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Carpenter family recognized for environmental leadership

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Buck and NoraBeth Carpenter, of Southern Pioneer Farms, LLC in Madison County, were honored for their environmental stewardship with a County Alliance for Responsible Environmental Stewardship (CARES) award on Thursday, May 2, at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center-Suwannee Valley during the 19th Annual Suwannee CARES Celebration.

The Carpenter family has implemented Best Management Practices (BMPs) in their beef cattle and perennial peanut hay operations to protect local, natural resources and land that has been in their family for more than six generations. Some of the BMPs implemented include no-tillage which prevents erosion and improves soil health. Soil sampling, grid sampling and GPS applications help Carpenter monitor nutrients found throughout the property. Natural buffers help filter water leaving the farm and entering surrounding waterways. Additionally, rotational grazing and cover crops, specifically ryegrass, are used to improve overall soil health.

The CARES program was established by the Florida Farm Bureau Federation and the Suwannee River Partnership in 2001 to recognize superior natural resource conservation by agricultural producers. The program relies on action by farmers and ranchers to implement state-of-the-art natural resource management systems, or Best Management Practices, on their properties.

"Florida's farmers and ranchers answer the call to protect our environment while also producing our food supply," said Florida Farm Bureau CARES Coordinator Cacee Hilliard. "Demonstrating outstanding efforts to implement practices that reduce water and nutrient use and also improve water quality is the basis for a producer being awarded a "This Farm CARES" designation and sign. The customized CARES sign is a farmer/rancher's tool to demonstrate to the general public that they are committed to protecting local natural resources."

Florida farmers and ranchers depend upon the life-sustaining capacity of the natural resources they manage to maintain their livelihoods. Nearly 800 agriculturists statewide have received the CARES award since the program was established.

CARES has become a model for the rest of the nation. The program has partnerships with more than 60 public agencies, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resource and Conservation Service, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Florida's water management districts, agricultural organizations, businesses and local governments.

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