2022 Farm-City Awards Recap

A Farm-City Celebration has been held annually in Jackson County for 49 of the last 51 years.  The exceptions were 2001 when the Armory was not available after 911, and 2020 during the COVID19 pandemic.  For the past decade, this annual celebration has been a community breakfast, but in 2022, moved back to the traditional evening banquet format.  In 2022, 11 farm families were recognized, a non-ag business, a non-ag volunteer, and a scholarship winner.  The following highlights were compiled from contributions from the farm families being recognized, and cooperating agency personnel for presentation at the Farm-City Banquet held on November 15th, by Doug Mayo, Extension Director, UF/IFAS Jackson County Extension.

Outstanding Farm Family – Robert Chambliss Family

Robert Chambliss is a second-generation farmer in Jackson County.  His parents, Q.T. and Millie Chambliss were full-time farmers on a 171-acre farm with a 32-acre peanut allotment south of Malone, Florida.  They raised peanuts and corn, as well as hogs and cows.  Q.T. farmed with mules, so one of Robert’s major chores growing up was feeding and caring for the family mules.  It was a big day when Q.T. bought a Ford 8N tractor with two bottom plows.  Robert started farming with the tractor once he was tall enough to reach the clutch.  One of the key things he learned was to work hard and never give up.  Growing up on the farm, Robert watched the transition from mules to cabbed tractors and all of the technology upgrades to modern farming.

Robert left the farm to serve with the Navy Seabees in Vietnam, but married Mary two weeks before shipping out.  They have been happily married for 56 years.  Once his tour of duty was up, Robert returned home to Malone.  He worked 13 years for Keizer Ag Chemicals in Malone, spreading fertilizer and other duties to save up money to start his own farm.

Robert took over the family farm in 1976 and started farming full-time.  He farmed his parent’s farm on halves and rented five others for a total of 450 acres.  Robert had a diversified farming operation raising peanuts, corn, soybeans, watermelons, and hogs.  Like many Jackson County farmers, once the Whigham buying point closed 15 years ago, he switched from raising hogs to cross-bred commercial cows.  To help make help make ends meet, Robert also had a spreader truck service on the side.

Hurricane Michael was devastating on the farms in Jackson County.  Robert and his son Adam decided it was time for a change.  After cleaning up the mess, they stopped crop farming and converted the family land to pastures.  Robert’s pseudo-retirement plan was to focus on cattle production.  Cattle require less management, but they could keep the family farm productive.  He and Adam are now part-time cattle producers but do still raise oats for winter grazing and bale hay on halves with other local farms.

Mary Chambliss also had a career in agriculture.  For 37 years, she was the office manager for the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center near Greenwood.    She started working well before computers, so she had the joy typing research reports and scientific journal articles on a typewriter all while managing the budget at the station.  Mary was also the bookkeeper for the family farm, so her work didn’t end when she left the office.  She retired from the University of Florida in 2008.  She stayed active by working part-time at Ham Peanut for the next 13 years.

Andy and Adam are the third generation to grow up on the Chambliss family farm.  Both boys grew up helping their father and learning how to work hard.  Adam was an equipment operator for the crops, the farm mechanic, and tended to the family hog operation.  In high school, Adam worked part-time for Jim Bob Baxter who taught him cattle and hay production management.  Adam graduated from Malone High School in 2000.  He attended Chipola College’s Air Conditioning School and then received electrical training at the Washington-Holmes Technical Center in Chipley.  Adam first worked off the farm as an electrician wiring houses.  In 2003 he started working at Sunland where he worked his way up to Utilities Supervisor.  In 2005, Adam started farming 100 acres of rented crop land and later added 30 head of cattle.  But working full-time and farming part-time was challenging.  Adam followed in his mother’s footsteps and took a job at the University of Florida’s Research Station.  He works on the farm maintenance crew.  This gave him more time to farm part-time with his father to develop their cattle and hay operation.   Andy has worked full-time for Alabama Power for 20 years, but he is always ready to lend a hand when needed.

Robert, now 78, still helps Adam with the day-today operation of the farm.  He still checks the cows every day.  Mary still keeps the books.  Adam would like to expand the operation in the future.  His daughter Sara Alice loves the cows too.  She named one of their bulls fruit loop.  She may be the future farmer in the Chambliss family.

