It's been a wild ride for Sarasota's Marlene Strickland. As president of the 2,000-member American National CattleWomen, she travels the country promoting the nutritional value of beef and talking agricultural issues with state and national legislators. But it was her life's work in 4-H that recently earned Strickland Florida's Woman of the Year in Agriculture award. She and her husband, Don, who live on a five-and-a-half-acre ranch in eastern Sarasota County, have been 4-H leaders for 30 years. They help youngsters raise animals and tend vegetable gardens, and along the way they impart values, including good land stewardship, and educate about job opportunities in agriculture.
"I'm concerned that children don't understand how they get food processed-they think they go to Publix or Winn-Dixie to get it," says Strickland, who was raised on her uncle's 3,600-acre ranch off Fruitville Road. "But there are jobs they can get in the agriculture and beef industry that they don't even know about."
Strickland points with pride to her seven-year-old grandson. "He told me, 'Grandma, we have to do something about these hurricanes; they've made it too wet, and my tomatoes are not doing well at all.' I think that's fantastic."