South of the Lake
It was so exciting to gather with 1/3 of Class XI in Belle Glade this past Thursday. There have been many difficult situations that we have all encountered throughout this pandemic, however missing out on seeing our classmates is close to the top of that list.
We were slated to meet at the Belle Glade Marina. As you drive down West Canal Street, North you may wonder if you are in right spot as you wait at the stop light to cross the one-way bridge to the marina, but alas, we arrived. Keith Wedgworth (from Wedgworth Farms and alumni of WLI Class VII) was there to greet us for our first adventure of the day, a gorgeous airboat ride around the Southern part of Lake Okeechobee. Just a few weeks ago the lake was much lower, but today it was around 14 feet. The southern portion of the lake has areas where lily pads and hydrilla grow and the most beautiful birds you have ever seen! Our airboat captain took us to an amazing tree house in what appeared to be the middle of nowhere. There is a lot of history here, the land where the tree house stands used to be a farming community decades ago.
Once we got back to the Marina, we had the most amazing chicken lunch provided by Wedgworth Farms and delicious cupcakes provided by Florida Crystals and of course only served with drinks made from REAL sugar!
Dr. Samira Daroub (professor UF/IFAS Soil & Water Sciences) shared with us about the EAA, Everglades Agricultural Area, and the Best Management Practices (BMP’s) that have been mandated for all farmers in the area to comply with since 1995. The primary goal of these BMP’s is for each farm to reduce the level of phosphors in the soil by 25% with soil testing for nutrients, water management and sediment control in turn ensuring the protection of our most sensitive resource, the Everglades. Most farms exceed these standards and take extreme pride is being the best stewards of the land.
There is huge misconception in relation to Lake Okeechobee and agriculture, and sugar is most heavily credited with this misconception. Agriculture has been long to blame for the algae blooms and fish kills that devastate our costal waterways. To set the record straight, the water in Lake Okeechobee flows South, the sugar farming takes place SOUTH of the lake and farms do not regularly back pump water into the lake. Obviously, there are other contributors who are not agriculture.
Keith Wedgworth and Caroline Villanueva from Florida Crystals and WLI Class X, shared about the coalition of farmers that have banded together to fight the bad press related to the falsities of Sugar and Water. It is disheartening to hear how much hate is thrown towards an entire industry that I assure you people do not want to live without. They were joined by Jeffery Willis (Muck City Angler) who is a lifetime fisherman of the area and an educator for the community. Jeffery’s opinion is that education is the key to canceling the misconceptions of agriculture and the lake, and that farmers need to continue sharing their story.Read More
Forward-thinking Approach to Natural Resources and Water Management
On Friday, August 21, 2020, several class members WLI Class XI gathered with WLI Staff at Butler Oaks Farm and met with Ben Butler (Class IX member), Manager of Butler Oaks Farm and South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board Member and his brother Will. The Butler family has been a respected leader in the dairy industry of South Florida for over 80 years. The company started in the mid-1930s in Broward County but due to the boom in urban development, the family relocated to Highlands County in 1965. The dairy is now 1,500 acres and is home to roughly 2,000 cows, with 1,100 in the milking herd and also have a small beef cow calf operation.
Ben spoke to us about the impact that COVID has had on the dairy industry and why there was a major shortage of milk at the beginning of quarantine. The shortage had nothing to do with farmers not being able to supply milk but rather more of distributors not being able to move the product. When schools shutdown earlier in March due to the pandemic, that also meant that the steady delivery of milk also ceased. This backup caused many farmers to resort to dumping milk to be able to continue milking the cows.
The cows need to be milked regularly to stay healthy and so they don’t stop producing milk. The farm is able to fill up a 6,000 gallon tanker every day to send off for processing. Ben mentioned that the family has only been delayed five times in milking cows – even during hurricanes the cows need to be milked. The cows get so accustomed to their routine that the whole process becomes second nature to them.
The farm has participated in major environmental projects to combat the phosphorus and other nutrients on their farm. The farm’s water management practice collects to treat or reuse the surface water runoff.
Our next stop was just a few miles west of Butler Oaks Farm at Lykes Bros. Inc.’s Brighton Valley Project pump station.
Mr. Noah Handley, WLI Class IX member and Director of Engineering for Lykes Bros. Inc., spent a few hours with several of WLI class members and staff to tell the group about company’s recently completed stormwater storage and treatment project along other Lykes Bros. Inc operations. Lykes Bros. Inc. began with only 500 acres has now grown to over 600,000 acres in two states. Roughly 330,000 acres are in Florida and spread across Glades and Highlands counties, touching the Kissimmee River, the Caloosahatchee River and Lake Okeechobee. The company is a diverse enterprise including cattle, citrus, farming, forestry, hunting, and land/water resource management.
The Brighton Valley property is an 8,200-acre stormwater storage and treatment area with a number of benefits for water flowing into Lake Okeechobee. The construction of this project began in the Fall of 2018 and became fully functioning at the end of this pass April. Water will be pumped onto the property from the C-41A canal, flow over the property, and be released by gravity flow to the C-40 canal. The project is anticipated to eliminate an average of 3.2 metric tons of phosphorus and 27.3 metric tons of nitrogen from the water annually.
This is only one of three public-private partnership projects between Lykes Bros. Inc and SFWMD the company has on their property. The other two include West Waterhole (2,500 acres) and Nicodemus Slough Project (15,900 acres). All three are working to benefit the water that is either following into or out of Lake Okeechobee.
After lunch that was generously provided by Mr. Joe Collins and Lykes Bros. Inc., the class members, Christy and Kevin reflected and discussed the impact of the pandemic on business and what does it mean for the future.Read More
Resiliency and Innovation
These are two words were that were spoken about multiple times at our last Wedgworth in the Field at Butler Oaks Dairy and at Lykes Brothers’ newest project, the Brighton Valley Water Project.
Both businesses and families are doing their best to be both resilient and innovative for their industries and with their land use.
Mr. Ben Butler (Class IX) was gracious enough to show us around his family dairy. If you are familiar with the location of his dairy it is right along the Kissimmee River that flows into Lake Okeechobee. Ben and his family have not only been resilient to the pressures we all know the dairy industry has faced in recent years, but they also have been innovative with their water projects continue the family’s operation. In total, Ben stated that the family has participated in 7-8 projects that has led to total confinement of the water from the dairy. No water leaving the dairy is untreated.
Continuing our trip further South, our next visit was to Lykes Brothers’ newly finished Brighton Valley Water Project. Mr. Noah Handley (Class IX) and Mr. Joe Collins (Class VII) showed us around the newly completed pump station. Brighton Valley is an 8,200-acre stormwater storage and treatment area on a canal that runs from Lake Istokpoga from the north and runs to Lake Okeechobee to the South. This land was previously used for their cow calf operation. This is the third project that Lykes Brothers has completed. Among their three water projects, they make a measurable difference in the phosphorus load into Lake Okeechobee.
Both businesses are being resilient and innovative in their own ways and scales to be able to continue to be successful in production agriculture and to ultimately do their part in the reduction of contaminates Lake Okeechobee.Read More
Happy Little Ferns
Lately, my nephew, Maddox, has been working on his art skills.
With the confidence of Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel, he will take his trusty crayons or markers, grab some scratch paper, and begin wildly scribbling until the page is full. While the want is there, the masterpieces seem to elude him sometimes. It is at these moments he will become frustrated, crumple his paper, and throw the would-be prized piece in the garbage.
I told Maddox he should check out some Bob Ross videos.
When it comes to art, Bob seems to have it all figured out. His version of painting is not just frantically adding color to a canvas but, more so, conceptualizing his desired landscape, and then painting it. And he does not let a mistake stop him.
