Citrus grower and cattle rancher C. Dennis Carlton of Seffner has been named the Florida state winner in the 2014 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year.
He will join nine other state winners from the Southeast when the winner is announced Oct. 14 at the farm show in Moultrie, Ga., according to a news release.
Carlton has two cattle ranches. The Carlton & Carlton Ranch spans five counties, and the Audubon Ranch is n two counties.
His pastures cover 34,680 acres in six counties.
He produces citrus on 359 acres, shipping the fruit to Florida's Natural Growers.
Carlton also leases out 183 acres of strawberries.
He has planted hundreds of oaks to provide pasture shade and is replacing bahiagrass with the easier-to-establish Jiggs bermudagrass. In addition, he is installing a center pivot to water winter annuals. If it provides to be cost effective, Carlton says he plays to expand pivots to other locations.
Faced with the challenges of citrus greening, Carlton has converted some of his citrus ground to strawberries leased to a California grower.
As part of his conservation program, Carlton has developed a system to use lake water for strawberry frost protection, thereby limiting groundwater pumping during a freeze.
He also has converted 1,200 acres of former phosphate mine land to productive pastures and wetlands.