Douglas & Ronnie Walker Honored as Jefferson County Agricultural Innovators

Walker and Sons Farms was recognized as Agricultural Innovators in Jefferson County by Jed Dillard, Jefferson County Extension.

Walker and Sons Farms was recognized as Agricultural Innovators in Jefferson County by Jed Dillard, Jefferson County Extension.

On Tuesday August 4, 2015, 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 fifth 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 2015, 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.  Douglas and Ronnie Walker, from Monticello, Florida were honored as Agricultural Innovators in Jefferson County by Jed Dillard, Jefferson County Extension Agent.  Read their story in the paragraphs that follow.

Ronnie & Douglas Walker

Ronnie & Douglas Walker. Photo credit: Jed Dillard

Douglas & Ronnie Walker

Jefferson County Agricultural Innovators

When Walker and Sons Farms decided to get into the dairy business in 1987, Douglas Walker contacted the University of Florida Dairy Science Department. “I asked them to send me everything they had on running a dairy. They sent me a stack of information that took me six months to read, but I read it all and figured out what I needed to do to run a dairy.”

The combination of IFAS know how and Walker hard work has been a formidable collaboration. In just five years, while Douglas and Ronnie’s father Ulysses headed the company, the dairy received the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service’s Honor Roll Award for medium sized dairies. Now the company operates two Jefferson County dairies with a combined milking herd of twenty-two hundred cows.

The Walkers had been in the stocker cattle business before starting that first dairy. “We knew how to grow a light-weight calf on grazing. We just did the same thing with Holsteins, “said Douglas. We grow out all our own heifers with grazing. Oats and clover followed by crabgrass.” For row crop farmers and home owners, “crab grass” is a dirty word. For these dairymen, “It comes in after the ryegrass goes out and carries the heifers until it’s time to plant again.  Folks told us we wouldn’t be able to develop dairy heifers on grazing. We’ve done it. Our feed bills are lower, and now our nutritional consultant is recommending it to other folk.”

Like many dairies, the Walkers irrigate with lagoon effluent to grow silage, but they use a fifty percent rye grass fifty percent corn mixture, capitalizing on an early feed crop that thrives on water and nitrogen. Additionally, ryegrass provides erosion control between corn crops.

Much of the dairy industry depends on artificial insemination to breed cows and move genetics forward, but Walker and Sons has a little different take on that as well.  “We find our climate is tough on extremely high producing cows. So we started using the bull mates from some heifers we were buying out of Tennessee. We decided we couldn’t afford the heifers, but we started using their brothers.  They’re not the absolute elite sires in the country, but they are high quality sires and keep our production where it needs to be.”

Knowing production costs, especially feed cost, is almost an obsession for Ronnie and Douglas. “We weigh every ingredient when it’s loaded in the mixer, and the feed wagon has a computerized scale to know to the pound what we’re putting out.” Cows on “Walker # 1” (Fancy names are not characteristic of the Walkers.) have access to both grazing and a Total Mixed Ration fed in a barn  of the Walkers’ design. “We figured out what we wanted and got an engineer to design it.” Cows are misted every five minutes in warm weather and a gravity fed tank periodically flushes the floor. “When grazing is good they don’t eat as much from the trough.”

The dairy utilizes USDA’s Milk Margin Protection program to insure against economic disaster as well. “Any serious swing in costs or prices has the potential to really hurt us. We don’t insure all our risk, but we buy enough to prevent total disaster. That’s one less thing to keep us awake at night.”

The dairies were recognized in 2011 as producers of the state’s top quality milk — for the third time. They are justifiably proud of their product. As Douglas says, “When you buy our milk by the gallon, an eight ounce glass costs only 23 cents. That’s the most important thing to me. We provide high quality, affordable nutrition for our consumers.”

Sunshine, shade, clean cows and green grass make high quality milk for the Walkers. Photo credit: Jed Dillard.

Sunshine, shade, clean cows and green grass make high quality milk for the Walkers. Photo credit: Jed Dillard.

