By Jina Martin
Each year, agricultural leaders are recognized with the top honor in the state — the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame.
On Feb. 14, five new members will be inducted, bringing the membership to 115. They are: Dudley Adelbert Putnam, Charles Raymond “Chuck” Smith, Roy Gene Davis, Lillie “Belle” Jeffords and James Neville McArthur.
“Florida agriculture owes an immense debt of gratitude to these outstanding leaders,” Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson said. “Their dedicated service in the areas of research, education, business and government helped make Florida agriculture into the remarkable industry that is known and admired around the world.”
Dudley Adelbert Putnam
Dudley Adelbert Putnam was a pioneering citrus grower and cattle rancher in Central Florida.
Putnam was born in Chicago in 1909 and moved to Central Florida with his family when he was a child. After losing nearly everything he owned in the land bust of the 1920s, Putnam’s father returned to Chicago, leaving his three sons behind.
Putnam scraped together enough money to pay taxes on the Lake Wales property and hold onto it. He saved money, purchased more land, and he began planting citrus and raising cattle.
In the 1930s, Putnam was one of the first to establish a long-distance trucking company. He started his citrus-hauling business with one restored burntout truck. When the business took off, he pioneered the use of tandem-axle trailer trucks for fruit hauling. He went from cross-country shipping to citrus processing. With the help of C.E. “Tiny” Williams, he sold shares of stock to establish a state-of-the-art processing plant in Bartow.
During his many years with the Farm Bureau, Putnam worked to help pass the Greenbelt Exemption for Florida agriculture and helped secure a gasoline tax refund for gas used in farm tractors.
“I lent my support to anything that was positive for agriculture,” Putnam said. “When I finished one battle, it was time to take up another. There is always another challenge.”
Putnam’s son and grandsons joined the business and kept it in the family. Today Putnam Groves and Dudley Putnam Inc., include more than 800 acres of citrus in Polk County and 5,500 acres of cattle ranches in Polk, Hardee and Highlands counties.
Putnam died in 2003.
Charles Raymond Smith
Charles Raymond “Chuck” Smith has served agriculture as a county extension agent, a farm manager and a legislator.