Growing Forward: Steven Dicks, Columbia County

February 2023 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

Steven Dicks
Columbia County President, District 3

Farming has been a part of Steven Dicks’ family since August 3, 1900, when his great-grandfather purchased his first piece of land. Growing up on a 160-acre farm just ten miles south of Lake City, his family grew tobacco and corn, in addition to raising beef cattle and chickens. Dicks began farming around the age of 10 when his father taught him how to drive a tractor.

Dicks started growing his own crop of tobacco when he was 14 years old and put his profits toward his college education. After receiving his bachelors in agricultural education from the University of Florida, Dicks continued to farm until the 1980’s recession. He began working with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farmers Home Administration as a county supervisor. He fulfilled that role for more than 12 years before accepting a position with the USDA in rural development.

Although he has been a Florida Farm Bureau member since 1974, it was difficult for Dicks to be an engaged member due to time constraints from his job. After retiring 11 years ago, he was eager to become more involved with his local Columbia County Farm Bureau.

“I was involved in a program that is similar to the YF&R program now and was a semi-finalist in one of the contests in 1978,” said Dicks. “The ability to participate was limited due to conflict of interest concerns with my employer. Now that I’m retired, I can do whatever I want to.”

Since his retirement, Dicks has reunited with his love for farming by growing hay and grass seed, and raising beef cattle. His goal is to continue clearing acreage left to him by his parents, with the hope to plant row crops in the future. Additionally, he has immersed himself in Columbia County Farm Bureau by serving as the county president and volunteering for various other activities, including serving as the state board of director, representing Columbia, Hamilton and Suwannee counties.

“My favorite thing about Farm Bureau has been meeting the most interesting people,” said Dicks. “I enjoy talking with them, listening to their stories and to their experiences and things they’ve had to endure. You can learn a lot from Farm Bureau members.”

Dicks is proud of all the work his county board does for the community, but he is especially proud of its Leadership Academy. Working alongside Greg Harden, the district 3 field representative, his county has successfully created a program dedicated to growing the leadership skills of FFA and 4-H students. The program provides students a chance to take various trips to places like the Florida State Capitol and Columbia County Court House.

“Most of them have never been out of the county, so for us to take them to Tallahassee and go to the top floor and look out over the city, that’s fascinating to these young people,” said Dicks. “We take them into the chambers and Florida’s state representatives will stop what they’re doing to spend some time with them. The students don’t forget that.”

Another event that Dicks is proud of is the Columbia County Farm Bureau’s annual public official’s appreciation supper. Held during the summer, this dinner is an opportunity for elected officials and farmers in the area to get to know one another.

“We look forward to any opportunity to discuss local issues with our elected officials,” said Dicks. “We encourage them to talk to us about issues they think we can help them with.”

As Columbia County continues to welcome new residents, Dicks encourages his fellow board members to look at new ways to grow forward and engage with potential new members, including those that do not farm full-time.

“I’m encouraging our board to look at the part-time farmer because there’s a whole lot more part-time farmers than full-time. We need to be tailoring our message to the part-time farmer who may not have a large farm in acreage, but still loves agriculture.”