For more information:
Walt Land
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landw@doacs.state.fl.us
 

florida-agriculture.com

Agriculture Press Release

October 25, 2001

Bronson to present Ag-Environmental Awards to two farming operations during ceremonies in Orlando

ORLANDO ó Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles H. Bronson will present awards to two agricultural operations in recognition of their leadership in promoting progressive environmental practices.

The 2001 Commissionerís Agricultural-Environmental Leadership Awards will be presented during a breakfast ceremony at the Florida Farm Bureau Federationís 60th annual convention in Orlando on Monday, October 29. The awards program is now in its eighth year and has recognized a total of 26 winners.

"The Ag-Environmental Leadership Award program spotlights the environmentally innovative farming practices of our stateís growers and ranchers," Bronson said. "Focusing public attention on their efforts helps illuminate Florida agricultureís dedication to preserving the environment and conserving natural resources while helping ensure a continuing supply of food and fiber."

This yearís winners are Barthle Brothers Ranch, located in San Antonio, Florida, and Carlton 2x4 Ranch, located in Arcadia.

"Agriculturalists are the original environmentalists," Bronson said. "As a lifelong rancher, I have always respected the bond between man and the environment. We depend on the land, and are charged with being its true stewards as we strive to meet the growing demands of our nation and the world."

Nominations 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 stateís Water Management Districts, the Florida Farm Bureau, the Florida Cattlemenís 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, Floridaís Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Florida Citrus Mutual, and the Florida Forestry Association.

--Note to news media organizations: 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 (850) 487-8000. Specify beta, 3/4-inch or VHS format.

Barthle Brothers Ranch, San Antonio, Florida

The family-owned and operated Barthle Brothers Ranch of San Antonio, Florida, was formed in the 1930s by businessman J.A. Barthle. His sons, Joseph and Albert, from whom the ranch takes its name, carried on their fatherís work. Today, J.A. Barthleís grandsons and daughters carry on the family tradition with the help of their children.

The 8,000-acre ranch operates in the face of encroaching urban development that has had a major impact on their land. Despite this, the Barthle Brothers Ranch remains a model of agricultural diversity with each family member contributing his or her unique strengths.

"I really enjoy working with the quarter horses. I guess thatís something I inherited directly from my dad," said Randy Barthle. "Larry, who is interested more in genetics and trying to improve the cattle herd, keeps the production records on the cattle. Mark is heavily into wildlife and conservation issues and mechanics. And Jan takes care of the books. She does a good job of keeping us financially solvent."

At the center of the family is their mother, Jeanette Barthle Sutton, author and past president of the National Cattlewomenís Association.

"Itís been great to have them close by and to be able to see them and the grandchildren regularly," she said. "Weíre a very close-knit family."

The Barthle Brothers Ranch is a multifaceted agricultural enterprise located in Pasco County. The spread is home to a 1,000-head commercial cow/calf operation, utilizing a three-breed rotational system of Angus, Hereford and Brahman. Currently the ranch has 75 head of Brahma brood cows from a herd that began in the 1940s.

While cattle is its primary agricultural venture, Barthle Brothers puts great pride in its quarter horse herd. The cattle have always been worked from horseback, and, since 1946, this herd has been the source of working horses as well as additional income for the ranch.

"We sell them for ranch-using horses," Randy said. "They make calf-roping horses, steer- wrestling, team-roping, cutting horses, barrel horses. They run the gamut of performance-type horses."

Rotational grazing of the cattle allows another agricultural enterprise for the ranch: Bahia sod and grass seed. The operations, which includes harvesting both Pensacola and Argentine Bahia, allow the ranch to recoup fertilizer costs on pastures while increasing grass production for the cattle.

Barthle Brothers returned to one of its original crops -- pine trees -- as an additional source of income that would enhance the beauty of ranch and increase the amount of wildlife. Like many Florida ranches, Barthle Brothers harvested the timber on its property in the 1940s to pay for the ranchís land. In the 1980s, hoping to generate future revenue from rough, unimproved pastures, the Barthles joined the Forest Incentive Program. Working with the Forestry Service, they successfully established long leaf pines which have the added benefit of opening up more area for wildlife and cattle.

