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Marlene Strickland Named “ Woman Of The Year In Agriculture” For 2005
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Today    12/14/2005 2:04:00 PM

Marlene Strickland Named “ Woman Of The Year In Agriculture” For 2005


TALLAHASSEE -- Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles H. Bronson today announced that Marlene Strickland of Sarasota has been named "Woman of the Year in Agriculture" for 2005.


"As one of the state's most popular 4-H leaders and president of the nation's largest beef industry organization for women, she has done everything in her considerable power to promote Florida agriculture," Bronson said.  "She is a true leader with a long and impressive record of service.  Her vision has helped guide Florida's beef industry, and her work with young people has inspired a new generation of agricultural leaders."


The award, now in its 21st 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.  Bronson is scheduled to present the award to Strickland on February 9 during the opening-day luncheon at the Florida State Fair in Tampa. Tickets for the event are available by calling the fairgrounds at 1-800-345-3247.


Marlene Strickland was born in Sarasota in 1945 into a pioneer Florida farming family.  The pioneer spirit is part of Strickland's makeup; she's tough and enterprising.  She grew up working hard, helping out on her family's commercial cow-calf ranch in eastern Sarasota County.  The family raised purebred Brahmans and crossbreed cattle.  After graduating from Fort Myers High School, she married Don Strickland and together they started an electrical contracting business, Land Electric, Inc., and began raising Angus cattle in their spare time.  Along the way, Marlene Strickland also gave birth to two daughters.


When their daughters got old enough, the Stricklands signed them up for 4-H-and came on board themselves as volunteer leaders, heading up a club they named the Ridin' Rednecks.  Eventually the girls moved on and went off to college, but the elder Stricklands stayed with 4-H.  The couple thrived in the organization; they were natural leaders and teachers.  In 1989 Marlene Strickland received 4-H's Volunteer of the Year Award and represented Florida at the National 4-H Conference in Washington, D.C.  Over the years she and Don built a program so popular that there is now a waiting list to join.


In 2002 4-H turned 100 years old.  Tradition is important in this venerable club, but leaders like Marlene Strickland know how to keep activities fun, exciting, and relevant to today's young people.  The Ridin' Rednecks' recent projects have included collecting food and furniture for hurricane victims and setting up a pet-friendly shelter for families displaced by the storms. Strickland has worked with 4-H youth to clean up and enhance local parks, and she set up a workshop for kids to learn about native plants, beach erosion, and beach conservation.  She received considerable media attention when her club helped Sarasota's Reef Ball Development Group sink 400-pound concrete balls into Sarasota to create reef habitat for marine life.


Strickland says she believes in 4-H because it provides entertainment and education, and because it allows families to focus on a common, worthwhile goal and see progress.  Today, Strickland is one of the most recognized and successful leaders in Florida 4-H, and she continues to pour a tremendous amount of time and creativity into the program.


But Strickland has always had too much energy and too many ideas to confine herself to just one organization.  Running the Ridin' Rednecks has prepared her well for the many other leadership roles she has taken on in her communi ty and her industry.


In 1985 Strickland became a member of the Sarasota County CattleWomen's Association and the Florida CattleWomen's Association.  She served in every leadership position available at the local level.  At the state level, she served as recording secretary, Florida Cook-Off chairperson, beef promotion chairperson, membership chairperson, president-elect, and, finally, president.  In 2000 the Florida CattleWomen named her CattleWoman of the Year.


Strickland became involved with the CattleWomen at the national level, too. In 2005 she was elected president of American National CattleWomen, Inc. (ANCW).  The mission of ANCW is to support women in the cattle industry and educate consumers about the nutritiousness of beef.  The organization sponsors two very well-known projects: the National Beef Cook-off recipe contest and the National Beef Ambassador Program, a public speaking competition for high school students.  As president, Strickland made it her goal to learn as much as she could about the organization's 2,000 members. The year of her presidency-2005-was a transitional one in which the organization took a look at how it could better help women keep pace with the industry.  Strickland traveled around the country, getting to know cattlewomen in every state and sharing information about Florida agriculture.  She met with congressmen and senators and worked to build up ANCW's membership one woman at a time.


During her 50 years in agriculture, Strickland has won admirers in every sector of the industry.  Those who know her attribute her success to her keen intelligence, strong work ethic, kindness, and sensitivity to the needs of others.  A close friend, Dr. Tim Marshall, a professor in the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, describes her as having "the heart of a mother, the work ethic of an ancient Roman soldier, and the ability to reach all people with the message of agriculture."


Marlene Strickland lives in Sarasota and enjoys spending time with her husband, daughters, and four grandchildren.  Every year she reads to local kindergarten classes on Ag Literacy Day and conducts livestock tours at the Sarasota County Fair.


Previous winners of the "Woman of the Year in Agriculture Award"


2004 Martina "Teena" Borek of Homestead

2003 Jennie Lee Zipperer of Fort Myers

2002 Annette Barnett Land of Branford

2001 Barbara Carlton of Sidell

2000 Helen Houck of Perry

1999 Vina Jean Banks of Balm

1998 Nancy Gurnett Hardy of Winter Haven

1997 Gertrude "Trudy" Carey of Hillsborough County

1996 Norma Stokes of Highlands County

1995 Louve "Vee" Frierson Platt of Clewiston, and Patricia Robbins of Miami 1994 Anne Wardlaw Dickinson of Frostproof 1993 Sarah W. Bailey of St. Johns County 1992 Carol C. Murphy of Volusia County 1991 Ruth M. Tucker of Brevard County 1990 Jeanette Barthle of Pasco County 1989 Belle Jeffords of Alachua County 1988 Carolyn Reed Kempfer of Osceola County 1987 Dorothy Conner Shipes of Lake County 1986 Ruth Wedgworth of Belle Glade 1985 Jo Ann Smith of Marion County


For more information about the Woman of the Year in Agriculture Award,

visit: http://www.florida-agriculture.com/agwoman/index.htm


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