Farm-City Luncheon celebrates agriculture

OKEECHOBEE — This week marked the 25th annual Farm City Week, and on Nov. 15 a celebration luncheon was held to honor award winners, thank sponsors and allow some of the local youth who are involved in 4-H and Future Farmers of America (FFA) to explain what their clubs are all about.

Three young people won awards on the national level, bringing awards back to Okeechobee and making everyone very proud. Winning a National Championship in the Animal Science, Division 1 was John Wesley Williamson, II. Abby Holcomb won the FFA Reserve National Champion Environmental Systems, Division 1. Shelby Sumner was a 4-H National Dairy Judging Team winner.

FFA National Champion Animal Science Division 1 John Wesley Williamson, II won a national championship in Animal Science. Photo by Cathy Womble, Lake Okeechobee News.

The state president of Florida FFA Association, Artha Jonassaint, who is an Okeechobee native was the guest speaker. Miss Jonassaint is very highly regarded in Okeechobee and was greeted with enthusiasm. She began her speech by explaining she had no regrets about postponing college for a year while she traveled around the country representing FFA. She said she felt the experience she was gaining and the people she was meeting as president were an education in and of themselves.

State President Florida FFA Artha Jonassaint was the guest speaker. Photo by Cathy Womble, Lake Okeechobee News.

Miss Jonassaint stressed the importance of teaching agriculture to the next generation. She said we live in an agriculturally illiterate world, and she had recently seen a survey stating 16.4 million Americans, roughly the population of the state of Florida, actually believe chocolate milk comes from brown cows. She explained we are fortunate to have people researching and developing new ways to grow food but she does not believe small groups of people working in labs is enough. She believes there are not enough ordinary people being trained in agriculture to meet the needs of our growing population. She believes agricultural education and career technical education as a whole are the key to raising a generation of informed consumers and voters. Miss Jonassaint’s speech ended with applause and a standing ovation.

The final award of the afternoon was presented to Gladys Freeman, a successful cattle rancher and an active leader in the community. Ben Butler of Okeechobee Farm Bureau presented the award, and he told a story of how Mrs. Freeman once broke her ankle and still made dinner for the cow hands and didn’t go to the doctor until the next day. He said she was certainly no stranger to hard work. He also said she was a founding member of the Farm Bureau and that she had started the very first 4-H club in Okeechobee 50 years ago!

Abby Holcomb won the FFA Reserve National Champion Environmental Systems, Division 1. Photo by Cathy Womble, Lake Okeechobee News.

Shelby Sumner was a 4-H National Dairy Judging Team winner. Photo by Cathy Womble, Lake Okeechobee News.

Ben Butler (right) of Okeechobee Farm Bureau presented an award to Gladys Freeman, a successful cattle rancher and active leader in the community. Photo by Cathy Womble, Lake Okeechobee News.

Cathy Womble is a staff writer for the Lake Okeechobee News.

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