Skip to main content

From Scientist to Farmer, Today's Agriculture Producers Come from All Walks of Life

Posted by Gail Hendricks, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Florida in Conservation
Feb 21, 2017
Richard McGinley farms 950 acres fulltime in central Florida.  According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, more than half of Florida’s principal farm operators report primary occupations other than farming. NRCS photo.
Richard McGinley farms 950 acres fulltime in central Florida. According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, more than half of Florida’s principal farm operators report primary occupations other than farming. NRCS photo.

In the past, full-time farmers were the norm and children of farmers followed in their parent’s footsteps. That’s not the case today. Now, data from the Census of Agriculture show more than half of Florida’s principal farm operators report primary occupations other than farming.

Richard McGinley is a good example of today’s Florida farmer. He spent his early years living the city life until his dad moved the family to Ocala, located in central Florida, to begin farming. But McGinley had other interests that took him far from farming. He established a career in the nuclear industry and even started his own consulting business.

Then his dad became ill and McGinley returned to Ocala to help out on the family’s 950 acre farm. When his dad passed away, McGinley sold his consulting company and took over full-time operations at McGinley Farm.

McGinley is ever the scientist and always researches new and improved ways to farm. He works with local, state and federal agencies to explore ways to modernize his farm while also benefitting the environment. Urban sprawl also has to be considered in his plans since the farm is now surrounded by development.

McGinley’s first step was to call the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, (NRCS) for advice. Jill Dobbs, the NRCS district conservationist, worked with him to evaluate and determine what he was doing well and what needed attention on his farm. They also explored financial assistance opportunities through the agency.

Richard McGinley grows peanuts on his central Florida farm. His precision pivot irrigation system allows for less usage and more uniform distribution of water. NRCS photo.
Richard McGinley grows peanuts on his central Florida farm. His precision pivot irrigation system allows for less usage and more uniform distribution of water. NRCS photo.

“Working with NRCS and the programs available has helped me obtain a lot of things I wasn’t able to before,” McGinley said. “Their staff made me more aware of conservation methods and how I can help out other farmers in the area.”

Through NRCS’ Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Conservation Stewardship Program, he received financial assistance to help improve his land. He added a global positioning system, (GPS) to his tractor. This allows for efficient precision farming and energy, water, nutrient and pesticide costs savings. Using less fertilizer and pesticide lessens possible runoff into nearby waterways.

He installed an efficient precision pivot irrigation system, which requires less water. He also added a solar powered well to his irrigation system. Cross fencing, another conservation practice, helps with livestock rotation in his pastures for more precise grazing.

McGinley has also branched out into growing olive trees. With citrus diseases, such as citrus greening decimating Florida’s industry, the University of Florida and local growers are evaluating suitable crop alternatives. After consulting with his local extension agent, he planted a small experimental plot of seven varieties of olive trees, to determine which will grow best in his area.

McGinley also considers wildlife when planning. He has left a section of his land in trees and native vegetation, and improved these areas by planting special native grasses and plants. He often sees deer, turkeys, hawks, gopher tortoises and occasionally a bald eagle. Many of the animals he sees are listed as threatened or endangered species by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Although starting out in a different profession, McGinley, like many others in farming today, has made the transition to farmer in his own way. Though his life went in a totally different direction than he originally planned, McGinley said farming has been a rewarding and eye opening experience.

An experimental plot of seven varieties of olive trees grows on Richard McGinley’s Florida farm. NRCS photo.
An experimental plot of seven varieties of olive trees grows on Richard McGinley’s Florida farm. NRCS photo.
Category/Topic: Conservation

Write a Response

CAPTCHA This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Comments

Rene Green
Dec 17, 2014

Contact info for Richard McGinley? Interested in communications regarding his innovation techniques and varietal crop experiments. Please forward my contact into to him.
Thanks

Ben Weaver
Dec 18, 2014

@Rene Green - We have forwarded your contact information to Mr. McGinley. Thank you!

Juliet Rynear
Jul 18, 2017

Please forward my contact information to Mr. McGinley. I would like to discuss his conservation practices.

Thank you

Deborah Roberts Carter
Nov 24, 2017

Fantastic investment in the future of Fl and the conservation of the resources. Wish we had more opportunities to create beautiful plots of land like this one.