Improving Agriculture through Extension Involvement

The Walkers give credit to UF/IFAS for the information that has enabled them to prosper. They are steadfast participants in Dairy Herd Improvement Association and the science of animal agriculture. They support youth events such as the recent State Land Judging Contest held in Jefferson County and are always willing to cooperate with Extension programming. The company also has beef cattle and actively supports the Jefferson County Cattlemen’s Association.

Impacting Agriculture in Northwest Florida

The Walker families are tireless advocates for the dairy industry as well as all agriculture. Ronnie is Jefferson County Farm Bureau director, and Douglas serves as a director for Farm Credit of Northwest Florida and Southeast Milk Incorporated (SMI). He chairs SMI’s supply committee and is a member of its trucking and audit committees. Douglas is also a member of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Commercial Feed Technical Council.  As a dairy industry leader, Douglas helped the Department of Agriculture resolve complexities in the Cattle Identification Rule affecting cattlemen who moved cattle across state lines with no change in ownership, a large issue for Jefferson and the other thirteen counties bordering Georgia or Alabama.

Ronnie and Sheri and Douglas and Sonja are proud to share Agriculture’s story with consumers and provide an outstanding example to other North Florida farmers.  They are true leaders in the county as well as in the state of Florida.

Jefferson County Extension is proud to recognize Walker and Sons Farms as Agricultural Innovators.

Walker Irrigated Corn

Homegrown corn silage makes up fifty percent of the ration. Photo credit: Jed Dillard

 

You might also be interested in the stories of the other 11 Agricultural Innovators highlighted in previous weeks:

Jerry Davis honored as the 2015 Northwest Florida Agricultural Innovator of the Year

Gary & Susan Holley honored as Okaloosa Agricultural Innovators

Mikael L’Andre honored as Walton County Agricultural Innovator

Raymon Thomas Honored as Holmes County Agricultural Innovator

Bill & Brenda Maphis Honored as Washington County Agricultural Innovators

Steve & Seth Basford Honored as Jackson County Agricultural Innovators

Larry & Susan White Honored as Bay County Agricultural Innovators

George Watkins Honored as Franklin County Agricultural Innovator

Robert Jackson Honored as Gadsden County Agricultural Innovator

Murphy, Newman, & Cooper Honored as Leon County Agricultural Innovators

Jim Gerrell Honored as Wakulla County Agricultural Innovator

 

Gary & Susan Holley honored as Okaloosa Agricultural Innovators

Gary & Susan Holley honored as Okaloosa Agricultural Innovators

Jennifer Bearden, Okaloosa County Extension Agent recognized the Holley Family as Agricultural Innovators.

Jennifer Bearden, Okaloosa County Extension Agent recognized Gary & Susan Holley as Agricultural Innovators.

On Tuesday August 4, 2015, 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 fifth 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 2015, 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.  Gary and Susan Holley, from Baker, Florida were honored as Agricultural Innovators in Okaloosa County.  The Holleys were nominated by Jennifer Bearden, Okaloosa County Extension Agent.  Read the story of Beaver Creek Farms below.  The Agricultural Innovators from other counties will be featured on the Panhandle Ag e-News over the coming weeks.

Holley Family webGary & Susan Holley

Okaloosa County Agricultural Innovators

Submitted by: Jennifer Bearden, Okaloosa County Extension

Beaver Creek Farms is owned and operated by Gary and Susan Holley. Gary grew up on a family farm and is still farming much of the same land that his parents farmed before him. Showing cattle as a youth, Gary caught the agriculture bug early. Jokingly, Gary says that he began farming in 1996 when he first went into debt to farm. For Gary and Susan, agriculture is just a way of life. But they aren’t content to “just do it the way Daddy did it.” They both work in the field of agriculture and see firsthand how innovation improves productivity. In 2000, they signed their first contract with USDA-NRCS under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). This contract focused on strip till, nutrient management, pest management, upland wildlife management and cover crops. Since then, they have continued to adopt new practices.

