Dear Friends, It is my great pleasure to recognize the recipients of the 2013 Commissioner’s Agricultural Environmental Leadership Award -- Farmton Tree Farm/Miami Corporation, Dudley Calfee/Ferris Farms, and Kissimmee Park Properties, LLC. Since 1994, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has recognized agricultural enterprises that demonstrate leadership in developing and implementing innovative techniques to safeguard the environment and conserve natural resources. These individuals in conjunction with their corporations have proven to be pioneers in sustaining the environment by reducing water use, protecting the land and maximizing efficiency. It is an honor to highlight the efforts and accomplishments of these environmental stewards who serve as outstanding examples of agricultural guardianship. Together, we can preserve Florida’s abundant natural resources. Sincerely,
Adam H. Putnam Commissioner of Agriculture
Farmton Tree Farm Miami Corporation
The cornerstone of Farmton Tree Farm is a sustainable timber supply. Mike Brown, Director of Tree Farm Operations, oversees reforestation, harvesting and maintenance in accordance with forestry best management practices for the region.
Deep Creek winds through Farmton, which encompasses 92 square miles of southern Volusia and northern Brevard counties. The tract of pine forest, hardwood hammocks and cypress-lined wetlands contains some of the most diverse ecological communities in Florida. Cattle have been a part of Farmton since the 1920s and about 50 percent of the property is under lease.
The Miami Tract Hunt Club, which provides a volunteer fire watch for Farmton and the surrounding southeast Volusia area, was awarded a 3,000-hour volunteer award last year by the Florida Forest Service. The remains of an old railroad trestle stand amid the cypress trees, a silent reminder of a bygone era.
Road infrastructure, essential to the timber harvest, is part of the continuous cycle of activities at Farmton, according to Brown. Tree planting generally takes place in the first quarter of the year, road maintenance and fire protection activities are at their height in the second quarter, equipment repair in the third, and the fourth sees prescribed burning and site preparation for the upcoming planting season.
Deering Preserve at Deep Creek was deeded to Volusia County at no cost to taxpayers. Currently about 1,400 acres are in public ownership and will be open to the public for hiking and as a kayak and canoe launch.
The Farmton Plan took more than five years to complete. The Miami Corporation worked closely with groups such as Florida Audubon, the St. Johns Water Management District, The Nature Conservancy, the Florida Wildlife Federation, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, asking for their input and expertise. The plan was then approved by two county commissions and Florida’s Department of Community Affairs.
Farmton Tree Farm is part of a priceless wildlife corridor that stretches from the Ocala National Forest to Florida’s east coast and from the Okefenokee Swamp in southeast Georgia to the Everglades.
Keeping hundreds of miles of fire lines clear is just a portion of the duties performed by Brown and his team, from left, Henry Clark, Ernest “Lightman” Chavers and Herman Korpi.
Dudley Calfee Ferris Farms, Floral City
Ferris Farms, the largest agricultural enterprise in Citrus County, is located on Duval Island in Lake Tsala Apopka. The farm includes blueberries, strawberries, citrus and cattle. Dudley Calfee has managed the operation since 2007.
Dr. Natalia Peres designed a system that monitors weather conditions that contribute to plant disease. The system determines when the farm should spray fungicide on the strawberry plants. Spraying only when conditions warrant helps reduce the amount of fungicide used and saves operating costs and man-hours.
Strawberries are grown in fields that feature raised beds covered with plastic. Drip tubes are used for irrigation. Dr. Joe Noling of UF-IFAS has worked with Ferris Farms on issues such as controlling soil pests and reuse of plastic bedding.
Harvest Manager Lupe Fernandez surveys the young blueberry plants. The blueberry plants are sprayed using a small tractor that has been modified to provide more thorough coverage. As co-founder of the Ag-Alliance of Citrus County, Dudley meets with other agribusiness leaders once a month to talk about issues and promote agriculture.
When a land bust in the 1920s dashed the original idea of building a golf course community for millionaires, property owner L.G. “Doc” Ferris planted oranges and marketed them with a flair.
Dudley is a member of the Heritage Council, which strives to protect Floral City’s historic homes and Old Florida character such as its “Avenue of Oaks.”
Dudley and wife, Diane, often start their day surveying the farm on horseback. Dudley loves music and practices every week with good friends and band mates Dave and Terri Hartman.
Kissimmee Park Properties, LLC St. Cloud
Kissimmee Park Properties, LLC, encompasses 1,200 acres in Osceola County and features orange groves and a cow/calf operation. Under continuous family ownership for more than 135 years, the farm has achieved Century Pioneer Family Farm status and is operated by Shane and Carol Platt.
Working with UF-IFAS on strategies to combat citrus greening, the ranch uses a rotational spray schedule in conjunction with Integrated Pest Management. Shane and Carol’s son, Josh, spot sprays a young citrus tree as part of the program.
The ranch worked with NRCS to implement lowvolume jet irrigation that is 50 percent more efficient than the old system. Tensiometers measure water pressure to determine when irrigation is necessary. The system also delivers liquid fertilizer to the trees, which has resulted in increased citrus production.
Shane also worked with NRCS on rotational grazing. Previously the ranch had three large pastures; with the addition of five miles of fencing it now has 15 smaller ones. Cattle graze each pasture for three to seven days. Six troughs requiring more than two miles of water lines were added to facilitate the new pastures. The farm has increased the herd by twothirds with no additional inputs.
Oak hammocks provide wildlife corridors and habitat throughout the ranch. Shane has enriched the pastures by planting Aeschynomene, which has a high nutritional value and is particularly palatable to cattle and deer. Mike Barber uses a roller chopper on palmettos for brush management to encourage better native forage.
The ranch has more than two miles of shoreline along Lake Tohopekaliga, which is the headwaters of the northern Everglades. Shane and Forest Area Supervisor Tom Donohoe examine a controlled burn plot. The Florida Forest Service worked with the farm to draft a multiyear plan that includes prescribed burning to enhance desirable vegetation for wildlife and reduce the potential for catastrophic wildfire caused by excessive fuel buildup. The quail population has surged as controlled
burning is used more on the property.
Shane and Josh spot spray the invasive exotic Chinese tallow tree. Exotics spread quickly and can overtake pastures and hammocks and reduce the amount of forage available for livestock and wildlife.
The Platt family, from left, Jenna, Shane, Carol and Josh.