Q&A with the PCCA Sweetheart on upholding the cattle tradition

BAILEY BUCHANON, the current Polk County Cattlemen’s Association Sweetheart, is proud to call herself a cowgirl, and is a true example of a homegrown girl who loves her roots. Central Florida Ag News asked her some questions about the industry and her goals as this year’s Sweetheart in upholding some of the cattle traditions.

CENTRAL FLORIDA AG NEWS (CFAN): How did it feel when you learned you were the new PCCA Sweetheart?

BAILEY BUCHANON: I got an overwhelming sense of joy and excitement! I consider it a privilege and honor to represent the largest cattlemen’s association in the state.

CFAN: As the PCCA Sweetheart, what is your focus? What are the goals of/reasons for the title?

BUCHANON: I feel the purpose of the PCCA Sweetheart is to promote the beef cattle industry in such a positive way that it completely changes the opinions that some consumers hold regarding beef. I also feel that my purpose as a Sweetheart is to teach the uninformed public about the by-products you receive from beef cattle and the nutritional value of lean beef.

The process of how beef makes its way from the pasture to the plate, and the pride the cattlemen in Polk County take in providing the public with a premier quality product, are all aspects of the beef industry the PCCA Sweetheart should purposefully share. I also aim to ensure the public that producers of Polk County are providing them with a safe, high-quality, consumer-friendly product in an environmentally and economically sustainable manner. My focus is to inform the public about the beef industry and the many benefits that come with including beef in a heart-healthy diet.

CFAN: Did you grow up in a cattle industry family? What’s that been like?

BUCHANON: I am very proud to say I have grown up in a family that raises beef cattle. I was born and raised in Lakeland, Florida, and I’m the daughter of Danny and Leslie Buchanon. I have been heavily involved in the beef cattle industry for as long as I can remember. I have been helping my dad work cows and care for our family’s herd ever since I could walk on my own.

From raking hay, fixing fence, and spraying soda apples, I have been actively involved in all aspects of our cattle operation. When I was nine, I began showing commercial and registered Maine Anjou beef breeding heifers at the local Polk County Youth Fair, Florida State Fair, and Florida Strawberry Festival.

I began raising and breeding my own herd of cattle and I exhibited the heifers I raised at these fairs and local livestock shows. When I started high school I began to exhibit market steers at the Polk County Youth Fair. Learning more about cattle from a different perspective, and getting even more involved in the beef industry has helped guide me in my path of life and I feel it has developed my passion and future plans in life, as well as mold me into the person I am today.

CFAN: What are your plans for the future?

BUCHANON: I graduated from Lake Gibson High School last year and I currently attend Hillsborough Community College, where I plan to receive my Associate of Arts degree in Agriculture before transferring to the University of Florida to obtain my bachelor’s in Agriculture Communications and Leadership Development.

CFAN: When you’re not performing your duties as Sweetheart, what do you do in your spare time?

BUCHANON: Between working at AgAmerica Lending and Publix in addition to attending college, I don’t have much free time but when I do, I enjoy going hunting and fishing, helping my sister get her calves ready for the fairs, and helping out on my family’s property in Polk City.

CFAN: If you could get anything across to our readers about the cattle industry, what would it be?

BUCHANON: That beef is a healthy and nutritious product that provides you with 10 essential nutrients that your body needs on a daily basis. Many studies have been released recently that say that certain types of beef are more nutritious, and that’s not necessarily true. Grass-fed beef is no more nutritious for you than grain-fed. Grass-fed beef just takes about three to six months longer to “finish” before it can be harvested and it is much more expensive for the consumer.

I also think it’s important for the public to learn about the best-management practices cattlemen implement each day. The cattlemen of Polk County are committed to providing the best care to their herds, while also respecting the land.

CFAN: This industry is such a rich part of Florida’s history. It’s kind of neat to be part of that, right?

BUCHANON: That’s right! Cattle were first introduced to the U.S. in 1521, when Ponce de Leon brought a small herd of Andalusia cattle over on his second voyage, which landed near what is known today as Fort Myers. Today, Florida has the 12th largest cattle industry in the nation, which is primarily made up of cow/calf operations. Florida’s cattle industry also supports many local businesses, such as feed producers and stores, fertilizer manufacturers, veterinarians, and many more. I think it is incredible to be a part of such an amazing industry that has not only changed the world, but feeds the world.


photos by PEZZIMENTI

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