Dairy Herd Management continues its series featuring dairy-related honorees in the 2014 Vance Publishing Corporation Agribusiness “40 Under 40” Award program. Short profiles of the honorees were included in our November 2014 issue, and can be found on our website, www.dairyherd.com and at 40Under40ag.com.
Benjamin Butler, 35, is a fourth-generation dairy farmer and a ninth-generation Floridian. He and his wife April have a 4-year-old daughter, Hannah.
On his family’s Butler Oaks Farm, Inc., near Lorida, Fla., he’s vice president and a “hands-on” manager, responsible for the health, reproduction and nutrition for about 2,000 dairy animals, in addition to maintaining and managing human resource records and environmental compliance.
Butler sees his future role as both a producer and messenger, believing milk and dairy products are an answer for a hungry world. He enjoys giving farm tours, and his public education efforts are featured in online videos, viewed more than 200,000 times on YouTube.
Q: Was there anything/anyone who provided the direction or helped fuel the passion for your career path?
A: My parents taught me values, respect, to work hard and play hard, and to enjoy what the Lord has provided. They never encouraged my brother or me to join them on the family farm. But, by their example, we fell in love with the land and the dairy farming way of life.
My 4-H agent, Debbie Clements and state dairy specialist, James Umphrey, were very influential. They brought me out of my shell through dairy cattle evaluation, most specifically, giving oral reasons. The process taught me to make decisions under pressure, and improved my public speaking.
I have been told I am a leader in my community, state and occupation. If I am, it’s because of my parents’ values, and the opportunities and training given to me by my advisors, mentors, leaders, peers, teachers, coworkers, industry reps, and my loving and understanding wife and family.
Q: Describe your current interests and responsibilities related to agriculture and food production.
A: I have an unwavering love for agriculture, dairy farming, youth and the land. One of the reasons I enjoy the time I spend serving agriculture is because of the quality people I get to work with. I enjoy giving tours of my family’s farm, and telling others how their milk is made. We have hosted numerous groups, including 4-H groups, environmental students from as far away as England, royal delegations from foreign countries, science teachers, local and state officials and school nutrition professionals.
During these tours, I encourage tough questions, because I know our industry is on the right side of the discussion. I love the challenge of teaching. I serve on local Farm Bureau and ag council boards, government committees, youth organizations and livestock show committees, all for the opportunity to share agriculture’s story and to encourage youth.
I have lived through an environmental reckoning in respect to agriculture/dairy farming in south Florida. When I was growing up in the 1980s, agriculture and dairy farming in Okeechobee and the surrounding area became a lightning rod for its perceived contribution to pollution at the headwaters to the Everglades. Early on, the battle lines were drawn between agriculture and environment. In my lifetime, I have witnessed the discussion turn from animosity and unsubstantiated blame to collaboration and respect.
I have lived through six major construction projects on our farm, in the name of the environment, all of which were voluntarily undertaken by my family. My family had the option of closing up shop and moving to a friendlier farming environment. However, our love of our land kept us at home. Today, I love sharing what our industry has done to help preserve and protect the environment.
Q: With global population/food challenges ahead, what excites you most about your career/job and the future?
A: Milk is one of nature’s most perfect foods. It excites me to be a part of the miracle of milk production. For years, milk was marketed based on the minerals and vitamins in it. Today, science and human nutrition are waking up to the fact the protein and fat found in milk and its products are essential and valuable to human nutrition and well-being.
Today’s population is far-removed from the farm. However, we are also living in a time when information is spread faster and easier than ever before. This is a concern, because of the speed false and damaging information can be spread. It is gratifying to know I play a role in directly improving our industry through more correct practices, and having the ability to share our story with a more willing and hungry audience.
For information on 2015 nominations, visit