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, who can help Florida agriculture and rural Florida.

As provost I’ll be in a position to encourage the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering to bring more its expertise, Extension-style, to rural counties. Our medical care doesn’t have to be accessed only in large urban hospitals. I’d like to see it reach more of rural Florida, more farming communities.

And I’ve laid the groundwork for a successful transition at UF/IFAS. Dr. Rob Gilbert will continue as interim senior vice president and head of UF/IFAS. When I appointed him interim senior vice president, I was hoping to get my old job back in six months. Rob’s ready to run UF/IFAS without me now.

You’ll find him personable, committed to delivering relevant science, interested in stakeholder input, extremely well organized, and eager to meet as many of you as he can.

Rob and I are aligned on many priorities. Namely, we’re focused on your future. I told the members gathered in Tallahassee that artificial intelligence is going to change the way they farm and UF/IFAS is going to help them make the most of this new generation of technology. It will help drive a future of lower inputs and higher yields.

Part of the future was in the room. Scores of blue-jacketed FFA youth attended the breakfast. They are learning early what didn’t occur to me until my college days, that there are so many exciting careers and opportunities in agriculture and natural resources.

IFAS is special, but so is all of UF. I told the Tallahassee gathering that President Sasse is out to change all of American higher education for the better. We’re on a similar mission at UF/IFAS, to help make Florida agriculture the model for the entire nation and for the world.

I was honored to have President Jeb Smith say from the podium that he considered me a blessing to Florida agriculture. But I feel I have received more than I have given.

You’ve welcomed me to your communities as I visited every Florida county. You’ve provided opportunity to students for which I’ve worked to find beyond-the classroom experiences. And you’ve hosted research on your farms.

It’s been my pleasure to serve you directly for three and a half years. No matter where I am on campus, I’ll never stop working for you.

J. Scott Angle is the University of Florida’s Provost. From July 2020 to January 2024 he was UF’s Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources and leader of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).


Tied to Ag: Benjamin Putnam

January 2024 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

Benjamin Putnam comes from a family of agriculturalists in rural Polk County. He is a sixth-generation farmer and grew up working cattle with his uncle, fixing irrigation in the citrus grove, and helping around the farm where needed. His involvement on the family farm helped instill in him a passion for agriculture.  

Upon graduation from Auburn University with a degree in business management, Putnam decided to move back home and work full-time at Putnam Groves, his family’s citrus operation.  

“After my Uncle Will passed away, my cousin Christian and I talked a lot about my plans after college,” said Putnam. “It felt right to move back to Bartow and work at the farm.”  

The family farm has 1,300 head of cattle spanning over Polk, Hardee, and Highlands counties and 1,000 acres of citrus, specifically Valencia and Hamlin varieties. They have recently started hay production and are refurbishing pastures through rotational grazing.

“We started rotational grazing and allowing some family friends to grow watermelons in our pastures to help with weed control and help add more grazing land for our cattle next year,” said Putnam. “This has really allowed us to continue to be good stewards of the land.”  

Although Putnam has grown up around Farm Bureau, it was his cousin that encouraged him to become more involved with their local Young Farmers & Ranchers group and apply for the leadership team. He has enjoyed being more involved in the community and sharing agriculture’s story with the public.  

“Last year, we were able to donate 160 pounds of blueberries through Harvest for All,” said Putnam. “We also set up a booth at the Lakeland Farmer’s Market and talk to people about agriculture and pass out Publix gift cards to help pay for some of their groceries.” 

Putnam also looks forward to visiting with other farmers in the community at their county annual meeting in October.  

When asked what he is looking forward to over the next two years on the state leadership team, Putnam is excited to get more involved with Florida Farm Bureau and learn how to better advocate for the agriculture industry.  

“I’m strengthening my tie to agriculture by learning how to be a better spokesperson for the industry through the opportunities the leadership group will provide me,” said Putnam. “I’m excited for opportunities to network with other young farmers from around the country and learn about agriculture and advocacy in their state at the American Farm Bureau Federation YF&R Leadership Conference in March.” 

Your Land Grant Partner: J. Scott Angle

January 2024 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

dr angleBy J. Scott Angle
[email protected]

You know yourselves as food producers and as stewards of the land. You also know that not everyone sees you that way.

The question isn’t whether they’re right or wrong, whether they disregard their three meals a day while they focus on side effects of it getting to them. The question is how do you talk to people who have seemingly diametrically opposed views of agriculture to your own?

The Florida Farm Bureau Federation has been a great supporter of a part of UF/IFAS that prepares leaders to address this question.

For many years, FFBF has sponsored Fellows participating in the UF/IFAS Natural Resources Leadership Institute, or NRLI, so Florida agriculture can better engage with non-agricultural stakeholders and not just retreat to our own camps when contentious issues arise.

NRLI doesn’t teach people how to produce food. It does teach farmers and leaders how to communicate with people who see agriculture as a threat.

That’s been invaluable to Andrew Walmsley, a NRLI alumnus whose day-to-day job as your legislative affairs director involves communicating with policy makers who don’t understand agriculture and sometimes don’t appreciate it.

In fact, said Walmsley, NRLI helped him hone the skills to talk across the divide to organizations like the Environmental Defense Fund as he helped the American Farm Bureau Federation launch the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance.

Instead of regarding EDF as an adversary, Walmsley adopted the NRLI approach to working with it as a stakeholder with a common interest. It has resulted in mutual support for policy recommendations for the Farm Bill to help agriculture achieve its climate mitigation potential while preserving and creating economic opportunity.

FFBF leadership programs coordinator Michele Curts is a member of the current NRLI class. She finds it remarkable that beyond building valuable skills such as facilitation of difficult conversations, NRLI brings together people who normally would never cross paths and do not find themselves on the same side of all issues.

Charles Shinn, your retired director for government and community affairs, is a NRLI alumnus who credits it with helping him form relationships with classmates from government, industry and activist groups, a network that he still relies on years after his participation in the program.

Farm Bureau has also subsidized the participation of volunteer leaders such as Ben Butler, Clay Archey and John Dooner.

It’s time for applications. If you’re ready to step up and invest in yourself as a leader, please consider NRLI. Contact your field rep or county chapter president or reach out directly to FFBF professionals who can support your application and help you through the process of securing a nomination.

NRLI requires a three-day stretch each month for most of an academic year. It was an especially big commitment for Walmsley, whose first child was born during his time in NRLI.

He said it was worth it. He’s better for it, and as a result so is Florida agriculture.

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).