Farming, ranching a way of life in northern Everglades

Article Posted on May 7, 2018

By: Chad Gillis,

Sixth-generation Florida rancher Cary Lightsey drives his rusty, eggshell white Jeep along the eastern shoreline of Brahma Island on Lake Kissimmee, an area his family has worked since the mid-1800s.

With his black mouth cur cattle dog riding shotgun and two reporters in tow, he wrangles the steering wheel with his thick, calloused hands, forcing the Jeep over sugar sand dunes and past a 600-year-old oak tree.

Sixth generation rancher, Carey Lightsey gets a ride

Sixth generation rancher, Carey Lightsey gets a ride to Brahma Island on Lake Kissimmee. Lightsey owns the island and leases it out hunters and outdoor enthusiasts.

A breeze whips out of the east. Clouds cast patches of shade onto the ground. Eagles glide and screech overhead.

"I'm proud of it," Lightsey says of ranching.

With no other people, vehicles, roads or homes in sight, the island — 3,000 acres in the middle of a lake in the middle of the northern Everglades — feels remote, ancient almost.

Farming itself in Florida is ancient, drawing its roots from indigenous societies who grew crops here centuries ago. Between Orlando and Okeechobee, farming is also a way of life…

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