Ben White is the newest CARES farmer of Jefferson County
ECB Publishing, Inc.
Ben White, a Jefferson County native, grew up in Waukeenah, where his family lived on the vast acreage of a pine tree farm.
White began his education in the classrooms and halls of Aucilla Christian Academy before graduating from North Florida Christian School in 2000. From there, White would go on to attend Tallahassee Community College before taking a job at Waukeenah Fertilizer in 2005.
Despite growing up on a pine tree farm, White didn't have the firm background of farming that many Jefferson County farmers do; he didn't grow up on a cattle ranch or spend his summer days helping out on his family's farming operation.
Instead, White got his start at farming thanks to a tractor.
After working at Waukeenah Fertilizer for a few years, White chose to purchase a tractor, “and I decided, if I was going to have a tractor, I might as well be doing something with it,” said White.
At first, White started cutting hay for other area farmers, but quickly enough, that operation turned into a decision to grow and cut his own hay – and the rest, as the saying goes, was history.
Today, 10 years after starting his family's farm, White owns over 500 acres of farm and ranch land, called WW Cattle, where he raises cattle and grows corn and hay.
An average day at WW Cattle, White says, involves feeding cows, fixing equipment, bailing or hauling hay and raking the fields. As a full-time employee at Waukeenah Fertilizer, White spends his time equally between his farm and the store.
While most people see clocking out at work as an end to the workload of the day, White's day is still in full swing, as he returns home from the shop and joins his farm hands in tending to the ever-expanding list of responsibilities that a farm and ranch require.
But White is more than just your average farmer.
On Wednesday, May 1, White was recognized by the Florida Farm Bureau with a County Alliance for Responsible Environmental Stewardship (CARES) award at the 19th Annual Suwannee CARES Celebration, which was held at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center, in Live Oak, Fla.
The CARES award has been a way for the Florida Farm Bureau to publicly recognize farmers and ranchers throughout Florida who have demonstrated exemplary efforts to protect Florida’s natural resources by implementing Best Management Practices (BMPs).
While juggling the load of being a full-time employee at Waukeenah Fertilizer as well as a full-time farmer, Ben White has also worked to put several BMPs to work on his ranch and farmland, such as employing cost-share programs to use equipment that allows better management and use of his land.
White has installed cross-fencing to allow rotational grazing for his cattle herds, plants cover crops to replenish the soil throughout his acreages, has implemented the use of soil moisture sensors as well as soil and grid sampling on his land, and has fenced off wetlands in order to protect local water quantity and quality.
“With the use of Best Management Practices (BMPs), White is dedicated to conservation and his surrounding resources,” writes Florida Farm Bureau.
According to White, the use of grid sampling the soil on his land is one of the more recent BMPs that he has incorporated into his farming practices, as he has been using grid sampling for the past 5-7 years in order to monitor the amount of fertilizer used on his farm.
“It's changed everything on the fertilizer side of farming,” said White. “It has saved a lot of wasted fertilizer from being used.”
As if White's plate was not filled up enough with farming and managing the shop, he also serves as the president of the Jefferson County Cattlemen’s Association, where he and other association members work to advocate for local ranchers, encourage the sustainable stewardship of the land and provide educational meetings for local ranchers.
White is also currently in partnership with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to grow corn through solar-powered irrigation systems, thus decreasing water usage in production.
While every farmer and rancher enjoys the day when their hard work comes to fruition, when crops and cattle go to market and sell for a fair price, White says he particularly finds satisfaction in the more idyllic aspects of being a farmer and rancher.
“I love watching baby calves be born, or watching the hay roll out in bales from the tractor,” he adds.
In 2011, Ben White married his sweetheart, Lydia Monroe, and the couple has two children – Benjamin, age five and Hazel, age three, with a third child, a little boy, to arrive in September.
As a local farmer and rancher, White encourages the community to shop and buy local.
“Most farmers got a stake in something else, other than their farm,” says White. “I work full-time at Waukeenah Fertilizer, that's how I support my family. Buying local from [local businesses] in turn helps support local people, including farmers.”
“An old man once told me that one percent of the United States feeds the other 99 percent,” said White. “That 99 percent, they are depending on the one percent to grow and raise food. That has stuck with me ever since I started farming.”