Horse Farms Forever Honored with Generous Gift from the Cathy D. Perry Trust

Horse Farms Forever Honored with Generous Gift from the Cathy D. Perry Trust

Brandon Perry and his wife Diannah presented a generous gift from the Cathy D. Perry Trust to Horse Farms Forever® (HFF) Board Member Nick de Meric and Sara Powell Fennessy, HFF Director of Community Affairs, at Nick’s Thoroughbred farm in Ocala.

Horse Farms Forever® is honored to be chosen as a recipient of a generous bequest from the Cathy D. Perry Trust of $125,000. This bequest was one of nearly 30 gifts totaling over $5 million made to non-profit organizations by Cathy’s son Brandon in honor of his beloved mother. Brandon and his wife Diannah selected organizations based on Cathy’s love of animals, as well as for cancer research, hospice care, and to help children.

Brandon and Diannah were inspired to donate to Horse Farms Forever because of their support of land conservation. Their strong support of conservation stems from the conservation of their very own Thoroughbred farm, Paragon Farms, in Lexington, Kentucky.

“We were eager to protect our farm from development and preserve it as farmland forever with the farmland protection program in Lexington,” said Brandon. “Billy Van Pelt, who at the time was the Director of Lexington’s program, helped us protect our farm.”

“When we heard that Billy Van Pelt, who now works for the American Farmland Trust, was assisting Horse Farms Forever, we were encouraged to support the organization’s mission to conserve horse farms in Marion County,” said Brandon. “Horse Farms Forever has indisputably hedged off urgent challenges to Ocala’s most important asset, it’s horse farms and farmland. The conservation of Ocala’s farmland goes beyond the threat posed to our equine industry and tourism but, also to the climate and quality of life issues.”

Cathy D. Perry

When Brandon and Diannah purchased their farm in Lexington, one of the reasons was because of the high-quality soils. When Brandon’s parents retired in 1994 and moved to Ocala, they purchased the former Classic Acres, for the same reasons.

Paragon Farms, in Lexington, Kentucky.

“They settled here because of the land,” said Brandon. “We bought our farm in Lexington and my parents bought their farm in Ocala, due to its soil fertility and natural beauty, making it prime farmland for raising and breeding horses.”

Paragon Farms, in Lexington, Kentucky.

The Perry Family Business – Petzazz

Brandon’s parents developed and grew their Petzazz pet food store into one of the largest retail stores in the Midwest. In 1994, the family decided to retire from the retail business and sold their Petzazz company to the national chain PetSmart.

After selling their business, the Perry’s retired to Ocala and purchased Classic Acres, a 250-acre horse farm and started raising quarter horses, appaloosas and paints. At one time, there were 200 horses on the farm. Brandon also moved to Ocala to help manage the family’s farm. Brandon’s parents divorced in the early 2000s, but his mother stayed in Ocala and formed lifelong bonds with friends and generously gave back to the community.

Cathy D. Perry

Cathy D. Perry’s Legacy 

Cathy led an amazing life focused on her family, friends, and community. She was a very successful entrepreneur, but giving back to the community was a top priority. At the Petzazz retail stores, the Perry’s held adoption days with local humane societies to help find homes for cats and dogs. While living in Ocala, Cathy was an active member of the Ocala Royal Danes for Cancer Research and with her generous gifts, her legacy in the community will live on for many years to come. 

Full Circle to Ocala

Brandon and Diannah purchased a 50-acre portion of the Classic Acres Farm in 2000 and built their Thoroughbred Bloodstock business in Ocala until 2003, when they expanded Paragon Farms and moved their operation to Lexington. 

While in Lexington, they brokered millions of dollars of horses each year and raced at the pinnacle of the industry in Triple Crown and Breeders Cup races. They caught the keen eye of Thoroughbred enthusiast and Irish billionaire and businessman, Eamon Cleary. In 2009, the Perry’s sold Paragon Farms to Mr. Cleary and he expanded the farm into Clearsky Farm.

Brandon and Diannah have now come full circle and, in 2014, moved back to Ocala. They own Newgate Realty, and instead of owning and operating their own Thoroughbred farm, they own a partial interest in several Thoroughbreds, including a horse that raced in the Kentucky Derby.

Horse Farms Forever is so grateful for Brandon’s generosity and for Cathy’s legacy to help as many organizations as possible in Marion County. We are so honored and incredibly thankful for the generous gift from the Cathy D. Perry Trust. Thank you.

Brandon and Diannah Perry

Photo Caption: Brandon and Diannah Perry, HFF Founder and Board Member Nick de Meric

Agricultural Lot Splits – What’s the Plan Stan?

Agricultural Lot Splits – What’s the Plan Stan?

