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Where Have All the White Hats Gone?

Monday, October 29th, 2012 by tamara

Where have all the white hats gone? A lot of you readers out here remember the guys in the white hats, mostly from the old movies the hero’s we looked up to. Remember Gene Autry, the Lone Ranger, and most certainly Roy and Dale. They rode in saved the day and we all cheered when they came on the screen and were sad when they left. It’s still a sad day because we have about the same thing happening today in our agricultural community.

When I was a kid growing up in Florida farmers were considered the backbone of the economy and they wore the white hats. They worked hard providing food for their families and the rest of the nation well respected and most certainly looked up to. Florida began to grow and with that growth came change and farming was pushed aside for other more profitable land uses like condos and shopping centers. People migrated to Florida more and more and they brought a lack of understanding about the agriculture community and what it stands for and how important it is to the State.

In the last ten years water has become one of the major issues and again. Citrus has been branded the black hat guys again just as bad as Snidley Whiplash in the old movies tying Pearl to the railroad tracks. This all comes from a complete misunderstanding about growers’ and landowners and how they are good stewards of their land.

There are many programs in place that farmers are using to protect and preserve their precious water resources. We have best management practices that are put in place to help with all types of issues; we manage our fertilizing differently that we did twenty years ago. We apply our other products in a safe and efficient manner. Citrus has taken the lead on water conservation in our state. I can remember as a kid irrigating was no science, we went out and kicked the dirt and if it was dry we watered. We didn’t know or care about transevaporation or how much water the tree actually needed. We watered till it was wet. We had sprinkler pipes we moved from row to row and believe me that was a job by the time you got to the other side of the grove you had to start all over again.

Then we also used under tree as well as overhead sprinklers that put out about a tenth to a quarter inch per hour and that took a long time to get anything wet besides the fact that water was blown away by the wind and was not placed properly. The industry has moved from the large walking guns that put out as much as five hundred gallons a minute to where we are now. We now use micro-jet irrigation that direct a small spray under the tree directly on the root system and we have gone from that high usage of five hundred gallons in minute to no more than fifteen to twenty gallons per hour. No other segment of the agricultural community has made these advances in water conservation as quickly as the citrus industry has.

As I said before growers are good stewards of their land it is all they have to pass on to their children as it has been passed on to them. They know if they don’t take care of their legacy it is gone. This holds true for all farmers wherever they are. I have tried to explain to many groups, most farmers don’t have large retirement portfolios, retirement plans and 401ks. The land is their retirement plan and that of their children. Just like other folks monitor their investments farmers take pride in being good steward s of natural resources to make sure they don’t do anything to mess up their retirement either.

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