In fact, it was Bob Ross who said, “We don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents.”
Are you scratching your head yet? Wondering why the Wedgworth Wire is reflecting on Bob Ross and his happy, little trees?
If so, the answer is vision. Bob Ross succeeded in creating great works of art by having a vision before putting paint to canvas. Then he executed. And when something went awry? Rather than dwell on failure, he chose to pivot.
And this brings us to David Register and his happy, little ferns at FernTrust.
Our tour started at the FernTrust office in Seville, FL, which, for those who do not know, is the “Fern Capitol of the World.” I could overwhelm you with the intricacies and details revolving around the production, harvest and processing of these ornamental ferns but this could evolve into an even lengthier article.
Our group was given an interesting recount of the evolution of the family fern business, with details ranging from natural disasters, diversification, industry consolidation, and even the rise of the internet!
Truth be told, I am quite the sucker for a great origin story when it comes to the history of old, Florida farm operations. Mr. Register’s story did not disappoint in that regard. Although the family operation had begun as a predominantly citrus-producing business, a bad freeze disagreed with the long-term viability of their citrus groves. When faced with this obstacle, they needed an alternative.
Cue the pivot.
That is when the family turned to fern production for the floral industry. The reinforcing of this niche fern market was further solidified years later after hurricanes dealt a blow to local producers, driving some to exit the market. Mr. Register claimed it was at this point the remaining, larger-scale producers decided to form the FernTrust. Together, the cooperative allowed for the streamlining of the fern industry and for a small collective of like-minded growers to drive the market with a shared vision.
There is that term, again – vision.
Mr. Register spent a fair amount of time discussing his vision of the fern business with us. He expounded upon trends and fads that impacted the domestic and global floral industry. It was clear he had spent a fair amount of time considering the future to stay one step ahead of the curve. Essentially, he helps steer the entire direction of the ornamental fern industry. His organization has refined and improved the production and processing of fern crops, has continually strived to optimize yields and minimize shrink, and has even transitioned into new, value-added offerings for florists.
While our visit allowed us the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the “fernacular” of this specialty market, there were much broader messages to be extracted from our day at FernTrust.
Again, I reiterate concept of vision.
As our personal and professional lives continue to feel the repercussions of Covid-19, we remain in a strange state of flux. Our daily lives have been utterly shocked and, while this could seem intimidating to many…what if we were to capitalize on this as a chance to reimagine the landscape of our lives and businesses?
Mr. Register certainly provided a continuous supply of anecdotes and pieces of wisdom throughout our time together. However, on the concept of challenging the current status quo, I will leave you with one comment that stood out to me.
“You were chosen as the new class of leaders. You are the group that will shape the future. How do you want it to look?”
I would extend that same sentiment to, not only our class, but to our entire alumni group. Amidst all the current turmoil and change, what does that future look like to you?
If you find yourself struggling to answer that question, I would point out a concept from The Truth About Leadership by James M. Kouzes and Barry S. Posner.
“It is your job as a leader to lift people’s sights and lift people’s spirits. You must remind others…that there is a larger purpose to all this doing. You and they are working hard in order to build something different, to make something new, to create a better future” (Kouzes, Posner).
While most, if not all, of us are guilty of trying to survive one day at a time right now, we can not neglect this opportunity to reevaluate our vision and reimagine the futures of our lives and organizations. If you are not already doing so, I would strongly encourage you to spend a little time in the future. Set aside a few minutes to consider your long-term plan.
Is everything on track? Or could this be the time for a pivot?
Once you answer those questions, I would also suggest proactively communicating that vision with your families, associates, employees, and any other stakeholder. Keep them in the loop so they understand the shared goal toward which you are all working.
