On Friday, Aug. 9, at the Jackson County Agriculture Conference Center in Marianna, 13 Innovative Farmers and Ranchers were recognized by University of Florida IFAS Extension and Farm Credit of Northwest Florida. This is the third year these two organizations have teamed up to honor an elite group of innovative farmers and ranchers in the Florida Panhandle.

Herman Laramore was recognized as the Jackson County Agriculture Innovator of the Year by the Jackson County Extension Service. Laramore is the business manager of the Bar L Ranch located near Marianna.

Bar L Ranch is a 1,000-head commercial cattle operation that began in 1961, when Laramore and his brother Gordon took over the family farming operation. Many innovations have made the Bar L successful.

Individual animal identification and extensive record keeping, that included retained ownership and carcass data, helped Laramore identify superior sire lines and inferior cows to drastically improve both the productivity and the marketability of the herd. Artificial insemination (AI) and embryo transfer are utilized to make use of the top beef bulls in America, and to create a completely closed herd, with no animals coming onto the ranch for the past six years.

The Laramores have improved their management so that their breeding season has condensed from 120 days to 90, and now down to only 75 days per year. The Bar L Ranch has served as one of the cornerstone herds for University of Florida beef cattle research to develop timed AI protocols that are now used around the world. All of the cattle they sell are preconditioned for 45 days after weaning and sold in uniform, tractor-trailer-load lots. Herman Laramore makes use of a variety of byproduct feeds from the cotton and grain industries to balance the excellent quality hay and round bale silage produced on the ranch, and fed through the winter.

In addition to the numerous management innovations, Laramore has also worked very closely with UF/IFAS Extension and been a leader in the Florida Cattle Industry. He worked with Cattle Researchers and Extension Agents on numerous projects dealing with health, nutrition, and reproduction. Laramore serves as a member of the IFAS Regional Advisory Committee and the North Florida Research and Education Center Advisory Committee. He was leading member of the cattlemen group that lobbied the Legislature to get the Marianna Beef Research Unit funded. Laramore served on the screening committees that selected the research faculty for the Unit. He served on the Florida Cattlemen’s Executive Board, and was named Outstanding Florida Cattlemen in 1991. The Laramore Family was named Outstanding Farm Family in Jackson County by the Farm Bureau in 2005.

From the distinguished pool of 13 County Innovators, an “Innovator of the Year” was selected to represent Northwest Florida. This year, Stephen and Tracie Fulford, from Jefferson County, were selected as the Farm Credit of Northwest Florida Agriculture Innovator of the Year. The Fulfords operate a commercial row crop farm in Jefferson and Madison Counties. The Fulfords combine precision farming, sod based crop rotation, and conservation tillage to decrease soil erosion, reduce weed pressure, reduce nematode and disease pressure, and lower fuel use because they make fewer trips across fields.

The Fulfords have worked closely with UF/IFAS Extension: volunteering for on-farm cotton variety trials and weed control tests, hosting field days, serving on advisory committees, and participating in agriculture awareness programs in Jefferson County. They are actively involved in Florida Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers and Ranchers Program, which works to share the positive story of agricultural business in Florida. Stephen says, “I cannot sit on the sidelines and expect someone else to speak for me. I must step out and be a leader.” Tracie has a blog, “The Farmer Takes a Wife,” and coordinates the Ag in the Classroom program in Jefferson County. Stephen received the Commissioner of Agriculture’s Agricultural Environmental Leadership Award.

Truly the Fulfords are well deserving of this honor because they combine environmental stewardship, technology, and innovation to make Fulford Farms successful.

The purpose of the Agriculture Innovator Recognition Program is to annually recognize innovative farmers and ranchers from 16 Florida Panhandle counties, from Jefferson west to Escambia County. Bringing these top-notch farmers together to meet each other will foster further innovation. Highlighting these creative and successful farmers will also help increase public awareness of the diversity and innovation of today’s modern agriculture.