North Florida Farmers Recognized for Environmental Stewardship Efforts

May 2023

Seven farm families were honored for their sustainability efforts with a County Alliance for Responsible Environmental Stewardship (CARES) award during the 22nd Annual Suwannee CARES Celebration at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center- Suwannee Valley. The event drew in more than 450 farmers, ranchers and members of surrounding counties. 

The following farmers were recognized for caring for the environment: Clay and Lizzie Whitehead of Bradford County, Matthew Thomas of Columbia County, Clint Pittman of Columbia County, Jeffery Reed of Gilchrist County, Loran Brookins of Levy County, James Lewis of Levy County and Thomas Ransom of Suwannee County.

The CARES program was established by Florida Farm Bureau and the Suwannee River Partnership in 2001 to recognize superior natural resource conservation practices implemented by farmers and ranchers. These Best Management Practices have saved 1.5 million gallons of water per crop season within the Suwannee River Water Management District. The public benefits of these natural climate solutions practiced by farmers and ranchers include open spaces, fresh air, wildlife habitat and water recharge for aquifers.

Florida’s farmers and ranchers depend upon the life-sustaining capacity of the natural resources they manage to maintain their livelihoods and our quality of life. 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 has partnerships 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.

View event photos courtesy of Florida Farm Bureau and courtesy of UF/IFAS.