When asked for words of wisdom, Robert and Mary shared some great thoughts to encourage the next generation of farmers in the county.  Robert said, “Old equipment can do the job too, if you keep it in good repair.”  “Have a good wife with a job with health insurance.”  “Farming is a tight community.  Lots of people helped us, but we always made time to help them too.”   Mary said, “Farm life is a great way to raise kids.”  Adam said, “Farming is a great place to learn decision making.”

When you visit with them you can tell that the Chambliss family takes great pride in their heritage as farmers and feel blessed to have been a part of the dedicated farming community in Jackson County.

The Outstanding Farm Family award is sponsored by the Jackson County Farm Bureau.  Nominees are selected by a committee of past recipients of this recognition. 

Peanut Farmer of the Year – Matt Ball

Matt Ball is a 4th generation farmer from Cottondale. He began farming for himself in 2000 and in the early years his focus was largely cotton. Over time he began to work more closely with his dad Gregory on the family farm and eventually transitioned to running the farm which is when he changed his focus to niche market peanuts. Unlike most peanut farms in our area, Ball Farms specializes in green peanuts, or immature peanuts harvested while still immature for boiled peanuts.

Today, Matt now farms 450 acres of green peanuts, so his crop rotation is managed by leasing to other farmers for cotton production. While most farmers in the area grow runner type peanuts, he grows the Virginia and Valencia types. Virginia peanuts are often referred to as the jumbo or ballpark peanut, while Valencia peanuts are known for being sweet and having three or more kernels to a pod. Each type fits very well into his production system. Runner type peanuts have a long growing window from 140 to 150 days, but Valencia’s are a 90-day peanut and the Virginia’s are typically grown for120 days. The difference in these two maturity windows allow him to do serial plantings through the season to ensure that he continually has a harvestable crop at key times for his targeted market. Matt’s season kicks off with the first planting taking place in mid-March and the final harvest wrapping up the second week of November. Matt says that approximately 40% of his land is under irrigation. His farm is a mix of strip and conventional tillage, planted on 36-inch twin rows and some fields are planted after cover crops. He has three full time employees and eight who are seasonal that help during harvest. He ships peanuts from New York to California, and sells locally to grocery stores like Winn Dixie, Piggly Wiggly, and t individuals.

Matt wants to recognize his parents, Gregory and Jackie Ball, for all of their help and support. Without them the farm would have never begun, and he wouldn’t be where he is today. A special thanks to his mom for all that she has done over the years and continues to do today, it means the world. Matt’s fiancé Twilla and his three wonderful daughters are joining him here today, Lilly (21), Kate (17), and Ava (13). Lilly is currently pursuing a medical degree at the University of Florida, and Kate recently won Homecoming Queen at Cottondale High School.

The Peanut Farmer of the Year is sponsored by the Florida Peanut Producers Association, Ham Peanut Company, and Malone Peanut.  Nominees are selected annually by the Jackson County Extension Service with the assistance from the Florida Peanut Producers Association.

Cotton Farmer of the Year – Zeke Williams

Zeke Williams is a 5th generation farmer from Grand Ridge.  He began farming full time on the family farm in 1992 after graduating from Chipola. His parents encouraged him to continue with his education, but he insisted that he wanted to farm. If you saw the Growing America video put out last year highlighting Zeke’s story, you already know what his dad told him during that discussion, he said “It’s going to be a lot of hard work, a lot of sleepless nights, a lot of disappointment, and very little monetary reward. If you think you want some of that, there ain’t a better life”. Zeke said that his father was right, it’s been a tough struggle through the years, but he wouldn’t trade it.

Today, Zeke manages a diversified 750-acre operation growing cotton, peanut, corn, soybean, watermelon, and cattle. The farm is 80% strip tilled, and most of the ground is a Tifton/Dothan Loam. The bulk of his farm acres are double cropped annually with wheat, which he will plant later this month. A family run farm with no outside employees, what Zeke can’t get done by himself, his uncle Tony Williams helps do. To successfully manage a farm this size, Zeke hires both a contract sprayer and harvester for his cotton acres.

