started NRLI Session 6 at a beautiful North Florida retreat housed at an
Episcopal camp – Camp Weed (http://www.campweed.org/)
where we were to stay for the next two days.
The facilities are modern,
but in keeping with the tradition of a retreat atmosphere, no telephones
or televisions, five hundred acres and a beautiful lake set the atmosphere
for "The Meeting
Project Team members for this session, in addition to Roy, Burl and Bruce
included our resident philosopher, Jeff Burkhardt and Tom Taylor from the
Dispute Resolution Center (DRC) in Tallahassee.
Dr. James Cato and Dr. David Mulkey joined us as guests for most of
the session. Dr. Cato is the
Director of Florida Sea Grant. Dr.
Mulkey is in the UF Department of Food and Resource Economics.
Professor Burkhardt got us off to a
great start with a discussion of “Resource” Ethics.
Historic and cultural positioning of animals within the moral
landscape of society has changed over time and from place to place.
This discussion was perfect for the context of our meeting and the
coming visits to animal-based farms in the region.
Professor Burkhardt always delivers thought provoking topics that
promote lively discussion. The Animal rights, welfare and Agriculture discussion
provided the context for the rest of our three-day session.
Carriker covered the U.S. judicial system at the District, Circuit and
Supreme Court levels. The
role of “common law” and the implementation of public policy as it
relates to environmental issues were discussed.
A thorough examination of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) followed with an emphasis on Section 9, which defines “harm”, and “takings” as applied in the “Sweet Home” case.
As a follow-up to the Jensen session “Lost on the Moon“ exercise, FNRLI’s Burl Long provided us with the opportunity to test our group survival skills. In Jensen we participated as individuals where survival items were ranked and prioritized.
courtesy of Session 5 Fellows – www.lebanon.k12.mo.us/lhs/departments/math/mwhitacre/nasat.html)
Framing the Issue
Although occasionally the Thursday
evening sessions can be tough on Fellows who have traveled far, from the
moment this presentation began, we were totally energized
and focused on Jerry Scarborough, Executive Director of the Suwannee River
Water Management District. His
rousing description of the District, the people, projects and politics of
the area was fascinating. Jerry’s
vast and homegrown experience in region lent a special flavor to our
introduction to resource issues and conflicts in the Suwannee Valley.
With a small but diverse population, his focus is on (1) Priority
(Protecting the River), (2) Partnerships (between the public and private
sectors, and (3) Passion which is illustrated by his dedication to the
Suwannee River Partnership and speaks directly to its success in working
with the agricultural community for environmental enhancement of the River
and its amazing system of springs.
Day 2 began as most day 2s do, a hearty breakfast to fuel and energize our bodies for an eventful field trip. Fellows loaded into the vans at PRECISELY 8:00 am and headed for the rurals of Suwannee County, the very soul of the Suwannee River drainage basin, or as some call it, “God’s Country”. Our field-trip host, Glenn Horvath, SRWMD, joined us and led us to three memorable take-a-looks.
Our first stop was the Shenandoah Dairy, the Henderson’s family-run business. We were met by Ed Henderson, Carolee’s brother, who gave us a quick introduction as to what we were about to experience. For many of us, a first detailed visit to a working dairy. We learned that Shenandoah Dairy has several thousand cows, divided into separate herds. The individual herds are fed, watered, medicated, milked, etc. according to a precisely crafted schedule that has evolved from science, experience and practicality.
The tour began with a look at the cows in the milking parlor, cows that led themselves into the series of milking stalls and led themselves back out and to the herd’s pasture or in the case of one herd, a covered barn. The cows are milked three times a day with the help of sophisticated machinery and several farm hands. The parlor is equipped with a holding tank where the product is eventually pumped into trucks carrying the shiny stainless steel tanks we are accustomed to see on the highways, you know, the ones that advertise “Got Milk”.
We next toured a covered barn where a herd is housed. Sand makes up the majority of the ground cover. The stalls are adjacent to a concrete aisle and periodically, water is gushed down the aisle that carries away the waste products. The solution finds its way to our next stop, an environmentally friendly lined pond that minimizes the nitrates entering the aquifer. One of the central pieces of the CARES program is the initiative to install these ponds on the area’s farms/ranches.