Unfortunately, the cypress trees on the ranch havenít fared as well. Well fields drilled by Pinellas County, which needed additional sources of drinking water for the Tampa Bay areaís growing population, have adversely affected most of the lakes on the property. Big Fish Lake, once the ranchís 300-acre centerpiece, has been reduced to only 40 acres. By lowering the surrounding water table, the well fields have dried up most of the areaís wetlands -- wetlands which the cypress trees and wildlife need to survive.

"Changes occurred on the ranch due to the draw-down and the lack of water," Jan Barthle Dillard said. "First there was a loss of that wetland environment and the animals that went with it. The cypress trees themselves were not under water. Thereís a certain percentage of the time theyíre supposed to be under water and they certainly werenít getting it. So weíve had trees dying."

"When I was a child we were 50 mile from Tampa," Randy said. "Weíre now 30 miles from Tampa -- and we havenít moved a bit. So itís coming. Itís getting closer and closer all the time."

Even though urban growth is affecting the ranch and surrounding area, the family is determined to preserve their land. Practicing good stewardship is important to this ranching family and it is apparent in the way they manage their property for wildlife.

"As far as managing the overall deer herd, thatís accomplished basically by being good stewards of the land and following good management practices with controlled burns," Mark Barthle said. "All of these animals that thrive on the ranch are native species that developed on their own over the centuries in Florida, and itís simply managing the land the way Florida used to manage itself with lightning strikes causing burns that regenerated the land."

Working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Barthle Brothers developed a successful deer management plan that includes hunting leases with much stricter harvest guidelines than required by the state. Proof of the programís success can be found in the Florida Buck Registry. Based on horn size, many bucks on the property have qualified for the registry -- with several in the top 125 of all time. The ranch is also home to bald eagles, gopher tortoises, and a variety of animals that are native to the Florida scrub land.

The Barthles have long been ambassadors for the agriculture industry. Realizing that educating the urban population is crucial in order for agriculture to survive and prosper, the family has taken time to open the ranch to various organizations from legislators to civic groups, allowing the public to see and understand the commitment theyíve made.

"Even though it takes away from your time on a ranch, youíve got to get involved in this process," Larry Barthle said. "If you stay home and say ĎIím going to let someone else take care of it, then itís not going to get done. It takes a lot of time but itís worth it, because youíre protecting your rights, your childrenís rights, the generation behind you. Youíve got to get involved to protect yourselves and everyone else in the ag industry."

Barthle Brothers is more than a ranch, itís a family. It is an example of Floridians maintaining their cultural heritage in cattle ranching while protecting the natural environment.

"Itís something that when youíre on the property you know that youíre carrying on something that your father started and your grandfather before your father," Mark said. "You have that connection. And thatís the important thing to me."

Carlton 2x4 Ranch, Arcadia, Florida

Few structures and fewer fences stood on the pastures when they were purchased in 1978 -- the 5,700-acre piece of tame grass was virtually a clean slate for the new owners. Albert Carlton and his wife, Dr. Barbara Carlton, saw an opportunity to do something that few ranchers today have the chance to do -- build a diversified and self-sustaining ranch from scratch. More than that, these dedicated conservationists dreamed of creating a ranch that was not only economically viable, but also environmentally sound.

Seventh-generation Florida agriculturists, the Carltons knew they would need the help of skilled ranch managers to achieve their goal of creating a treasure for their grandchildren -- the ninth generation. They hired Pat and Brady Pfeil, experienced cattle people and knowledgeable rangeland managers, whose sons, Brad and Orin, would grow up on the ranch.

Combining the Carltonsí vision and the Pfeilsí expertise, the Carlton 2x4 Ranch, located south of Arcadia in DeSoto County, was designed with the long term in mind. Cattle and land management were integrated, with a strong emphasis on encouraging the presence of wildlife. Water controls and fences were erected where they would best utilize forage resources 20 years into the future.

