Agriculture Press Release

October 16, 1998

Crawford To Present Ag-Environmental Awards to
Longino Ranch and V&W Farms During Ceremonies in Tampa

TAMPA Florida Agriculture Commissioner Bob Crawford will present awards to two West-Central Florida agricultural operations in recognition of their leadership in promoting progressive environmental practices.

The "1998 Commissioners Agricultural-Environmental Leadership Awards" will be presented during a breakfast ceremony at the Florida Farm Bureaus annual convention in Tampa on Monday, October 26. The awards program is now in its fifth year.

"Over the years, many Florida farmers have with little fanfare implemented innovative environmental practices," Crawford said. "For too long these positive efforts have been overlooked. Its time that Florida farmers were publicly recognized for their environmental accomplishments. Thats the purpose of these awards."

Crawford said that modern farmers are increasingly sensitive to the environmental consequences of their practices and have made major strides in preserving the earths natural resources while harvesting its bounty to feed the nation and the world.

This years winners are B.T. "Buster" Longino, of Arcadia, owner of the Longino Ranch, and Charles Williams, of Avon Park, owner of V&W Farms, Inc.

Applications for the awards were received earlier this year by a screening committee composed of scientific and technical experts with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which selected the finalists. The two winners were then selected from the group of finalists by a selection committee made up of representatives from The Nature Conservancy, the states Water Management Districts, the Florida Farm Bureau, the Florida Cattlemens Association, the Florida Dairy Association, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, Floridas Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Florida Citrus Mutual, and the Florida Forestry Association.

"The winners should take pride in the fact that they were chosen not solely by a governmental committee, but by their peers as well," Crawford said. "They have been recognized by their colleagues and other highly respected groups as representing the pinnacle of environmental stewardship, setting worthy examples for others to follow."

Note to news media organizations:

The 1998 Ag-Environmental Awards will be presented during a breakfast ceremony held during the Florida Farm Bureau Federations annual meeting.

Date: Monday, October 26, 1998
Time: 8 a.m.
Location: Wyndham Westshore, 4860 West Kennedy Blvd., Tampa
Contact for credentials: Larry Ewing, Florida Farm Bureau, 352-374-1533

A broadcast-quality videotape outlining the accomplishments of the two winners is available from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. News organizations interested in obtaining a copy of the videotape should contact Walt Land, Rick Lurding or Gary Seamans at (904) 487-8000 or (904) 487-8180. Specify beta, 3/4-inch or VHS format.

Longino Ranch
Arcadia, Florida

For more than 50 years Berryman T. "Buster" Longino has worked the Longino Ranch. His hands-on approach gives him a unique perspective on the needs of his land, allowing him to be innovative in his land management techniques, and letting him see first-hand which practices are best for his ranch and the environment. Practicing an active conservation program since the 1950s, Buster continues to work tirelessly to enhance and improve soil, water, wildlife, and native habitats. His main goal: preserving this environmentally sensitive land while maintaining a viable cattle, citrus and timber operation.

Spreading across 8,000 acres in Southwest Florida, the Longino property was originally purchased by Busters father and grandfather in 1934. Starting out as a turpentine business, the family-run operation has diversified over the years. It was in the early days of his familys ownership that Buster began to develop his appreciation for the old-growth forests that covered nearly half of the property.

After serving in World War II, Buster went to the University of Florida to study forestry. As the turpentine industry in Florida gave way to timber harvesting, Busters forestry background allowed the family to improve the quality of timber being raised as a renewable crop. Recognizing the need to maintain a sustainable forest, Buster incorporated best management practices, including controlled burns, seed-trees, and selective cutting.

Buster also recognized the need to diversify. With just a few head of cattle and some advice from nearby ranchers, Buster began the Longino Ranch. Relying on the fertilization and grazing techniques developed by agencies like the Soil and Water Conservation Service and the University of Floridas Range Cattle Station, Buster created a cost-effective environment in which to raise cattle. Frequent rotation between improved and native pastures, as well as limiting the use of fertilizers, enhanced the surrounding habitat while providing high-quality native forage. Buster has cross-bred his cattle with a variety of European, African and Asian breeds, to find the right combination for his Southwest Florida ranch.

To prepare the property for citrus groves, the Longino Ranch hired engineers to develop a state-of-the-art irrigation and drainage system. Miles of pipe were laid below ground to deliver water to the trees. To maximize the systems efficiency, small sprinklers -- or microjets -- placed below each tree apply water directly to the roots. This method of irrigation nearly eliminates water loss due to evaporation and requires a fraction of the water formerly used in citrus groves. Although this system typifies Busters commitment to soil and water conservation, an even more impressive accomplishment came from addressing the groves drainage requirements.

