For 55 years, Manatee County has celebrated Farm City Week, a nationwide recognition of the importance of agriculture.
For more than half that time, Ervin Shannon has helped mold Manatee's agricultural footprint, and on Tuesday during a Farm City luncheon hosted by the Kiwanis Club of Bradenton, he was honored for his service.
Shannon was named Manatee County's 2012 Agriculturist of the Year by the Manatee County Extension Service, the local service office of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. The list of former recipients include Brenda Rogers, the former executive director of the county's Extension office and now director of Manatee County's Community Services Department; Jim Strickland, a Manatee rancher and the county's agricultural property appraiser; Ralph Garrison, a local nursery operator and former president of the Manatee Farm Bu
reau; and longtime Manatee agriculture supporter Earle Lucas.
The announcement came as a surprise to Shannon, a Palmetto native who began working with the extension office in 1977.
"I never imagined this honor," Shannon said.
For 35 years, Shannon served as the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University's Small Farms Program assistant at the county extension office. During his tenure, he helped open communication channels with minority small farmers, gave hands-on demonstrations on pest management and soil solarization, and wrote monthly columns on agriculture and farming in Manatee, as well as a gardening column.
Shannon also reached hundreds of youths through his Bucket Brigade classes through the 4-H Youth Development Program, in which he taught small-scale container gardening using five-gallon buckets.
"This was always my dream," Shannon said. "I wanted to be in horticulture."
Earlier this year, the Manatee County Commission Board proclaimed June 8 as Ervin H. Shannon Day. Shannon retired from the county extension office on June 30.
"I never dreamed of this," he said.
Farm City events will continue throughout the week, which include a folk festival, farm tour, beef prospect show, and an agricultural hall of fame luncheon today at the Palmetto Women's Club. The late Callon C. Keen Sr. will be this year's inductee into the Manatee County Agriculture Hall of Fame.
Nick Williams, East Manatee reporter can be reached at 941-748-0411 ext. 7049. Twitter:@_1NickWilliams