As I complete my first full month as President of FCA, and prepare the second of my President’s messages, I’ve struggled to find the time to get this message written. You see, like many ranchers across South Florida, we are starting to ship calves. Shipping time for the Seminole Tribe of Florida (STOF) in many ways is just like shipping at any other family’s Florida Cattle Ranch; cowhands meeting up before daylight, gathering cattle, parting off and weighing up sale calves, all while trying to stay cool in the heat and humidity, and (due to an abundance of rain) slogging through muddy cowpens, followed up by a hearty meal cooked and served up by other family members. There are differences however, that make shipping at the Brighton and Big Cypress Reservations unique events. You see, there are 67 cattle owning families that are part of the STOF Cattle Program, with 67 different sets of cowpens on 67 separate ranches. Since all the calves raised on those operations are marketed together, along with the calves owned by the Seminole Tribe itself, they’ve got to all be weighed, sorted and shipped together. For that reason we at the STOF ship all of our cattle from two sets of main shipping pens. At the Brighton Reservation the historic “Marsh Pens” are used, and the “BC Shipping Pens” can be found seventy miles to the South on the Big Cypress Reservation. Each day during the almost two consecutive weeks of shipping, a couple of separate cow crews gather the cattle on a few of the 67 operations, sort off the sale calves and haul them by gooseneck to the shipping pens. At the central shipping pens, that day’s calves are sorted, grouped, weighed and loaded onto a semi-trailer to begin their journey to the next stage of the cycle.
This process of shipping on the reservation, actually reminds me a little of the Florida Cattlemen’s Leadership Academy (FCLA). Just the other day FCA President Elect Matt Pearce and myself, looked over the applications collected from ranches and operations all over the state, and had to make the tough choice of only allowing “12 on the truck”, or more plainly put; selecting the 12 excellent men and women that will be a part of FCLA Class V. They are a very talented group of individuals ready to obtain the skills that will serve them well both in the cattle industry and personally. Congratulations to those selected! We were blessed this year to have an overabundance of qualified applicants, and while not all are able to participate in FCLA Class V (which starts this month and will wrap up with Class V graduation in June, 2019) we hope that those not selected will apply to be in future FCLA Classes.
The experience I obtained this past year as President Elect, with Class IV, granted me a fulfilling insight into different perspectives of ranching and land conservation statewide. When all 12 members of Class IV graduated in June at Convention, it raised the total of FCLA graduates to 44. Out of those 44 graduates, 19 are now in leadership roles with the state, and many of the others are leaders in their County Associations. The FCLA program is certainly bearing fruit for the Association, and I believe the Florida Cattle Industry as a whole.
A vibrant FCLA program will ensure that we continue to have strong leadership waiting to take those reins well into the future of the cattle industry, so please continue nominating promising individuals. We continue to closely monitor ELD issues and will continue the fight for a permanent exemption. Traceability is still actively being pursued with many meetings set up for discussion to address the issue.
I want to thank all the folks that have been using the #showyourpassion hashtag. The response has been phenomenal. Along with knowledge, it helps us all spread a love for what we do. Your passion can be anything that challenges you, while motivating you. I encourage all of you to continue to tell your story and to show everyone how passionate and enthusiastic we all are about our livestock and land. I look forward to meeting those of you that I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting. Remember to always take the opportunity to recruit a new member, their operation, and our association will be strengthened by their participation.
“It is your passion that empowers you to be able to do that thing you were created to do”