The first session of the Wedgworth Maximize series began with a focus on the value and importance of water as it relates to many different individuals within North Central Florida. The players in focus for this session included passionate environmentalists and recreationalists, large institutional land holders, farmers, agriculture entities, water management districts, and even the local population. Every single one of these players has a distinct rationale as to how and why they should have access to this precious commodity. The takeaway quote from one of the local farmers that seemed to resonate throughout the day:
“Water is a resource to be used but not to be abused.”
- The day kicked off with a visit with the director of Our Santa Fe River, a nonprofit lending a voice to the local waterways. Through her passion and volunteer direction, she has helped to guide, limit, and/or restrict some activities or entities that could potentially negatively affect the rivers and tributaries within this region. These may include:
- CAFOS, farm operations, and large-scale ag operations (Pilgrim’s Pride, local mining operations, greenways or trailways, or intensive chicken production facilities)
- Her passion has led her to Tallahassee to meet with lawmakers, to even run for a seat in the state house, and to have influence with key decision makers in her area. A takeaway from this visit was that someone is going to be making decisions. If we aren’t part of that, our best interests may not be represented.
- Who knew that water was so vital to production agriculture? We next visited with the tenants of Suwannee Farms. This land produces peanuts, potatoes, carrots, sweet corn, and field corn. With 100% of these acres irrigated, the comment was made that without irrigation the farm would not be viable. This farm operation works in close conjunction with the Suwannee River Water Management District using groundwater monitor wells, water use consumption rates, and upgraded efficiency practices on the irrigations systems themselves. Some key points in the use of this irrigation to consider:
- It is monitored intensively and extensively for nutrient management
- It is used to help with herbicides, yield, fungicides, and even harvesting efficiency
- It is used judiciously so as not to leach nitrogen, waste water, or affect neighbors
- This water is leveraged to create the highest use value for the property
A neighboring dairy farmer then shed light on how water is being used in denitrification of a contaminated area he is utilizing. Using monitoring wells, he can recycle ground water through a sand and wood chip trap to create an environment in which bugs can pull the nitrogen out of the groundwater. The filtered excess water is then utilized throughout the dairy operation to create a nearly zero-sum consumption of water for the entire operation. This also reduced his point source pollution to acceptable levels.
Wrapping up the day was the introduction to REITs and the Suwannee River Management Water District.
- REITs are defined as real estate investment trusts and are companies that own or finance income-producing real estate across a range of property sectors. Most REITs trade on major stock exchanges, and they offer a number of benefits to investors.
- Using an average value of $6000/acre, REITs in 2020 accounted for approximately 2 million acres of owned farmland throughout the US.
- These REITs on average seek a 5% ROI from their activities.
- REITs will be seeking to add additional acres in the North Florida region in the future. Ample water, sunlight, relatively low land prices, and access to large markets lends to additional investment opportunities in the area.
- Although Suwannee Farms is not a part of a REIT, the concept behind the purchase of this farm was similar. Wealth preservation and a better return on investment was the sentiment of the purchase of Suwannee Farms by the Gates Foundation.
The Suwannee River Water Management District is right in the middle of every one of the above entities. The focus of the district is four-fold:
- Water Supply
- Water Quality
- Flood Protection and Floodway Management
- Natural Systems
With 400 individual springs throughout the district along with many rivers, creeks and drains, it is imperative the district balances the needs and use of this precious resource. 2015 data shows the district used 253 MGD (million gallons per day) with 58% of this being used in some form by agriculture. It is estimated that by 2035 the daily water use in the district will rise an additional 117 MGD. A fascinating read on this data can be found here.
A question I leave with all: “What are the resources you have in your hands?”
“Water” Your Resources? Is it water, land, timber, grass, sunshine, location, leadership, availability, access to decisionmakers, business acumen? Will we choose to use it or abuse it? Will we leverage what we have for the good of those around us? How will we steward it – will we be engaged, intentional, and on purpose? Will we ignore what we have and one day wish differently? Will we recognize others could benefit from our resource or will we ignore those that we could partner with to make everyone better? How will we use the resource we have been given to make our community, region, and world a better place? Let’s go do that today.Read More
One of the greatest limitations I have in my life is that I view things only through the lens of my own outlook. When something occurs in my domain, it is typically viewed solely through the impact it has on me and my surroundings. What if we could view these happenings through a different focal point?
So how does this tie into visits to a hospital, community organizations, a downtown revitalization project, and even an etiquette class? And, why would diversity matter in any of this?
Buckle up for day 2 of Class XI with the Wedgworth Leadership Institute.