The Holleys have a small herd of cattle. They keep about 40 cows and a herd bull. They grow corn, wheat and oats as well as hay for the cattle. They also grow cotton and soybeans. Susan began growing vegetables to sell at the Farmers’ Market and a produce stand in front of their home. Farming is a family affair with their boys and Gary’s parents. Gary’s dad, Mr. Hughdon, grafts all of their fruit trees. They grow a variety of fruits to sell at the markets with their vegetables (squash, tomatoes, peppers, onions, potatoes, cucumbers and melons). Their newest innovation and claim to “countywide” fame is the first high tunnel house in Okaloosa County. This season is their first season in the protected structure. Susan is experimenting with varieties to find just the right tomatoes, cucumbers and squash to grow in the tunnel.Okaloosa High Tunnel webThe Holleys are also switching to a sod-based rotation this year. Cropland that has been growing row crops of corn, soybeans and cotton will now grow bahiagrass and clovers for cattle to graze. The Holleys are dedicated to adopting practices that conserve the soil and the natural resources surrounding their land.  This dedication shines through everything they do.Okaloosa Squash field web

Improving Agriculture through Extension Involvement

The Holleys work closely with Extension in Okaloosa County. Susan serves on our Overall Advisory Committee. They are always willing to help with agriculture and 4-H program needs. Susan teaches a station at our 4-H Ag-ventures. They hosted a farm tour where we talked about FDACS Best Management Practices. They participate in and help plan and implement educational programs. They truly see the benefit of Extension to agriculture in the community.  Susan also has gone before the county commissioners at the request of the Extension office to speak about the Farmers’ Markets in our county.

Okaloosa Squash & Peaches webImpacting Agriculture in Northwest Florida

Both Gary and Susan work in the field of agriculture.  Gary has worked for 27 years with the FDACS Florida Forest Service. Susan has worked for 13 years for the Yellow River Soil and Water Conservation District. Gary has also served on the Yellow River Soil and Water Conservation District board in the past.  Susan is a very active member (and vice-chair) of Okaloosa County Farm Bureau’s Women’s Committee. They are always willing to step up and educate our kids and adults about agriculture in our area. They both do this at field days and festivals each year. They are wonderful spokespersons for agriculture in our county and we are lucky to have farmers like them. The Holleys work hard for agriculture every day!

 

You might also be interested in the stories of other Agricultural Innovators highlighted in previous weeks:

Jerry Davis honored as the 2015 Northwest Florida Agricultural Innovator of the Year

 

Compost Community Honored as Leon County Agricultural Innovator

Compost Community Honored as Leon County Agricultural Innovator

Ag Inno 2014 - Leon

Kendra Zamojski and Scott Jackson, Leon County Extension recognized Sundiata Ameh-El and youth from Compost Community as Agricultural Innovators in Leon County.

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 honorees have distinguished themselves as creative thinkers and leaders in the agricultural community.  From this group of elite farmers that were honored by their home county, one is selected annually to represent Northwest Florida. This year Compost Community was selected as the Leon County Agriculture Innovator.  Compost Community was nominated by Trevor Hylton, Leon County Extension.  Read more about Compost Community below. The other Agricultural Innovators nominated this year will be featured on the Panhandle Ag e-News over the coming weeks.

Compost Community

Compost Community

Compost Community – Leon County Agricultural Innovators

Submitted by:  Trevor Hylton, Leon County Extension

Compost Community is a network of urban professionals dedicated to strengthening the local food supply in the Tallahassee and Big Bend area. For a fee, Compost Community collects food waste and other compostable matter from local restaurants and households. The waste is composted and becomes a usable soil amendment. After six months, customers are eligible to earn compost for use in their own gardens or to donate to another individual, organization or community garden.

Compost Community is a relatively new business startup. The operation has two main sites where the composting occurs, and there are plans afoot to include 2 new sites in the near future. Sundiata makes use of help from community youth groups to collect and transport food waste from 12 local restaurants and several homes. This waste is then carefully blended with wood chips sourced from local tree companies. The materials are mixed as they rotate through a series of bins created from wooden pallets. All of these materials would have ended up in the landfill or littered where they could cause pollution. Sundiata prides himself on the fact that he has not just created a composting operation, but he is helping to create community. Through Compost Community, home gardens, school gardens and community gardens receive the compost end product and restaurants and tree companies learn about composting as a means of reducing waste in the landfill.

Compost Community is supported by customer fees and grant funds. Compost bins are made from wooden pallets that would otherwise go to waste. Compost Community provides consultations and workshops on composting.

