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

Video Script

Title: 1995 Ag-Environmental: Deseret Ranches of Florida
Type: Agricultural-Environmental Leadership Award
Length: 3:53
Year: 1995

There is a word from the Book of Mormon that is well-suited for Florida cattlemen: "Deseret." Meaning "honeybee," it represents industry, thrift and hard work. These attributes are at the heart of the Deseret Ranches of Florida.

Acquired by the Mormon Church in the 1950s, Deseret Ranches spans 300,000 acres in Osceola, Orange and Brevard counties. With 30,000 head, Deseret has the largest number of cattle of any ranch in the United States. The operation is also engaged in citrus, timber and sod production, and wildlife management.

Deseret Ranch is considered a model for large-scale environmentally sensitive operations. The philosophy of hard work and thrift is most apparent in the area of water quality. By more effectively using surface water for irrigation, the ranch has decreased its use of ground water. It also uses microjet and drip irrigation to reduce total water consumption.

Addressing the issue of stormwater discharge led to the development of the ranch's premier water management project. Creating five retention ponds -- including the massive Jug Island pond -- the ranch devised a system through which runoff can be filtered naturally.

Paul Genho: We pump the stormwater discharge water into these retention ponds, allow them to spread out and go through natural filtration, man-made marshes, you remove some of the nutrients, you allow the biological materials to settle out. And then the water, when it reaches a certain level, gravity feeds out the other side of the retention pond."

The result is an increase in the water's dissolved oxygen level before it is discharged into the St. John's River. At present, approximately 70 percent of stormwater run-off within the ranch's boundaries is filtered through these areas.

And the Jug Island project has provided additional environmental benefits:

Paul Genho: It created a 505-acre wetland habitat. And as it’s gone through transition from upland plants to wetland plants, we're seeing an increase in the wildlife use of that. The wading birds, the otters, the alligators; The Everglades snail kite has been seen here. We've got all kinds of endangered species using it.

By initiating voluntary conservation efforts and working in cooperation with regulators and local governments, Deseret Ranches demonstrates the benefits of acting locally to address environmental issues.

Paul Genho: There are really very few national environmental problems or even state environmental problems; there are local problems. The problems on the glades are different than the problems on the upper St. Johns. And so those solutions need to be developed, crafted locally by the people who it impacts. One of our guiding principles of our operation is to be resource-right. We want to make a profit but we also want to take care of the resource. We've been here for 50 years. We intend to be here a long time more.

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