Have you wondered what Marion County will look like in 50 years? What about the Farmland Preservation Area? Will it still have the same miles and miles of four board fences and the rolling hills of horse farms that create the character and culture of Marion County?

The good news is that there is a Plan to help protect farms and the Farmland Preservation Area. The plan to manage growth is codified in Marion County’s Comprehensive Plan and the Land Development Code. These two documents, and how they are implemented or changed, will determine the future of Marion County.

The Comprehensive Plan – Say What, Say Why?

The County’s Comprehensive Plan is similar to a company’s Mission Statement in that it lays out Goals, Objectives, and Policies to provide a vision for sustainable urban, suburban, and rural growth that supports a transportation network, a variety of land uses, natural and agricultural resources, and open space.

For example, the goals to help preserve the rural and equestrian character for the nearly 200,000-acre Farmland Preservation Area are included in Objective 3.3 of the Comprehensive Plan and the Farmland Preservation Area boundary is designated on the Future Land Use Map.

Click HERE for the Future Land Use Map. The Farmland Preservation Area is in the northwest and outlined with a green and black dotted line. The Urban Growth Boundary is in red. The two lines merge on the northwest section of the Urban Growth Boundary.

Marion County Comprehensive Plan Objective 3.3: The Farmland Preservation Area is intended to encourage preservation of agriculture as a viable use of lands and an asset of Marion County’s economy and to protect the rural character of the area. Planning principles within this area are designed to protect significant natural resources, including prime farmland and locally important soils as defined by the United States Department of Agriculture and unique karst geology that provides high recharge to the Florida Aquifer, a key source of freshwater for central Florida. The County establishes this area as critical to the enhancement and preservation of its designation as the Horse Capital of the World.

What About Zoning?

The Zoning regulations are found in the Land Development Code, which is a separate document with specific guidelines to implement the Goals, Objectives, and Policies of the Comprehensive Plan.

Zoning regulates development through land use classifications and specifies the areas in which residential, industrial, recreational or commercial activities may take place. The Land Development Code was adopted through a series of ordinances by the County Commission, which means that the regulations cannot be changed or waived, except by a further vote of the County Commission.

Ten Ways to Say Exception!


Horse Farms Forever® (HFF) monitors all applications to divide land using the exceptions, especially the most commonly used exception in the Farmland Preservation area, the Agricultural Lot Split.

The agricultural lot split exception allows landowners to subdivide rural land into 10-acre or larger lots without having to plat the land into a subdivision. The exception has some rules, including a maximum limit of 10 lots per parcel division. While nearly all applications using the agricultural lot split exception adhered to the 10-lot limit, HFF discovered several applications that sought a waiver from the County’s Development Review Committee to exceed this 10-lot limitation.

At the May of 2023 Development Review Committee meeting, HFF challenged the statutory authority of the committee to waive any provision of the LDC by approving an application to allow 20-lots on one parcel using the agricultural lot split exception. While the Committee heard our testimony and accepted our objection letter, they proceeded to approve the waiver and send the application to the Board of County Commissioners for final approval.

At the June of 2023 Board of County Commissioner meeting, the application with the waiver was part of the Consent Agenda and scheduled for fast-track approval. HFF again challenged the authority of the DRC to waive a provision of the LDC and presented the County Attorney Guy Minter with a position paper from our land use attorney, Matthew Brockway. After a lengthy debate and a statement from Mr. Minter that while he thought our position was most likely correct, he needed more time to review the matter, the Commissioners tabled the application and asked the County Attorney to report back on our challenge at the next commission meeting.

At the July of 2023 Board of County Commissioners meeting, HFF land use attorney, Matthew Brockway, again challenged the legal authority of the Development Review Committee to waive any requirement of the Land Development Code, especially the limits related to the agricultural lot split exception. As a result of this challenge, the Commission chose to halt any future use of the agricultural lot split exception until this section of the Land Development Code could be reviewed and the practice of waivers by the Development Review Committee scrutinized.

“We do want to thank you, and Horse Farms Forever,” said Craig Curry, County Commission Chairman to HFF attorney Matthew Brockway at the July 18 Commission meeting. “You have become a good partner and help put an extra set of eyes on things and have been very helpful in a number of areas. We work very closely with you to protect the Farmland Preservation Area and we are appreciative of your time.”

In regards to the Agricultural Lot Split exception, Horse Farms Forever has not taken any position on the agricultural lot split exception and has no issue with the current language. As part of our watchdog efforts, we did respectfully challenge the statutory authority of the Design Review Committee to waive any portion of the Land Development Code, which is created by ordinance.

