Ellen Cruz Eager to Use Ag Background and Degree in Role
by TERESA SCHIFFER
Central Florida Ag News welcomes new Florida Farm Bureau District 5 Field Representative Ellen Cruz! She will be serving the Central Florida agricultural community in Polk, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando, Citrus, Sumter, and Lake counties.
While she’s a new face for us, she certainly is not a stranger to agriculture.
“I was raised on my family’s citrus operation, south of Mulberry,” Cruz says. “I would be the third generation in the citrus industry for my family. My grandfather came from Tennessee and built his roots in the Seffner area. Then he wanted to be involved in farming, so he bought some land south of Mulberry and started their operation, which grew to about 600 acres in total.”
This grove provided a living for Cruz’s grandparents and their children. Eventually, her father inherited the operation. In recent years, he has had to sell the property, due to the difficulties caused by citrus greening.
She grew up watching her parents run the operation, and that left a big impact on Cruz.
“Watching my dad start with a single grove, which he was able to purchase from my grandfather, and grow that into a larger operation, was inspiring.”
Cruz enjoyed working in the groves during the summers of her youth. From her father, she learned how to plant trees, how to fertilize and protect them, and other aspects of grove operations.
“To see him set the example of what hard work looks like,” Cruz says of her father, “and how you can build your family around that, create good opportunities for your family, while also being passionate about stewarding the land and making a future, that really created a passion within me to take that to the next level.”
When her father sold the operation in 2018, Cruz was attending the University of Florida, pursuing a degree in Agricultural Education and Communication. Initially, her intention was to use that degree to work for her family in citrus production, but circumstances altered her course.
Cruz had interned with Dean Saunders and Saunders Real Estate while in college, so after graduating, she accepted a full-time job with the company doing administrative and marketing work. She also helped Saunders run a franchise business, Mosquito Joe.
After a year and a half with Saunders, an opportunity arose for Cruz to work in a field outside agriculture. The pandemic, however, swiftly brought her to a turning point when she was laid off.
It was during this time that she was able to reflect on her career, and she realized her true passion was for agriculture and the people working in it.
Since 2020, Cruz has been focused on her family. She and her husband welcomed a son in 2021. Then she saw the listing for a position with the Florida Farm Bureau.
“Farm Bureau has always been a company that is near and dear to my heart,” Cruz explains. “My father used them for a lot of his resources when it came to struggles he saw in the industry, and then when I was in college at the University of Florida, I served as the reporter for the Collegiate Farm Bureau on campus, so I was able to really dive in deep to what that looked like.”
Cruz participated in events with the Collegiate Farm Bureau, traveling to Tallahassee and Washington, D.C., to advocate for farmers. This gave her deeper insights into the purpose of the Farm Bureau to serve today’s farmers while building bridges to the future of agriculture through connections to the public and today’s youth.
“When given the opportunity to serve in this role, I consider it such an honor,” Cruz says of being chosen as a field representative. “I definitely take on this responsibility knowing that I am responsible for what agriculture might look like in the future when it comes to District 5 and Central Florida ag. I’m excited to see where that takes me.”
Cruz intends to maintain the momentum created by her predecessor, saying, “The person in this role before did an excellent job of really lining up a lot of new events and a lot of new ideas. First and foremost, I want to make sure that those ideas are well executed and they bring success.”
Looking ahead, Cruz wants to inspire action within the local agricultural community to ensure that the industry can be easily taken over by the next generation when the time comes. She is focusing now on existing women’s and young farmers’ programs to further this goal.
Cruz is enthusiastic about serving Central Florida’s agricultural community and wants the growers and ranchers of the area to know that they are always welcome to reach out to her through the Florida Farm Bureau at 352-378-8100 or at Ellen.Cruz@ffbf.org.