Jones Potato Farm recently became the third Manatee County farming operation to receive the Florida Ag Commissioner’s Agricultural-Environmental Leadership Award since it was first presented in 1994.
The previous Manatee County recipients were Pacific Tomato Growers of Palmetto in 1999 and Schroeder-Manatee Ranch of Lakewood Ranch in 1995.
Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam presented the awards at the Florida Farm Bureau state convention in Orlando. The awards recognize agricultural producers who practice environmentally innovative techniques. Other recipients this year were Alliance Dairies of Trenton and Cherry Lake Tree Farm of Groveland.
Jones Potato Farm was nominated for the award by the Nature Conservancy.
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“The Nature Conservancy has been working with Alan Jones and Jones Farm since 2013 and we continue to be impressed by their dedication to implementing best practices for water, soil, fertilization and nutrient management,” Florida Nutrient Stewardship director David Royal said in a press release.
Jones implemented the 4R Nutritional Stewardship Program and was the first in Florida to receive the 4R Nutrient Award. The four R’s are right nutrient source to apply at the right rate in the right place at the right time.
I have never been one to keep the status quo. I am not afraid to try new things.I can’t say we haven’t made mistakes. We just think through the process.
Jones Potato Farm was cited for reducing fertilizer use by 30 percent through the use of a grid system and GPS brand fertilizer spreader. Jones also reduced water consumption by 70 percent through a combination of precision watering using low-volume electric pivot irrigation system, which waters crops from above, and seep irrigation, which waters from below.
Such a large reduction in resources not only helps the bottom line for the 2,800-acre operation, it also is more environmentally friendly, Jones said.
In addition to his main potato crop, Jones also grows 700 acres of green beans behind the spring and fall potatoes. The beans serve as a nitrogen fixer and return organic material to the soil.
“I have never been one to keep the status quo. I am not afraid to try new things,” Jones said Tuesday. “I can’t say we haven’t made mistakes. We just think through the process. There is an awful lot you can learn by looking over the fence. You can learn what to do as well as what not to do.”
Jones and his father moved into Manatee County from the St. Johns County area in 1986 and began farming on leased property. In the early 1990s, they began buying property and now have farming operations in Manatee and Hendry counties.
Leslie Jones, Alan’s wife of 25 years, said she was pleasantly surprised to receive the award. But she’s also aware of all the technical field work her husband had done and the frequent visits by plant scientists sharing findings from their research.
“We are so excited for the future and all the opportunities we have headed our way,” Alan Jones said.