Sundiata Ameh-El

Sundiata Ameh-El

Cooperative Work with the Extension Service

Sundiata is a member of the Leon County Ag.-Hort.-Urban Forestry advisory committee and has participated in listening sessions and focus teams for the office. Additionally, he hosts the Tallahassee Food Network monthly meetings at the iGrow urban farm, which he oversees. He has enabled numerous training sessions on composting at the FAMU community garden. The iGrow urban farm has been a vital resource for compost training for the Extension Office.

leon2Leadership in the Agriculture Industry

Compost Company has diverted 20,000 pounds of food waste from the landfill. He currently has more than 10,000 pounds of finished compost. This reduces waste hauling costs and landfill tipping fees. It also reduces the amount of fertilizer being used in urban and community gardens. Sundiata educates others about composting through workshops and regular blog posting.

Sundiata has been a longstanding member of the Tallahassee Food Network, a grassroots group which advocates for the transformation of food deserts to help fight obesity. He has worked to promote food security by helping to create the iGrow urban farm on a city lot in Tallahassee. The iGrow urban farm teaches youth entrepreneurship through farming. His new composting business adds another dimension to the youth empowerment and stewardship that he promotes. He currently has a youth mentorship program which is preparing a group of middle and high school kids to start their own composting business.

You might also be interested in the stories of other Agricultural Innovators highlighted in previous weeks:

 

Cindale Farms Honored as Jackson County Agricultural Innovators

Doug Mayo, Jackson County Extension recognized Brad & Meghan Austin, and Cindy & Dale Eade as Agricultural Innovators in Jackson County.

Doug Mayo, Jackson County Extension recognized Brad & Meghan Austin, and Cindy & Dale Eade as Agricultural Innovators in Jackson County.

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 honorees have distinguished themselves as creative thinkers and leaders in the agricultural community.  From this group of elite farmers that were honored by their home county, one is selected annually to represent Northwest Florida. This year Cindale Dairy & Southern Craft Creamery of Jackson County, was selected as the Jackson County Agriculture Innovators.  Cindale Dairy was nominated by Doug Mayo, Jackson County Extension Director.  Read more about the Eade Family and their farm below. The other Agricultural Innovators nominated this year will be featured on the Panhandle Ag e-News over the coming weeks.

Cindale Cow and calfCindale Farms and Southern Craft Creamery – Jackson County Agricultural Innovators

The Eade family has been working full time in the dairy business for 34 years. In 1994, Dale left a salaried position at a 2000 cow dairy in Jefferson County primarily managing people, to strike out on his own and get back to managing cows. The Eades moved to Jackson County because they were able to find dairy farms available for lease. In 2003, they built up enough equity to purchase 500 acres of land, giving Cindale Farms a permanent home. They grew their herd to 350 lactating cows, with another 250 cows serving as replacements in the milk rotation.

Dale and Cindy have always looked at new innovations in the dairy business, but the size of their herd has limited the adoption of fancy systems, equipment and facilities. Their greatest innovation was developing the business to the point that they could include the families of their two adult daughters. Dale and Cindy, both college graduates, put their daughters through school as well. Meghan graduated from veterinary school, and Lauren got a degree in food and resource economics. Brad, Meghan’s husband, has a PhD in cattle reproduction and nutrition. Zach, Lauren’s husband, served in the Marines and has a degree in aviation management. While most farm kids go off to college and build their own lives in new locations, this family found a way to come back together on the farm.

Meghan and her husband, Brad Austin, came back to the farm first, in 2009. The expertise that Brad and Meghan added helped to reduce costs and enhance the performance of the cattle by improving the nutrition, health, and reproduction of the herd. Brad works full-time at the dairy, and Meghan balances her time between her part-time cattle practice, and managing the health of the dairy herd. A popular trend, at the time, was to manage dairy cows on intensive grazing systems as a way to reduce high feed prices. Dale had managed the herd with a more traditional mixed-feed ration system. Dale and Brad combined their experience and expertise to develop a hybrid system, utilizing both grazing and mixed-rations, to maintain their herd size, while fully utilizing their land resources. With a more efficient herd, two families could make a living without expansion.