We may have no crystal ball but proper planning and forward-thinking will, at least, lay the groundwork for the direction in which we ought to be heading. And, with the right vision, hopefully we can avoid any major mistakes along the way and just run into happy, little accidents here and there.Read More
Moving Citrus Forward
Aaron Himrod, a third-generation grower from Himrod Citrus Nursery took time with several members from Class XI and WLI staff to give us a tour of his facilities. This was the third “field” trip that members have had the ability to participate in during our MaXImize Sessions. Mr. Himrod’s family has been in the greenhouse business since the 1980s and over the years things have drastically changed. He is leading the way in cutting edge and innovative methods to help sustain the citrus industry as a continuing viable Florida crop.
In the nursery, they are growing the new trees to replace those older, non-producing trees. If you are not planting new trees in your grove when needed, the grove will not last. It takes eighteen months from seed to be ready for planting. When they graft a tree, it takes 12 months from the grafting process to be planted. Grafting is when you take a part of two distinctly different yet related citrus species and fuse it together. The nursery houses 10 different scions, 25 root stock with the hope that these new varieties will increase the juice flavor of an already world-renowned Florida juice—just making it that much better.
The regulations for facilities changed in 2007 and with the onset of new rules they were able to retrofit the building and fully enclose it. The current nursey will hold 215,000 trees. They also have a newer facility several miles from the old one that will hold 75,000 trees. The most valuable trees in the nursery are the bud wood trees, they have 200 and 95% are just three varieties. These trees were originally planted in 2006. Mr. Himrod expressed how important it is to make sure that the cuts from these trees are clean an issue in the bud wood trees could potentially cause problems in the entire facility.
There are currently only about 50 nurseries left in the citrus industry. Thanks to the forward thinking and innovative approaches, the Himrods’ have transformed their nursery into one of the best in the area.
After a delicious lunch generously provided by Andrea and Steve Johnson, class members, Christy and Brian were able to have a chance to reflect and discuss how the pandemic has affected our businesses. It was a nice to be able to reconnect even it was as a safe “social” distance.Read More
We were hosted by Brittany Lee (Wedgworth Class IX) at Florida Blue Farms. Ms. Lee gave us an overview and history of the blueberry industry in Florida, as well as a tour of her farm.
Ms. Lee gave us the history of how her family started Florida Blue Farms. They were in the real estate business and decided they wanted to turn this tract into agricultural production. After deciding hay farming wasn’t in her future, they settled on blueberries. She immediately began using all her resources to track down and speak to experts at growing blueberries.
The farm is located in a drainage area of a 3,000-acre swamp. This created a challenge for growing blueberries that need a dry, sandy soil. Ms. Lee and her father went to work creating ditches and drainage that would make the land suitable for growing berries. I was most impressed with the determination of her family to create a successful farming operation on a piece of land that most people would not see the potential opportunity. They decided they wanted to farm on the property, and they made it happen.
Growing blueberries over the last decade has come with many challenges. The competition from foreign imports has drove the price of berries down, while labor costs continue to rise. Florida blueberry growers are competing with foreign companies that are paying their labor less in a day than domestic producers are paying per hour. We are now importing more than 30 times more foreign berries than we were 15 years ago. The resiliency of blueberry growers in the state is what makes producers like Ms. Lee special.
Before leaving, we had a discussion with Ms. Lee about the importance of building relationships. She had story after story of how connections made through the years have impacted her career. Every Wedgworth alumni I’ve spoken with recognizes the true value of the program lies in the relationships built with class members and alumni.
The question I kept coming back to after leaving Florida Blue Farms is: “What obstacles in my life are actually opportunities for growth?”
