The “Annual Youth in Ag” edition is one that I look forward to reading each year. There is something invigorating about hearing how our youth are continuing ag traditions while expanding existing ag programs and studying new innovative technologies with the same pioneering spirit that we see so often in our industry. I enjoy reading about motivated students like Meg Jessee, who saw a need in the community and set about finding a solution to that need. We hope you will be inspired by the youth featured in this month’s issue as well.
I’m pleased to report that the Winter Haven High School Agri-Business Academy is now accepting applications for the fall semester. Centered in one of the largest agriculture-producing counties in the state, with one of the largest offices of the Department of Agriculture nearby, the location and focus of this new Agri-Business Academy just make sense. The academy will prepare students for study at the collegiate level with a focus on scientific research. Agriculture as an employer will continue to demand new people and talent in both direct agriculture production and supporting industry. With Warner University’s new agriculture degree program now under way, the well-established program at Florida Southern College, and our proximity to the University of Florida and the Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, we are well poised to create educational pathways that will keep our youth employed locally and provide our future industry workforce. Our thanks to all of those involved in the development of this new academy.
By the time this issue reaches you, we will be wrapping up the 25th Polk County Agri-Fest, hosting almost 6,000 students during the 10-day event. In conjunction with the Florida VIVA 500 Celebration, we were able to incorporate the Florida Department of Agriculture’s impressive VIVA 500 exhibit into our Florida Farms station this year – an experience that both the students and teachers were thrilled with. We send our thanks to FDACS for allowing Polk County Agri-Fest to be one of its host sites for the exhibit.
We held a well-attended 25th Agri-Fest Anniversary Celebration Banquet on March 8. Those who have participated in the event over past years shared stories of the event’s beginnings and growth through the years. Attendees also enjoyed a great meal provided by the Polk County Cattlemen’s Association, Fred’s Market, and Margie Adams of Adam’s Groves.
We’d like to say a special thanks to those who sponsored the 25th Anniversary Celebration Banquet and this year’s Agri-Fest event:
The Mosaic Company
Florida’s Natural Growers Foundation
Polk-Florida Farm Bureau Insurance Agents
Pampered Peach, LLC
Polk County Cattlemen’s Association
Clear Springs Farms, LLC
Dole Berry Company
Growers Fertilizer Corp.
Polk County Cattlewomen’s Association
AgLime Sales, Inc.
Chemical Containers, Inc.
Cutrale Citrus Juices, Inc. USA
Everglades Farm Equipment
Lightsey Cattle Company
Be sure not to miss our annual Ag Deputy Luncheon coming up on Thursday, April 11, at 11:30 a.m. at the Bartow office. Contact Sharon Wheeler at email@example.com or (863) 533-0561 to RSVP for this informative event.
Harvest Celebration tickets also are now available. Contact Sharon or any Polk County Farm Bureau board member to purchase tickets for the May 10 event. Last year’s Harvest Celebration was a sold-out event, so be sure to get your tickets early.
I hope to see you at these upcoming events.
column by Les Dunson, III
Les Dunson, III, is president of the Bartow-based Polk County Farm Bureau.