Stop #2 was at the Touchton Farm where we were met by Lynn Touchton. The farm produces chickens for the grocery market. Once again, the challenge is to minimize the waste-related nitrates from entering our waters. Chicken farms have two main waste products, manure and dead chickens. Historically, waste products have been disposed in a number of ways including on site burying, incineration, spreading on agricultural crops and even by dumping dead birds in abandoned well shafts. The problem is quite apparent and CARES is assisting farms build structures to minimize the problem.
The focus of this site visit was the “waste barns”. These covered shelters have open sides and concrete floors. Waste products, including dead birds, are brought to the shelters and composted into a usable fertilizer. Area farmers and homeowners buy this compost from the Touchton’s for use on their properties. A negative consequence of the chicken farming industry has been converted into a win-win for the community.
The fellows entered one of the chicken houses where thousands of birds were observed doing what chickens do, eating and *&^#%@!. We learned that the birds will remain in the “coup” for only 5 to 7 weeks at which time they will be loaded up and delivered to a processing plant.
Our third stop on the session’s field trip was a quick visit to a SRWMD property. A short-scenic walk on a boardwalk led us to a spring, a beautiful resource surrounded by a variety of flora. A variety of wildlife was observed and provided much entertainment. The frogs at the water’s edge especially intrigued Church.
We arrived to a hearty lunch at Camp Weed right on schedule. Huge thanks and appreciation to all involved with the field trip, especially Glenn. The time spent on vans were minimal, the sites interesting and the schedule adhered to. Great planning!!!!
After the stomach-bulging lunch, Tom Taylor led Carolyn, Carolee, Carl and Marella in a spirited mediation role-play exercise. Wes, hope you were taking notes, Marella offered several examples of how to lawyer.
A short break was allowed
followed by a stakeholder panel discussion moderated, quite expertly, by
Bob Heeke. The panel consisted of Vince Siebold-DEP, Sven Lindskold-Save
our Suwannee, Frankie Hall-Florida Farm Bureau, Chuck Edwards-Poultry
Growers Association and local farmer and Darrell Smith, Suwannee River
Partnership. The discussion
focused on the Suwannee River Partnership that was formed to educate and
enlist the public on wise management practices that affect the waters of
The discussion centered around the early wins of the Partnership and how a large percentage of chicken and dairy farms have become involved in establishing approved better management practices on their businesses. Some of these practices include the structures and techniques that we observed during our field trip. One stakeholder, Save our Suwannee, is not on board with the Partnership. Although each panelist was genuinely interested in protecting the watershed, Mr. Lindskold explained that his group wanted to see more monitoring and more “regulation” as part of the Partnership practices. The Partnership is emphasizing influencing philosophies versus regulation to achieve its goal. The rift has been complicated by a recent lawsuit involving Save our Suwannee.
The discussion was followed by dinner and a short ride to White Springs where we loaded into canoes for a two-hour canoe ride on the Suwannee River. Wow, the Suwannee is really special, becoming more and more beautiful as the effects of time work on the river and on our appreciation of this treasure. Beauty was not to be out-done by fun. The fellows decided to paddle upstream to a shoal from the launching site. What followed were accidental(?) collisions, splashing and of course, capsizing. Those that found their way into the tannic waters included Marella, Jon, Roland, Ann Moore, Carl and Church. Tom Taylor joined the “wet bunch” by swinging into the historic river on ropes hanging from majestic live oaks along the footprint that snakes through “God’s Country”.
Back at Camp Weed it was time for relaxation and fellowship.
Day 3 began with yet another hardy
breakfast, followed by an intriguing debriefment of the previous 2 days of
activities which was led by FNRLI fellow, Carolyn Saft. Following the
debriefing exercise, Dr. Tom Taylor led a discussion regarding the fellows
practicum projects. Dr. Taylor informed the group of the expectations for
the presentation of the practicum project at the October graduation
session. Next the FNRLI fellows were given an opportunity to gather in
small groups to discuss the practicum projects and to bounce ideas off of
each other. Following the group discussions, the cows really came home!
And came home with some feedback on the Camp Weed session!
the feedback panel, the majority of the group spent lunch together, while
some FNRLI fellows departed early to get on the road toward home.
Camp Weed was another successful FNRLI session.
thanks to Bob Heeke, Carolee Howe and the FNRLI staff for making it a
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