Each year the Greater Plant City Chamber of Commerce recognizes agriculture honorees at a special ceremony held at the Grimes Family Agricultural Center. Hundreds come out to enjoy a catered lunch, meet and congratulate the selected honorees and celebrate in the work they have done for the local ag community. This year, Ray Clark, Jake Raburn, Lee Gilman and Dixie Gilman, Everglades Equipment Group and Thomas Sturgis were all presented special plaques.
Clark was born and raised in Plant City. He grew up on his family’s farm and became involved in 4-H and FFA before earning his bachelors and master’s degrees and coming back to teach in the town he loves.
He impacted countless lives in the classroom and set many on the path of becoming influential leaders in agriculture themselves. Though his influence in the classroom is legendary, his wit in the ring at the Florida Strawberry Festival has forever cemented his legacy as being a staple in the local agriculture community. During Thursday’s ceremony, he was awarded the “Supporter of Youth in Agriculture” award.
Jake Raburn, another Plant City native, is the director of marketing at Hinton Farms. He was elected to represent Southeast Hillsborough County in the Florida House of Representatives. Over the years he has received countless awards for his advocacy for ag and is dubbed the “Champion for Agriculture.”
During his legislative service, he also served on many other boards including the Hillsborough County Farm Bureau Board of Directors and the State of Florida Higher Education Coordinating Council. The Chamber awarded him the “Young Agriculturist of the Year” award.”
The “2018 Agriculturist of the Year” award was given to Lee Gilman and Dixie Gilman. This duo has been married since 1995 and own a 40-acre strawberry farm as well as a small cattle operation. Three years ago they began marketing through Wish Farms.
Lee Gilman is on the board of the Florida Strawberry Growers Association and both are members of the Florida Cattleman’s Association. They are involved with local FFA and 4-H groups and often give back to the agriculture community with both their time and resources.
Everglades Equipment Group was awarded the “2018 Agribusiness of the Year” award by the Chamber. Founded in 1963 the company now has 14 locations and are one of the largest John Deere Equipment dealers in the world.
In Plant City, they support local high schools and will often provide equipment for agriculture fairs and events. Gary Noel and Bob Wells with the Plant City team were highlighted for the work they do here in town.
Thomas Sturgis grew up in FFA and showed everything from steers to citrus. After attending the University of Florida he eventually ended up as an agriculture teacher at Durant High School in 1996. At Durant, he is using his knowledge to coach Citrus, Creed, Nursery & Landscape and the Ornamental Horticulture Demonstration contest.
He was awarded the “Agriculture Educator of the Year” award.