Bringing the agriculture community together, the Dade County Farm Bureau hosted its 43rd Annual BBQ “Fun”raiser on Saturday April 29th at The Di’Mare Annex in Florida City.
The event welcomed guests with amazing food, drinks, live music, dance performances, raffles, and recognition of the importance of South Dade farming to not only the state, but the entire country.
For the president of the Dade County Farm Bureau, Barney Rutzke Jr., the event was an opportunity to show the work done throughout the year while also fundraising for education on new challenges facing the industry, like the prevalence of invasive species in South Florida.
“So far this year, we have donated $10,000, and now an additional 10% of the proceeds from the event will go to the research into agriculture here in Dade County.” Rutzke said.
South Florida is considered the bread basket of agriculture during the winter due to the warm climate, while the rest of the country is too cold to support crops. Understanding pests is an integral part of sustaining healthy produce.
Several local dignitaries attended the event, including County Commissioner of District 13 Rene Garcia. Attending the BBQ for the first time, Commissioner Garcia spoke of the delicate balance to preserve farmlands while continuing urban development and the role policymakers have in that.
“Our farming families have built this community, and what better way to honor their tradition than by protecting those lands and incentivizing the use of our produce,” Garcia said.
Other local officials included Miami-Dade County Commissioner Kionne McGhee, Homestead Mayor Steve Losner, Vice-Mayor Julio Guzman, Florida City Mayor Otis Wallace, Vice-Mayor Walter P. Thompson, Councilpersons Erica Avila and Larry Roth, Bobby Bracy representing the office of Commissioner Danielle Cohen-Higgins and Carlos Fanjul, representing the office of Congressman Carlos Gimenez.
One of the highlights of the evening was the presentation of the “Farmer of the Year Award.” This year’s recipient, George Suarez, affectionately known as “Cuban George” was recognized for his contribution to the farming community in Homestead throughout his career. During his acceptance speech he explained how he came to this country with nothing and how, through hard work, he created his version of the “American Dream.”
“Being honored by my peers is great, it’s wonderful and beautiful.
I get to help to preserve the community in Homestead and the school that I went to, thanks to my parents they helped me do that,” Suarez said.
In honor of the late Wayne Dunagan, the Bureau awarded South Dade High School Senior Dixie Dixon a $1,500 scholarship to further her education in agriculture. Dixon served as Future Farmers of America President at her school. They also awarded a $1,500 scholarship to Kamili Fernandez from Felix Varela High School.
“I come from a farming family, so it’s a really big honor to be able to get a scholarship for agriculture to help continue my family’s legacy,” Dixon said.
For many Homestead residents, attending the annual BBQ has been a tradition brought down through generations. For community member Andrea Martins, who is also the wife of a board member, coming to the BBQ is something her family has done for years.
“I’ve been doing this since I was a little kid, it’s something I would consider an ‘Old Homestead Tradition’, and it’s something I hope my kids will continue to want to go to,” Martins said.
The event would not have been possible without the support of local businesses that donated items for the raffle.
Everglades Equipment Group served as the event’s presenting sponsor. Site manager Bobby Doyle, a Homestead native, knows the importance of supporting the farming community.
“We want to make sure there is quality products to help the agricultural community do what they need to do, be it planting, cultivating or harvesting,” Doyle said.
Gold sponsors included Kelly Tractor, Florida Coast Equipment and We Can Do This who provided free COVID-19 vaccines.
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