Robert Blake Whisenant


Robert Blake Whisenant, 2015 Inductee

Robert Blake Whisenant, 2015 Inductee

Blake Whisenant’s primary goal in agriculture is always to be a good steward of the land. Whether mentoring students, working with university research/extension or sharing knowledge to foster a better understanding of agriculture, Mr. Whisenant spreads the message of protecting our valuable soil and water resources.

Many consider Mr. Whisenant a pioneer. He began using Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in its infancy. Through field trials on his crops, scientist developed thresholds for insects and diseases that would be the standard for IPM scouts on farms throughout Florida. He has also performed his own research on techniques such as plant density, multiple-row planting on beds, fertilizer placement and the use of the “Earthbox” (registered trademark) which he invented. Some of the first university research using plastic mulch, revolutionizing the vegetable industry, was conducted on Mr. Whisenant’s farm. In the 1990’s when citrus groves were suffering damage from what was believed to be an airborne toxin from a nearby power plant, Mr. Whisenant was the first to call for a study and offer his grove as a test site. He allowed environmental experts to install equipment to monitor his grove and investigate the problem.

Mr. Whisenant also worked with the Soil Conservation Service and their Mobile Irrigation Lab, allowing the monitoring of water use on his tomatoes and citrus crops. This study resulted in better knowledge and led to improved irrigation management on other farms. Mr. Whisenant was also one of the first to adopt the micro-irrigation practice. With his commitment to conservation, Mr. Whisenant’s farm is now a regular tour stop for the general public, politicians, environmentalists and regulators to observe on-site application of soil and water conservation practices and research. He has used his experience and insight to take a common sense approach when testifying before legislative committees regarding conservation practices. This has led to legislators making more informed decisions regarding water regulations to the benefit of all growers.

Mr. Whisenant has been an active member of agricultural boards and committees including Florida Citrus Mutual, Florida Cattlemen’s Association, Florida and Manatee County Farm Bureaus, Manatee River Soil and Water Conservation Service, Director of Bank of Palmetto, Production Credit Association, South Atlantic Production Credit Board, Ridge and Lower Gulf Coast Water Management District Board, Florida Council of Cooperatives, Florida Agricultural Conservation District (Area VII), Manasota Basin Board, State Soil Stewardship Committee and Hope Seeds Advisory Board. He has also received numerous awards including induction into Manatee Agricultural Hall of Fame, Manatee Distinguished Citizen, T.J. Carter Outstanding Conservationist Award and the G.B. Gunlogson Award from the American Horticultural Society for his invention of the “Earthbox.”

Mr. Whisenant has also been a leader in providing safe and quality housing for migrant workers. He has fought for better migrant housing standards and has been praised for the migrant housing on his own farm. Although Mr. Whisenant often shuns the limelight and prefers to work behind the scenes to impact Florida agriculture, he uses his eagerness and passion for farming and share it for the good of all.

 

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