Owning land is probably the best investment you can make if you can use it and hold it.
My father’s father was an orphan of the Civil War. Raised up under Reconstruction, he was never taught to read or write and never learned to sign his name, but he became chairman of the Walton County school board. He sent my father to the University of Florida — all the other boys he’d give them 40 acres and a mule and start them farming — but my father didn’t want that. My father studied law and became the first University of Florida graduate to serve on the Florida Supreme Court.
It’s the most natural thing in American business. These cows, they find a bull they like. They breed. They have their calf with no assistance. They eat grass. The calves grow up. We sell the calf.
My granddaughter (LeeAnn Adams Simmons) has been working with the state to put conservation easements on our land so future generations of my family, or anybody else who acquires the land, can never build on it or change it. At my age, that’s my priority — to protect the land, to protect the grass, trees and animals, and to protect our future food supply.
Cowboys have their own sense of humor. Anybody falls off a horse, that’ll make a cowboy laugh.
My wife and I built our house when we first got married, and it’s still our house. It was built before air-conditioning, and most of the house has still not been air-conditioned. The house has wide overhangs and was designed so well we really don’t need air-conditioning.
Florida is a highly desirable part of the world to live in. It’s growing very, very fast. If you do not protect the land as your source of food, clean water and clean air, you’re making a big mistake.
One lesson I’ve learned is you can’t do it all by yourself. The secret to our business is I have a good family and I have good employees. You have to take care of your people and treat them right.
My wife and I have been married since 1949. I married the most beautiful girl at FSU. She has Alzheimer’s now so we stay close to home. I help take care of her, but, every day, I go out and see the cows and the cowboys. I see my grandchildren. That’s my recreation.
Our governor has displeased a lot of people, but he has kept the state solvent, compared to California and some of the others, so I think he’s doing all right.
Citrus greening is a serious problem. It’s a real question whether you’ll be able to get a glass of Florida orange juice anymore.
I ask myself, at my age, why do I want to live another year? I want to see the next calf crop. I want to see the next crop of babies.
If I ever need to go to the Orlando airport, I need a private road or somebody to take me there. I’d say transportation is our state’s biggest problem.
In my ignorance, I thought I knew everything I needed to know about cattle, so I studied economics at the University of Florida. It turned out to be a good choice. The first day in economics, I learned the source of all production is land, labor and capital.
My father never did encourage me to practice law or study law. He could tell I had an interest in the land. Even at age 10 or 11 years old, I could comprehend — you have a cow, she has a calf, you sell the calf and get money. I just couldn’t quite comprehend how lawyers made their money because they didn’t really produce anything or sell anything.
A deer with a rack of horns or a wild turkey, oh I love to shoot them, but a bear is too much like a man for me to want to go up and shoot him.
Our land is a wonderful habitat for cattle and everything else. Every time you go out, you’ll see something a little different — a large alligator, a big buck, wild turkeys, all kinds of birds. These wild animals, they have to have a complete ecosystem. Breaking up the land in small tracts, you break up their way of life.
You come back here 50 years from now, you’ll still see cowboys and horses and cattle right on this very land. That’s my hope.