At the tender age of 12, Alto (Bud) Adams was introduced to the world of agriculture when he was given a calf and allowed to ride with the cattle crews on the farm of his father.

“I liked it,” says Adams, “and I realized that farming was what I wanted to do.”

So, at 21 years of age, his father made him a partner in the operation and it quickly grew from 1,500 cows to over 10,000 cows.

Today, Adams’ farm encompasses more than 65,000 acres (up from his first operation of 15,000 acres) and Adams has been selected as the 2007 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year for Florida. He was selected for the honor in judging conducted by the Florida Farm Bureau and was nominated by Tom Hill.

Today, the backbone of the operation is still cattle and includes more than 18,000 head.

There are 9,000 plus head of registered Braford cattle, 2,000 head of registered ARRAB cattle, 1,000 head registered ARGEL cattle and 6,000 head of registered ABEEF cattle.

Oranges and grapefruit are grown on 1,000 irrigated acres with a 400-box yield per acre while there are more than 2,000 irrigated acres of sod.

“We sell the registered cattle at 28 annual sales and private treaty,” says Adams. “We sell steer calves by satellite auction and we also sell at the Okeechobee Livestock Market. The replacement heifers are sold private treaty. The citrus is sold on the tree to packers in the Indian River area.”

Adams and his wife Dorothy have three grown sons who are actively involved in the farming operation. Lee manages the Osceola County ranch (33,000 acres), Mike is president of Adams Ranch and Rob manages ARCCO — the Adams Ranch Citrus operation.

Previous state winners from Florida include: Ernie Nunez of Dade City, 1990; Ernie Nunez of Dade City, 1991; Wayne Wiggins of Plant City, 1992; Leroy Baldwin of Ocala, 1993; Billy Long of Apopka, 1994; Richard Barber of Ocala, 1995; Al Bellatto of Lakeland, 1996; Rex Clonts of Apopka, 1997; John Hoblick of DeLeon Springs, 1998; Doug Holmberg of Valrico, 1999; Damon Deas of Jennings, 2000, Gene Batson of Mount Dora, 2001; William Putnam of Alturas, 2002; Sonny Williamson of Okeechobee, 2003; Dale Sauls of Anthony, 2004; Louis “Red” Larson of Okeechobee, 2005; and Damon Deas of Jennings, 2006.

Florida has had five overall winners with Ernie Nunez of Dade City in 1991, Leroy Baldwin of Ocala in 1993, Rex Clonts of Apopka in 1997, Doug Holmberg of Valrico in 1999, and Louis “Red” Larson of Okeechobee in 2005.