Title: 1996 Ag-Environmental: Edward "Jack" Campbell
Type: Agricultural-Environmental Leadership Award
The Loveland Slough. It's hard to imagine that this gentle waterway was once a stagnant dumping ground. The eight-mile natural channel, clogged with trash, turned once-prime farmland into a risky flood-prone wasteland.
At a time when more and more farmland was being lost to urban encroachment, Edward "Jack" Campbell, a third-generation farmer, was determined to make a difference.
With his skill for making things happen, Campbell and local farmers, with no federal or state monies, cleared tons of debris from the Loveland Slough. As a result of the clean up, a wetlands for wildlife and an emergency drainage basin were created. And thousands of acres of farmland were utilized more efficiently.
His first major success, the Loveland Slough restoration typifies the forty-year career of agricultural-environmental spokesman, writer and activist, Jack Campbell.
While Campbell's distinguished career encompasses many aspects of agricultural and environmental concerns, his love for nurturing a garden for the pure and simple joy of it remains constant.
Edward “Jack” Campbell: I think gardening is one of the greatest pastimes in the world, and I'm surprised more farmers aren't involved, because if you like to see things grow and then this is a very special part; because instead of creating food, which is very important, you're trying to create beauty; that's also very important. I spend an awful lot of time and always have, always been involved with the gardens.
The beauty Campbell creates in his gardens is a reflection of his love for the farming community. For 16 years, Campbell served as an executive with the DiMare Corporation, a large South Florida-based agricultural operation. As secretary and treasurer of the South Florida Tomato and Vegetable Growers Association, he helped develop a cull-disposal procedure for growers. Campbell has also been deeply involved in community efforts which promote agriculture and the environment. He was appointed vice chairman of the governor's Everglades Resource and Management Advisory Board, which develops policies for the ASave the Everglades@ project. He also helped found and serves as chairman of the South Dade Soil and Water Conservation District. And to maintain zoning integrity to minimize urban sprawl, he founded the Redlands Citizens Association.
Campbell is also an active writer on the delicate relationship between agriculture and the environment.
Edward “Jack” Campbell: Urban needs are always being balanced in their favor, and agriculture is always balancing to the negative. There were always groups that said well, you know, you people in agriculture are poisoning our water and you're doing this and you're doing that, but they didn't have any scientific proof, but they were able to get away with it because it sounded good, I guess.
When South Florida's farmers were attacked for allegedly polluting the Biscayne Aquifer, Jack Campbell came to their defense. Personally soliciting funding and support, Campbell promoted a water quality study by the U.S. Geological Survey. The four-year, half-million-dollar study not only cleared local farms of adversely impacting the aquifer; it became the benchmark on water quality studies.
Though it retained the status of preferred land user in Dade County, the agricultural community couldn't prevent urban encroachment.
Edward “Jack” Campbell: Against urbanization of farmland, there's no recovery. There's no recovery. Once it’s built, it’s lost. And this is a real serious problem. Long-range danger is we're not going to be able to produce enough food to sustain our population properly without going to foreign sources and even those are not reliable. We need at least to give the people a choice. If they want to have vegetables grown in this country, we're going to have to have land to do it on.
In his renown, can-do spirit, Campbell looks for innovative solutions to the problems facing South Florida agriculture. Along with eco-tourism, agri-tourism – opening local groves and gardens to visitors – is a way to further demonstrate the area’s economic viability.
Building greenways throughout South Dade County is a first step toward agri-tourism. Upon their completion nearly 200 miles of trails, linking two national parks, will be available for activities including horseback riding, cycling, fishing and hiking. To get this done Campbell helped found the Redlands Conservancy, a group concerned with the quality of life in their South Florida community.
Seeing possibilities where none existed and taking the initiative to get the job done is what makes Jack Campbell a community leader. And Campbell would need every bit of his leadership skills to overcome what would be the defining moment for South Florida agriculture.
