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Posted: Friday, April 27, 2018 10:04 am | Updated: 10:58 am, Fri Apr 27, 2018.

 Kern Carpenter to be honored at Dade County BBQ and “Fun” Raiser

 I have known Kern Carpenter for only a few years through our mutual devotion to agriculture in the South Dade Community. Together, we make up a small portion of the Board of Directors who serve the farming industry through Dade County Farm Bureau.

   At Tuesdays meeting I asked folks to tell me a few short statements on Kern Carpenter, who is being honored at Saturday’s 40th Annual Barbeque and “Fun” Raiser. Almost everyone lined up for a chance to relay such kind thoughts. Holy Smoke! By the time we finished recording I had to replace the battery.

  Following are several abbreviated selections.

   President Erik Tietig started, “One of the greatest people I’ve ever met. Kern shies away from recognition like this but he deserves every bit of it.”

   Bill Losner, added, “One of the finest young men I’ve ever known. He took on life’s challenges at a young age and through hard work wrote a success story to be proud of, all while keeping focused on his family and the community.”

   Hal Arve noted, “Kern has done so much for the farming industry and continues to fight the battle for the farmers. When he’s not out in the fields, he off lobbying with several others trying to preserve farming for this generation and those to come.”

   Kern is a local, born in Homestead on March 4, 1963 to Dennis and Marlyn Carpenter. He is a third-generation farmer with a rich history in tomato production. Kern’s grandfather, Hubert, came to South Florida in the late 1940s from North Carolina and moved here permanently in 1953 to begin the family tomato farming legacy. Kern’s father took over the tomato farm and partnered with Johnny Eaker and Richard Wright to form Southern Bean Farms in an effort to diversify.

As soon as he was old enough to help on the farm, Kern worked alongside of his dad and grandfather. At 15, Kern lost his father to cancer, and his mother and grandfather decided to shut down the tomato farm. After his father’s death, Kern became a partner at Southern Bean Farms where he worked every day after school.

   Completing high school, Kern attended Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, GA for one year before coming back to continue working at Southern Bean Farms. In 1983, at the age of twenty, Kern sold his ownership of Southern Bean Farms and decided to renew his family’s legacy of farming tomatoes by starting Kern Carpenter Farms.

   We all know the life of a farmer has never been easy. Kern notes that throughout his career he has survived regulatory pressure, fierce competition, various extreme weather events and other debilitating occurrences that he has expertly navigated in order to keep his business in tip-top shape. However, when asked about his greatest challenge with farming, Kern says “I have survived floods, hurricanes, freezes, hail storms and a packing house bankruptcy that owed me for my entire crop in the eighties but none of these things compare to the enormous problem that NAFTA has created.”

   Looking ahead, Kern is concerned about the tomato industry in light of continued market pressure from NAFTA. His teenage sons are unsure of what the future holds for them, but he says he is willing to help and support them in whatever path they choose. If either or both chooses to go into farming, Kern said “that he hopes their decision would be made based on what they would like to do and not what current trade agreements will allow them to do to be profitable.”

   Kern is considering diversification into other crops or into the nursery business if action regarding NAFTA is not taken immediately. When asked about his thoughts on NAFTA, Kern says “I never dreamed in a million years that the tomato industry which has been so good to my family for three generations, and the whole town of Homestead, is so close to extinction.”

Currently, Kern serves as a Director on the Dade County Farm Bureau Board of Directors, and has served as Secretary on the Florida Tomato Committee, the Florida Tomato Exchange and the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange. In 1981, he was recognized as an Outstanding Young Agriculturalist, plus was president of his FFA Chapter.

   He is married to his wife, Cheryl, and will be celebrating 19 years together in June. He is also the proud father of Dennis (16) and Austin (15) who currently attend South Dade High School demonstrating an interest to pursue agriculture. Kern says he would have never survived the many challenges over the years if it wasn’t for the support of his family and friends stating, “The town of Homestead has been very good to me, especially the farming community, which has looked after me for all of these years.”

   Kern is always willing to travel to Tallahassee or Washington, D.C. in order to echo the voice of the South Dade farmer. Recently, he showed complete composure in an interview that aired March 23 on Iowa Public Television’s Market to Market, a segment titled “The Florida Tomato Grower and NAFTA. (Iptv.org/MarketToMarket).

   Kern Carpenter has represented the South Dade farming community as a proud farmer and leader for his entire life. Congratulations!

   Tickets are still available for the BBQ “Fun”raiser this Saturday, April 28th at DiMare Packing House. Get them from a Farm Bureau Board Member or at the gate the night of one of the biggest parties in town.

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