Each 2017 Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame inductee has put a stamp on Florida ag.

The banquet honoring the 2017 Inductees to The Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame is fast approaching. Slated for February 14th at the Special Events Center at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, tickets for the event are on sale online at http://floridaaghalloffame2017.eventbrite.com or by calling 813-230-1918. A recent Citrus Industry magazine article highlighted the contributions of the inductees. Find a summary of each inductee to the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame below.

Inductees to The Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame


Eugene Badger

Raised in Hastings on his family’s potato farm, Badger has displayed “a lifelong commitment to advancing Florida agriculture and advocating on its behalf.” A graduate of the University of Florida in 1949 with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture economics and education, he taught agriculture at Palatka High School and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps for three years in the 1950s, leaving with an honorable discharge and the rank of captain.

He then held a management position with the Western Palm Beach County Farm Bureau when he returned to Belle Glade in 1972 where he was a strong advocate for farmers in Florida. In that capacity he was able to fulfill his mission to “mentor farmers to be spokesmen for the industry on local, state and national issues.”

Badger was selected by President George W. Bush as head of the state Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service, which is known as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency today. He worked hard for Florida farmers by identifying pitfalls in the Federal Corp Insurance Program and identifying opportunities to put Florida’s specialty crops on display.

William Cook

Born in Tallahassee, Cook moved to Callahan in 1946 to be a part of his uncle’s turpentine and pulpwood business. He returned to Callahan after serving in the Air Force, and acquired the Callahan Timber Company and created the Great South Timber and Lumber, the beginning of his forestry legacy. At the helm of the family’s logging business for 70 years, Cook has witnessed the development of “cutting-edge technology, diversification and integration.”

He has also played a crucial role in fostering legislation and facilitating public outreach for the forestry industry. He played a key role in the creation of the Florida Forestry Foundation, a program that delivers financial backing for 45 teachers in Florida to participate in the Florida Forestry Teachers’ Tour and then educate kids about forestry. Cook has also served on the Florida Forestry Association’s board of directors since being elected to the position in 1974.

Joe Marlin Hilliard

Born in Fort Myers, Hilliard began working on Hilliard Brothers Cattle Ranch after graduating high school. The operation was founded by his grandfather in 1906, and it was later owned by his father and uncle in the 1920s.

Hilliard turned thousands of acres into pasture, leasing the land to farmers to clear and farm two years and then planting improved grass. He was also a main collaborator with UF/IFAS to educate South Florida farmers about the tropical soda apple weed.

He has a number of innovations to his credit; he was one of the first producers to grow sugar cane on sandy soil, he created research projects with the IFAS Immokalee Research and Education Center, and helped form the South Florida Agricultural Council and he introduced mechanical harvesting to the area through the Sugarland Harvesting Cooperative.

Hilliard’s leadership has created major advances in the cattle, citrus and sugar cane industries, such as serving as an officer of the Florida Cattlemen’s Association, as a member of the Florida Citrus Commission and as a member of the Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission.

Dr. W. Bernard Lester

Born in Havana, Fla. and raised on a farm that grew tobacco plants for cigar wrappers, Lester was involved in ag and leadership from an early age, such as participating in Havana High School’s Future Farmers of America, earning an Eagle Scout designation, and receiving the Service Award from the American Legion.

Lester served in the Army Reserve and then earned a master’s degree in agricultural economics from the University of Florida in 1962 and a doctorate in agricultural economics from Texas A&M University in 1965. He then began his career as a research economist with the Florida Department of Citrus in Havana.

He became economic research director for the Florida Department of Citrus in 1969, where “he was responsible for administering and conducting all economic research activities for Florida citrus products.” By 1979, he was the executive director. Later, he served on the Alico Inc. board of directors from 1986 to 2005 and joined the Gulf Citrus Growers’ Association. Other boards he served on included Orange-Co Inc., Agri-Insurance Company, International Fruit Inc., Florida Fresh-Pak, Saddlebag Lake Resorts, and the Sugarland Harvesting Co.

Lester’s leadership in Florida agriculture, service to Florida landowners through his 20-year service with the Florida Land Council and with various educational and service organizations has made a lasting impact.

Griffin Fertilizer is committed to helping both growers and ranchers make sound agronomic and economic decisions in order to maximize the health of their grove and pasture. As a full-service custom dry & liquid fertilizer blender and crop protection product distributor, we will continue our mission to further advance Florida agriculture. For questions or concerns about your farm or pasture, contact us and one of our team will be in touch.