This year, Zeke grew 350 acres of cotton, all dryland.  Zeke started planting the first week of May and went through the end of the month. He grew two Delta Pine (DP) varieties, nematode resistant DP 2141 in some fields, but the majority of the acres were DP 1840. All cotton was hill drop planted on 36-inch rows with 2 seed every 12.5 inches. Zeke says 80% of the farm is strip tilled into the wheat residue. As we all know, fertilizer is at an all time high, but still necessary for crop growth. He put out 300lbs of 5-15-30 Super Rainbow fertilizer at planting and came back to side dress at the end of June with 300lbs of 20-8-20.

The love of farming has continued onto the next generation.  This summer, Zeke’s son Ben graduated high school in Cottonwood and is working on the family farm too. Zeke is joined here today by Ben for this recognition.

The Cotton Farmer of the Year is Sponsored by: Southern Cotton Organization, Clover Leaf Gin, Sowega Cotton Gin, Phytogen Cotton, and Delta Pine Cotton.  The award winner is selected each year by the Jackson County Extension Staff with the assistance of the local cotton gins and ag supply dealers.

Corn Farmer of the Year – Craig Bishop – 264 Bu./acre – AgriGold 6659

Of all the Farm-City Awards, the Corn Farmer of the Year is the only yield-based award that we recognize. Anually, the Jackson County Extension Service performs standardized corn yield checks for all those who request them. These yield checks are a minimum of 1.25 acres and follow the National Corn Yield Contest rules, so that the growers are eligible to submit for that contest if they wish.

It was a difficult year for corn and most yield checks averaged 247 bu/ac, which was lower than normal. The county experienced a heavy freeze in early March when much of the corn was young, and then in June when water was greatly needed the pivots could barely keep up during the drought.

Despite these obstacles, Craig Bishop, of Bishop Farms managed the top yield check in the county. Craig is known for adopting new varieties and management strategies on the farm. From 2013-2016, he consistently had the highest check in the county, always with a Dekalb variety. In 2020, he found his way back to the top with Pioneer 1870. This year it was the AgriGold 6659 varieity that provided the top yield of 264 bu/ac. Craig grew 800 acres of irrigated corn in 2022. He planted 8 different varieties on-farm, with two being the majority of its acreage. The extension office performed five yield checks with Craig this year averaging 257 bu/ac and his top check was 264 bu/ac. Craig has a peanut/cotton/corn rotation on his farm and also incorporates winter grazing and livestock where possible through partnership with a local rancher. Bishop Farms has 12 full-time employees, and another 5-6 part-time workers that help during harvest season.

Craig and his wife Kimberly have been married 28 years, and have four children (Melinda, Marcus, Caroline, and Emily) and one grandson (Aurelius). He gives much of the credit for his success to Kimberly. She manages things at home while he works long hours managing the day to day activities of the large farming operation. Craig could not do what he does without her partnership. This year, Emily is a senior dual enrolled at Chipola. Caroline is currently a student at FSU majoring in cell and micro neurology. Marcus is a graduate of FSU, with a business degree, and is now learning the ins and outs of the farm in hopes of assuming more of the farm management. Craig said it’s important to state that although tuition is paid to FSU, all the tuition checks have been branded with the UF gator logo. Go GATORS!

Corn Farmer of the Year Award is sponsored by: AgriGold, Pioneer, and DeKalb.  The award is based on standardized yield checks provided by the Jackson County Extension Service.  If you would like to have your corn yield checked next season, contact Ethan Carter to make an appointment at harvest time.

Cattleman of the Year – Angela Gonella

Angela Gonella Diaza is a third-generation rancher, but not from Jackson County, as she was born and raised in Colombia. Angela was raised on her grandfather’s ranch called the Hacienda La Ceiba.  In addition to raising cattle, Angela’s grandfather was one of the first to produce rice in the region, which is now a common practice.  Angela lived on the ranch until age nine, when she and her mother moved 15 minutes away, so her mother could work as a social worker in town.

Once Angela graduated from high school, her family encouraged her to pursue a college degree in medicine or microbiology.  That was not her passion, however, so she pursued a degree in veterinary medicine.  In Colombia, Veterinary Medicine is a six-year degree program straight out of high school.  Not only did she get her degree, but also met her future husband Alejandro, who also became a veterinarian.  After graduation Angela worked several years as a veterinarian primarily working with dairies, while Alejandro worked with Brahman cattle ranches in Colombia.  Angela went back to school to secure a master’s degree in Animal Science, with a focus on reproduction.  Angela taught animal reproduction at a private school in addition to her veterinary practice.  In 2013, Angela moved to Brazil to attend the University of Sao Paulo to purse a PhD in Animal Reproduction.  Alejandro also received a PhD in Animal Science in Ranch Management at the University of Sao Paulo.  After graduation, Angela continued to work at the university for 1 ½ years before applying for her current position in Jackson County.

