John Stevely, J.C. Garrison selected for Manatee County Agriculture Hall of Fame

John M. Stevely, Florida sea grant extension agent emeritus, will be inducted into the Manatee County Agriculture Hall of Fame on Nov. 19. 
John M. Stevely, Florida sea grant extension agent emeritus, will be inducted into the Manatee County Agriculture Hall of Fame on Nov. 19. PROVIDED PHOTO

MANATEE -- John Stevely, sea grant extension agent for Manatee County from 1979 to 2014, and J.C. Garrison, the late pioneer nurseryman, will be inducted into the Manatee County Agricultural Hall of Fame on Nov. 19.

The inductions are a highlight of Manatee Farm City Week. Stevely and Garrison will be the hall of fame's 95th and 96th inductees.

"I am really impressed with the two people they selected this year. They are from opposite ends of the business," said Ralph Garrison, nephew of J.C. Garrison.

Stevely, 65, is a native of New York City who found he wasn't cut out for the big city.

"The love of water led me here," Stevely said Thursday. He may be best known for his efforts to highlight the importance of the local fishing industry. Stevely has served on the planning committee for the Cortez Fishing Festival since its inception.

He assisted in the development of the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage and in other efforts to preserve and restore coastal habitats.

He is an international expert in sponge ecology and sponge fishery management.

Other areas of work include the introduction of the fish venting tool and development of best management practices for catch and release of deep-water reef fish, and the study of the economic impact of artificial reefs and red tides.

Among his honors: a Smithsonian Research Fellowship, nomination as a University of South Florida Outstanding Alumni and a Gulfcoast Guardian Award.

Stevely earned a bachelor's degree in biology from Gettysburg College and a master's in marine science from USF.

He lives in Bradenton with his wife, Teri Bert. They have a grown son, John B. Stevely.

J.C. Garrison came to Manatee County in 1922 at the age of 2. He graduated from Manatee High School and served as a Marine during World War II.

"Upon returning home he went to work for Carl Fraser with Fraser's Nursery. J.C. and Carl were founding members of the Florida Nurserymen and Growers Association, currently known as FNGLA. He started the Manasota Chapter of FNGA. He used this association to help promote plants and nurseries in Manatee County," according to a biography supplied by the Farm City Committee.

For three decades, Garrison was manager and then owner of Fraser Nursery, the earliest plant foliage nursery in Manatee County.

"J.C. had a love for people and assisted many growers in starting their own greenhouses and nurseries. He also had a heart for young people and employed FFA students during school and several other youth in the summertime. Many of these students entered into the horticulture business," according to his bio.

He was a pioneer in shipping plants out of state, brokering train cars for transportation, and later using small truck lines, and refrigerated semi-trailers.

Active in the Bradenton community, he served as elder of First Presbyterian Church and as a member of the board of trustees of Manatee Memorial Hospital, including a five-year stint as chairman. He was a member and past president of the Bradenton Rotary Club and a member of the DeSoto Society, portraying Hernando DeSoto in 1953.

"He loved the community and was well-known and well-respected," Ralph Garrison said of his uncle, who died in 1975.

"J.C. was a forward thinker, never satisfied with the status quo," Ralph Garrison said.

The two inductees will be honored Nov. 19 at the Woman's Club of Palmetto. Tickets are $12 per person and may be purchased by calling Sharon at 941-722-4524.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter@jajones1.