It is the vision and mission of Horse Farms Forever to inspire conservation of horse farms through education, awareness and idea exchange so as to preserve natural pasture land focusing on horses and their habitats, to protect soil and water on which they depend, and minimize land use conflicts in Marion County, Florida.

We are watchful of government and others to preserve and protect horse farms and farmland for future generations – especially in the Farmland Preservation Area. We are neither anti-growth nor anti-development; we encourage urban growth to remain inside the Urban Growth Boundary.

Horse Farms Forever® is a Florida not-for-profit corporation registered with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services as a charitable organization and approved as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) corporation by the Internal Revenue Service. Horse Farms Forever® does not have a political mission. Our status as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization does not allow us to participate or intervene in political activities. The organization will neither advocate on behalf of political candidates nor advocate for the passage of legislation.

The Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association Joins HFF as a Founding Member

The Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association Joins HFF as a Founding Member

The Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association is a not-for-profit association with the mission of promoting the Florida Thoroughbred worldwide. Since 1945, FTBOA has represented the Thoroughbred industry legislatively, serves as the breed registrar, and administers lucrative awards programs and incentives for Florida-Bred racehorses.

The FTBOA represents more than 1,000 Thoroughbred breeders and owners internationally who breed, raise, sell, train and race horses born in the state of Florida. FTBOA does this by having a seat at the table for pertinent issues facing the local, state, and national Thoroughbred industries. FTBOA also works closely with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the State of Florida thanks to the State’s pro-business stance and industry tax incentives such as no sales tax on fencing, feed, and grain.


FTBOA trademarked Horse Capital of the World® and Ocala/Marion County Horse Capital of the World®, which are used to promote the region and its equine services.

FTBOA owns Florida Equine Communications (FEC), publisher of the award-winning monthly Thoroughbred-centric magazine The Florida Horse and the Wire to Wire Racing Digest. FEC also produces Horse Capital Digest®, the official publication of Horse Capital of the World®; and partners with Horse Capital Television, the official video platform of Horse Capital of the World®, to promote all equine breeds and disciplines in Central Florida. FEC produces award-winning industry videos, social media, and original website content.


In 2022, FTBOA launched, The Florida Horse podcast and Kaplan Media’s production studios moved to the FTBOA headquarters providing seamless video production capabilities for the Association.

In 2022, the Association’s CEO Lonny Powell was honored with two national awards, the American Horse Council’s Van Ness Award for lifelong service to the equine industry, and he was named Florida Executive of the Year by the Florida Society of Association Executives.  In 2015, FTBOA was awarded Florida Association of the Year by the Florida Society of Association Executives and the Non-Profit of the Year by the Ocala Metro Chamber and Economic Partnership, a prestigious honor considering there were more than 1,000 non-profits in the county.

FTBOA through its charitable arm, Florida Thoroughbred Charities, has raised more than $4 million in the last two decades for Thoroughbred retirement, scholarships, and education in Marion County, and within the State of Florida. The FTBOA headquarters also houses the Florida Thoroughbred museum where visitors and fans alike can learn more about the history of Florida Thoroughbred champions, their connections and achievements in the industry.

The FTBOA is located at 801 SW 60th Avenue in Ocala, Fla., next door to the worldwide perennial leader in two-year-olds in training sales, Ocala Breeder’s Sales, centered in the heart of the Thoroughbred industry in the state.


Carlton Ward, Jr to be Keynote Speaker at Horse Farms Forever’s Conservation Summit

Carlton Ward, Jr to be Keynote Speaker at Horse Farms Forever’s Conservation Summit

Ocala, FL – August 25, 2023 – Horse Farms Forever, Inc.® is pleased to announce that Carlton Ward, Jr, a National Geographic Explorer and photographer, will be the Keynote Speaker at the Fourth Annual Conservation Summit to be held on Thursday, November 16 at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company.

Join us for a Conversation about Conservation as Carlton shares the story about photographing the first female Florida panther documented north of the Caloosahatchee River since 1973. Carlton’s quest to photograph the elusive and endangered Florida Panther was documented in the “Path of the Panther,” an award-winning documentary film produced by Leonardo DiCaprio.

Carlton’s photograph of Babs, as the panther is affectionately named, shows that the range of the Florida panther has expanded north from the Everglades. This expansion is the key to the panther’s recovery, but their long-term survival depends on protecting land within the Florida Wildlife Corridor.

“If we can show the world who that panther is, that’s going to be the spark to save this whole corridor,” said Carlton in the Path of the Panther film preview.

The Path of the Panther film has already made an impact by inspiring the passage of the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act in 2021, which helped secure over $800 million in state funding for land conservation. Since the Act was passed in 2021, nearly 120,000 acres of land have been approved for conservation.

