Chuck Johnston and his wife, Peggy, started 2J Farms LLC in Sarasota, Florida in 1976. Their Brangus cow/calf operation involves grazing on a public preserve, private lands, and a conservation easement bordering one mile of the Myakka River. The Myakka is a Florida designated Wild & Scenic River which includes miles of prairies, hammocks, and wetlands that eventually leads to Charlotte Harbor. With this beautiful natural resource winding through the conservation easement, the Johnston’s understand the importance of implementing sound management practices.
Since 2012, Johnston has implemented Best Management Practices (BMPs) to protect and preserve these lands. BMPs are a set of guidelines that advise producers on how to manage the water, nutrient, and pesticides they are using to reduce agriculture’s impact on the state’s natural resources. Johnston believes,
“This is the thing that we always have to look at with any operation, any movement that we make on the ranch, that those activities don’t impact the river.”
An important part of Johnston’s management plan includes the use of rotational grazing. Rotational grazing is a system that improves pasture longevity, allows for more timely utilization of forage and increases the stocking rates without a negative impact on the land. Rotational grazing utilizes cross fencing or fencing of sensitive areas to allow for animal rotation and protection of waterbodies. By rotating the herd from pasture to pasture, it gives the grass enough time to grow tender leaves for cattle grazing and enhances efficiency to the pastures’ growth. Johnston also saw a need to improve the fresh water access for their cattle. This project included the installation of solar powered well pumps, gravity tanks, and distribution pipes. This has given the cattle a reliable, and preferred source of drinking water spread out across the grazing areas. Studies have shown that forage is more evenly utilized when cows travel less than a quarter mile for fresh water.
Implementing BMPs benefits both the rancher and the environment, and it highlights agriculture’s commitment to natural resource protection. According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), over 12 billion gallons of water are conserved each year through the implementation of BMPs. As a result of their protection and preservation of Florida’s Natural resources, 2J Farms was recognized by the County Alliance for Responsible Environmental Stewardship (CARES) program in 2014. The CARES program was started in 2001 by Florida Farm Bureau Federation as a voluntary program that recognizes farmers and ranchers that implement BMPs on their farms. Producers that implement BMPs show a commitment to fostering water conservation and land protection through their continued efforts.
To find out about more farmers and ranchers who are doing their part to conserve our natural resources, visit www.thisfarmcares.org.