Polk County’s Jason Watts of Florida Best Farms Named Florida Farm Bureau’s 2024 Farmer of the Year
by REBEKAH PIERCE
Polk County Farmer Jason Watts of Florida Best Farms in Haines City has been named the Florida Farm Bureau’s 2024 Farmer of the Year in recognition of his exceptional skills and achievements in agriculture.
This award is given annually to a farmer who demonstrates excellence in farming and commitment to improving the industry for future generations. To be considered for the award, a farmer or rancher must strive for excellence in their practices, go above and beyond to improve efficiency, and — most importantly — be a good steward of the land.
“On behalf of the members of Polk County Farm Bureau, we congratulate Jason Watts on his selection as the Florida Farm Bureau Farmer of the Year,” says Polk County Farm Bureau President Michael Matteson. “Mr. Watts’ commitment to agriculture and his local community is an exemplary representation of Farm Bureau members’ values and efforts.”
Watts, who has been deeply entrenched in and committed to the farming industry for years, has developed a reputation as a knowledgeable and innovative farmer with a passion for growing high-quality crops sustainably. Though he began his career raising cattle on leased land, he’s evolved his business to match local demand and meet rising challenges. Most importantly, he has his eye on the future of agriculture in Florida.
Andy Neuhofer, the district field supervisor at the Florida Farm Bureau Federation, says, “His family’s operation is the epitome of a family farm and a well-deserved award.”
Watts is the owner and operator of Florida Best Farms, located in Haines City. The farm primarily specializes in blueberries, muscadine grapes, and beef cattle (as a cow-calf operation). The farm also owns a state-of-the-art blueberry packing facility that is projected to process more than 2 million pounds of blueberries per year, among other accomplishments.
But Watts’ commitment to excellence doesn’t stop at the farm. He’s also actively involved in his local community, working closely with the Florida Farm Bureau as well as other organizations like the Florida Cattlemen’s Association, the Florida Blueberry Growers Association, and more. Outside of the farm, Watts is equally busy, serving in various roles within the church and even as a football coach.
Most importantly, says Jared Lanier, Director of Field Services at the Florida Farm Bureau Federation, Watts cares deeply about the future of agriculture. He not only has a passion for farming but wants to make sure that the farm is there for generations to come.
Watts says the success of the farm would not be possible without the entire team, including his farm manager, supervisors, and other staff.
“We are a family farm — no ifs, ands, or buts about it.”
He emphasizes that the work that goes into owning and operating his farm is challenging, with 18- to 20-hour days at the peak of blueberry season, but absolutely worth it. Without the help of his family, friends, fellow farmers, and community, it simply would not be possible.
That brings special meaning to this award, which Lanier says is not just about acknowledging someone who excels on the farm itself, but who is also able to bring that knowledge and passion forth into the community. It’s also for someone who is able to pay it forward to future generations of farmers.
Watts’ decisions as a farmer serve to benefit the community at large. According to Lanier, Watts is doing big things and is doing them all with the greater picture of agriculture in mind.
As the Florida Farmer of the Year, Watts will serve as an advocate and spokesperson for the Florida Farm Bureau, promoting the importance of agriculture and sharing his expertise with others in the industry. He will serve as the face of the Florida Farm Bureau as a whole. He’ll represent farmers across the state as he meets with various representatives at the annual meeting, the state fair, and other events and conferences in Florida and nationwide.
The Florida Farm Bureau is proud of the exceptional work that the Farmer of the Year recipients have done over the years to promote sustainable agriculture in the state. Some of the past winners include Paul DiMare of Coral Gables (2016), Mark Wilson of Homestead (2017), Lynetta Usher Griner of Chiefland, FL (2018), Charles W. Obern of Clewiston (2019), Richard (“Rick”) R. Roth, Jr., of Belle Glade (2020), and Jerry Dakin of Myakka City (2022). Last year’s winner was Wade Purvis of Purvis Farms in Immokalee.
As Farmer of the Year, Jason Watts will carry forward the legacy of his predecessors and play a significant role in advocating for sustainable agricultural practices and the interests of farmers in the state. His commitment to innovation and his passion for the environment make him well-suited to this role.
Cary Lightsey, who nominated Watts, sums it up perfectly: “It’s a better world with Jason in it.”