Longino Ranch

July 2000

Longino property spreads across 8,000 acres on the north-eastern corner of Sarasota county, adjoining DeSoto county on State Road 72. The ranch is an even blend of wetland and upland forest in close proximity to the Horse Creek. Buster Longino's father and grandfather had bought this property in 1934 for a turpentine business, but that business died-out soon after World War II when synthetic substitutes came onto the market.

Longino Ranch sign

"Buster" T. Longino has worked for more than 50 years on the Longino Ranch preserving this environmentally-sensitive land while maintaining a viable cattle, timber and citrus operation. After serving in World War II, Mr. Longino attended the University of Florida to study forestry. This background enabled him to improve the quality of timber raised as a renewable crop in replacement of the turpentine product. However, Buster quickly recognized the virtue in diversification if business was to remain viable for the long haul. With just a few head of cattle and some advice from close rancher friends, Buster established the Longino Ranch in 1950.

Buster T. Longino with braford cow

Mr. Longino relied on the advice and management techniques developed by the University of Florida Range Cattle Research & Education Center and the Soil and Water Conservation Service to run his operation. He incorporated a number of innovative, cost-effective and environmentally sound best management techniques to sustain his business. They included:

  1. 3-year rotational control burn to rejuvenate native pastures
  2. Frequent cattle rotation between improved and native pastures
  3. Following University of Florida-IFAS fertilizer recommendations
  4. Seed-trees and selective cutting of only 40-year old timber of saw lumber grade

Approximately 25% of the land is established to bahiagrass pasture, but that grass also tends to spread into the native range by cattle through manure. There are 300 acres of Bigalta limpograss pasture. Just last year, Buster developed 30 acres to Florico stargrass. This new stand helped maintain growth of his calves through most of the 2000 spring drought. One ranch worker remarked in passing: "We frequently grazed that Florico pasture with 300 calves for 6 months and the stand still looks good". This year, Mr. Longino has prepared land to establish another 30 acres to Tifton 85 bermudagrass. Buster maintains between 1500 and 2000 head of cattle on the property. Most of them are Braford breed, but over the years he has cross-bred his cattle with a variety of European, African and Asian breeds including Beefmaster and more recently, Braunvieh to maintain hybrid vigor.

Braunvieh bull
Braunvieh bull for upgrading herd.

The most recent addition to the business is a 300-acre grove made up of selections of different varieties of citrus. Mr. Longino hired engineers to develop a state-of-the-art irrigation and drainage system in preparation for the grove. Miles of pipes were laid underground to deliver water directly to the root system of citrus trees using microjet sprinklers. This method reduces water loss to evaporation and improves efficiency of water use by citrus trees. Even more impressive in Buster's commitment to soil and water conservation was his grove's drainage set up. In the 1950's, Soil and Water Conservation Service had recommended drainage of wetlands towards increased farmland reclamation. When Buster decided to add the citrus grove in early 1990's, the Ranch was required to dig a retention pond. Instead of undertaking an extensive excavation project, Buster adopted a solution in harmony with nature - he would reestablish the adjoining wetlands that had been drained 40 years earlier!

Buster T. Longino feeding cows

The soil and water management practices used by Mr. Longino have resulted in a resurgence of wildlife over the entire ranch. Deer, long missing from the area, are seen running across pastures. Turkeys, wild hogs, and Sandhill cranes are abundant on the property. As a spokesman for environmentally sound agriculture, Buster regularly provides educational tours of his ranch to local schools, churches and civic organizations. With such a load of activities, Mr. Longino still finds time to serve his community. He serves on the Southwest Florida Water Management District Board, is a member of the Sarasota County Extension Service Advisory Committee for 12 years and also served as Sarasota County Commissioner from 1984 to 1990.

ranch workers overhauling tractor engine

Diversification of the Longino Ranch, in a harmonious way with the environment, has enabled Buster to sustain a viable agricultural operation despite the normal highs and lows of the beef, timber, and citrus industries. It is his nature to evaluate and implement new ideas - and always look into the future just as he is presently evaluating the prospect of selling a conservation easement on some portions of the property. Mr. Longino, Travis and I appreciate the tour.

Travis Seawright and Buster T. Longino

Longino Ranch sign

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