JAY — Three Santa Rosa-based farmers and ranchers were honored for their environmental stewardship with a County Alliance for Responsible Environmental Stewardship (CARES) award on Sept. 6 at the Jay Civic Center.

Recipients honored were Alan Edwards of Alan Edwards Farms, Tyler Brown of Brown Farms and Trent Mathews of Sweet Season Farms.

Edwards is a fifth-generation farmer who farms cotton, soybeans, peanuts, wheat, hay and raises beef cattle. Brown is a first-generation cotton and peanut farmer. Mathews raises cattle and grows row crops and owns an agri-tourism operation, Sweet Season Farms.  

The CARES program was established by Florida Farm Bureau 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 earn an agricultural producer recognition with a This Farm CARES designation and sign.  The customized CARES sign is 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.

In partnership 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 government, CARES has become a model for the rest of the nation.

Florida Farm Bureau, the state’s largest general agricultural organization, represents more than 146,000 member-families. We serve to enhance farm enterprise and improve rural communities.