Ms. Lee’s family turned the challenge of building their farm into an opportunity that has propelled her to becoming a successful grower and President of the Florida Blueberry Grower’s Association. We can see obstacles as a disadvantage or a chance to grow – the choice is ours.Read More
Highlights from Florida Blue Farms
On July 9th, a collection of fellow class XI members convened at FL Blue Farms in Waldo, FL just Northeast of Gainesville. The group was hosted by Brittany Lee, Class IX alumna and manager of her family’s blueberry farm. By traditional standards the Lee’s are relatively new to agriculture. Their family was involved in commercial real estate sales and development, until the recession of 2007 forced them to rethink their long-term strategy. They had begun to reacquire some contiguous pieces of land that they had previously sold portions of, and with no future development potential in sight, they decided to look for alternative uses. After nearly settling on the now infamously glamorous lifestyle of a hay farmer, a family friend who was farming row crops in GA convinced them to partner up on a berry farm on the Lee’s land. A year or so later, right before beginning to plant their first bushes in 2010, the friend had to back out, so it left Brittany and her family, with no agricultural experience, to plant a grow a relatively high maintenance crop alone. Today, they have about 60 acres in production (managed by Michael Hill’s care taking business), and another 40 acres that they have some tough decisions about whether to replant or not.
Some of the highlights that stuck out to me from the trip are the following:
- For only having been in ag for less than 10 years, not only was Brittany well versed in the history of blueberries, cultivars, consumption trends, market challenges, environmental hurdles, etc., but she could recite it all to a group and give you both the challenges and the needs of their industry in a way that stuck with you.
- The above ties into her obvious success as a leader. While it is a family-owned business, and her title was manager, she appeared to be the clear spokeswoman for the farm industry wide. She is also currently the Executive Director of the Florida Blueberry Growers Association, and there were numerous awards on the wall of various accolades within the industry and her community. She also repeatedly mentioned picking up the phone to speak with various state and national representatives to discuss trade issues etc. All of these things can be attributed to her intimate knowledge of her industry and what it needs (her personality helps a little too I’m sure).
- She gave us a statistic that, since 2010 Florida’s blueberry production had essentially remained around 25 million pounds of production per year. In 2010, Mexico was producing 1.7 million pounds and however, last year they produced 53 million pounds. Additionally, she said the average wage of a worker harvesting berries in Mexico is $10/ day, and that the H2A labor for US harvested berries is about $11/hour. I’ve heard Michael quote about the same figures before too which is just astounding.
- Based on the above stats, trade and imports were her industries largest challenges, and one major factor in their tough decision of whether to replant their remaining 40 acres. One issue compounding the trade issue is that there are large U.S. farms who have production in Mexico which muddies the waters for regulating the “dumping” of produce on our market.
One last nugget I thought she gave us was, not only to get to know your representatives, but also to call them and ask them what you can help them with sometimes, don’t just call when you need something from them. She said that had proven to be successful for her and that they seem to appreciate and remember you for it.Read More
Finding Common Ground
On Friday, June 26, 2020, six class members of WLI Class XI gathered with WLI Staff (including Anne Parrish, the new Leadership Programs Coordinator) and guest speakers for Maximize Session I at Royal Springs in O’Brien, FL. It was absolutely wonderful to come together to challenge our minds after so many months of social distancing. Due to recent rain events, Royal Springs was full of tannic water from the Suwannee River. Maximize Session I was focused on water quality and quantity. Mr. Kevin Wright, WLI Class X, Vice President of Lands, SE Oak River Farms worked hard to bring us speakers with diverse perspectives.
Mrs. Merillee Jipson of Our Santa Fe River, Inc. and owner of Rum 138 was our first speaker of the day. “Our Santa Fe River, Inc. is a non-profit corporation giving the Santa Fe River a voice” according to Mrs. Jipson. She has a background in Arts, not environmental science as one might think. She is a self proclaimed passionate environmentalist who has helped stop 4 bottling operations, ran a red tides campaign, and shares concern of nutrient loads into waterways. She reported that the local towns of Ft. White and Branford are working towards connecting to central sewers to reduce nutrient loads from septic systems. She briefly mentioned the Valdosta Waste Water Plant spills affecting north FL waterways. Merillee seems like a tireless activist who has reached the masses in north central FL regarding many water issues in the area. She emphasized that each one of us has the ability to create change by showing up, knowing who to talk, and building a relationship with the aids of representatives prior to requesting meetings. Mrs. Jipson also emphasized the need to understand the language of the bills, who the players are, and understanding the other side and how they may be impacted by change before trying to create that change.