“I want everyone who sees the film to have tremendous pride in the state of Florida and know about the Florida Wildlife Corridor and the importance of it for the state’s future,” said Carlton “That’s why our team spent so many years focusing on the Florida panther. It’s a symbol of the need for protecting the corridor.”

The Florida Wildlife Corridor is an existing, nearly contiguous network of land that stretches from the Panhandle to the Florida Keys over about 18 million acres. Nearly 10 million acres has been conserved as public lands and as private lands that are protected with a conservation easement, but about half of the corridor is at risk of being developed.

About 40% of Marion County is included as part of the Florida Wildlife Corridor. The Ocala National Forest at over 430,000 acres in Marion County, is one of the largest pieces of the Florida Wildlife Corridor puzzle. The goal is to connect additional conservation lands such as the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway and Silver Springs State Park by protecting private land with conservation easements. A portion of the Farmland Preservation Area in northwest Marion County is also part of the Florida Wildlife Corridor.

Two of the key partner organizations working to protect the Florida Wildlife Corridor will also be speaking at the 2023 Conservation Summit. Mallory Lykes Dimmitt is the CEO of the Florida Wildlife Corridor Foundation, which champions a collaborative campaign to connect, protect, and restore the Florida Wildlife Corridor. Traci Deen is the President and CEO of Conservation Florida, a statewide land conservancy focused on protecting natural and agricultural landscapes with a primary focus on saving land within the Florida Wildlife Corridor.

By conserving private ranches and farms as part of the Florida Wildlife Corridor, this also allows agriculture operations to continue to contribute to the economy and to the production of food, timber, and other resources vital to the prosperity of Florida.

The Florida Wildlife Corridor

The Florida Wildlife Corridor is a statewide network of over 18 million acres that supports wildlife, people, and communities. It runs from the panhandle all the way to the tip of the peninsula. The Florida Wildlife Corridor already exists. The goal is to ensure continued connection between public land and green spaces across the state through private and public land conservation.

Path of the Panther

The Path of the Panther tells the story of how a group of photographers, veterinarians, ranchers, conservationists, and indigenous people joined forces to track and protect the endangered Florida panther. In this moving documentary, stunning images of the big cats spur the movement to restore a majestic keystone species as well as a dwindling wilderness.

The Florida Panther

The Florida panther is more than just an icon for Florida’s last wild places. It is a conservation keystone. The panther is an umbrella species with the largest terrestrial home range in the state, protecting dozens of other species in its domain. Reaching near extinction in the 1950’s, the Florida panther was among the first to be added to the U.S. Endangered Species list in 1973.

Protecting land for the panther is important for people and communities too because connected habitat helps provide clean air and drinking water, as well as other benefits like pollination of food crops and flood mitigation from heavy rains or hurricanes. The panther population has rebounded from about 30 adults to nearly 200 today. But the species faces a multitude of new challenges.

Florida Wildlife Corridor Foundation

Conservation Florida

Commonwealth Standard Holdings Joins HFF as a Founder Member

Commonwealth Standard Holdings Joins HFF as a Founder Member

Horse Farms Forever® welcomes Nate Chambers and Commonwealth Standard Holdings as our newest Founder Member. The real estate and private equity firm joins over 70 businesses, horse farms, and individuals that collectively support HFF’s mission to preserve horse farms to ensure that not only are the rolling hills and scenic viewsheds protected, but also to raise awareness about the horse industry’s impact on the economy and its character, which has defined Marion County for over 50 years.

“I joined Horse Farms Forever because of my growing concern about thoughtful growth and development. My firm believes in developing projects that complement the community as well as supporting the protection of property like that in the Farmland Preservation Area,” said Nate Chambers, CEO of Commonwealth Standard Holdings. “It is possible to have both the ambitions of development and the values of conservation.”

The draw of Marion County’s rural charm, the opening of the World Equestrian Center, along with the thriving equine industry, has led many new horse farms and businesses to the area, including Commonwealth Standard Holdings. The equine industry in Marion County represents about one-fifth of the economy and generates over $2.6 Billion dollars every year (2014 study).

“The equine industry is not only personally special to us, it is also the primary economic driver in northwest Marion County,” said Nate. “Thoughtful development is critical or we risk losing what makes this area special.”

Nate and his wife, Dasha are lifelong equestrians and it was their love of horses that brought them together. They also recently welcomed their daughter into their growing family.

“We met at a horse show in Pennsylvania on land protected by a conservation easement,” said Nate. “I grew up riding and Dasha still rides. Hopefully we will see our daughter in the saddle before too long as well!”

HFF welcomes the Chambers family and Commonwealth Standard Holdings to the growing community that supports preserving the character and culture that horses, horse farms, and the horse industry brings to Marion County!

Visit Their Website: https://csholdings.com/