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April 25, 2018

Protecting Our Natural Resources: Meet a Florida female rancher who CARES

By Tampa Bay Parenting

Florida Farm Bureau and Mosaic present: A Florida Female Rancher who CARES 

“Being a rancher is not a job if you go to work and love what you do every day,” says Kelly Fulford. 

Fulford is the owner of Southwest Cattle Company in Odessa, Florida, and works daily to have an active role in protecting her land and its abundant natural resources.  

In partnership with Hillsborough County, Fulford leases a 2,000-acre property through the Environmental Lands Acquisition & Protection Program (ELAPP). One unique characteristic of her ranch is that the general public is permitted to ride horses throughout the gorgeous nature preserve. As visitors trail ride, they are able to interact with the grazing cattle and can even enter parts of the land to which Fulford’s cattle are not permitted to impact. Since 1987, the ELAPP Program has saved more than 61,000 acres of wildlife habitat. And allowing visitors to see these preserved landmasses in person is key to effective conservation education. 

“In addition to being a good steward to my cattle, I am also a teacher to each of the visitors who ride through the property to inform them how ranching is a means to preserving the land and all it has to offer,” says Fulford.”  

Through the utilization of Best Management Practices (BMPs), Fulford has been able to improve the water quality and soil’s health throughout the ranch. BMPs are practical, cost-effective actions that agricultural producers take to conserve water and reduce the amount of pesticides, fertilizers, animal waste and other pollutants that enter our water resources. They are designed to benefit water quality and water conservation while maintaining or even enhancing agricultural production.  

Says Lint Jerrels, Co-manager of Southwest Cattle Company: “Water quality is a huge concern to Kelly. I have seen her work to maintain ditches and cypress ponds to protect native grasses, the overall health of each field and the water bodies which run throughout.”  

Through the use of BMPs such as rotational grazing with cross-fenced pastures, Fulford is able to offer fresh, tender grass to her Brangus cattle while allowing the vacant pastures time to regrow. Applying fertilizers using GPS-guided systems based on soil test results ensures Fulford only puts out supplemental nutrients exactly where and to what amount they are needed. In addition, supplemental feeding areas and mineral boxes are placed away from the numerous wetlands found throughout her property.  

“It’s important to me to take care of water quality so that future generations, such as my grandchildren, and their children, can ranch on our land for decades to come,” Fulford says. 

Fulford received the “This Farm CARES” designation from The Florida Farm Bureau Federation in 2016. CARES (County Alliance for Responsible Environmental Stewardship) began in 2001 to publicly recognize farmers and ranchers who voluntarily implement BMPs on their farms.  

Through the successful implementation of BMPs, Florida’s farmers and ranchers show a sincere commitment to the protection and preservation of our natural resources for generations to come.  

Fulford is an outstanding representative of the CARES Program and The Florida Farm Bureau Federation is proud to feature a highlight video made about her operation on www.thisfarmcares.org and also on the This Farm CARES Facebook page.  

Written by Cacee Hilliard, CARES Coordinator 

Originally published in the April 2018 issue of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine.

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