Mark Wheeler of Wheeler Farms named 2014 AG-Vocate

Mark Wheeler, fourth generation Florida farmer and second generation co-owner, board director, and chief financial officer of Wheeler Farms, Inc. in Lake Placid, Florida, has been awarded the Agriculture Institute of Florida’s 2014 AG-Vocate Award.

The award recognizes an individual whose effective communications with opinion leaders and the general public has raised awareness of, and appreciation for, agriculture’s important contributions to Florida’s economy and environment.

The Agriculture Institute selected Wheeler for his proactive work while serving as president of Florida Citrus Mutual.  Wheeler educated elected officials, regulators and journalists about citrus greening disease and its potential devastation of Florida’s citrus industry.

According to Mike Sparks, executive vice president and CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual, Wheeler was integral to the association’s communications campaign to secure $125 million in citrus research funding in the Farm Bill over the next five years.

By inviting reporters and representatives into his family groves, Wheeler put a face on the deadly disease known as greening,said Sparks, who nominated Wheeler for the award. “Upon visiting with Wheeler and/or seeing his family farms in the news, decision-makers realized greening could wipe out a multi-generational way of life in Florida that provides an economic backbone to many rural communities in Florida’s interior.”

Wheeler represented the state’s $9 billion citrus industry to local, state and national media including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Marketplace radio.

Wheeler Farms is a second generation, family-owned business with over 2,300 acres of citrus, cattle, timber, pasture, and commercial properties across seven Florida counties and three states.

Wheeler will accept the AG-Vocate Award at the annual meeting of the Agriculture Institute of Florida on Wednesday, December 3, 11:30 am-1:00 pm, at the Holiday Inn, Walt Disney World Resort.

Foundation hosts congressional staffers for farm tour

Perry Yance, vegetable farm manager at Duda Farm Fresh Foods, explains radish production to tour participants at a Belle Glade field.

Perry Yance, vegetable farm manager at Duda Farm Fresh Foods, explains radish production to tour participants
at a Belle Glade field.

Several congressional staffers got a firsthand look at South Florida agricultural operations during a farm tour hosted by the Ag Institute of Florida Foundation on Oct. 21 and 22. The tour was part of an expanded outreach and education effort by the Foundation.

The group’s first-day stops included Lipman Produce in Loxahatchee as well as Hundley Farms, A. Duda and Sons and the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative in Belle Glade. They also toured sugar cane production hosted by U.S. Sugar Cooperative in Clewiston. On day two, the group visited Hilliard Brothers’ cattle operation in Clewiston and Duda’s citrus groves in Felda. Participants learned about various production practices and interacted with the growers. The Ag Institute Foundation extends its gratitude and appreciation to these tour hosts.