The next stop was Suwannee Farms. Mr. Wright started off telling us about crop rotations to rebuild soils, such as peanuts, corn, then carrots or potatoes. We learned that the highest grade of peanut is purchased by candy makers such as Mars, Inc., the second grade is used for peanut butter, and the lower grade is used for oil. Mr. John Ward and Mr. Kelby Sanchez of SanRiver Farms, LLC joined us to further discuss production. They told us that 60% germination of peanuts planted is a good stand today. That means that 40% of the seed that they plant does not produce a harvest. Irrigation is essential to their production. They regulate water usage daily based on data from soil probes. They have a base station/computer control to monitor break downs and avoid wasting water or fertilizer. This data is shared with regulating agencies. The group moved from the field to the packing facility where we saw washed potatoes being sorted prior to going into 50 lb. bags. The unwashed potatoes were going into large totes, then loaded on trucks, to be washed at another packing facility where they would be sorted into smaller bags. The staff and equipment for the potato packing is leased to SanFarms, LLC for the season.
Besides inviting an advocator, growers, and farmers to speak to us about water issues, Mr. Kevin Wright provided an excellent barbeque lunch.
After lunch, Mr. Dave Temple owner of Southern Cross Dairy which is a CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) spoke about a pilot project to reduce nitrates from the land that he operates on, which had a consent order prior to the start of Southern Cross Dairy. After careful evaluation of the situation, the determined resolution was to install several shallow wells is spray field to capture the nutrients and sent them into the production facility. While human drinking water is allow nitrates up to 10 ppm, livestock drinking water is allow 20-30 ppm. This system has proven to be effective at this CAFO, meeting the goals of the consent order from DEP within the 5 year allotment.
Mr. Kevin Wright spoke to us briefly about Ag Investing. He explained that many of the funds come from Life Insurance investors because it is safe bet on a return typically around 4-5%. This is often in Forestry Lands in FL. I would like to hear more from Juan David about this topic.
Our final speaker of the day was Mr. Tom Mirti, Deputy Executive Director Suwannee River Water Management District. SRWMD is the 5th largest in the state, which has 450 documented springs, but it is estimated to have 500 or more. Twenty-one of those are 1st magnitude springs, meaning they discharge at least 100 cubic feet of water per second (cfs), or about 64.6 million gallons per day (mgd). Part of the Cody Scarp is located in this WMD, which is a geomorphologic feature 100 ft. drop in elevation that extends from Orlando, FL to just north of Tifton, GA. 54% of the water usage in SRWMD is agriculture with 60% of the being animal usage. 20 year projections for water usage in SRWMD is 60% agriculture, which means the area is not expected to have a great deal of residential development. The water quality initiatives that SRWMD is working on are:
- New nutrient reducing technologies.
- Septic to sewer conversions or septic upgrades.
- Pilot new project concepts.
- Improve the water quality monitoring network.
The day ended with my favorite part of Wedgworth Sessions, reflection. There was discussion about the need to develop relationships with people that may initially be difficult to talk with due to opposing views to be able to see one another as people first and develop respect for one another. After that begin discussions with areas where there is common ground for example all parties from Maximize Session I expressed the desire to use resources wisely. Follow with areas of opposition backed by data. Stop discussions if either party begins to shut down/stop listening. Christy informed us that shut down happens due to loss of mutual purpose or mutual respect. It is necessary to determine which one is the issue in order to fix the condition of a conversation before continuing with content.
I look forward to interacting with all of you in upcoming WLI Class XI learning opportunities.Read More
“Water” (What are) Our Resources?
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
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