Four new members will be inducted into the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame at the Florida State Fair in February, Agriculture Commissioner Adam H. Putnam has announced.
The Ag Hall of Fame each year recognizes individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to the state's $100 billion agricultural industry.
The class of 2014 includes Scottie Butler, who retired at the end of September after 43 years as general counsel to the Florida Farm Bureau Federation, where he demonstrated the importance of developing relationships that brought together associations, coalitions and government agencies to address critical issues facing the industry.
Bruce Christmas, Sr., a former director of the Poultry Evaluation Center at the University of Florida, is a fifth generation farmer from Jackson County and a former Orange County extension agent.
Dr. Elver "Doc" Hodges is a retired professor emeritus at the University of Florida who is recognized for having made enormous contributions to Florida's livestock industry. For example, his research as an agronomist identified problems and found solutions to enrich low-quality Florida soils, which revolutionized peninsular Florida beef production.
Dallas Townsend, retired director of the University of Florida Hendry County Extension Office, served for 39 years as an extension agent in Southwest Florida and was instrumental in working with IFAS and the agriculture industry to bring more research capacity to the area through the UF/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center.
Reginald Brown, president of the Florida Ag Hall of Fame, said that the 2014 inductees are again representative of the high caliber of industry leaders and innovators who are named to the illustrious group each year after an extensive nomination and evaluation process by a committee that is kept anonymous in order to avoid outside pressure.
"The Florida Ag Hall of Fame has been acknowledged and is respected as the ultimate [recognition] process for individuals who have made a significant mark and a significant contribution to Florida agriculture," Brown said. "And the kinds of people that have been inducted have ranged widely over time, from folks in the tropical fish industry to people from the swine or cattle industry, or citrus and fruits and vegetables, to researchers and educators. But what they all have in common is that the industry has identified those individuals and folks that have made a significant contribution to the Florida agricultural industry."
Scottie Butler said he is "still a little bit numb" about being named as in inductee.
"And the things I did [that earned my nomination] I just considered part of doing my job," he said. "So I was surprised and humbled to be named an inductee."
Butler also attributed much of the personal recognition he received over the course of his long career to the statewide role FFB has played in addressing critical agricultural issues.
"For example," he said, "I was hired in 1970 because of concerns about the farm labor unionization that was going on in California. And ever since then, we were involved in all of the most important issues the industry faced."
Butler has attended the Ag Hall of Fame induction dinner every year since its creation. He witnessed the induction of former FFB president John Finlayson at the event's inaugural dinner a quarter century ago.
Butler also noted why the Ag Hall of Fame is so important.
"They bring a sense of history that is not only good for the industry, but also good for the public," he said. "It's a reminder of all the people who have contributed to a large and incredibly
important agricultural industry in Florida."
Nominations for induction to the Ag Hall of Fame can be originated by anyone. An application form is available on the organization's web site. Submission deadline is September 1 each year. New nominees, as well as existing nominees not already inducted from the prior two years, are considered for induction.
The 2014 inductees will be honored February 11 at the Ag Hall of Fame Dinner at the Florida State Fair, where an exhibit honoring past inductees is on permanent display in the Ag Hall of Fame Building.
For tickets to the induction dinner, or more information about the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame, visit FloridaAgHallofFame.org/2013/10/2014.