Amazingly, Angela is fluent in three languages:  Spanish, Portuguese, and English.  She applied for a position at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center’s Beef Unit.    She started her position as a Cattle Reproduction Specialist in February 2019.  Angela’s position focuses on two key areas: cattle research and beef cattle extension.

Angela’s research is focused on improving cattle reproduction through biotechnology.  She is studying systems and techniques to improve the efficiency of artificial insemination or A.I., herd estrus synchronization, and embryo transfer.  She is also developing molecular biomarkers to identify efficient animals.  She is evaluating genes, proteins, and metabolites to find markers that can be used for selection for more efficient animals in cattle herds.

Angela also has an extension appointment, which is the part of her job that relates to local cattle producers.  Extension is the part of the university system focused on helping Florida ranchers adopt the best technology developed by research.  Angela has spent the last four years working closely with local cattle producers to improve the efficiency of the breeding programs on their farms. Examples of her work in local herds include ultrasound pregnancy testing, herd synchronization and timed A.I.  The primary goal is to help Florida ranchers shorten their breeding season while also producing animals with superior genetics.  While this is standard practice in the dairy industry, it has not had the same adoption rate in beef herd management.  She also makes time to teach youth about opportunities for professional careers in the agriculture industry.  She has hosted several research youth group farm tours and provided presentations for the Jackson County Junior Cattlemen’s Association.

Angela’s future goals include finding bio-markers for cattle that are more efficient on feed as well as more efficient breeders. Her goal is to identify markers for cattle that get pregnant early in the breeding season and to develop some form of testing that can be used in cattle selection prior to breeding.  We currently have blood tests that can be used for pregnancy testing in cattle, but Angela is working on a blood test that can also determine the sex of that calf 30+ days after pregnancy.  As you can tell, Angela is truly focused on helping the Florida cattle industry adopt technology to help them remain sustainable well into the future.

On top of this dynamic scientific career, Angela is also a wife and mother.  Her husband Alejandro works for Food Animal Reproduction and Medical Services Team for the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine.  They have a six-year old daughter Nina, and a four-year old son, Guiga, who both attend Dayspring Academy.  She is also training four graduate students: Daniella, Mauro, Camila, and Kamrn, so Angela stays on the go all of the time.

The Cattleman of the Year is Sponsored by the Jackson County Cattlemen’s Association.  Nominees are selected by a committee of past recipients of this prestigious award.

Hay Farmer of the Year – Bill Conrad – RFQ Score 211 – Perennial Peanut

Bill Conrad is a 4th generation Jackson County farmer who farms north of Highway 2 in the Bascom Community.  Over the years, he has raised several traditional crops including peanuts, soybeans, corn, wheat, triticale, and pine trees.  For the past decade, however, he has shifted his focus to be a quality hay producer for horse, goat, beef, and dairy farms.  One thing that sets Bill apart from his competitors is that he sends in hay samples for quality testing from each cutting.  He is able to market his hay on more than just reputation but can show the unbiased lab test results to prove the excellent quality of his hay.

Bill, and his son Joe, primarily raise perennial peanut and alfalfa to square bale and sell to horse and goat farms. Three years ago, Bill introduced two new varieties of perennial peanut on their farm, called Tito and Peace.  The Tito variety has done especially well on his farm, and this year his best cutting won 1st place in the perennial peanut category of the Southeastern Hay Contest, which is affiliated with the Sun Belt Ag Expo in Moultrie, Georgia.     Their Tito perennial peanut hay had a Relative Forage Quality (RFQ) Index of 211, with 22% crude protein (CP), and 66% total digestible nutrients (TDN) on a dry matter basis.  Conrad Farms has been recognized as the Hay Farmer of the Year for nine straight years as the producer of the highest quality hay in Jackson County.

