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Florida-Agriculture.com
Division of Marketing and Development
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Mayo Building, M-9
407 South Calhoun Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0800
(850) 617-7300

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Adam H. Putnam, Commissioner

Butler Oaks Farm

Lorida, Florida

Robert L. “Bob” Butler of Butler Oaks Farm has made it a priority to find new and more efficient ways to manage the nutrients that come off his land. Lake Okeechobee, the wellspring of the Everglades and a backup drinking water source for millions of Floridians, has long suffered from phosphorus pollution. By reducing phosphorus runoff from his dairy, located on the Kissimmee River, Butler has taken extraordinary efforts to improve the quality of water entering the lake.

Butler Oaks became one of the few operators to voluntarily participate in the South Florida Water Management District’s Dairy Best Available Technologies (or BAT) program, its most intense water quality program to date. Butler has reconfigured his dairy’s water management system to capture and contain virtually all his surface water runoff for reuse on the farm. An edge-of-farm treatment system encircling the dairy’s entire production area holds stormwater in a series of ditches and berms before delivering it to a retention area. Should stormwater need to be released, it undergoes chemical treatment before leaving the property.

The farm has also been converted from a traditional dairy where the cows graze in pastures, to a free-stall confinement dairy with advanced self-contained waste-handling technology. The new model allows for better collection and control of animal wastes. In a partnership with the Farm Pilot Project Coordination, Inc., and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Butler Oaks is experimenting with new ways to process waste from the barns to create marketable manure. The wastewater, meanwhile, is collected and reused to irrigate hay pastures, which in turn are harvested to feed the cows. The fact that Butler was able to accomplish this reconfiguration of his dairy during difficult hurricane years is further evidence of his commitment to natural resource conservation.

A spokesperson for his industry and for conservation, Butler frequently opens his farm for educational tours to demonstrate the latest in environmental technology and Best Management Practices. He has helped educate policymakers, regulators, activists, members of the media, and students about the importance of agriculture and about farmers’ efforts to seek solutions to water pollution and other environmental problems.

Butler also brings the farming perspective to regulatory and agency meetings as a member of the South Florida Water Management District Water Resources Advisory Commission’s Lake Okeechobee Committee.

A wide array of industry groups and dairy-related professional organizations has also benefited from his leadership skills. He is past president of Dairy Farmers, Inc., and has served on the boards of Southeast Milk, Inc., the Florida Beef Council, the Okeechobee County Farm Bureau, the Florida Farm Bureau Dairy Advisory Committee, the Kissimmee River Advisory Committee, Dairy Management Inc., and the University of Florida’s SHARE Council and Dairy Check-off Committee. In 1982 he was named Florida’s Outstanding Young Dairy Farmer, and in 1994 he received the Okeechobee County Farm Bureau President’s Award.

Bob Butler comes from a third-generation Florida farming family. He graduated from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, Georgia, and studied agricultural economics at the University of Florida. In 1972 he started working at his father’s dairy, Butler’s Dairy, Inc., where he served as vice president. He has served as president of his own dairy, Butler Oaks Farm, Inc., since 1997. Today, Butler and his wife, Pam, live in the Lorida-Fort Bassinger area. They have three grown children, Ben, Katie, and Will.

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