Ed Jimenez, UF Health
It’s more about what someone hears than what I say. People don’t always listen, but they always watch.”Ed Jimenez
Ed Jimenez, CEO of UF Health, kicked it into high gear at 8:00 sharp. With a $1.8 billion budget, eleven thousand employees, and a hospital kitchen second to none, he threw out the following leadership nuggets:
- Know your purpose. Leadership starts with purpose.
- The “why” may be very different for everyone
- Have perspective in understanding why each person does what they do
- Managers have “hard skills”. Leaders have “soft skills”.
- Facts, facts, and more facts.
- Informed decisions come from facts
- Know the why, not just data
- Lead by example.
- If you choose management, take responsibility.
- Communicate well.
“If you are not happy with average, do better.”Ed Jiminez
Mr. Jimenez challenged us all to look at those we walk the halls with, serve with, work with, or even our day-to-day employees and understand that what we do on a regular basis affects each person we come in contact with.
After UF Health, we ventured out into the Gainesville community to visit various nonprofit organizations looking to influence the human landscape of their area. This included a homeless resource center, a center to help end sex-trafficking, an organization to help keep the county clean, a place to help empower young girls, and a working food center to help end local hunger. And, this was all just in one town.
Are you like me and are maybe unaware that similar groups are working in our own neighborhoods to change the world around us? Am I even aware that there is such a need in so many diverse situations? Do I look the other way? Do I even see these people? Am I even looking for them? Do I go to the neighborhoods that these individuals frequent? What can I do to help these groups? What do these organizations need from me or how can I help influence change? What am I doing today or tomorrow to make a difference with these organizations? How can I use my influence, connections, resources, or leadership skills to make my community more livable? Am I willing to fill the gap?
We as Class XI were able to spend some time wrestling with these questions. While working through all this, we sat in a downtown venue and were mesmerized as the story unfolded about how a downtown park came to be from a vision of a few people. In what once was a decrepit old swamp now stood a testament to a vision, a dream, a renaissance. In the place of a mosquito trap now stood a community park, a gathering place, a venue for groups to intermingle, a chance for families to fly a kite, and a place for future dreams to be cast.
In this same venue, we had the chance to learn about connection through etiquette:
- Social vs Business Etiquette
- Why should I care? 1st Impressions matter!
- Names hold meaning
- Introductions have order
- Appearance matters
- Telephone etiquette and handwritten notes show you value others
The purpose of etiquette is to make others feel comfortable.
Day two challenged us to think about our responsibilities as leaders in our own communities. Here’s some questions to reflect on regarding your impact and responsibility:
- Am I making it personable with those I associate with?
- Am I seeing my neighborhood and those I can help influence?
- What am I doing today to make life better for my community and make it more livable?
- Am I seeing the vision and dream for a “swamp” in my community?
- Am I leaving a lasting impression with those I associate with?
- What can I do to make a difference in the lives of others and leave a lasting impression on my community?
- What am I doing, changing, learning that will make others feel comfortable?
Who knew you could take 30 complete strangers, add in a couple team-building challenges, rubber-play toys, Legos, and a personal item and bring these unique individuals to tears in less than 12 hours? That is just what occurred with the kickoff of Seminar I of the Wedgworth Leadership Institute’s Class XI. Here’s how it quickly added up:
30 strangers meet up at 9 AM at Lake Wauburg, south of Gainesville to learn who we will spend the next 22 months with,
THEN break them into teams with rubber play toys, tarps, team building exercises, an obstacle course with blindfolds, water cans and Legos,
NOW we know who we are teammates with and begin to glimpse just how cool this group is going to be interacting with.
Take these 30 now-teammates that did not know each other 12 hours previously, gather for an afternoon session on leading with humilty, and then take part in a meal graciously hosted by Florida Farm Bureau that evening.
THEN have them each bring a personal item to tell about themselves.
NOW you have tears, vulnerability, and a closeness to teammates that is something I have never seen come together so quickly.
After spending the day learning names and getting to know each other, we each shared a personal belonging that was special to us. Whether this was about a special pocket knife passed down from generation to generation, a very personal item maybe sacred or reminder of a parent, a Christmas ornament, a pair of work boots, a special memento necklace as a reminder of a dad passed too soon, a belt buckle or two, the wrist band announcing the birth of a brand new baby, or simply an item as a reminder of where we came from. All led to a connection of a team ready to see our communities and world in a whole new light.
“Team 11” is off to a great start. We now know who our teammates are, the names they will go by, and who forgot to wear deodorant the first day.
The Class 11 team of the WLI – the class so great that we require two #1s!Read More