December 2007
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Herman Laramore Combines Cattle and Citrus

FL Panhandle Public Defender Has Farming in His Blood
By Grace Smith

Through all of his extensive educational pursuits and career endeavors, Herman Laramore has always made time to come back to the ranch and cultivate his “recreation.”

For some men, recreation comes in the form of shooting a trophy buck, swinging a golf club or snagging a giant fish. But for Marianna, FL, farmer, Herman Laramore, recreation has taken a completely different form.

"Farming has always been my recreation," Laramore said. "I don’t hunt or fish or golf. I guess I just enjoy the challenge; trying to make it work."

One visit to his operation proves he’s certainly found a way to "make it work." Laramore’s "recreation," Bar L Ranch, is a 2,500-acre cattle, hay and satsuma farm located in the northern Florida panhandle, just outside of Marianna.

The farm is best known for its 1,000-plus head of commercial cattle which Laramore said is his favorite aspect of the operation. The herd consists of Angus-based brood cows most of which are bred to Charolais bulls. However, some of his cows are bred to Angus bulls and the female offspring are kept as replacement heifers. Laramore also produces his own Charolais bulls.

He works in conjunction with the University of Florida on synchronization programs for his cattle to best utilize artificial insemination. After trying several different methods of synchronization, he said seeders by Pfizer have been the most effective protocol.

  Herman Laramore admits the satsumas are labor intensive and require much management. But he says once people eat them, they love them.
His cattle are on a 90-day breeding program and most of his cows calve November to December. After conditioning calves a minimum of 45 days, most of Laramore’s calves are sent to Aztec Feeders located in Hereford, TX, where they are fed out before slaughter.

Herd health is of utmost importance on the ranch, and he said they depend on Pfizer’s health management program for proper vaccination of their cattle. Using Cow Sense Herd Management software, Laramore is able to keep proper records on each cow, bull and calf on the ranch.

Meeting the nutritional demands of a cattle operation as large as Bar L Ranch is an enormous undertaking. Laramore said they are currently feeding 40 rolls of hay each day. Fortunately, he produces his own hay, so he doesn’t have to depend on purchasing it from alternative sources which, he said, makes a big difference when you are meeting the feeding demands of such a large herd.

This year, he baled mostly Tifton 85 Bermuda on about 400 acres. While some of the hay is cut and baled into traditional rolls, Laramore has purchased a bale wrapper that has allowed him to best utilize the time he spends in the field. Using this machine, the producer can bale hay without having to wait for it to cure. It is tightly wrapped eight times sealing in the moisture which creates a fermentation process that transforms the hay into silage. This comes in handy, Laramore said, when afternoon thunder showers come through and you don’t have to worry about waiting on the hay to dry.
But even for the most efficient hay producer, this year’s drought has presented challenges in producing enough hay to simply "get by." So Laramore purchases other commodities like cottonseed, corn gluten and soybean hulls to complete the feeding requirements of his cattle.

Laramore’s most recent undertaking has been his satsuma operation. He said there are only three people growing satsumas in his area and they have planted a total of 15 acres. He is responsible for six of those acres, and he admits they are labor intensive and require a lot of management. Laramore said they have to improve the marketing of the fruit before he expands this aspect of his operation. But he said once people eat them, they’ll be hooked.

"They’re easy to peel, seedless and they don’t leave your hands with a gummy feeling," Laramore said. "Once people eat them, they love them."

An operation of this caliber requires much help and Laramore has found that in his family. His wife, Charlotte, keeps up with the cattle data; his son, Ryder, oversees the satsuma operation; his brother, Gordon, checks cattle and fencing; his nephew, Blane, oversees the cattle operation; and another nephew, Johnny, maintains equipment and is in charge of commodity feeding. One other employee, Lino Porto, is not a family member, but is willing to perform any task presented to him. All of them help in haying and working cattle.

Laramore has spent his lifetime establishing this ranch with the help of family members, but it hasn’t been his only undertaking.

He was raised on a portion of the land where he now farms and, when he was a young man, he and his brother, Gordon, helped with their father’s farming operation.

Upon graduation from high school, he attended Florida State University where he received a degree in criminology. After completing his degree, he worked for the State of Florida for four years before returning to Florida State to pursue his law degree. In 1970, Laramore received his degree in judis prudence.

He practiced law for 23 years, but in 1992, his career path took a new route when he was elected public defender of Florida’s 14th Judicial Circuit. This particular circuit covers six counties including Bay County, home of Panama City, which he said keeps him the busiest. Serving in this capacity, Laramore’s office handles cases ranging from misdemeanors to first degree murders.

Through all of his extensive educational pursuits and career endeavors, Laramore always made time to come back to the ranch and cultivate his recreation.

He understands his recreation presents enormous challenges, much greater than tracking a buck, breaking par or reeling in some cranky fish. From lack of rain to costly commodities, the headaches of farming are a constant reminder of the sacrifices Laramore pays to pursue his recreation.

"It’s in my blood," he said. "You either love it or you don’t. But, if you love it, you’re willing to make those sacrifices."

The employees of Altha Farmers Cooperative at Marianna are always willing to help Laramore face some of those ‘headaches.’

"The store at Marianna is very well equipped and well stocked," Laramore said. "They are very helpful and I have never asked them for anything they haven’t been able to help me with."

Marianna store manager, Ryan Williams, said he and his employees are always glad to assist Laramore any way they can.

"Mr. Laramore is a well-known gentleman and business-man who is recognized throughout the community, and we are glad to be a part of his operation," Williams said. "I credit my employees’ hard work and dedication for our success and our ability to serve Mr. Laramore as well as others’ needs. I am lucky to have four outstanding employees, Richard Kennedy, Larry Reese, Logan Fowler and Lindsey Winters."

Grace Smith is an associate editor for AFC Cooperative Farming News.