Lowell Teal has received the most prestigious honor the Florida Farm Bureau can bestow on a member — the 2020 Distinguished Service Award.
Teal, an Orange County advocate and former executive director of Orange County Farm Bureau, was recognized for his dedicated service to agriculture in the state of Florida and his lasting contributions to the organization. FFB president John L. Hoblick presented the award Oct. 8.
A statement issued by FFB said: “Teal was a tireless advocate for farmers at the local, state and national level. He worked with Orange County elected officials on various agricultural issues, including private property rights and natural resource conservation.”
He also was instrumental in pioneering the microjet irrigation system for Florida citrus growers.
Teal served more than 20 years as executive director of the Orange County Farm Bureau. During his tenure, he developed relationships with government officials, municipal leaders and public agency staff members.
“Lowell Teal has been a Farm Bureau leader, a mentor and an advocate for agriculture for more than 40 years,” a state Farm Bureau official said in a recognition video. “He’s well respected by his peers. Under his tutelage, the local organization has developed excessive groups of leaders that have worked as mentors to others.
“He’s one of those Farm Bureau people who leads by example,” the representative said. “His influence remains a living legacy.”
Teal’s involvement with the Farm Bureau started when a friend, the late Billy Arrington, asked if he would be interested in helping the Orange County bureau.
“What he was interested in was figuring a way to get the directors more involved with what was happening,” Teal said. “My job then was to kind of coalesce the membership and pull them together and take charge of all the meetings.”
He always felt welcomed into the group and felt everyone present was there for the common good, he said, and he left with a sense of accomplishment after those meetings.
“I think when you look back at Orange County’s success and you draw in Lowell Teal into that picture, he could bring consensus among his entire board, he could bring consensus among the county commissioners,” Hoblick said.
“He was a consensus builder,” he said. “He was also the kind of person who — after you had a conversation with him — you felt like he was your best friend.”
Others in the Farm Bureau community were quick to praise Teal for his accomplishments.
Robbie Roberson got to know Teal when he joined the Orange County Farm Bureau.
“Lowell’s influence on Florida agriculture, and certainly Orange County agriculture, has been influential,” he said.
He recalled Teal’s frequent visits to Orange County government meetings and to Tallahassee to defend agriculture issues and stances.
Bobby Beagles, executive director of Orange County’s bureau, said Teal was working with the St. Johns River and South Florida water management districts and traveled to South Africa to research how the country was watering its crops and returned with the plan to use microjets for irrigation.
“It’s been a great relationship with our water districts,” Beagles said. “We have had that for over 35 years I’ve been on the board. … Lowell always made sure we had a meeting once a year with our water district president. It wasn’t a personal issue, it was a company issue.”
Mark Byrd, a board member with the state bureau, said Teal leads and mentors by example.
“He walks beside you, explains what’s going on, but then puts you in the mix; he certainly lets you find your way,” he said.
“Lowell Teal served Farm Bureau with dedication, skill and passion,” Hoblick said. “He was a steadfast leader and a respected mentor to everyone he met. I am pleased to present this award on behalf of our Florida Farm Bureau members.”
A 2020 Distinguished Service Award also was presented to Billy Hester, a Volusia County Farm Bureau leader for nearly 50 years and an executive director for 27 years.
Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.