Strickland named `Agriculturalist of the Year'

MANATEE -- William Lee “Buck” Strickland was named the 2011 “Agriculturalist of the Year.”

Strickland, 74, of Parrish, is a Palmetto native and an accomplished grower well-known for his willingness to try new practices, according to those who know him best.

He was honored Tuesday at the annual Farm City Week Luncheon hosted by the Kiwanis Club of Bradenton, where he was also inducted into the Manatee County Agriculture Hall of Fame.

Strickland began his career in 1958, working for C.R. Burnett & Sons, where he grew vegetables and citrus, according to a biography provided by the Manatee County Agriculture and Extension Service.

In 1967, he began farming with Palmetto Tomato Growers, and in 1981, started farming in his own operation, Shiloh Farms, it said.

He has also been a director of the Manatee County Farm Bureau, a strong supporter of Palmetto High School’s Football Boosters, and a devoted Baptist who has been a deacon and Sunday school teacher for decades.

Strickland has also been married to wife Vera Jo for 55 years, and is the father of four grown children.

“He’s well-liked by all his peers,” said Buddy Keen, a friend of many years, and the presenter of the award Tuesday. Keen noted that Strickland was among the first growers to use low-volume irrigation in citrus groves.

“He developed a lot of stuff when he was farming tomatoes, too,” Keen said.

Another admirer is Ben King, who operates the King Family Farm & Market, 4630 60th St. E.

“He was a very good farmer. He had a whole lot of patience ... ,” said King. “He went through a lot of changes in his career, like before using plastic, using plastic and drip tape.

“He even had drip irrigation in the grove, which is a very new technique. He’s seen a lot of things in his years of growing.”

Strickland was accomplished at growing many different types of crops, including tomatoes, corn, cantaloupe, onions, strawberries and citrus, King said.

To be named to the Agriculture Hall of Fame is a “great honor” because it means others think you deserve to be singled out as a farmer and a noted local contributor to the community, King said.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031.