Glades County, Florida
For Seminole Cattleman Alex Johns, Farm Credit “Is Like Dealing with Family.”
Alex Johns, a cattle rancher on the Brighton Seminole Indian Reservation, belongs to a tradition that goes back 500 years, to 1521 and the beginning of the U.S. cattle industry in Florida. It hasn’t always been easy. The Seminole Tribe lost most of its cattle in the 1800s and could not re-establish a herd until the 1930s. Today, the Seminole Tribe operation has 12,000 head of cattle on 36,000 acres on the western side of Lake Okeechobee. It’s the fourth largest herd in Florida, 12th largest in the country.
“I feel like cattle are part of my DNA,” says Johns, who serves as the natural resource director for the Seminole Tribe of Florida, overseeing ranching operations and marketing efforts of Seminole Pride Beef. “Raising cattle is an important part of our history.”
Johns also manages his own herd. And when he needed an agricultural lender, he chose Farm Credit of Florida.
“Farm Credit understands agriculture. It’s simple for me to go in and talk with a Farm Credit representative and present my business plan … If I go to a traditional lender it’s an education process,” says Johns, who recently teamed up with Florida Cattle Ranchers, a consortium of sustainable producers, to market his locally sourced beef to restaurants and grocery stores throughout Florida.
“I believe in producing local food,” Johns says. “We look forward to continuing to grow our market share.”
Technological advancements, such as improvements in pharmaceuticals, animal tracking and handling procedures, have made it possible to modernize operations, but the Seminole Tribe continues to work cattle by horseback. Some of the work horses are descendents of the original Seminole Marsh Tackies, more commonly known as Florida Cracker horses.
“The cattle industry is a hard business, [but] …we know that we are producing a wholesome, safe product and we are feeding the world off the sweat from our brow,” says Johns, who values community and family. When he’s not working, he encourages the Tribe’s young people to get involved in 4-H and FFA programs.
“Farm Credit is like dealing with family,” Johns says. “It is easy to explain your position and situation. They understand you. They get it.”