The 1989 Winner: Belle Jeffords
Belle Jeffords was "Woman of the Year in Agriculture" for 1989. She was the fifth recipient of the award, which recognizes woman who have made outstanding contributions to Florida agriculture. As a wife, mother of four, businesswoman and community leader, Jeffords’ life is a striking reminder of the countless women who make a difference in Florida agriculture.
A native Floridian, Jeffords was the youngest of 12 children who grew up on a family farm in Gilchrist County. But tragedy struck early, when both her parents died while she was in her early teens. While living with a sister in Alachua, northwest of Gainesville, Jeffords met her husband, Roy. The couple lived on the Jeffords’ homestead , raising corn, peanuts, tobacco and cattle, along with four children.
But tragedy struck again when her husband died in 1960, leaving her with four daughters, ranging in age from four to 12 years old. Despite a family dispute over ownership of the land and her own medical problems, Jeffords clung to the farm. Jeffords farmed up to 500 acres with the help of one hired man, C.B. Freeman, who began working on the farm in 1947.
Meanwhile, Jeffords was also active as a scout leader, youth leader and in the Parent Teacher Association. As her children left home, Jeffords increased her activity in a variety of organizations at the county, state and national level.
She served two terms as president of the Florida CowBelles Association (now Florida Cattle Women, Inc.) and was also active in the Alachua County Cattlemen’s Association, the Alachua Women’s Club and the Alachua Methodist Church Women’s Missionary Society.
She chaired the Alachua County Soil and Water Conservation District, was president of the Florida Soil and Water Conservation Auxiliary, Agri-fest chairman, American National CattleWomen membership co-chairman and chairman of the Florida CattleWomen, Inc. legislative committee.
The Florida beef industry has benefited most from Jeffords’ leadership. While serving as president of the CowBelles, she initiated a scholarship program at the University of Florida an awards program for CowBelle members. She was also the state chairman in 1978 of the first Florida Beef Cook-Off, which is now a major beef promotion event. As district chairman of the state Beef Referendum Committee, Jeffords traveled across the state, urging cattlemen to support the Beef Check-Off program which passed in 1988.
For many years of dedicated service, Jeffords has been named Outstanding CattleWoman of Florida, Outstanding CowBelle of Florida, and an honorary member of the University of Florida’s Block and Bridle Club.
Concerned about the impact increasing ad valorem taxes and environmental regulations are having on farmers, Jeffords was also involved with committees in Alachua County dealing with long-range planning and green space.