On Thursday August 21, 2014, twelve Innovative Farmers and Ranchers were recognized by University of Florida IFAS Extension and Farm Credit of Northwest Florida at the Jefferson County Opera House, in Monticello. This is the fourth year these two organizations have teamed up to honor a selection of the most innovative farmers from 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 2014, County Agriculture Extension Agents selected 12 Agricultural Innovators to be recognized.
All of the county honorees have distinguished themselves as creative thinkers and leaders in the agricultural community. This year Greg Evers was honored as Agriculture Innovator by Okaloosa County Extension . Read more about Greg Evers and his Akers of Strawberries Farm below. The other Agricultural Innovators nominated this year will be featured in Panhandle Ag e-News over the coming weeks.
Submitted by Jennifer Bearden, Okaloosa County Extension
This innovator has been involved in agriculture his whole life, mostly with row crops and vegetable production. In 1990, Greg Evers started a u-pick operation that has grown each year since. He started with just 10 acres of u-pick strawberries and sold strawberry yogurt in a 10×20 shed. A hurricane and expanding business pushed him to build a bigger building that now has a snack bar, restrooms, sitting area, and produce market. The snack bar sells drinks, milkshakes, strawberry yogurt and their famous strawberry shortcake. He now wants to ship his value added items around the state and U.S. He has visitors stop in while on vacation who would “pay anything” to have some of that strawberry shortcake shipped right to their doorstep. He also grows and sells other produce at the business. In the very near future, he also plans to improve the snack bar area by selling pastries, specialty coffees and sandwiches. He says he’ll try anything once.
The u-pick operation is a major school field trip destination in our area. The staff introduces the children to agriculture, and the children then bring their parents back to the farm to introduce them, too. He was one of the first farmers to use social media to market his business. The goal is to bring families out of the urban areas and into the rural farming community. Currently, the Facebook page has almost 10,000 followers. He was one of the first farmers to attempt large scale strawberry production in our area. He grows his strawberries on plastic, using drip irrigation, fertigation, and IPM strategies to control diseases and pests. In addition to Akers of Strawberries, he also owns and operates a farm supply business and grows row crops.
Improving Agriculture through Extension
Greg Evers has always had a strong relationship with Extension. He has served on Extension Advisory Committees, and has been involved in listening sessions and long range planning meetings. He is always willing to lobby for what extension agents need to do their jobs well. He encourages his staff to call on Extension when they encounter a problem while working for him. He was instrumental in helping our Extension staff acquire the funding for the new Okaloosa County office building.
Senator Evers is at the center of agriculture in Okaloosa County. He owns and operates a supply business where farmers in our area purchase fertilizers, pesticides and livestock feeds. He works with other farmers in the area, helps beginning farmers get into the business, and helps established farmers stay in business. His heart is truly in helping agriculture thrive in our area. He serves as our State Senator where he strives to see that all current and new legislation impacts agriculture positively.
You might also be interested in the stories of other Agricultural Innovators highlighted in previous weeks: