Cary Lightsey Lake Wales, Florida – Lightsey Cattle Company
Founding Rancher Cary Lightsey owns and operates Lightsey Cattle Company with his brother Layne Lightsey and their extended families.
Theirs is a historical cow-calf ranching business dating back to the early pioneer settlers in the 1850’s. It’s made up of Tiger Lake Ranch, Boothill Ranch, Circle Cross Ranch, B-52 Ranch, CC Bar Ranch, XL Ranch, Brama Island Ranch, and Santa Rosa Ranch.
Eight generations of their family have worked in cattle ranching in central Florida. Many still live and work on their ranches today. Cary is married to Marcia, and they have three children and eight grandchildren. [family pic – scan] Family is very important to Cary. When asked the most important thing that he wanted his children and grandchildren to know about life, Cary answered, “It’s all about the family…blood is thicker than water. Be there for each other. Family legacy is very important.” Daughter Lori has learned this well. “My dad taught us that the ranch and cattle are our responsibility. He has never called anything “his”. All the families are included in the decision making of the business, and that makes us want to take care of everything just like he does.”
The ranching legacy passed down through the Lightsey family is centered upon stewardship. Cary says that the most important thing his father taught him about ranching was that if you take care of the land and the livestock that feed on it, it will take care of you and generations to come.
Cary and Layne took this stewardship legacy to heart. They have implemented many practices that improve their cattle’s quality of life on the ranch. They plant the best grasses developed through the IFAS Experimental Stations so their cows have lush green grass to eat year round, even during adverse weather conditions such as freezes and droughts. They only pen and work their cattle when it is absolutely necessary for health reasons. Otherwise, the cows are free to roam as they please in their natural habitat. The Lightseys believe this makes for happier cattle with less stress.
Cary and his brother also developed their father’s love of the land. They work with various agencies and partners such as Northern Everglades Headwaters, Florida Lands and Outstanding Waters, WRP (Wetland Reserve Program, GRP (Grazing Ranchland Programs), and State BMP (Best Management Practices) to name a few. They are also big supporters of conservation. So much so that over 85% of their ranch lands are in some sort of a conservation easement.
In addition, their family has won many awards for their Environmental Stewardship practices. “We are one of the first ranches to provide eco-tours to the public and civic organizations, showcasing our green spaces, an abundance of wildlife, clean water and air programs and endangered species,” said Cary.
“Stewardship has to do with how we manage our time, talent, resources…our entire lives. It is a beautiful concept when understood. We are blessed by having the task of caring for all that we possess in our lives, such as our land, livestock, wildlife, water, air and our earth,” says Cary. “We want to share our goals and to ensure that the future members of our family will have a livelihood much like the one we had…to work our land, the cattle and wildlife, and all that goes along with it.”