Marcia Lightsey of Lake Wales, whose family owns several central Florida cattle ranches known for their progressive environmental practices, has been selected to receive the "Woman of the Year in Agriculture Award" for 2009.

The award, now in its 25th year, recognizes women who have made outstanding contributions to Florida agriculture. It is sponsored by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Florida State Fair Authority. Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles H. Bronson is scheduled to present the award on Feb. 4, 2010, during the opening-day luncheon at the Florida State Fair in Tampa.

"Marcia Lightsey and the rest of the Lightsey family are known for their groundbreaking efforts to preserve Florida's natural places, along with the best of our rural values and traditions," Bronson said. "The Lightseys have made Florida a better place to live."

The Lightseys have been honored with countless awards for their conservation efforts. They practice rotational grazing (resting pastures between seasons to protect them from overgrazing and erosion), water recycling, and controlled burning (to enhance wildlife habitat and regenerate native vegetation). The Lightseys preserve 40 percent of their land in its native state to provide wildlife corridors and protect soil and water quality, and they have placed over 80 percent of their property in conservation easements to protect it from future development.

Marcia enjoys coordinating eco-tours of the family's ranches and has hosted groups from the Audubon Society and local schools. The ranches are home to many rare and endangered species, including scrub jays, gopher tortoises, black bears, and bald eagles. Visitors are always delighted by the wildlife they encounter. They also enjoy the 300-year-old live oaks, beautiful views, and open spaces — and Marcia is happy for the opportunity to educate city people about the ecological benefits of agriculture. Marcia and Cary Lightsey live near Lake Wales. They have three children and seven grandchildren, and the entire family works together to continue to grow the Lightsey Cattle Company.

For more information about the "Woman of the Year in Agriculture" Award and a list of previous winners, visit http://www.florida-agriculture.com/agwoman/index.htm.