What’s Your Ag Story

My Ag Story started very early in life, I was born and raised in the cattle industry. My family has been involved in the cattle industry in Florida for over 60 years- owning and operating Cattlemen’s Livestock Auction Market in Lakeland, Fl, while also running our cow/calf operation. I owe my knowledge of the cattle industry to my dad, David Tomkow and uncle, Mike Tomkow. I grew up working at the Livestock Market and working cattle with my dad and Uncle Mike. As a kid, summers were spent on the back of a horse, in the cow pens, and at the Market on sale day. My passion for the cattle industry and cattle producers have grown while working at the livestock market. I believe everyone in the industry deserves a voice; from the small family farms to the larger ranches. I served as the Polk County Cattlemen’s Sweetheart in 2014, I was an advocate for the cattle industry in Polk County as well as the state. While sweetheart I was able to connect with cattlemen and agriculture producers from all over the state of Florida. I hope to be able to continue advocating for the cattle industry and market cattle for producers in Polk county and surrounding counties for years to come.” 

Hailey Tomkow, Lakeland, FL  


“Growing up, I was not heavily involved in the Ag industry. I have multiple family farms on both sides of my family up in Tennessee and North Carolina.  ey were primarily dairy and tobacco farmers. My grandparents here in Florida always had the most amazing vegetable garden in their backyard. I loved looking at it and talking to them about it. I have always loved animals and nature, so when I decided to come back to school and ­ nish my bachelors, I just felt God calling me into the Ag industry. I initially thought I wanted to teach agriculture, but the more involved I get, the more I want to “agvocate.” I have grown more and more passionate about the environmental side of Ag. I would like to educate and advocate for agriculture on how hard we work to be the best stewards of the land possible. I think there needs to be a middleman between government agencies, activists, and the Ag industry who can clearly indicate what is truly an environmental Ag issue and what is not. I would love to be that person. I also want to educate consumers. There are far too many people who make decisions for their families in regards to what they will and will not consume based on social media, trends, or activists who are constantly promoting against the Ag industry. I want to inform them of both sides of the agricultural coin so they can make informed decisions on their own merit. An example of this would be organic versus traditional, or eating “GMO’s” . . . I just want them to truly understand what they are “standing” for. Studying agriculture and learning what truly happens in the industry has helped me ­and my voice. It has given me a direction in life and I would not change anything about the path God has given me to walk. I have yet to completely rule out education, but I know in my heart, that I am exactly where I am supposed to be; Agvocating.” 

Amanda Kuykendall, Babson Park, FL

  “In May of 5th grade, a curly-haired woman full of excitement and passion approached me during my ­ first visit to my “new school.” She came up and asked my mom about elephant poop to be used in the garden at Lake Gibson Middle School- this was my start. A‑ er Mrs. Morse convinced me to be in an advanced agriculture class as a 6th grader, I joined the FFA and fell in love with the agriculture industry. I have been in the FFA for 6 years now and love the fact that at such a young age, I am able to advocate for this industry through my speeches. While I have no background in agriculture, the opportunities and relationships I’ve created in this industry make me feel like I’ve found a home and place in this world. I wish to pursue a degree in agriculture communications with a minor in food and resource economics so I can work in a ­ eld with agriculture policy and food availability worldwide.  is industry has given me a family of others passionate to feed our world, and I am forever grateful.” 

Maddie Dvorak, Kathleen, FL  

“I started working in a grove for my dad when I was 16. At the time, I was the only female out there and I was doing all the grunt work. I learned quickly that if I was going to gain respect from the guys that worked out there, I was going to have to go the extra mile.  rough working hard and getting to know the right people in the industry, I have been able to land an internship with Syngenta, a company I hope to work for a‑ er this summer ends. Agriculture isn’t the easiest career, but it is the most rewarding one.” 

Carisa Keller, Punta Gorda, FL

“I was born into it! My grandparents were strawberry farmers and cattle ranchers. My dad manages a cattle ranch in Frostproof and my siblings and I grew up on the ranch.  at started my passion for the Ag industry- working alongside your family in the industry de­finitely gives you a love for it. I always thought I wanted to teach- which I did, but you never realize how deep a passion runs until you are removed from it. I taught 1st grade for a few years and realized quickly that I was missing my Ag roots.  en I decided to teach Ag at Frostproof Middle-Senior HS.  It brought me back to Warner University. I now get to share my passion for students as they make plans for their futures. With the rising age of the farmers and ranchers, I pray that through the Ag Studies program at Warner University I can help young people succeed as agriculturalists. My passion continues to grow every day as I learn new things and help students accomplish their goals through the Ag industry. It is such a rewarding profession to share my passion with others that so many people instilled in me!” 

Scarlett Jackson, Avon Park, FL



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