So Craft CreameryIn 2012, Lauren and Zach came back to the farm with the idea of creating a value-added product from the raw milk produced at the dairy. Liquid milk is a very competitive market, and cheese requires aging and significant inventory, so they decided to create a hand-crafted ice cream. The first step was to learn the science of ice cream from special schools offered at Penn State and Wisconsin. Next, they had to research the skills and the processes needed to make hand-crafted ice cream. Then, they had to find rare micro-equipment and retrofit it to meet current food safety standards. In February 2013, after a full year of trial and error to perfect their process and to develop unique flavors, they launched an artisan line of ice creams under the brand name “Southern Craft Creamery.”

Ice cream is normally made in large quantities with automated equipment. What makes Southern Craft Creamery ice cream special is that nothing is automated, only made in small batches, with a unique process for each flavor. They slow pasteurize the milk, allowing the flavors to be enhanced during the heating, and then age the ice cream for 12 hours as it slowly cools down before freezing. The flavoring ingredients come only from local farms or known sources, to ensure the same high quality as the milk that serves as the base. Their product is unique, but so is their marketing system. Southern Craft Creamery ice cream is not sold in chain grocery stores, but through locally owned specialty stores and restaurants, creating a direct path from their farm to the local consumer’s table.

Cooperative Work with the Extension Service

One of the real advantages of the whole family working on the farm is that it frees up time to engage with the community. The entire Eade family, and their extended family, is very passionate about telling the story of agriculture, and the positive benefits local farms have on the economy and the community. Cindale Farms has hosted numerous farm tours for consumers, decision makers, extension workers, 4-H clubs, FFA students, teachers, and school children, to share the story of dairy farming and all of the wonderful products made from raw milk. They have participated for more than 10 years in “Ag in the Classroom” field trips for school students in the county. Cindy serves on the Board of Directors of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce as their agriculture representative. She has worked very closely with Extension on the annual Farm City Week Celebration and the scholarship program for college students from farm families that are pursuing degrees in agriculture. Cindale Farms is located within a few miles of the University of Florida’s North Florida Research and Education Center. Their location and cooperative nature have made the dairy an ideal site for on-farm trials.

Zach & Lauren O'Bryan, Meghan & Brad Austin, Cindy and Dale Eade work together under the names of Cindale Farms and Southern Craft Creamery.

Zach & Lauren O’Bryan, Meghan & Brad Austin, and Cindy & Dale Eade work together under the names of Cindale Farms and Southern Craft Creamery.

Leadership in the Agriculture Industry

Dale is the Vice President of Southeast Milk Incorporated, the cooperative that handles the majority of milk sales in the state of Florida. He also serves on the Board of Governors for three milk processing plants, and is Chairman of the Pricing Committee that sets the price for raw milk in the region. Dale also serves on the Florida Department of Agriculture’s Dairy Industry Technical Council. In addition to her work with the Chamber of Commerce, Cindy also serves on the Board of Directors for Northwest Florida Farm Credit. Brad and Meghan serve on the Florida Farm Bureau Young Farmer & Rancher Leadership Committee. Brad is the Past President of this committee, and also serves on the Florida Farm Bureau Board of Directors. Through their wholesale ice cream business, Zach and Lauren have become ambassadors for agriculture. Part of the goal of their marketing efforts is to create open conversation with consumers, retailers, and restaurant owners about how food is grown and what consumers seek from the foods they consume.

 

You might also be interested in the stories of other Agricultural Innovators highlighted in previous weeks:

 

Marvel & Justin Williams Honored as Holmes County Agricultural Innovators

Marvel & Justin Williams Honored as Holmes County Agricultural Innovators

Marvel Williams was recognized as the Agricultural Innovator by his friend and local Holmes County Agent, Shep Eubancks.

Marvel Williams was recognized as the Holmes County Agricultural Innovator by his friend and local Holmes County Agent, Shep Eubanks.

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 Marvel and Justin Williams were honored as Agriculture Innovators by Holmes County Extension .  Read more about the Williams Farm below.  The other Agricultural Innovators nominated this year will be featured in Panhandle Ag e-News over the coming weeks.

