Local Farmers Recognized for Taking the Lead in Environmental Stewardship

May 2022






Eight farmers and ranchers were honored for their natural resource conservation with a County Alliance for Responsible Environmental Stewardship (CARES) award on May 5, 2022 at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center- Suwannee Valley during the 21st Annual Suwannee CARES Celebration.

The recipients honored included:

Carl Allison, Allison Farms of Columbia County,  Mark Elixson, Elixson Farms of Union County, Jim Fleming, Tropic Traditions, Inc., of Alachua County, Rusty Huckabee, Huckabee Farms of Suwannee County; Wayne Lane, Lane Farms of Madison County, John Levi Vann,  Vann Family Farms of Lafayette County, Van Whitehurst, Whitehurst Cattle Company of Levy County and BJ Wilkerson, Wilkerson Farms of Gilchrist County

“Florida’s farmers and ranchers answer the call to protect our environment while also producing a safe, affordable and abundant food supply,” said Florida Farm Bureau President Jeb S. Smith.  “Demonstrating outstanding efforts to implement conservation practices that reduce water and nutrient use and improve water quality, is the basis for a producer being awarded a This Farm CARES designation and sign.  The customized CARES sign is a farmer or rancher’s tool to demonstrate to the general public they are committed to protecting local natural resources.”

More than 400 attendees gathered for the celebration.  Regional and state commodity groups offered food samples local to the Suwannee Valley, including fresh watermelon, sweet corn, roasted peanuts and potato chips.  The program included the recognitions of the 2022 CARES recipients as well as multiple guest speakers: Florida Farm Bureau President Jeb Smith, Dr. Andra Johnson, UF/IFAS dean of Extension and director of Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Virginia Johns, Chair of the Suwannee River Water Management District and Maddie Hart with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Office of Agricultural Water Policy. Amber Boykin, the 2022 Florida Watermelon Queen, presented the program awards.

The CARES program was established by Florida Farm Bureau and the Suwannee River Partnership in 2001 to promote public recognition of outstanding agricultural conservation achievements by farm families. The program honors farmers and ranchers who have voluntarily implemented science-based and field-tested Best Management Practices (BMPs) that conserve and protect Florida’s natural resources on their properties.

Florida’s farmers and ranchers depend upon the natural resources they manage to maintain their livelihoods. More than 900 agriculturists statewide have received the CARES award since the program was established.

CARES has become a model for the rest of the nation. The program is a partnership with more than 60 public agencies, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource and Conservation Service, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Florida’s water management districts, agricultural organizations, businesses and local governments.