On August 24, 1992, a category 4 hurricane packing 165-mile-per-hour winds plowed through the farming communities around Homestead, Florida. As the winds howled throughout the night, no one was fully prepared for the destruction left in the wake of Hurricane Andrew. Although the entire industry was devastated, the South Dade Soil and Water Conservation District -- under Campbell's leadership -- directed a $50 million agricultural recovery effort.
Edward “Jack” Campbell: After the hurricane of course, one of the big problems is the groves were all decimated and our tree cover was almost totally down, so you had this massive amount -- millions of tons of debris. And the policy of the Army Corps of Engineers has was to burn. So we immediately at the district level went to bat to stop the burning.
Edward “Jack” Campbell: Instead of hauling all of the debris away in trucks through the federal programs, we were able to mulch right in the groves and just return it right to the ground. And we were told that this mulching program actually saved over $90 million. And consequently, we're real proud of the fact that it is now part of the Army Engineer's policy, instead of burning, to mulch.
One of Campbell's most significant accomplishments for the benefit of South Florida agriculture was the development of a practical soil amendment program. At the request of the Metro-Dade Water and Sewer Authority, Campbell began an innovative recycling program for the tons of sludge produced in Dade County each year.
Edward “Jack” Campbell: It wasn't properly processed. It was being hauled to landfills or wherever else they could dispose of it.
A method was developed of drying the waste to produce an environmentally sound compost, useful especially to the citrus industry.
Edward “Jack” Campbell: It really worked out. By separating it, then they had a good organic product that was marketable when it was cleaned up and properly processed.
Building on the success of this project Campbell, with the University of Florida, is currently developing another method to produce high organic composted soil using clean garbage and yard waste. The goal of the COW (or clean organic waste) Project is to reduce the amount waste going to landfills by 35 percent.
Looking for other ways to conserve and reuse, Campbell and the Soil and Water Conservation District established the Mobile Irrigation Lab. Since its inception, this voluntary project has evaluated over 300 systems. By implementing more efficient techniques, the lab's efforts and hard work has resulted in actual water savings of over 1.3 million gallons per year.
An example of natural efficiency, the wetlands were South Florida's primary water purification system. The once-common practice of filling in these marshy areas, now seen as detrimental, is being reversed. Under Campbell's direction, the South Dade Soil and Water Conservation District is participating in restoring the wetlands to their former state as a wildlife habitat and natural water system. Also as a part of this project, the dredged sand is used to rebuild area beaches damaged by erosion. Soils from the project are being utilized for agricultural and landscape purposes.
Campbell always looks for ways to adapt new technologies to improve farming efficiency. One such technology is low-level infra-red photography. Using color-enhanced aerial photos, farmers can inspect fields for irrigation efficiency, insect infestation, even the affects pollution months before they become apparent.
Using the same energy and enthusiasm he has demonstrated throughout Dade County, Campbell has created a wild life refuge of extraordinary beauty in his own back yard. With Carolyn, his wife of 45 years, Campbell enjoys the gardens as simply a great place to reflect.
Edward “Jack” Campbell: It's been a good life and a very rewarding life, and I think most of it has come from just -- or a lot of success that I've had have just simply come from looking at service as a way of life.
Campbell's success in protecting agriculture over the past forty years has been recognized through his induction into the Florida Agriculture Hall of Fame. Not one to rest on his laurels, Campbell remains active in community service, working with other individuals who volunteer their time and knowledge to maintain Florida's agricultural heritage.
Edward “Jack” Campbell: We've had a lot of good people, volunteers working with us from the IFAS tropical ag center and retired people and some great conservation people also. You have to hunt them out sometimes and we get together, and it can be pretty dramatic in what you can accomplish. And so, actually in serving the community and serving your church and serving your country even, and all elements of your environment, life is so much more interesting and viable. And if people learn that, certainly it's in the Bible for us to see, and it makes a big difference in your life. It makes life so much more interesting.