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Keeper of the cattle: Jim Strickland puts his stock into Florida land

Mayzie Purviance for Progressive Cattle Published on 25 August 2020
Jim Strickland

“Too many irons in the fire,” “stretching yourself too thin,” “biting off more than you can chew.”

All of these phrases are what many people would think if they were to look at Jim Strickland’s to-do list; however, these statements couldn’t be further from the truth for jack-of-all-trades Jim.

Strickland, a Florida native and former owner of Strickland Exports (a company which exported livestock around the globe), is no stranger to the agriculturist lifestyle. His last name actually comes from the old English words “stric” and “land” which, when combined, means “cultivated land where young bullocks are kept,” or as Strickland put it himself, “My last name means ‘keeper of the cows.’”

Like many Floridians, Strickland said he was raised to be a rancher by his mother and father. After his father passed when Strickland was a mere 18 years old, Strickland said he began to work for his mother and really try to learn the business from the ground up – and eventually bought her portion of the family ranch out. Decades later, Strickland runs cattle on various leased properties in Florida, is invested in numerous agricultural opportunities and prioritizes conservation efforts and cutting-edge technology.

To say Jim Strickland’s plate is full is an understatement. He owns and operates Strickland Ranch and is managing partner in Blackbeard’s Ranch as well as Big Red Cattle Company. Strickland also dabbles in the growth of cabbage and hay, cuts sod and seed, and raises pork and bees for wildflower honey (which, along with beef, can be bought at Blackbeard’s Ranch or delivered to your doorstep).

Jim Strickland

Strickland is the vice chairman of the Florida Conservation Group, a member of the Farm Bureau Board, co-chairman of the Climate Smart Committee based at the University of Florida, a former chairman of the Florida International Trade Committee, former member of American Farm Bureau’s Think Tank for International Trade and a former president of the Florida Cattlemen’s Association. He’s won numerous awards, but one of the biggest was Blackbeard’s Ranch being named the winner of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s 2019 Environmental Stewardship Award Program.

“We use food to tell our story of the ranch. We are in the marketing business, and we don’t know exactly where we’re going to know the future, but maybe one day we’ll have a restaurant,” Strickland said. “We’re building our brand as – what’s known as – quality products that we stand behind. The story has to match the product, and the product has to match the story.”

This is the motto they live by on Blackbeard’s Ranch and one of the reasons they do so much conservation work, Strickland said.

Blackbeard's Ranch

“One, it gave us an income stream. Two, it gave us a really good platform to tell the story of conservation and what ranches do for the state of Florida,” Strickland added. “We’ve got a thousand people a day moving into the state of Florida … every single day. The growth is so rapid here. A lot of our water quality is starting to deteriorate. What we’re saying is that by coming to the ranch, buying our products, let us tell our story to anyone, whether it’s the secretary of agriculture to the county commissioner.

Blackbeard's Ranch

“We’ll tell the story to anybody whether it’s Montana, whether it’s Florida, that we’ve helped provide wildlife habitat, wildlife corridors and water filtration systems. We have to tell the story about grass, water, quality, you know, wildlife, conductivity, air, you know, all of those things, and it has to be a good story because that’s about the only thing we have.”

Strickland said that, specifically, Julie Morris and her work with the National Wildlife Refuge Association has helped with conservation in Florida. Through her, one of Strickland’s current endeavors, the Florida Conservation Group, was formed.

Blackbeard's Ranch is a haven for conservation efforts

“The Florida Conservation Group was formed as a nonprofit that is science-based agriculture,” Strickland said. “We advocate for programs, federal, state and local funding, particularly for ranches, but we will expand into other areas.”

Strickland added that he “believes in science” and has seen firsthand how global warming affects Florida or “ground zero for climate change,” as he calls it. This is why Strickland is involved with so many conservation committees and charges.

“We’re trying to tile all these environmental issues back to ranchland and show that ranches can help. We can quantify what we do for the rest of the population, and what I would ultimately like to see from this is that ecosystem services come out of this and that everyone moves forward,” Strickland said.

“We’ve got 22 million people in the state of Florida and have less than 1 million cattle. Such a vast amount of Florida is growing with intense development that we need to have a yin and a yang. We need to say, ‘If we’re going to have all this development, we need to protect these people, their water supply and their food supply.’”

But the question remains of “why?” Why does Strickland choose to raise cattle, participate in so many conservation efforts and continue to foster an attitude of “nothing is impossible”? Strickland answered this question simply with “I just love a cow.”

Jim Strickland

“My father did everything in his life to survive, scrap and making a living because he loved a cow, just as his father before him did too; this is just something deep in our DNA,” Strickland chuckled. “I grew up around tough men, and I looked forward to being one someday, and I’m around a tough group of men and women now. I mean, I loved being on a horse. I loved being in the woods. I loved everything about ranching, but I looked up to those tough men so much, and I wanted to be just like them … just like my father was. I guess I just wanted to be like Dad.”

If only Strickland’s father could see him now: the keeper of entrepreneurship, of too many boards and organizations to count, of our environment and a true “keeper of the cattle.”  end mark

PHOTO 1: Jim Strickland. Photo by Carlton Ward.

PHOTO 2: Florida rancher Jim Strickland knows the value of hard work and has the merits to prove it. Photo by Carlton Ward.

PHOTO 3: “We’re building our brand as – what’s known as – quality products that we stand behind. The story has to match the product, and the product has to match the story.” Photo by Max Kelly.

PHOTO 4 & 5: Blackbeard’s Ranch is a haven for conservation efforts and is an NCBA Environmental Stewardship Award winning operation. Photo by Max Kelly.

PHOTO 6: Jim Strickland, speaking at an event. Carlton Ward.

Mayzie Purviance is a freelance writer based in Montana.