Agriculture honoree is easy choice


Annette Barnett Land was recently named the state's Woman of the Year in Agriculture to recognize the contributions she and her family have made to agriculture over many years. Land has one of the largest beef cattle operations in North Florida.

MICHAEL C. WEIMAR/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Tuesday, January 28, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 28, 2003 at 12:11 a.m.
BRANFORD - Back in October the Florida Watermelon Association decided that - for the first time ever - they would nominate a member to be the state's Woman of the Year in Agriculture.
The deadline was looming, but selecting a nominee was easy. Annette Barnett Land was the obvious choice to board members.
The association's choice soon became a choice of the panel that screened the nominees and made recommendations to Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles H. Bronson, who had the final say on the woman to be honored for outstanding contributions to Florida agriculture.
On Feb. 6, Bronson will present the award to Land during an opening day luncheon at the Florida State Fair in Tampa.
"I was very honored," Land said. "And surprised."
Years of contributions Sharon McCall, the association's promotion coordinator, said nominating Land was a way to recognize the many contributions she and her family have made to agriculture over many years.
Land serves as a director and secretary/treasurer of the National Watermelon Promotion Board. Along with her husband, Raymon Land Sr., and adult sons Raymon "Jody" Land Jr. and Pastor Adrian Land, she is well known for her extensive agricultural involvement.
In addition to serving on several state, regional and national boards, the family operates Land Truck Brokers Inc., one of the largest crop brokerages east of the Mississippi with markets as far away as Canada. They also have one of the largest beef cattle operations in North Florida. Land Brokerage Realtor has helped hundreds of farmers, ranchers and families buy and sell real estate in the Suwannee River Valley.
Over the years, the work has broken down into two distinct areas of responsibility, Raymon Land Sr. said.
"I have the vision and she handles the details," he said. "It's worked that way for 43 years and it seems like every day for all of those years she has told me that I can envision more things than she can detail."
Among statewide contributions, Land and her family have made was the decision to install irrigation in their watermelon fields.
They were among the first producers in the northern half of the state to install walking rigs in the late 1960s and early 1970s, then they were among the first to progress to drip irrigation in the late 1980s and early 1990s to conserve water.
In response to changing market demands, the Lands helped the growers they brokered make the transition from only shipping bulk loads to shipping by cartons, bins and boxes as requested. In recent years the Lands have led the movement away from the larger seeded varieties of melons to those with smaller seeds or no seeds at all.
"We have just always been willing to try different things and I think I get that from how I was raised," Land said.
Land, 61, grew up on a Suwannee County farm that raised lots of watermelons along with peanuts, tobacco, corn and cattle. It was also a farm where agricultural innovations and advancements were welcomed. Her father, L.L. Barnett, owned the first tractor in Suwannee County and invented the first tobacco setter, ending the back-breaking process of hand setting the little plants.
Annette Land attributed much of her success in life to a couple of personality traits, including always going at things very fast, like being able to select $250 to $300 worth of groceries in less than 30 minutes.
"That's why we don't shop together," said Dot Hill, one of Land's closest friends. "I've been trying to teach her to slow down since we had our children together because I'm worried she'll have a heart attack, but she always says no because she likes to go fast and she'll die happy doing it."
Staying busy Another trait that Land has relied heavily on over the years has been a keen memory. She can still recite long passages from the commencement speech she gave as salutatorian of the Branford High School class of 1959, including sections of a poem she often recalls during her work days.
"God forgive me when I whine. I have two eyes; the world is mine," Land said. "God forgive me when I whine. I have two feet to take me where I go."
Where Land goes most often is to her rural home, her office in Branford or to the Baptist church her youngest son is founding in Rosewood.
"Neither one of us has time for any real serious hobbies because our lives have really just been work and home and family," Raymon Land said.
In addition to Annette's recognition at the State Fair, the Lands will be traveling to Georgia to see their oldest son assume the office of president of the National Watermelon Association before heading back home to congratulate their oldest grandson on getting his driver's license and then gearing up for the 2003 watermelon season.
When Commissioner Bronson told Land she would be recognized at the fair, he said part of the reason she was selected was because, "I had my hands in so many pies," Land said. "It's true that I do like to be busy, but the only pie I really take my time with is a pecan pie. I take my time with a pecan pie because that's the way I learned to make them."
Karen Voyles can be reached at (352) 486-5058 or voylesk@gvillesun.com.

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