By REID TUCKER
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services presented Arnie “Junior” Pryor with an award certifying his Gaskin farmstead as a Florida Century Pioneer Family Farm.
Four generations of Pryors were on hand for a brief award ceremony at the family homestead on Friday, Sept. 30. Pryor, along with his wife, Elsie, and sisters Marcel Suggs and Lorene Pryor accepted the award from FDA Deputy External Affairs Director Susan Reese. She said the Pryors and their dedication to their farm exemplify the long-lasting importance of agriculture in Florida.
“It really speaks to our state’s agricultural heritage,” Reese said. “Dedication like [the Pryors] have is why agriculture is still strong in Florida. Without the support of the family, friends and neighbors, none of this would have been possible. This award congratulates all of them just as much.”
A farmstead must have been in continuous family ownership for 100 years or more in order to join the registry of the state’s 250 Century Pioneer Family Farms, and the Pryor farm more than meets that requirement as it remains an actively working farm. Pryor’s grandfather founded the farm in 1890 (which, at the present day encompasses 440 acres) and subsequent generations grew corn, cotton, soybeans and peanuts. Though Pryor retired from row-cropping in 1986, taking a job with Walton County, he still raises cattle and has many acres planted in timber, just as his father and grandfather did in years past.
“It feels great to get recognized like this,” Pryor said. “It means a lot to get this award from the state because I inherited this land from my grandfather and father and I’ve been here 75 years right on, working on the farm. I’m just as grateful as can be.”
Between five and 10 farmsteads are added to the Century Pioneer Family Farm list each year and the Pryors’ farm is the fourth so far in 2011. The Pryor farm is one of only two 100-year-old farms in Walton County. To see the full registry of Century Pioneer Family Farms, visit http://www.florida-agriculture.com/marketing/century_pioneers.htm.