The Carlton 2x4, one of Floridaís first brucellosis-free ranches, is home to more than 1,000 head of Brangus cattle. The ranch, always at the forefront of cattle production under Brady and Patís management, has kept extensive computer-based information on the cattle since 1980. This record keeping has allowed the Carlton 2x4 to become a source-verified supplier of beef. Maintaining ownership of its herd all the way through processing -- a practice new to Floridaís ranchers -- demands extra care.

"If there is a good or bad part about our product it will come back to us and weíll know about it," Pat Pfeil said. "How we handle our cattle in the pens, how well we protect them against diseases, and what type of genetics we use -- every bit of that weíre accountable for all the way to the table. Thatís going to become more important as we look at international pressures from various diseases coming in. Now it goes right down to food safety issues, so we feel really good to be out on the forefront in that area."

The 2x4 is also a pioneer of rotational grazing. Balancing the number of cattle in relation to the amount of acreage and frequently moving the herd prevents overgrazing of pastures. This protects the forage root system, allowing the pastures to regenerate.

To help the quality of the forage, the 2x4 is working with the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) on a project to increase legumes in their pastures. By feeding legume seed through mineral, the cattle will introduce it into the pastures with the lowest impact possible. An earlier project with the NRCS helped the ranch reduce its fertilizer application by 80 percent.

In 1987, the ranch diversified further by converting some of its flatwoods to citrus groves. To ensure health to the ecosystem, the 2x4 embarked on a long-term study of its water quality with assistance from the state of Florida. The ranch hired an engineering firm to design the 640-acre grove, and was permitted by the South Florida Water Management District.

The design used state-of-the-art technology for precise control of water flow, including under-bed drain tiles and a system of canals to feed a reservoir. More than 10 years of water quality testing have established that water leaving the system shows no trace of pesticides or herbicides. In fact, itís the source of drinking water for the cattle herd -- another testament to its quality.

As a water-saving measure, microjets deliver water directly to the roots of the trees. Small amounts of liquid fertilizer are injected through this system many times during the year, allowing the trees to use the fertilizer more efficiently.

Tensiometers monitor the groveís moisture level, and help determine when to irrigate. Irrigation is performed at night to avoid evaporation. Scouting the groves enables Brady to know when to apply pesticides. This allows targeting specific pests, which helps maintain a better biological balance.

The Carlton 2x4 Ranch has demonstrated that intensive citrus production and a healthy ecosystem can go hand in hand when Best Management Practices are applied.

As part of its long-term plan, the ranch has established 160 acres of cypress in recovered wetland areas. Stands of long leaf and slash pine have been planted as both a renewable resource and a source of wildlife habitat.

Of paramount importance to the 2x4 Ranch was the preservation and conservation of wildlife. Dr. Carlton, an avid hunter since childhood, has encouraged the Pfeils to give significant attention to increasing the variety and amount of wildlife on the ranch. Working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Pat and Brady have established a balanced deer herd. Turkey and dove populations have flourished. Some improvements come slowly.

"The quail is in steep decline in all parts of the United States," Dr. Carlton said. "Iíve made a commitment to try to reverse that on our ranch. Iíve not been successful although Iíve been working at it for about 15 years, having gone from predator control, to planting feed plots, burning, chopping -- all the recommenced procedures. But I think the quail decline issue is far greater than just habitat management. So weíre trying to just increase any type of wildlife or water fowl on the ranch in any way we can."

For the better part of 20 years the Carltons and the Pfeils have combined efforts with research groups and regulatory agencies, finding ways to enhance the native habitat, maximize the wildlife potential, and improve agricultural practices.

"I feel honored to be called a steward; I feel honored to be called a cattleman," Brady Pfeil said. I try to remember to thank the Lord daily for the job that Heís given me here to be a steward. To have a place to raise my kids."



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