Justin and Marvel Williams operate Williams Farm in Holmes County.  Photo credit:  Shep Eubanks.

Justin and Marvel Williams operate Williams Farm in Holmes County. Photo credit: Shep Eubanks.

Marvel & Justin Williams – Holmes County Agricultural Innovators

Submitted by Extension Agent: Shep Eubanks

The Williams Farm is a cooperative effort of Marvel Williams and his son Justin, and has been in existence for several generations in Holmes County in the Poplar Springs Community. Marvel has been farming for more than 43 years after serving a tour in the United States Air Force in England. The Williams Farm is a diversified farming operation producing peanuts, cotton, wheat, perennial peanut and Russell Bermudagrass hay, and beef cattle on approximately 2,000 acres.

Marvel was the first cotton farmer in Holmes County to begin using transgenic varieties when they came on the market. Marvel and Justin were early adopters in Holmes County of GPS guidance systems for their tractors for improving planting and harvesting efficiency on the 1600 acres of peanuts and cotton that they are currently farming. Their utilization of variable rate fertilizer applications for the lime and nutrient needs of their crops, thereby conserving resources and optimizing crop production while reducing inputs, are exemplary. They have always been willing to share their knowledge and experience with other farmers. They have availed themselves of new and improved varieties for crop production and are the leading producers of high quality forages in their hay business. They are one of the largest producers of perennial peanut in Holmes County and their perennial peanut fields are one of the highlights of the drive up Highway 173 when the peanuts are in bloom!  They also do a superb job producing horse quality hay on the 110 acres of Russell Bermudagrass that they have in production, setting an example of excellent forage management on their farm.

Marvel and his son JustinImproving Agriculture through Extension Involvement

Marvel and Justin have been tremendously supportive of Extension over the years. Marvel has served for many years on the Holmes County Overall Advisory Committee, including serving as the Chairman. In addition, Marvel has been an active member of the multi-county advisory committee that plans the annual Panhandle Peanut Short Course and the Panhandle Row Crop meetings. He has been a strong supporter of the Panhandle Peanut Field Day, and an advocate for generous funding of the ongoing peanut research at North Florida Research and Education Center in Marianna. In years past he has assisted Holmes County Extension in hosting a Farm City tour of local peanut buying points and cotton gins and has always been willing to give direction and advice to Extension regarding the needs of local producers.

The Williams have participated in nematode survey trials on peanuts, peanut maturity research into new methods of determining digging times and other aspects of peanut production. Currently, Justin is assisting Extension with innovative research field trials to learn more about the biology and control of Bermudagrass Stem Maggot, a recent invasive pest in our area.

Many times over the years the Williams have hosted University of Florida agronomists, plant pathologists, entomologists, and other specialists on the farm, allowing them access in order to assess new crop technology, diseases, and insect problems in an effort to improve production of peanuts, cotton, and forages.

In addition, on several occasions Marvel has assisted the local Holmes County Extension in conducting annual Ag in the classroom field days for the 5th grade students in the Holmes County schools, exposing these youths to the importance of agriculture in the local community. He has been an outstanding friend and supporter of Extension!

Justin and Marvel Williams Perennial PeanutImpacting Agriculture in Northwest Florida

Marvel and Justin Williams have made a huge impact on agriculture in Holmes County and surrounding counties. Marvel served for more than 12 years as the Secretary and Treasurer of the Florida Peanut Producers Association and has always been a strong advocate for peanut farmers, not only in the panhandle, but also statewide and nationally. Marvel has made several trips to the halls of Congress and to Tallahassee to advocate for farmers. He has served for many years on a statewide Peanut and Field Crops Advisory Committee in addition to serving on local farm related boards.

Marvel and his family were selected in 1986 as the Holmes County Farm Family of the year.  Justin and his young family are following in the same path, and this year they were selected to be the 2014 Holmes County Farm Family of the Year! Justin is an exemplary young farmer, a young man whom many of the other young farmers in Holmes County look up to as a mentor and example of the benefits of embracing innovation and being proactive in adopting new technologies in agriculture.

You might also be interested in the stories of other Agricultural Innovators highlighted in previous weeks: