Okeechobee dairy farmers Sutton and Kris Rucks have been been honored by the state of Florida as one of this year’s Agricultural-Environmental Leadership Award winners. The award recognizes agricultural enterprises that are at the forefront of developing and adopting environmentally innovative farming practices.
Nominees were reviewed by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, as well as industry and environmental groups. Environmental practices considered in the nominations include: wildlife protection and habitat conservation, pesticide/nutrient management, water quality, soil and water conservation and waste management/recycling.
One of three recipients of the award, the Ruckes are a third generation dairy family and owners of the nearly 1,200-acre Milking R Dairy where they care for 1,200 milking cows. In addition to the dairy operation, Milking R also leases 2,000 acres for beef cattle and another 350 acres for row crops.
When they built their existing facility, the Ruckes consulted with the Natural Resources Conservation Service to design a model farm featuring a high-intensity area storm water and wastewater system.
Using the state’s Best Management Practices (BMP), Milking R allows for the capture, storage, reuse and treatment of 100 percent of the wastewater produced on the farm. Besides reducing the cost of operations, the BMPs have also helped the Ruckes reduce the amount of phosphorus imported to the basin.