The Hay Farmer of the Year award is sponsored by SunSouth John Deere.  This award is based on the county grown hay with the highest Relative Forage Quality or RFQ score.  RFQ is a single number index that considers protein, energy, fiber, and digestibility of hay, which allows for easy comparisons between cuttings and different forage types.  Entries into this annual contest are now accepted year-round, so contact the Jackson County Extension Office to have your best hay cuttings sampled and submitted into next year’s competition.  

Specialty Crop Farmer of the Year – Josie C. Wright

John and Josie Wright moved back to Marianna from California in 2019. John was born and raised here in Marianna and graduated from Marianna High in 1967. He was a member of the Air Force for 24 years and was stationed in the Philippines where he met Josie. They have been married for over 50 years and have one son, Andrew who still lives in California and works for Williams-Sonoma as a Global Designer.

Josie grew up in the Philippines where many families raise some of their own food.  She enjoys being outside, growing things and interacting with people. As she was approaching retirement, she knew that she needed to have a way to stay busy and wanted to utilize their land. Josie grew up always thinking about business, so it was natural to consider how to utilize the land that she and her husband had purchased.

Josie and John own C&W Farms.  They own 40 acres of farmland, but their primary focus is on two acres with a total of 70 raised beds. This summer Josie sold 4,700 lbs. of vegetables. Many local families that pass by the farm stop in for a quick tour, helpful guidance on planting, and often purchase what was freshly picked that day. Josie says the key to success is knowing your market before you plant.

In the spring and summer season, Josie grows squash, cucumber, eggplant, okra, bell pepper and other produce. She grows many different fruits including peaches, persimmons and pears. She also has blackberries, and blueberries with plans to raise Bing cherries.  In the fall/winter season, she enjoys raising rapini, carrots, kale, snow peas, Bok choy, leeks, shallots and assorted greens. Josie has a fantastic Asian garden with bitter melon, luffa, long beans, Korean radishes, kabocha and more.

C&W Farms has 1 part-time employee to help with the weeding, planting, and harvesting. They sell basil to the local Italian restaurant and many of her vegetables to Barndoor and Red hills in Tallahassee. Josie sells vegetables in bulk to the Farmer’s Markets in Fort Walton Beach and Panama City. Her produce is in high demand and despite increasing her okra planting, she still found herself putting people on a 2-week waiting list.

Josie has many goals for the future of the farm. She plans to open a U-pick strawberry patch in the spring of 2023. Her long-term goals include farming 16 more acres of vegetables. Josie would like to be able to supply produce as part of a community supported agriculture program for use in schools, nursing homes, hospitals and public entities.

The Specialty Crop Farmer of the Year is Sponsored by Helena Agri Enterprises.  Nominees are selected annually by the Jackson County Extension Service Staff with assistance from the local farming industry. 

Tree Farmer of the Year – Pete & Mary Meadows

Having been row croppers since the 1970’s, Pete and Mary Meadows decided to transform the Meadows farm into a long-lasting legacy of wildlife habitat and renewable resources by becoming tree farmers.

With guidance and recommendations of forester Barry Stafford they developed a plan to transition the farm to timber production.  As soon as the last planted crops were harvested in 1999, Pete and Mary bought long-leaf pine tree saplings. In December of 1999 and January 2000, Pete, Mary, and their two boys planted long leaf pines on every available acre of the farm, and even some by hand.  In September 2001, the Meadows tree farm was evaluated, and even though they were first time tree farmers, achieved an estimated 85 percent survival rate.  Following all guidelines and recommended spraying/burning plans, the maturing trees reached thinning age, in 2016.

Disaster struck in the fall of 2018.   Hurricane michael destroyed 95 percent of their remaining trees.  Pete and Mary began the cleanup process immediately after the hurricane, focusing all efforts on their original vision for the farm with the goal of replanting.  Pete died in November while on his tractor cleaning up fallen trees. Even with yet another tragic loss, Mary remained dedicated to their vision and worked every day possible, even more driven than ever, to finish the cleanup process and make the land ready to plant once again.

Three years after Hurricane Michael decimated the long leaf pines, Mary oversaw the complete replanting process of the Meadows farm, this time with faster growing slash pines.  Mary and her family remain committed to their vision of preserving the natural resources of their family farm for many years to come.

The Tree Farmer of the Year is sponsored by American Forest Management.  Nominees are selected each year by the Florida Forest Service’s County Forester, Barry Stafford.

