The family of Daniel Carl “DC” McClure has literally lived the theme of this year’s Manatee County Farm City Week, “Innovations in Agriculture.”
Tuesday, the Farm City Week committee recognized McClure as the 2023 Outstanding Agriculturist of the Year.
McClure, 69, grows tomatoes in Duette and Immokalee, and was recognized for not only owning his farms but for working the fields himself and employing cutting-edge technology.
He is the third generation of his family to be named Manatee County Agriculturist of the Year. His father, Daniel P. McClure, received the honor in 1989 and his grandfather, John N. McClure, received the award in 1971.
Brenda Rogers, a 2009 recipient of the award, spoke of McClure’s contributions at the ceremony.
“The 2023 agriculturist of the year is best known for his support of the sciences and application of best practices in production,” Rogers said.
“He welcomes ag scientists to run experiments as improved practices to increase production, reduce negative impacts to the environment, save natural resources and make work environments safer,” she said.
Farming innovations and pressures on American agriculture
Innovations in farming have involved things like using computers, satellites and GPS to help guide tractors in tilling the soil, a technology that wasn’t available to earlier generations of McClures.
But American agriculture is under growing pressure from foreign imports, where the cost of labor is cheaper and product safety standards may not be as high, he said.
“We need government to help level the playing field,” he said.
Rogers noted that the nominating packet for this year’s agriculturist of the year mentioned various instances of McClure quietly helping others through tough times, and helping set them up for success.
“Sometimes it was financial help and other times it was through learning marketable skills that provided opportunities for career advancement. He has supported local youth through programs such as 4-H and Future Farmers of America,” Rogers said.
Feeding Florida through farming
As is tradition, the Agriculturist of the Year recipient is a closely guarded secret until the reveal at a meeting of the Bradenton Kiwanis Club.
McClure came to the ceremony expecting to be one of a number of farmers recognized for working their own land.
McClure thought the recipient would be rancher Jim Strickland, Tuesday’s keynote speaker and vice chair of the Florida Conservation Group.
During his keynote address, Strickland said 2% of the Florida population feeds the rest of the state.
With a population of about 22 million, Florida will continue to grow, and the importance of innovation in farming and conservation of resources will only become more important in the future, he said.
Farming in Manatee County has been shrinking in recent decades as it’s pushed further east by economic forces, natural disasters and growth and development.
Even with those pressures, agriculture remains Manatee County’s second leading economic driver, trailing only tourism.