In 1980, Florida’s agriculture industry decided it needed a way to honor its leaders. The Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame was created to do just that. Since then, nearly 150 inductees have been named, but that number doesn’t accurately represent the number of people honored. In some cases two or three people made up an entity being honored.
Here are some interesting facts about those outstanding people.
- A member of the first group of leaders inducted in 1980 invented something that advanced farming worldwide. Hoyle Pounds invented rubber tires for farm implements in the 1920s. Until then, wheels were made of metal, and tractors weren’t very well-liked. Many farmers preferred using mule-powered equipment.
- A 2010 inductee managed to run a thriving agricultural enterprise, build a strong infrastructure for his community and serve as a leader in many industry organizations while suffering from the lasting effects of a catastrophic injury. That was Dan McClure.
- Mary Hartney, president of the Florida Fertilizer and Agrichemical Association, once said that Florida growers can thank this person for making growing fresh fruits and vegetables possible and profitable in Florida. She was talking about Dan Botts, who was inducted in 2013. Botts serves as FFVA’s vice president of industry resources.
- A petite, soft-spoken woman became a widow at a young age but succeeded in a man’s world of agriculture to become Farm Progress’ Woman of the Year in 1947, receive FFVA’s Distinguished Service Award in 1957 and be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1988. That was Ruth Wedgworth, the first woman to be honored.
- A former executive vice president and general manager of FFVA, George Sorn, worked diligently for many years to help provide day care services and educational opportunities for children of migrant farm workers. Sorn was inducted in 2002.
- A 1981 inductee, Pliny Reasoner, died of yellow fever in the 1880s when he was only 25 years old, but he managed to accomplish a huge amount in his short lifetime, including bringing countless tropical plants to Florida for cultivation.
- Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush honored a 2005 inductee by presenting him an Award of Appreciation for his efforts in both production innovation and advocacy for the tomato industry. That was Paul DiMare.
- Another 2005 inductee, William D. “Billy” Long, came to Florida in 1952 with $2,000 and a John Deere tractor. Twenty-five years later he had revolutionized the way Florida farmers produce and harvest their crops.
One was first to test Gatorade
- Anthony Rossi received the equivalent of a high school education in Italy, came to America and without any formal training, became a mechanical engineer. The founder of Tropicana was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987.
- Several former Florida agriculture commissioners have been named to the Hall of Fame. One was elected to the Florida Legislature when he was still in college and the other served as commissioner for 37 years, from 1923 until his death in 1960. They were Doyle Conner and Nathan Mayo, respectively.
- Three members of one family were inducted in 1985. Another three members of the same family were inducted exactly 30 years later. All were members of the Duda family.
- A classmate wrote in the high school yearbook of 1989 inductee Peter S. Harllee that his idea of misery was “to have nothing to argue about.”
- A highway was named for 1981 inductee Irlo Bronson. A section of U.S. Highway 192 between Kissimmee and Disney World is known as the Irlo Bronson Highway.
- Dr. Charles “Chip” Hinton, inducted earlier this month, was on the football team at the University of Florida that first tested Gatorade.
- Miles Groover, a 1998 inductee, transcended racial barriers to educate young African Americans and help establish them in the agriculture industry during the 1940s and ‘50s.
Congratulations to this year’s inductees. They are Hinton, Billy Kempfer, Dr. Joseph C. Joyce and Thomas H. Braddock.
Presentations took place at the Florida State Fairgrounds in front of an audience of more than 700 people.