Bill Carey was a leader in the Florida cattle and dairy industries, and his wife Trudy continues to play an important role in Florida agriculture today. Together Bill and Trudy founded the Carey Cattle Company, Russell’s Dairy, Carey Beef, Inc., Carey Feedlot, Inc., and Carey Agri-International. In addition, the Careys generously volunteered their time with numerous agricultural and youth organizations.
Bill was born in Calamine, Wisconsin, the eighth of nine children, and grew up on a small family farm where he learned how to milk and care for dairy cows. From an early age, his passion was cattle. Trudy also grew up on a family farm in Wisconsin. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Madison with a degree in English education. In the late 1950s, as newlyweds, Bill and Trudy moved to Brandon, Florida, with the idea of starting a cattle business.
They started the Carey Cattle Company with a truckload of Holstein cows that they hoped to sell at the livestock market in Tampa but ended up selling to a cattleman from Cuba. They spent the next 40 years supplying dairy cows to Florida dairymen and shipping cattle internationally to South and Central America, Puerto Rico, Africa, and the Middle East.
In 1962 Bill was diagnosed with tuberculosis and hospitalized for nine months. During this time, Trudy ran the business singlehandedly. After Bill recovered, Trudy continued to manage the financial side of things. Together, she and Bill built a family business that eventually grew to include a 2,000-acre ranch, two dairies milking approximately 750 cows, a cattle brokerage firm, a feedlot, a trucking business, and an international livestock export business.
In the 1980s, Carey Cattle was the largest exporter of dairy cattle in Florida. Bill originated the idea of “climatizing” cattle before export by bringing cattle from the Midwest to Brandon where they would be given time to grow accustomed to a warmer climate. Overseas buyers quickly noticed that the Careys’ cattle adapted much faster to their new environment than cattle purchased elsewhere.
Despite the demands of a sprawling and successful business, Bill volunteered with a variety of agricultural and youth organizations, including FFA, 4-H, and the Florida State Fair. He helped 4-H and FFA kids find animals to raise for their beef and dairy projects. He gave them advice and helped them find space to raise their cows. He and Trudy frequently opened their farm for tours by school groups. Trudy was also actively involved in Florida Agriculture in the Classroom, a non-profit that promotes agricultural education.
Bill and Trudy were leaders in their local, state, and national cattlemen’s and cattlewomen’s associations. Trudy was elected president of the Florida Cattlewomen’s Association in 1987 and Chairman of the Florida Beef Council in 1992. She served two terms on the National Beef Promotion and Research Board. She was also president of the American National Cattlewomen Foundation for four years.
In 1981 Bill received the Outstanding Award for Quality Milk Production from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The department named Trudy its Woman of the Year in Agriculture in 1997. That same year, Trudy received the Harvest Award for Outstanding Service to Hillsborough County Agriculture.
Bill Carey died in 1997. Trudy Carey lives in Brandon and still manages the family business. The Careys have three children and six grandchildren.