Agri-Business of the Year Award
University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) is a federal-state-county partnership dedicated to developing knowledge in agriculture, human and natural resources, and the life sciences; and to make that knowledge accessible to sustain and enhance the quality of human life.
The UF/IFAS mission is state-wide but this Agribusiness award recognizes the contributions of UF/IFAS to our local agriculture community. Hillsborough County is among a few Florida counties in which all UF/IFAS functions exist; Teaching, Research, and Extension.
Plant City is one of several statewide locations through the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) offering degree programs. Students can earn a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida without moving to Gainesville and giving up a job or family. The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) at Plant City has programs in Agricultural Education and Communication, Food and Resource Economics, and Geomatics.
There are two UF/IFAS research facilities in Hillsborough County. The Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, in Balm, develops knowledge and technology that will assist Florida’s producers to be competitive, both nationally and in the world economy. The Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory, in Ruskin, supports the tropical ornamental aquaculture industry in Florida.
The Hillsborough County Extension Office is one of the most comprehensive in Florida. Its 14 Extension Faculty provide education programs in all the major topic areas including agriculture and natural resources, urban and commercial horticulture, family and consumer sciences, and 4-H youth development. These programs are available to all county residents, businesses and organizations.
AG EDUCATOR OF THE YEAR
Hillsborough County Ag Venture
Fall Ag Venture is a two-week agricultural education program for Hillsborough County third graders, held at the Florida State Fairgrounds. This hands-on learning experience is designed to teach elementary students about the importance of agriculture and to help them develop an understanding and appreciation for where their food comes from.
Each day, a new group of students rotate between five stations, learning about agriculture, the economy, and agriculture and allied industry careers. This year the traditional format faced challenges due to COVID and school safety plans.
The Ag Venture team quickly pivoted and developed an alternative: Ag Venture in a box. The idea was to create a virtual learning experience modeled after the Ag Venture that teachers have come to know and love. As a result, youth increased awareness of agriculture and agriculture-related jobs.
They also utilized technology for learning while completing activities in a safe learning environment. One unique feature of Ag Venture is the shared expertise among public and private partners, which enriches the learning experience for students.
The team includes Judi Whitson, Brandy Yancy, Charles Poliseno, Kerri Lefler and Lynann Hudson.
Young Agriculturalist of the Year
Ryan is the sixth generation in his agricultural family. Ryan lives in rural southeastern Hillsborough County in the small community of Fort Lonesome. His family has owned, lived and worked the same lands for over 100 consecutive years. The Gill family lands were designated by the State of Florida as a ‘Century Pioneer Family Farm” and Ryan works alongside his family in the multi-generational family business.
They run a commercial cow/calf operation in several counties known as Lonesome G Ranch, a u-pick Florida peach orchard known as The Southern Peach Company, Southern Developers and Earth moving, Inc. a land reclamation and environmental company and the Southern Grace Barn, which is a founding member of Florida Agritourism where they host beautiful award winning weddings and farm tours on the old homestead. They are members of the Fresh From Florida Program.
Ryan feels very humbled as he and his wife Kaylie are blessed with four wonderful children Eli Justin, Ella Jae, Cutter Doc and Emma Grace. Ryan currently serves as the Chairman of the Florida Strawberry Festival Beef Breed Show, Committee member of the Hillsborough County Cattlemen’s Beef Expo, County Cattlemen’s Association, where Ryan enjoys working along with fellow HCCA members to host Military Veteran Turkey Hunts on the ranch.
Ryan enjoys hunting fishing, boating and being able to be a mentor while coaching his son’s baseball teams and hosting father and son Christian retreats at the ranch.
Supporter of Youth in Agriculture
Brian is an Area Manager for Triangle Chemical Co, a supplier to the Agricultural Community.
He is married to his lovely wife Kari of 32 years and has three grown children Tyler, Tori (Trent) Page and Alyssa (Quinton) Rodgers and one granddaughter, Ella Grace Page.
Brian’s family has been a part of the Plant City community for almost 200 years. He has been volunteering and supporting the youth in agriculture of our community for over 38 years.
Agriculture and the youth programs of the Plant City community have made a positive impact on him, and he feels obligated to continue supporting these programs to impact the future of our community and to make positive impacts and influences on our youth.
Brian serves the community through the Strawberry Festival where he is now an Associate Director, Chairman of the Swine Committee, member of the Plant and Steer committees and a member of the
agricultural oversight committee for the Festival. He also volunteers his time and availability to help promote and judge at local chapters of FFA and 4H as well as sub district and district contest.
2021 Agriculturalists of the Year
Ed & Myrtle Lou Swindle
Ed and Myrtle Lou were introduced on a blind date in 1947. They were married in 1950, they have two sons, four grandchildren and nine great grandchildren. Both grew up in agricultural families and continue to be involved in farming and in the timber business. The only time the Swindles have not lived in the Plant City community was when Ed was in the military during the Korean War. They have always been active in their church, First Baptist of Dover
One of their most valued contributions was when Ed served on the Florida FFA Foundation Board. His tireless efforts to support the Leadership Training Center through fundraising, donations and remodeling the Villas will not only benefit FFA students today but will make a huge impact on their future.
The Swindles have been vital supporters of the Florida Strawberry Festival. They have supported the livestock sales through purchasing and also donating the funds to help build one of the Livestock Barn Pavilions. This will be a lasting symbol of their commitment to the youth and agriculture industry in our community.
The Swindles have also been active and important members of the South Florida Baptist Hospital Foundation, where they donated funds to construct the Swindle Diagnostic Center and continue to support the Foundation in numerous ways.