Innovation. A word that most likely brings to mind the latest iPhone or tablet. Long before the invention of the wheel, people have been steadily refining how we do things. But at the Wedgworth Leadership Institute’s most recent seminar in Cedar Key and Trenton, we were able to see a few examples of how far agriculture has grown. We all know that dairy farmers milk cows, grove workers mow and fertilize, cowboys ride horses, and farmers grow crops in pretty rows. However, it’s the details that have been innovated over the years. For example, those row crops now have plastic and drip irrigation so that farmers are using less water. There is an amazing amount of innovation being made throughout our country to help our growers be some of the best in the world.
Agriculturalists and conservationists in the sunshine state have found many ways to make the best use of the resources we have. This statement can be seen in full effect in the beautiful town of Cedar Key, where a majority of our seminar was held. This small gulf community has made big waves. It is home to some of the most productive clam farms in our state. When net bans went into effect, the commercial fishermen of Cedar Key were forced to adapt. Aquaculture was born. Boats that were once used to pull up nets full of fish were transformed to manage the clam farm leases. But this was not the only change made in the area. The need for clean water became a key component to the survival of these farms.
Whether you chomp or tomahawk, there is no denying that the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is an enormous benefit to our state. This is no different in Cedar Key. The research done on keeping the water clean inspired a huge innovation to the island’s human waste management system. As with most of the state, septic tanks were a part of every household. But even trace amounts of undesirable material can upset the fragile ecosystem. A community effort led to doing away with all septic tanks and building a waste management facility; an accomplishment that the natives are very proud of. That’s not the only innovation UF/IFAS is a part of.
Coastal erosion is a natural part of how our world works. As waves crash on the shoreline, that shore changes over time. However, this does create a problem for those who enjoy their beach front houses. Seawalls seem to be the quick fix, but they too have their issues and are most certainly not natural. This leads to another opportunity for innovation. UF/IFAS has outdone themselves again by recreating the natural marsh/beach shoreline that is naturally found in the area but with one small change; these beaches are engineered in a way that the shape of them holds together better as the waves abuse continues. This project is still fairly new, so I encourage you to take interest in the work being done there.
Merriam-Webster defines innovation as “a new idea, method, or device”. As I reflect on my time in the third seminar, as well as these past few months of COVID-19 living, I see this word to have more weight than ever. Our world is changing rapidly. The Marine Corps has a saying “adapt and overcome”. With each speaker I felt challenged; challenged to be creative, to adapt, and to innovate. I offer that same challenge to you. In whatever your daily life consists of, whether it be professional or personal, be creative, adapt, and innovate.