DENVER (July 30, 2019) – Blackbeard’s Ranch, in Myakka City, Fla., has been selected as one of seven regional finalists of the Environmental Stewardship Award Program (ESAP). The award, announced during the 2019 Cattle Industry Summer Business Meeting July 30 recognizes the operation’s outstanding stewardship and conservation efforts. This year’s regional winners will compete for the national award, which will be announced during the 2020 Cattle Industry Convention in San Antonio, Texas, in February.
Established in 1991 by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association to recognize outstanding land stewards in the cattle industry, ESAP is generously sponsored by Corteva Agriscience, McDonald’s, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Cattlemen’s Foundation.
“America’s cattle producers are the original stewards of the land. They rely on a healthy ecosystem, including land, air and water resources, for their livelihood and they understand better than anyone the benefits of caring for those resources,” said NCBA President Jennifer Houston. “The lands we manage as farmers and ranchers are only entrusted to us for a short time and farmers and ranchers across the nation are committed to passing those resources to the next generation in a manner which ensures their future success. This year’s ESAP nominees Award Program exemplify the greatness of our industry and they share a common the common goal of bettering our industry through outstanding stewardship practices.”
“My family has been in Florida for six generations,” said Blackbeard’s managing partner Jim Strickland. “We've always been in the cattle business. And the first generation came here just before the Civil War broke out.”
Today Blackbeard’s Ranch, with origins in the Hutches Ranch in the 1930s, is one of the last large intact working cow-calf operations in this part of Southwest Florida, just east of the sandy beaches and high rises on the Gulf of Mexico. The ranch has 600 head of Beefmaster, Brangus and Charolais cattle.
A thousand new residents move to Florida each day. The Strickland family uses this unique opportunity to teach people about ranch lands, water and what Florida ranchers do. This puts a lot of pressure around the state for development.
“In the last five or six years, Jim has really embraced conservation, and actually formed a group of ranchers called the Florida Conservation Group,” said Jim Handley, executive vice president of the Florida Cattlemen’s Association. “They're all like-minded ranchers who are interested in preserving as much country as possible, keeping it in private hands.”
Strickland worked with National Resources Conservation Services to dedicate one-third of the ranch into a permanent conservation easement to protect water quality down-stream, restoring the wetlands and the native hydrological regime on 1,500 acres.
“We're still grazing cattle on it,” Strickland said. “But that easement program fit for us.”
In the last four years the ranch team focused on thinning dense trees and removing invasive plants. Their plan is to use herbicide treatments and prescribed burns, which means burning 50 to 100 acres at a time to help the land, cattle and the wildlife.
The ranch team installed water troughs driven by wind and solar power to ensure cattle have clean water. Adding five windmills and three solar wells allowed them to implement a rotational grazing plan without depending on ponds that commonly dry up.
“When we bought this ranch, one of the ideas was to have a ranch where conservation and agriculture meet,” said Strickland. “And one of the ways to get our word out initially was food.”
Strickland expanded the ranch’s products to include beef, honey and pork to maximize income opportunities and share the story of agriculture and conservation. He now hosts three to five buses of people eager to learn about conservation on a Florida ranch. Strickland welcomes legislators and agencies to the ranch to show how critical ranching is to the native wildlife populations.
“The real treasure of this operation, the true treasure of Blackbeard, is the land itself,” said Strickland, “and not the gold doubloons the pirate may have hid on this ranch.”