The 1999 Winner: Vina Jean Banks
Vina Jean Banks was "Woman of the Year in Agriculture" for 1999. She is the 16th recipient of the award, which recognizes women who have made outstanding contributions to Florida agriculture. Banks is an energetic promoter of the beef industry in Florida, but perhaps even more significant are her efforts to educate young people about agriculture. She is an inspiration to all those with whom she has worked over the years at the local, state and national level.
A native of Iowa, where she grew up on a dairy and grain farm, Banks moved with her family to Riverview, Fla., in 1960. She married Windy Banks in 1968 and the couple bought land in Balm in southeast Hillsborough County, where they have raised two sons and operate a commercial cattle operation. She also helped her father develop a tropical fish farm, which Banks, her husband and oldest son, Cleve, bought in 1993 and have since expanded. For the last five years, Banks has been coordinator of livestock programs at the Florida State Fair, where she works with the youth livestock, steer, swine and sheep shows.
While working on the family cattle ranch and fish farm and at off-farm jobs over the years, Banks still has found time to make major contributions to cattle and youth organizations.
She has been a member of the Hillsborough County CattleWomen for more than 20 years serving as president, vice president, and treasurer, and chairing numerous committees for special events. As chairman of the organization's major fund-raising project for more than seven years, Banks helped generate sales of more than $100,000, with profits going to provide college scholarships for agriculture students, holiday food baskets for the needy, and other projects. She is a past president and has chaired numerous committees for Florida CattleWomen Inc.
Perhaps her greatest achievement was as chairman of the 1997 National Beef Cook-Off, the largest beef promotion project of the American National CattleWomen and its state affiliates. For the three-day event, held in Tampa, Banks coordinated 26 committees and helped generate publicity for the beef industry and Florida agriculture from CBS, CNN and other local, state and national media.
Banks has been active in 4-H, FFA and other youth organizations since she was a 4-H Club member while growing up in Iowa. In addition to working with youths in the livestock programs at the Florida State Fair, Banks has assisted the Ag In the Classroom program in Hillsborough County.
Among other awards, she has received the FFA Honorary Chapter Farmer Award, the Florida Outstanding CattleWomen Award, the Hillsborough County Outstanding Women in Agriculture Award, and the 4-H Leadership Award from the Hillsborough County Extension Service.