Conservationist of the YearTed Bruner

Ted Bruner is a 3rd generation Jackson County farmer.  He has lived in Jackson County all his life, except for a short time spent in Central Florida, where he met his beautiful wife! In 1974 they moved back to Jackson County.  Ted began working at the Florida State Hospital but was also farming too. For many years he raised peanuts and corn in rotation, but a few years ago he decided to convert the farm to permanent pastures and hay because of the decaying conditions of the soil. Ted says that decision is going well for them as they see the improvements on their soil. Although, this year they could have benefited from more rain.

Today Ted manages 200 acres of coastal Bermudagrass and 40 acres of perennial peanut for hay production. They also have 50 head of cattle and a few hogs. A common practice in their operation is soil sampling to manage their hay/pasture and crop production. Ted & Theresa want to pass a healthy, productive farm on to their family and the next generation.

When they felt the need to expand their operation, they turned to NRCS Conservation Programs. The EQIP cot-share program helped with the establishment of pastures, hay fields, fences, water wells, irrigation systems, and other water management practices. For the deer and other wildlife, they have added wildlife plots and feeders to their property.

Ted has stated that he has been enjoying learning about all the grasses and planting methods. They are seeing the benefits of rotational grazing and how it benefits the soil and their cattle production.

The Bruner’s would like to thank all the staff at the Marianna NRCS office for the help with conservation programs to be able to continue farming and pass on to the next generation.

The Conservationist of the Year is sponsored by the Jackson Soil & Water Conservation District.  Nominees are selected each year by the staff of the Jackson District of the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS).

CARES RecognitionBar L Ranch & North American Farms

The County Alliance for Responsible Environmental Stewardship, or CARES was initiated in 2001 by the Florida Farm Bureau to publicly recognize farmers and ranchers who have voluntarily implemented Best Management Practices, or BMPs, to promote environmentally-sound and economically viable farming practices on our state’s farms.  These BMPs are state-of-the art science-based, field-tested conservation methods validated by state agencies. These practices have saved 12 billion gallons of water per year while improving water quality. The public benefits of these natural climate solutions practiced by farmers and ranchers include open spaces, fresh air, wildlife habitat and water recharge for our aquifers.

As part of the CARES program, recipients are awarded a customized “This Farm CARES” sign to display at their farm gate or headquarters.  This sign communicates to the public that Florida farmers and ranchers are committed to protecting local natural resources.  To date, more than 900 Florida farm families proudly display a CARES sign on their property.

In 2022, two outstanding farm families in Jackson County were selected who have gone the extra mile in preserving, improving, and caring for our state’s natural resources. Herman Laramore with Bar L. Ranch, and Dr. Daniel Colvin with North American Farms received the CARES recognition. They now join more than 900 land stewards across the state who proudly display a “This Farm CARES” sign at their farm entrance.

Bar L Ranch produces beef cattle, hay, peanuts and cotton.  They have been practicing BMPs since 2000 to reduce overall costs on the farm. They implement rotational grazing and cover crops to control erosion and improve soil health.  They Laramores also rotate hay feeding locations to spread nutrients, use prescribed chemicals to control weeds, and no-till crop production to reduce soil erosion.

North American Farms produces corn, cotton, peanuts, watermelon and snap beans. They use soil moisture probes in conjunction with their irrigation pivots to conserve water. They have implemented grid soil sampling and use variable rate and GPS technology to pinpoint nutrient application. They also implement cover crops and double-cropping to reduce nutrient leaching.

As Florida’s population continues to grow and city and rural life must harmonize, sustaining our natural resources and protecting our water, is vital for the future.

On behalf of Jackson County Farm Bureau, please join me in congratulating our newest CARES recipients, Bar L Ranch and North American Farms for their dedication to protecting Florida’s beauty and natural resources for future generations.

Florida Farm Bureau annually recognizes farms with the “This Farm CARES” recognition.  Recipients are selected with the help of the Jackson Soil & Water Conservation District, and the Florida Department of Agricultures Office of Ag Water Policy.

