Title: 2001 Woman of Year: Barbara Carlton
Type: Woman of the Year in Agriculture Award
Before the sun comes up, Barbara Carlton meets with her ranch hands to talk about the days work. This is the way she starts most mornings. The men listen intently; Mrs. Carlton knows what needs to be done. She’s president and General Manager of the Mabry Carlton Ranch, 17,000 acres of mostly native Palmetto flatwoods consisting of a cow-calf operation, citrus, and sod. She took on the job in 1989 when her husband, Mabry, was killed in a plane crash. Following that tragic event, when asked who she would hire to run the ranch she was surprised.
Barbara Carlton: I just could not see how anyone could come in on a place this big and learn how to manage this place except through years of being here. And also I wanted to retain this place a lot like Mabry had done it. Some things, he was very modern, he liked to change. But he had some traditions that he never wanted changed. And we still try to keep some of those going today.
Before the morning is over, she takes on another one of her many roles, grandmother. Her 4 grandchildren will spend the day with her while their parents work. For Barbara Carlton this is not a chore, but one of her favorite things about life.
Barbara Carlton: Tending to the grandchildren is certainly something that I chose to do voluntarily. Both of the girls could not, did not particularly think that I should do that. They didn’t want my quality of life, the time that I did have free to be tied. But I just wouldn’t have it any other way. It has been the most interesting job that I have ever had in my life, tending to grandchildren. First of all, you want to be strict like you were with your children. But somehow they just have a little way of just saying things that you just laugh.
On this day the family has time together. One of their first stops is the pens where the men are about to work the cattle. Mrs. Carlton has participated in this hard work over the years, giving her insight for successful cattle management.
Around noon, a long standing tradition begins. As many ranches did in the past during a cow hunt, the Carlton’s cook lunch for the hands. Today, friends from all walks of life stop by the camp for some traditional Florida cooking.
After lunch, it’s back to work. Head bookkeeper is another of her many titles. She is rarely alone though. Granddaughters Carlton and Katie enjoy working with their grandmother.
Barbara Carlton: They’re always, they think they’re writing checks. And they want to play on the adding machine all the time. They think I’m playing on my adding machine. That’s what Carlton says. You won’t let us play with it but you play with it all day.
Lisa Carlton: How many women at 65 take care of four children under the age of six every day? She’s special in that she can be signing the payroll checks, taking care of the 2-year-old, the 4-year-old, the 6-year-old and the 18-month-old, keeping them all in line, and talking on the phone at the same time to a business partner or to somebody who might have dropped by the office that day. She’s just got an incredible passion for life. But she’s just got an incredible passion for life and a real God given ability to keep it all intact.
Later, she makes a visit to the fields with business partner Ken Harrison. The ranch recently has diversified by growing about 100 acres of sod. It’s new to Mrs. Carlton and she likes to keep an eye on the change.
Kim Carlton Bonner : She is 100% committed to the agricultural industry, to our business, to new ideas, and understanding that this business is a lot different than it was 25 years ago. And for someone who has watched it for so many years, I’m always continually amazed at how open and receptive she is to looking at something and saying maybe we should be looking at that. And so I think her willingness to continually evolve in an industry that is so traditional yet so progressive at the same time is quite unique.
There are about 200 acres of citrus on the Carlton ranch. These trees are about 40 years old and many will soon be replaced. Even so, the ripe fruit is still to the liking of Mrs. Carlton and foreman Joe Padgett.
Mrs. Carlton’s love for the ranch and the agriculture industry is undeniable. From sun-up to sunset she manages the ranch, ordering supplies, doing the books and caring for her grandchildren. Her life here is full of joy. She has comradery with her ranch hands, the devotion of her daughters, the love of her friends and little ones. But the secret of her energy comes from her belief.
Barbara Carlton: The Bible says the key to wise living is hard work, that’s sort of my philosophy: “work hard, spend your time wisely while you’re alive doing good, do whatever you have to do well, and life will be fine.” My job is fun. I love my job of being here every day. My employees are so great; and we have great families around us. We just have such a great community out here. I just hope I can just stay here. And I hope that when I die I’m buried here, just like Mabry is buried on the ranch. So I don’t want to ever leave. I’m gonna stay here forever.