By Cacee Hilliard @FlaFarmBureau
Environmental stewardship is the beating heart of Florida’s Suwannee Valley. Home to the most freshwater springs in the nation, the Suwannee Valley encompasses more than 15 Florida counties and is comprised of the greatest agricultural acreage in the state. For more than 20 years, Florida Farm Bureau, in cooperation with the Suwannee River Partnership, has recognized farmers and ranchers who demonstrate exemplary efforts to be good environmental stewards. By implementing Best Management Practices, or BMPs, farmers and ranchers effectively manage their use of water and natural resources to protect the environment.
Farmers and consumers both have the same goal in mind: clean water for all. The CARES program assists with messaging to diverse audiences, helping to tell the critical stories of more than 900 farmer and rancher recipients and their efforts to protect water quality and natural resources. Water quality remains a contentious issue in Florida, and Florida Farm Bureau is proud to recognize those producers who stand at the forefront to protect it.
Farm Bureau’s County Alliance for Responsible Environmental Stewardship program (CARES) is a tremendous success due to the meaningful partnership with more than 60 public agencies. Some of the agencies involved include USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Florida’s water management districts, agricultural organizations, businesses and local governments.
Each spring, these partners gather as the collective Suwannee River Partnership to recognize local farmers and ranchers who have been nominated for the CARES program. Due to the pandemic, the spring event was canceled in 2020.
The 2021 CARES recognition event takes place on Nov. 18, in conjunction with Farm-City Week (Nov. 17-24). Recognizing farmers and ranchers for their excellent environmental stewardship during this week helps highlight how both rural and urban communities have an important role in protecting our state’s natural resources and diverse ecosystems.
Florida Farm Bureau is looking forward to honoring 20 outstanding environmental stewards on this day with a luncheon and guest speakers. We will continue to tell their story to an online audience throughout the holiday season.
Visit www.ThisFarmCARES.org to learn more about the program and meet past CARES recipients.
Cacee Hilliard is assistant director of public relations for the Florida Farm Bureau Federation.