On Friday, Aug. 9, 13 innovative farmers and ranchers will be recognized.

On Friday, Aug. 9, 13 innovative farmers and ranchers will be recognized.

This is the third year that the University of Florida IFAS Extension and Farm Credit of Northwest Florida at the Jackson County Extension Office in Marianna will team up to honor the Panhandle’s top farmers.

An “Innovator of the Year,” to be announced at the luncheon, will be selected from this pool to represent Northwest Florida.

I chose Shannon Nixon, of Nixon Farms, as the Okaloosa County Agriculture Innovator of the Year.

Shannon, who began farming in 1988, strives for cost efficiency and maximizing yields. He tries to be a good steward of the land and a community advocate for agriculture. He was the first Okaloosa County farmer to use conservation tillage; that first season's cotton yield was excellent, causing other farmers to take note.

Like many farmers, he has modified harvest equipment to fit his needs. Just to name a few, he modified a cotton picker to pick two-in-one skip row cotton, which decreases boll rot in wet seasons. He also modified a combine to harvest soybeans more efficiently.

Shannon balances cost with expected return on investment in deciding whether to adopt new technologies. He adopted GPS use in the fields because he sees many benefits from this technology. He sprays fungicides at night for peanuts and uses liquid inoculants in furrows to increase yields. He has used aerial surveillance to scout crops for diseases, skips or other issues.

In addition, Shannon gathers information to identify his production’s weak areas as he grows cotton, peanuts, soybeans and wheat. He is an early adopter of social media and is comfortable using various communication forms. Through face-to-face conversations, social media and traditional media, he communicates agriculture’s importance to our community.

The Agriculture Innovator Recognition Program annually recognizes innovative farmers and ranchers from 16 counties, from Jefferson west to Escambia County. UF/IFAS County Agriculture Extension Agents nominate one honoree from each county to be recognized at the annual awards luncheon.

Uniting these top-notch farmers furthers innovation. Highlighting these creative and successful farmers helps increase awareness of the diversity and innovation of today’s modern agriculture.

By sharing the story of the highlighted farmers and ranchers with local and regional media, the public can gain new appreciation for the business of agriculture in their area.

Jennifer Bearden is an agent at the Okaloosa County Extension office in Crestview.