I hope everyone has been beating the heat. This is the hottest summer I can remember. It has been a busy first month as your FCA President. The 85th annual FCA convention went very well, with thousands from the cattle industry gathering in Marco Island. I truly appreciate the effort of our grassroots members making the time to participate. I hope everyone is having a prosperous shipping season with calves being heavy and healthy.
It has been exciting to see all our members and families that have used the hashtag #shareyourheritage on social media. There is so much history that needs to be shared to the average citizen in what we do every day as cattlemen. Our forefathers were true pioneers that paved the way for our generation to be able to continue ranching as we do today. This movement of #shareyourheritage is going to be a culture change. We as cattlemen are going to have to continue to share our past heritage and show how we, as conservationists, have taken care of the land for as many as seven generations. There are one thousand people moving to our great state of Florida every single day. These new Floridians are unaware that the state that they think of as the home of Mickey Mouse and beautiful beaches was once a very harsh landscape, infested with mosquitos, and covered by rough palmetto flats and swampy terrain. The previous generations of Florida ranchers were the ones that made this state inhabitable and useful to raise cattle on. These families were also the early leaders in the state and counties that are now changing so drastically as more and more people move into our beautiful ranchlands. I would like for you to continue to get our heritage message out by telling our story of how we care for the land and our way of life that is so conservation driven. Our industry wouldn’t have lasted for these numerous generations if we had not taken pride in caring for our way of life as we have. This message and these stories need to be shared to enlighten those new Floridians.
Your association has been hard at work trying to educate the new governing board members of various water management districts on what you do to support and enhance the environment on your ranching operations. We are hosting numerous ranch tours to showcase Dispersed Water Projects, BMPs, wildlife habitat and wetland restoration. This is taking a lot of effort and I certainly appreciate those that are opening their gates and allowing these educational tours on their pristine ranches. As I mentioned before, this is an educational process in an effort to bring about a culture change in the way governmental decision makers view our industry’s environmental impact, and we as ranchers must be willing to exhaust all opportunities to see it through. I will be calling on many of you that have those beautiful, pristine ranches to share your place with those uneducated members of the Florida legislature or water management governing boards that need to see what we do for the environment. I know this approach is outside of our comfort zone but when we get an “outsider” on the ranch it is amazing the positive perception that is formed about what we do once they can see the beauty of our ranching landscapes. Most of these people have not had the opportunity to see a Bald Eagle in the wild or to experience a herd of deer flourishing on what God created and that we are entrusted to steward. If we as ranchers want to continue to enjoy and prosper then we must change the negative perception of what we do by educating the people that don’t know. We have to do this by opening our gate and telling our story.
Along those same lines of environmental issues, the FCA has approved to hire a couple of contract staff to represent you at water management board meetings and workshops as well as other important meetings that effect our ranching way of life. There will be a representative for North Florida as well as a South Florida representative. With the increased environmental pressure being put on our ranch lands the FCA Executive Committee along with several past presidents of FCA decided that it was of utmost importance that we as ranchers are represented at these meetings. These new staffers will attend meetings and represent you, the grassroots FCA member. This is part of the culture change that I mentioned earlier. We must change the perception of the ranching community. The Florida ranching industry has a very bountiful story in what we do for the environment, water storage, habitat management and greenspace and we need to be at the table telling this story. I was told once, “If you’re not at the table then you’re on the menu.” Well we have definitely been on the menu for some time, but with your support we are going to take our seat at the table to share our story in a positive manner.
The JFCA had a very large, extremely hot but successful 2019 State Beef Show in Tampa just a couple weeks ago. I have shown cattle since I was nine years old at various state, county and some national shows. I also have raised three kids showing cattle all over the state for the past twelve years. Our Junior Florida Cattlemen’s Association is the best in the nation! I appreciate all the sponsors, parents and amazing volunteers that have made this show a success over the last ten years. Not only did the JFCA have an outstanding show, but they also elected a new slate of officers that will represent Florida Juniors during the next year, they had a livestock judging competition, a stockman quiz and a very educational demonstration by Kirk Stierwalt, national recognized cattle fitter. I commend our JFCA members and challenge them to #shareyourheritage whether they are first generation showmen, or their families have been showing since cattle were knee high.
The Florida Cattlemen’s Leadership Academy Class V (FCLA) graduated 12 outstanding young cattlemen in June. It was my pleasure to have been their mentor over the past year as we traveled all over that state staying at beautiful ranch camps where we were trained in Beef issues, promotion and media. This is a great learning experience with a bonding of fellow young cattlemen that will last a lifetime. To date the FCLA has graduated 56 participants with 22 of them moving into a leadership role with FCA as committee chair or vice chair and many more now in leadership roles at the county level. The experience and bonding of this program is valuable to our future Florida cattle industry. FCLA Class VI has just been selected by me and President-Elect Gene Lollis. Again, this year we had an outstanding group of candidates to select from. These young leaders will have the exciting experience to travel with Gene all over the state and learn from some of the most talented ranchers about the Beef industry.
In closing, I would encourage you to take the time to recruit a new member. Our association is only as strong as our membership. We need more like minded cattlemen, sod harvesters, hunting lease holders and allied businesses to join our association to strengthen our position on the many challenges we face every day. Please make plans to attend the FCA Fall Quarterly in Plant City on September 12 & 13 because we have several issues we need help working on. If you have any issues or concerns that we can assist with, please feel free to reach out.