Gene Lollis Lake Placid, Florida – Founding Member | Manager for Buck Island Ranch
(Note: Buck Island Ranch and MacArthur Agro-Ecology Research Center are not affiliated with FCR. However, like all Floridians, and as ranchers and stewards of the land, we benefit greatly from the amazing research they do for our industry and agro-ecology).
Gene Lollis has spent his life in ranching and agriculture. He says he’s a sixth generation “Florida Boy” who returned to his ranching roots. Gene’s father began his life farming and ranching. But the hard times experienced by so many during that time drove him to a different occupation so he could provide for his family. His love of ranching and the land never left him, though, and he passed it on to Gene.
Gene says that it all started when I was 11 years old hunting lost cows with an uncle in North Florida. “I guess you could say I got hooked”, admits Gene. After that, he picked up odd jobs hoeing orange trees, pulling vines, anything. At 13 he got what he calls his “big break toward ranching.” He was hired to clean horse stalls for Mr. Red Simpson in Kissimmee. “Actually I just did whatever he said. And one day he asked if I could drive a stick shift. I said yes. Then he asked if I’d ever pulled a trailer. I said no.’ Well today you are going to learn’, he said…and at 13 I began hauling cattle.” Gene’s next big break came when he was asked to work cows with a friend’s grandfather, Dr. A.E. Whaley, “Doc” or “Pappy” to his grandkids. “The two weeks I spent working with and learning from Doc was one of the blessings that got me where I am today at Buck Island Ranch,” says Gene. These experiences helped shape his life creed – Be thankful in all circumstances and never give up!
Gene is married to Terrie Lollis who, as a ranching wife says her jobs are cleaning, cooking, mowing, going to town for supplies, and being the nurse for injuries. She loved raising their three children, Laurent (23), Meghan (21) and Hannah (19) on the ranch because “they get to roam free and you don’t have to worry about them.” All three kids agree that their greatest memories growing up were working cows during the summers, riding horses, and having a wide variety of pets. Laurent says that growing up on a ranch is invaluable because “it gives you years of practical experience, and you learn what it means to work hard”. Laurent earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science and hopes to follow in his dad’s footsteps on a ranch somewhere. “I would love to implement what I have learned to improve all aspects of ranching”, says Laurent.
As the manager of Buck Island Ranch, Gene gets to do all the things he is passionate about – cattle and nature. In addition to raising cows, he helps conduct agro-ecology research on all aspects of the ranching operation. The MacArthur Agro-Ecology Research Center focuses on long-term ecological research, education, and environmental stewardship on a large-scale working cattle ranch. Specifically, it strives to help with the challenges of protecting and restoring the vast open landscapes critical to the Northern Everglades Ecosystem. “Our program is part of the global effort to sustain working farms, and ranches while managing their ecological and environmental issues,” adds Gene.