September 27, 2016
Life is a road full of twists and turns, long and short journeys, bumpy and smooth paths and if we are lucky, many adventures along the way. On a perfectly perfect spring day, my FarmHer journey led me to the Strickland Ranch in Myakka City, Florida to meet Renee Strickland.
As I pulled up I’m greeting by an empty horse trailer hooked up to a great big truck, and inside stands a lively woman, not much over 5 feet, cleaning out the trailer. It’s Renee Strickland and she is getting ready to load her polo ponies into the trailer to head out for a polo match.
See, Renee isn’t your typical polo player, she’s really a RanchHer. But she’s a RanchHer who loves to play polo. She loads up her five horses and we are on our way to the Sarasota Polo Club. As we drive there Renee explains to me that, while she grew up in ranching, she has fallen in love with polo in recent years. She got her start by organizing “Redneck Polo” matches out in the pastures at their ranch and has since worked her way to playing with a local club. We pulled in to the field, Renee cranked up her country music, jumped out of the truck and went to work getting her horses saddled and ready to play. She played the match with a competitive spirit, bringing the sweating ponies back to the trailer and hosing them down under the watchful eye of her dog Pete before loading them back up and heading back to the ranch.
While polo has fed Renee’s competitive spirit and horsemanship, it has also helped expand her other business - exporting. Renee used her love of ranching to start a livestock exporting business nearly 10 years ago. Through her business, she works with countries around the world to ship high-quality live animals such as cattle, sheep or goats, to other countries looking to expand and improve their food production. On a recent trip to deliver dairy cattle to Pakistan - her first export to the country - Renee also got the opportunity to bond with her foreign friends over polo and even played in the country. That led to an upcoming shipment of polo horses from the U.S. to Pakistan.
Wrapping up the day we drove to Blackbeard Ranch, which is new to the Strickland’s. They are not only raising cattle on the land but also working to preserve the land through a series of conservation efforts. They explained the ranch was full of the richness that Florida boasts. They weren’t talking about the sandy beaches or big amusement parks, but rather about the land and wildlife that is so important to the state. They are working to preserve the land in its natural state for generations to come.
To bring the green grass of the polo fields, the long gravel roads and the wide open spaces of the ranch pastures full circle, we ended our visit with Renee over dinner at Ulele, a lively and popular new restaurant in Tampa. We enjoyed a dinner of Strickland Ranch beef, raised in the beautiful Florida countryside. As I think back through my day with Renee at Strickland Ranch, from the care she has for her horses and her spirit of sportsmanship, to the commitments she has made to preserve her beautiful Florida landscape, and finally a lovely dinner in the good company of a new friend, it’s clear that this lifelong FarmHer is right where she’s supposed to be.
Watch video clips from RFD-TV here.
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