Small and Alternative Enterprise - Feature Farmer

Mack and Alicia Glass - Cherokee Ranch - Jackson County - Florida

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In 1971 Mack and Alicia Glass moved back to Jackson County from Pensacola where Mack was a machinist to take over the management of the 3800 acre family timber and cattle ranch.  In 1977, Mack recognized the value of developing the genetic base of his cattle herd with tropically adapted Beefmasters. Over the next 27 years he developed an internationally recognized Beefmaster herd. Maintaining the contacts and presence to market in the purebred industry was challenging, so in 2004, Mack made the tough decision to begin breeding his purebred Beefmaster females to high quality Angus bulls. His years of genetic selection allow him to market load lots through a regional board sale. He also built a commodity barn and began buying his feed in bulk by the semi-load to make his operation more efficient.

In addition to his skills in cattle selection, Mack is well known for his ability to manage a forage based system for his cattle herd. He discovered the value of crop and forage rotation. Mack developed a strategy to maximize peanut yields, integrate winter annual forages, followed with the planting of the most improved forage varieties. Mack was one of the first cattlemen in the region to develop a management system utilizing Ball Clover, which is a very persistent legume that can boost fertility of both the cattle and the perennial grasses that emerge later. Currently he is working with IFAS personnel to develop methods for integrating perennial peanut into Bahia grass pastures to take advantage of a perennial legume.

Mack’s greatest innovation may have come in 1999. While attending a statewide IFAS summit on agriculture he heard Martha Roberts, Deputy Commissioner of Agriculture, share that traditional commodity agriculture was no longer as sustainable as it had been, and that farmers needed to identify alternative crops and markets to become competitive on the world market. Over lunch following her presentation, he discussed this topic with the people seated at his table. It just so happened that Dr. Wayne Sherman, retired IFAS Citrus Breeder, was at his table and he told Mack, “If I lived in the panhandle I would grow Satsumas.” Satsuma is a citrus variety with excellent eating quality that is cold hearty, with early maturity, so the fruit is generally harvested before Thanksgiving.

That luncheon conversation brought about the re-vitalization of the citrus industry in the panhandle. Although he can’t take credit for the idea, Mack is the one who put forth the effort and investment to make the concept a reality. After numerous conversations with IFAS faculty and associates in the Citrus Industry about cold protection and production techniques, Mack made the decision to start a citrus operation. Not only did he start his own operation, but shared his knowledge with several close associates who formed the Cherokee Citrus Cooperative. The group placed their order for Satsuma trees from a certified nursery and planted their first trees in March of 2002. As the trees grew and developed he began developing a marketing plan for this unique product. Early on, when the trees were not fully mature, he began working with schools and local civic groups to build a network of fund raiser sales for his premium quality fruit. These first sales helped fuel local interest, aiding the group in developing a local, direct-purchase market. Mack was one of the first producers in Jackson County to become GAP (good agricultural practice) trained in food safety, which allowed him to sell directly to retailers in the region. Today he is in the planning stages of developing a GAP produce packing facility that would allow him and other growers to market their farm fresh produce directly to retail outlets and School Districts in the region.

Mack has always worked very closely with IFAS Extension and Research Faculty. He has never been afraid to ask questions, and is always willing to cooperate on projects. He has served as a host for numerous farm tours. Mack served as one of two ranches in Florida that were used as demonstration sites for the new DOW herbicide, Grazon Next, that concluded with a field day for ranchers in the region. In 2009, he agreed to be one of the test sites for Xiesang, a new Satsuma variety developed by the University of Florida. Currently he is working on a project with IFAS Faculty and the Perennial Peanut Producers Association to develop a system to integrate perennial peanut into existing bahia grass pastures.

Perhaps his greatest contribution to Extension, however, is his willingness to serve on IFAS Advisory Committees to communicate the needs of agriculture to administrators, and legislative representatives. His leadership in the political arena has been critical for securing continued support of statewide and local IFAS Research and Extension. He was also one of the local agricultural leaders that worked diligently to secure the funds for the Marianna Beef Research Unit, and the federal funding for the Beef Feed Efficiency Unit.

Mack’s greatest investment in the sustainability of agriculture is his willingness to serve and be a voice representing farmers and ranchers in the region. He makes the time to be civically engaged.

•           Florida Cattlemen’s Association Executive Board—5 years

•           State Director Florida Cattlemen’s Association—13 years

•           Jackson County Cattlemen’s Board of Directors (County President in 1996)—35 years

•           Jackson County Planning Commission—12 years

•           Florida Farm Bureau Beef Advisory Committee—5 years

•           Jackson County Farm Bureau Board of Directors—15 years

•           Jackson Soil and Water District Supervisor—10 years

•           UF/IFAS Regional Agricultural Advisory Committee—9 years

•           UF/IFAS State Agricultural Advisory Committee—2 years

•           Florida Department of Agriculture’s Animal Industry Technical Committee—4 years