Buster Longino lives by a strong code of ethics. He believes in doing the right thing by other people, by other living creatures, and by the land itself. Longino is a cattleman, a citrus grower, a forester, and a conservationist. Throughout his long career, he has demonstrated that agriculture and natural resource conservation are not opposed to one another, but instead go hand in hand.
Born in Jacksonville in 1926, Longino grew up in Bradenton. He received an early introduction to agriculture, spending his childhood turpentining with his father and grandfather. Working among the pines, he developed an interest in trees that would stay with him all his life. After serving in the Navy during World War II, Buster returned to his home state and earned a degree in forestry at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
In 1950 Longino began a small cow/calf operation on his father’s old turpentine land in Sarasota County—8,000 acres of upland and wetland forest. He started with 200 head of cattle and a few horses, but he soon realized that he would need to diversify if he wanted the business to stay viable over the long haul. Today, Longino Ranch produces cattle, citrus, sod, and timber, with a portion of the property set aside for wildlife management.
Longino is deserving of recognition simply on the basis of his demonstrated land stewardship. Because of his progressive management techniques, his agricultural operations leave a minimal footprint on the landscape.
Longino’s citrus grove is irrigated by miles of underground pipe that deliver water directly to the trees’ roots using microjet sprinklers. This method reduces water loss by evaporation and improves the efficiency of water use by the trees. Instead of building a retention pond to accommodate runoff from the grove, Buster reestablished a natural wetland that had been drained decades before.
Longino limits his use of chemical fertilizers and relies on a three-year rotational control burn to rejuvenate his native pastures. His timber operation is a model of sustainability. Always progressive and open-minded, Longino was an early adopter of silviculture best management practices, including controlled burns, seed trees, and selective cutting. Longino not only uses BMPs on his own land, but worked with the University of Florida and other agencies to help research and develop these environmentally friendly techniques.
In 2002 Longino negotiated a conservation easement on approximately 4,000 acres of Longino Ranch. The agreement permanently protects the land from development and ensures that it will remain in agricultural use for generations to come. In 2005 Longino Ranch became the site of the first mitigation bank in the Myakka River Watershed. Conservation easements and mitigation banks demonstrate the potential for farmers and ranchers to earn money from the environmental services their land provides, and Longino hopes his projects will serve as an inspiration to other ranchers looking to protect their land from development.
Longino is an agriculture and conservation leader who is well known for a lifetime of service to his industry, the environment, and his community. He is a member of the Florida Farm Bureau and a past president of the Florida Forestry Council and the Sarasota Cattlemen’s Association. He has served on Sarasota County’s Environmentally Sensitive Lands Advisory Committee, the New College Environmental Education Advisory Committee, and the Sarasota Air and Water Pollution Control Board. He was a Sarasota County Commissioner and is a founding member of the Myakka Conservancy, a land trust dedicated to the conservation of the Myakka River Watershed.
As a member of the Manasota Basin Board and the Southwest Florida Water Management District, Longino has been a staunch yet diplomatic advocate of regional water management. He helped establish the Peace River/Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority and initiated support for the first Aquifer Storage and Recovery Well in the Southwest Florida Water Management District. His efforts helped set prudent standards for balancing water supply and demand while avoiding the strife that has polarized other rapidly growing urban regions.
In a state where agricultural lands are disappearing at an alarming rate, Longino often acts as a liaison between farmers, environmental groups, and developers. By serving on agriculture and conservation boards and committees and being involved in local government and business leadership, he has fostered cooperation, rather than enmity, between all these separate interests.
Longino has received many awards and honors. In 1983 he was named Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year by the Florida Forestry Association and received the Sarasota County Farm Bureau’s Distinguished Service Award. He received a 4-H Lifetime Service Award and a Goodyear/National Association of Conservation Districts Conservation Award in 1995. In 1998 he was honored with the Commissioner’s Agricultural Environmental Leadership Award from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Longino retired from daily ranch management in 2005, but he continues to live on the ranch with his wife Jane. Buster and Jane have three grown children, Sarah, Rebecca, and Jack.