By Lynetta Griner
I inherited my parents’ passion for taking care of land, protecting the water and providing wildlife refuge. Visitors to our farm are often surprised to learn this commitment to sustainability goes back to the 1950s. The same is true on many generational farms across the country. Sustainability may be all the rage in today’s society, but it was a quiet commitment of farmers generations ago.
Usher Farm, started by my parents, is located very near the historic Suwannee River and the Gulf of Mexico. The river and Gulf are directly impacted by upland land use so it’s extremely important that we use Best Management Practices (BMPs) on the farm to ensure that we don’t contribute to any degradation of those important waters.
We primarily grow slash pine timber and we also raise beef cattle. The land use is rotated so that nutrients that are depleted by the growth of the pine timber can be replenished when it is put into pasture or crop production. We work hard to ensure that we clean up and replant any harvested sites as soon as possible since pine timber is a long-term crop. It’s a never-ending cycle at our farm.
Land not utilized for growing timber or cattle is used for growing grain sorghum for silage feed and hay for the cattle. Drip irrigation and controlled used of fertilization are employed to augment those crops.
Usher Farm is home to flourishing wildlife. As landowners, we never tire of spotting deer, turkey, eagles and other incredible creatures. At the same time, we constantly battle destructive feral hogs that can ruin a pasture overnight!
It’s a beautiful landscape that our family enjoys sharing with other family members, friends and visitors.
Our stewardship of these natural resources is vital to the success of our commercial operations on the farm. The economic viability of our operations is critical for us to continue doing the work we love in agriculture.
We recognize that our land provides much more than the timber and cattle we raise. It also provides water storage and filtration, carbon storage, oxygen generation, wildlife habitat and the list goes on.
I believe that it is imperative that policy makers and society as a whole recognize the intangible eco-system benefits that agricultural lands provide and incentivize landowners and operators to employ or enhance practices that promote those benefits.
The University of Florida’s Institute of Food & Agricultural Sciences is in the process of using artificial intelligence to help quantify eco-system services provided by agricultural lands as a first step toward that recognition. That’s just one example of many efforts underway to measure the value of the great work being done on farms across America.
The pressure is on to develop agricultural lands into other, more intensive uses, especially in my home state of Florida where more than 1,000 people move in each day. Agriculture is a rewarding and worthy occupation, but it is not an easy one. The days can be long, weekends and holidays are often interrupted, and the margins are growing smaller and smaller.
That is why we must look for creative ways to encourage farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to continue to do what they do so well – provide food, fuel and fiber for the world while keeping our natural resources safe and protected for future generations.
Lynetta Griner is a Florida Farm Bureau member, proud participant in Florida Farm Bureau’s This Farm Cares program and winner of numerous conservation awards. Lynetta, her husband, Ken, and their son, Korey, are featured in a video commissioned by the American Farm Bureau Federation highlighting their commitment to sustainability.