Ed Jowers Farm-City Future of Agriculture  ScholarshipSyler Alan Griffin

Syler Griffin is the son of Brad and Jennifer Griffin. Syler grew up on a small farm in Alford where he helped his family plant, tend and harvest fruits and vegetables and tend their cattle herd.  He is a 2022 graduate of Marianna High School and is currently enrolled at Chipola College.

Syler was a member of the 4-H Livestock Club.  Syler joined the Marianna FFA Chapter in the ninth grade and was chosen for one of the five freshman officer positions. As a sophomore, he joined the Agriculture Mechanics Team.   As a junior he again competed with the chapter ag mechanics team but added forestry judging and livestock judging as well. As a Senior he was elected as Chapter Sentinel.

After graduating from Chipola College, Syler plans to apply to the University of Florida to earn a Bachelor of Science Degree in Animal Science and then apply to the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine.

The Farm-City Scholarship is sponsored by the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce.  Nominees are selected by a committee that evaluated each application based on exemplary scholastic, extracurricular, and agriculturally centered achievements.

AgVocators of the Year

The AgVocator program recognizes non-ag business and non-ag volunteers that has gone above and beyond expectations to support agricultural organizations in Jackson County.  Nominees were submitted by agricultural organizations in Jackson County based on their contributions to support their organization.  These nominations were sent to our Farm Credit office in Jefferson County so that an independent group of reviewers could select one winner from each category based on their contributions to Jackson County agriculture and the nominee’s qualities of leadership, selflessness and compassion through volunteer work and support.

Three businesses were nominated for AgVocators of the Year.  Anderson Columbia was nominated by the Jackson County Cattlemen’s Association.  Jackson County Teacher’s Credit Union was nominated by Graceville FFA, Malone FFA, and Jackson County School District Career, Technical, and Adult Education.  The West Florida Electric Cooperative’s News Flash member newsletter was nominated by UF/IFAS Extension in Jackson County.

The AgVocators Business of the Year was awarded to Anderson Columbia, that was nominated by the Jackson County Cattlemen’s Association.  Vice President, Gene Strickland accepting the award on behalf of the company.  Anderson Columbia is a highway construction company that truly invests in the communities they serve. One of the Cattlemen’s Association’s primary focus has been supporting educational opportunities for youth who are interested in the cattle industry and agriculture in general.  Anderson Columbia purchased steers every year at the Jackson County Fed Cattle Show for the past 20 years.  They also contributed add-on dollars to the sale price of the other steers to ensure all received a fair price for their steer project. Without the generous support of businesses in the county, steer projects would be unaffordable for most exhibitors. Anderson Columbia has also supported all of the FFA chapters in Jackson County by providing approximately $10,000 in contributions annually. Gene Strickland not only invests through his company, but also encourages his business partners to join with him. He is always willing to help and is never more than a phone call away.  By investing in our youth that are interested in agriculture they are helping to develop the next generation of community leaders who may also become the farmers and ranchers of tomorrow.

Three volunteers were nominated for the AgVocator Volunteer of the Year. Amos Morris & Shirley Rehberg, were nominated by Jackson County Farm Bureau.  Anita Crossley was nominated by UF/IFAS Extension in Jackson County.  Charlotte Gardener was nominated by Jackson County School District Career, Technical, and Adult Education. These nominations were sent to our Farm Credit office in Jefferson County so that an independent group of reviewers could select one winner from each category based on their contributions to Jackson County agriculture and the nominee’s qualities of leadership, selflessness and compassion through volunteer work and support.

The AgVocator Volunteer of the Year was awarded to Charlotte Gardener. Charlotte has been a supporter of agriculture education programs as a school board member for 16 years but has been a supporter as an educator for much more than that. She not only supports programs financially, but she has been known to help prepare and decorate for FFA events, serve as a contest judge, and has been the leader of the annual Jackson County Educators Foundation fundraiser “For Kids, By Kids”. She is always supportive when an FFA or agricultural education issue comes before the board, and she is a tremendous advocate for programs in our county.  Chris Franklin, director for Jackson County Career, Technical, and Adult Education, shared, “Charlotte is one of our strongest advocates for agricultural education in our school district. We appreciate her support and attendance at each of our events.”

The AgVocators of the Year are sponsored by Farm Credit of Northwest Florida.  Honorees were nominated by agricultural organizations in the county and ranked by an independent panel from outside Jackson County. 


Posted: November 14, 2022

Category: Agriculture

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