Citrus Growers Honored for Conservation

Ernie NeffAwards, Environment


Two citrus growers are among 22 farmers and ranchers recently honored by the Florida Farm Bureau Federation (FFBF) in recognition of their superior natural resource conservation efforts. They are Travis Miller of DeSoto Grove in DeSoto County and Marlon Pendergrass of The Groves of Peace River in Hardee County. Each received the Farm Bureau’s County Alliance for Responsible Environmental Stewardship (CARES) award.

“You’ve got to be a good steward of what God blesses you with, and that’s the land that we produce our food and fiber on,” said Pendergrass, who has been the manager and a partner in The Groves of Peace River since 2007. The property grows citrus for juice and fresh markets on 863 acres.


The company practices stewardship by participating in the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Best Management Practices (BMPs) program, Pendergrass said. Using the BMPs helps the company “make sure our citrus trees get what they need to maximize their potential,” he said. “In doing so, we’ve got to protect our water.” Florida’s new Clean Waterways Act, which went into effect July 1, impacts agricultural landowners and producers enrolled in the program; learn more here.

One of the numerous ways The Groves of Peace River protects water quality is by having grass borders around citrus blocks “to make sure that we don’t have runoff in excessive rains,” according to Pendergrass.

Pendergrass said the groves also have several water-control structures that back water up in ditches and canals on the property. He said flood gates, or control gates, control the amount of water that is let out onto the grove or withheld from the grove, depending on weather and other conditions. “We have to be mindful to make sure that the water that comes through our groves is not overly contaminated with chemicals or fertilizer” in order to protect waterways, he added.

Employees of The Groves of Peace River deserve much credit for the company’s conservation efforts, Pendergrass concluded. “Our employees are ever mindful to be good stewards,” he said.

Pendergrass came to the citrus operation after being a farmer in Alabama, where he served on the local soil and water conservation supervisors board.   

The CARES program was established by the FFBF and the Suwannee River Partnership in 2001 to recognize superior natural resource conservation by agricultural producers. The program relies on the action by farmers and ranchers to implement state-of-the-art natural resource management systems, or best management practices, on their properties. More than 800 agriculturists statewide have received the CARES award since the program was established.

“It is imperative to recognize all Florida farmers who go the extra mile in caring for natural resources,” said FFBF President John L. Hoblick. “The CARES award is our way to honor these farmers and ranchers and bring awareness of production agriculture’s commitment to superior natural resource management.”

See the full list of the 2020 CARES award winners here.

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About the Author

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large