Year Inducted: 2014
Two Rivers Ranch of Thonotosassa, Fla., was honored today as one of seven regional Environmental Stewardship Award Program (ESAP) winners. The award, which is sponsored by Dow AgroSciences, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the National Cattlemen’s Foundation, is presented to farmers and ranchers who are working hard to protect America’s natural resources.
Centered on the convergence of the Hillsborough River and Blackwater Creek, Two Rivers Ranch is a cow/calf operation that has been owned and managed by Robert Thomas’ family for more than 80 years. Stretching across Hillsborough, Pasco, and Hernando Counties in Florida, the ranch consists of more than 17,000 acres of improved pasture, planted pines, native range and forest. Isolated in its own oasis, no one would imagine that Two Rivers Ranch headquarters is less than 20 miles from downtown Tampa and has over 7 million people living within 50 miles of its boundaries.
"Hillsborough River supplies approximately 90 percent of the city of Tampa’s drinking water, so it’s very important for the city,” said Wayne Thomas, Executive Vice President, Two Rivers Ranch, and a fourth-generation cattle rancher.
“We have a very high profile here as a result of the importance of our natural resource,” said Robert Thomas, CEO, Two Rivers Ranch.
The ranch has its own proven land management techniques to enhance their operation. The improved pastures are actively managed through controlled burns and seeding of legumes, rye and clover in order to produce grazing in the winter and the occasional sale of seed. The native ranges are less intensely managed, leaving natural areas of native grasses with fewer cows than the improved pastures. In addition to requiring less maintenance and fertilizer, the native ranges provide excellent pasture for the winter. This multiple land-use practice employs rotational grazing of the improved pastures, native ranges and forested lands. The Thomas family keeps their herd size limited so as not to negatively impact wetlands, water quality of the adjacent river bodies, native vegetation or wildlife populations.
“As part of its land management plan, the Thomas family has developed a long-term reforestation plan which has replenished the soil and reduced surface water runoff,” explained Adam Putnam, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture. “In addition, pine trees are continually planted as seed trees for natural regeneration. Pastures are actively managed through controlled burns and seeding, while herds are limited and rotated so the native ranges and multiple ecosystems are not overworked.”