Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam and the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame Foundation announced the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame inductees for 2019. The induction ceremony will be held at the Florida State Fair’s Agricultural Hall of Fame Banquet on Feb. 12, 2019. More information is available Florida Ag Hall of Fame.
“Agriculture is Florida’s oldest industry, and it continues to support our state’s economy thanks to the leaders who continue to grow, streamline and modernize the industry,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam. “I am honored to name the newest members of the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame to honor their outstanding contributions to Florida agriculture.”
Nominee Don Bennink is a renowned dairyman, whose leadership and unwavering standard of excellence have had a profound impact on the dairy industry in Florida and around the world.
A native of western New York, Bennink began milking cows in junior high school and would continue until his graduation from Cornell University in 1963. Slowly he expanded operations while continuing his education, earning a law degree from Cleveland Marshall University and working at a legal practice. However, his love for dairy could not be denied so he moved to Bell, Fla., in 1980 and established North Florida Holsteins.
Over the years, Bennink improved his operations using innovative construction and milking practices. In 2001, he began using tunnel-ventilation barns, which made cows more comfortable and productive. Eventually, he converted the entire operation and today has 12,000 head of cattle on 3,000 acres.
Early on, Bennink recognized the value of a partnership with universities and veterinary students. He has a longstanding relationship with the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine and one of the most well-respected international student internship programs in the country with Ohio State University. North Florida Holsteins has become a field laboratory, with hundreds of students, graduate students and scientists conducting research and field trials.
He is known around the world for his research in animal genetics and reproduction. A respected advocate for improving the Holstein breed, Bennink has developed his own system of genetic selection and pioneered the use of genomic testing.
His leadership in the industry is extensive. He served on the board of directors of the Upper Florida Milk Producers, the Florida Dairy Farmers and Southeast Milk. He also has served as SMI trucking chairman for more than 20 years and as Florida Dairy Farmers president for two years. He has received numerous honors and awards, including the World Dairy Expo’s highest honor, Dairyman of the Year.
Source: Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame