On Friday August 17th, 13 Innovative Farmers and Ranchers were recognized by University of Florida IFAS Extension and Farm Credit of Northwest Florida at the Jay Community Center in Santa Rosa County. This is the second year these two organizations have teamed up to honor a selection of the most innovative farmers in the Florida Panhandle.
The purpose of the Agriculture Innovator Recognition Program is to annually recognize innovative farmers and ranchers from 16 Florida Panhandle counties, from Jefferson west to Escambia County. In 2012, County Agriculture Extension Agents from 13 counties selected one Agricultural Innovator to recognize from each of the counties where they serve. Larry Ford, of Malone, was recognized as Jackson County’s Agricultural Innovator for 2012. Jackson County Extension Director, Doug Mayo, who chaired this year’s event, said “County Agents in the Panhandle nominated one of their brightest farmers and invited them to an awards luncheon. We hope that bringing these top-notch farmers all together in one place will help stimulate future innovation. Highlighting these creative and successful farmers will also help increase awareness of the diversity and innovation of today’s modern agriculture located right here in our area.”
From this distinguished pool of 13 County Honorees, an “Innovator of the Year” was selected to represent Northwest Florida. This year Larry Ford, who represented Jackson County, was selected as the Northwest Florida Agricultural Innovator of the Year. The criteria for this recognition were: farmers and ranchers who are innovative on their own operation, willing to work with Extension Agents and State Specialists to share their knowledge, and who take an active leadership role beyond the farm gate.
Ford is well known as an excellent cotton, peanut, corn and cattle farmer. He was a pioneer in Florida providing the first on-farm testing of conservation strip tillage, and is still working with researchers to refine this farming technique. Ford is also a collaborator with the University of Florida’s 10 year, sod-based crop rotation research project, which utilizes Bahia grass in rotation with peanuts and cotton to reduce nematodes, diseases, and other pests and increase crop yields. He has worked extensively to help the faculty of the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center and UF/IFAS Jackson County Extension Agents to develop innovative, but practical solutions to farming challenges. Ford has also been a leader in agriculture serving six years on the National Peanut Board, and as the chairman in 2006. While serving in this
capacity, Ford traveled with a team to Mexico and Japan to help promote the use of peanut products in these countries. Ford also has a passion for the future of agriculture. He currently serves as the Chairman of the Board for the Panhandle Youth Expo. This volunteer led organization sponsors an annual Youth Fair, so that area 4-H and FFA youth could continue to exhibit and show their livestock and other projects, after the American Legion discontinued the annual Jackson County Fair.