Levy farm among three named Century Pioneer Family Farms

Published: Saturday, May 1, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, May 1, 2010 at 12:42 a.m.

Florida has designated three North Florida farms as Century Pioneer Family Farms - a recognition bestowed on farms that have been continuously owned by a family for at least 100 years.

The recognition of the farms in Lafayette, Levy and Suwannee counties comes from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

"These families have been able to retain ownership of their land through the Great Depression, diseases, droughts, freezes and the urbanization of Florida," said agriculture commissioner Charles Bronson in a news release. "That is a great tribute to the many generations of these families."

Donald and Margaret Hurst are running an 80-acre farm in Lafayette County that became family property through a homesteading letter from President Benjamin Harrison to one of the family's ancestors. The Hursts are producing straw and trees on land previously used to grow peanuts and tobacco.

In Levy County, Dianne Priest Joyner manages a 200-acre farm that her family once used to raise peanuts and watermelon and where she now has a cow-calf operation.

A 40-acre Suwannee County farm now operated by Claude and Sandra Starling was originally used for row crops like corn, peanuts and tobacco, according to state officials. The Starlings now use the land to produce hay and raise cattle.

State records show that 157 family farms have received the Century Pioneer Farm designation since the program began 27 years ago.

More information about the program and applications are available at www.florida-agriculture.com/marketing/centurypioneers.htm or by contacting Richard Gunnels at gunnelr@doacs.state.fl.us or 850-488-3022.

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