During the late 1950s, the general recommendation from the Soil and Water Conservation Service was to drain wetlands. This increased the amount of usable farmland in South Florida. When Buster decided to add a citrus grove in the early 1990s, the Longino Ranch was required to dig an adjacent retention pond. Faced with an extensive excavation project, Buster turned to a solution more in harmony with nature: he would reestablish the nearby wetlands that had been drained forty years earlier.

The soil and water management practices used by Buster have increased the wildlife population, not only around the retention pond, but on the entire ranch. Deer, long missing from the area, now have a sizeable population on the ranch. Turkey and wild hogs are also abundant. Sandhill cranes are also frequently found on the property.

Buster has been active in community service, including work with the Soil and Water Conservation District, the Manasota Basin Board, Southwest Florida Water Management District Governing Board, and the Cattlemens Association. He has also served as a Sarasota County commissioner, as well as a Member of the Sarasota County Extension Service Advisory Committee for more than 12 years. As a spokesperson for environmentally sound agriculture, Buster often provides educational tours of the ranch to local schools, churches, and civic organizations.

Busters success is based on his willingness to do what is best in the long run. Diversification of the Longino Ranch has allowed Buster to sustain a viable agricultural operation despite the normal highs and lows of the beef, citrus and timber industries. It is his nature to evaluate and implement new ideas -- and always look toward the future.

V&W Farms, Inc.
Avon Park, Florida

The roots of V&W Farms Inc., are firmly entrenched in South Florida. The business began as the Williams family dairy in the Miami area during the 1920s. As Miami expanded, the dairy relocated to Pompano-Delray Beach. In 1965, V&W Farms moved to its present location west of Avon Park in Hardee County.

The V&W dairy has a well-deserved reputation for producing a quality product for Florida consumers, producing between 7,000 and 11,000 gallons of milk a day. Knowing that the cows are the most important part of the dairy operation, careful, hands-on attention is given to each of the 1,800 cows in the herd. Proper nutrition and individual care ensure a healthy cow, which in turn means a high-volume milk supply.

Moreover, its the solid commitment to the environment that makes V&W Farms a credit to Floridas agribusiness community. Improvements in conservation methods begun by owner Charles Williams have been continued by the leadership of his son-in-law, Joe Wright.

One of the first areas targeted for improvement by the dairy was its use of water. The V&W dairy designed a reclamation system that drastically cut down on the use of fresh water. Striving to create an environmentally sound waste management system, the dairy has implemented a procedure that utilizes an efficient and beneficial cycle.

Water used for wash-down purposes drains from the feed barns toward a central collection point. A canal then carries the water to a lagoon, where the breakdown of waste occurs. Next, the waste water is gravity-fed through an underground 24-inch pipe to the second stage of the lagoon, where anaerobic activity further breaks down the waste. The water then is pumped out for use in the irrigation systems and for flushing the feed barns.

The cows are fed in barns featuring free-standing stalls before being moved to the milking parlor. A 10,000-gallon tank filled with recycled waste water is used to flush out the barns after the herd has been fed. A torrent of water sweeps waste and debris from the sloped feed barn floor to the concrete canal. By reusing this waste water, the dairy is able to continually wash down the feed barns without any additional cost or labor.

A central pivot irrigation system is used to distribute the waste water over crops of corn, sorghum and hay fields, where remaining nutrients are absorbed. V&W now has about 475 acres for double-cropping corn and sorghum, and 150 acres for hay fields. The dairy is planting new, improved grasses developed by the Extension Service, the Soil and Water Conservation Service, and the University of Florida. These grasses are quick-growing and provide an excellent source of hay. The corn is chopped into silage and mixed with hay, sorghum, and other ingredients to yield a nutritious feed. This mixture is fed back to the herd and the cycle begins anew.

Water isnt the only thing recycled at V&W Farms. The dairy cows do their part to help out the environment, consuming bakery waste products, such as wet brewers grain, corn, cottonseed and soybean by-products. The cows are able to extract additional nutrients out of these waste materials and metabolize it in the manufacturing of milk.

V&W Farms conservation efforts are not limited to water reclamation. The dairy uses a system of crop rotation and leaving fields fallow to prevent soil erosion. The principle rotation is corn, sorghum, and then possibly winter crops such as oats and rye. Rotation not only prevents the soil from eroding, it also helps maintain the presence of nutrients vital to future crops.

Forming the farms southern boundary is a 600-acre tract of oaks, pines, and palmettos. V&W Farms plans to protect and preserve this old Florida native land by leaving it in its natural state.


For more information:

Terence McElroy

Walt Land

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