Photo by Russell Crowder.

Conversations About Conservation 2021 Summit Was A Tremendous Success.

Thanks to everyone who made the time, during Thanksgiving week, to attend the second annual Conservation Summit at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company on November 23rd.

Over 400 people attended the event in person and online and the event was supported by over 40 sponsors! Our diverse sponsors ranged from the equine industry to health care and to the construction and development industry. This tremendous level of support is a testament of how important this Conversation about Conservation is for the future of Marion County. The purpose of the Summit was to inspire a community wide Conversation about how to preserve the horse farms and agricultural lands that are fundamental to Marion County’s global brand as the Horse Capital of the World®.

We were so honored to have Dr. John C. Malone, CEO of Liberty Media, as our Keynote Speaker, who shared his passion about land conservation and sustainable forestry and cattle ranching practices. “I’ve always been a conservationist from a sustainability point of view,” he said.

Thank you to George Isaacs, General Manager of Bridlewood Farm, for the heartfelt introduction of Dr. Malone.

Thank you to Kevin T. Sheilley, President & CEO of the Ocala Metro Chamber and Economic Partnership (Ocala CEP) for your candid presentation about Marion County’s booming economy and how to balance growth with preserving open space and farms. You did a great job presenting the Quality of Life Survey results in an engaging manner. (P.S. We knew the answer to the question about protecting the Farmland Preservation Area before we asked the question.) https://ocalacep.com/the-cep/team/

Thank you also to Mark Casse, Canadian and National Hall of Fame Trainer, for presenting the Acorn Conservation Award to Charlotte Weber.

Thank you, most of all, to Charlotte Weber, for your careful stewardship of Live Oak Stud for over 50 years.

And Special Thanks to Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company for donating the sales arena for the Summit.

One of the comments on the feedback survey summarized the key points of the Summit: “Hearing from Kevin Sheilley about the economic impact of the horse industry and that the growth of the horse industry and protection of farmland can work together with other smart growth in the County. Thanks to Horse Farms Forever for bringing the right people together and remaining ever vigilant in protecting our local treasure – farmland. “

We hope you were inspired too and we thank you for all that you do!

We wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Happy New Year!


George Isaacs, General Manager of Bridlewood Farm, introduced John Malone, telling us all the story of how the Malones came to own Ocala’s largest Thoroughbred farm, and how the farm has thrived under John and Leslie’s leadership.

Mark Casse presented his friend and colleague, Charlotte Weber, with the Acorn Conservation Award.

Casse also got in some face time with Magic, one of the Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses.

“Think of these beautiful, iconic horse pastures as our ocean; and the magnificent live oak trees as our coral reefs,” said HFF President, Bernie Little – reminding us all that we are stewards of an environmental gift here in Marion County that is woven tightly to our culture and identity.

“I came here, as many of you did, because it was rural. It was quiet. You could have a nice little place. Now? 10,000 houses going up on this corner, 20,000 on the next. It gives me great concern…help us preserve it,” said Charlotte Weber.

Acorn Conservation Award winner, Charlotte Weber, with HFF President, Bernie Little and Mark Casse.

The beautiful Acorn Award, sculpted in Bronze by Colorado artist, Bryce Pettit.

“The ideas of growth and conservation are not always in conflict,” said Guest speaker Kevin Sheilley, President and CEO of the Ocala Metro CEP. “We really can have it all.”

“Ocala, which has this great heritage in horses and Thoroughbred horses, it’s kind of a unique area when you think about areas that deserve preservation. There aren’t that many places on the planet that are great for raising and training horses. The best ones have deep limestone soils,” said  John Malone, Liberty Media Chairman and owner of Bridlewood Farm.

“It is no coincidence that many of the world’s best horses have ties to Ocala. Our mineral rich soils have produced some of the strongest, best equine athletes in the world,” said Sara Powell Fennessy, HFF Executive Director.

“Beauty alone will not protect our farms. But there are several win-win solutions to protect land – from the Comprehensive Plan to Conservation Easements,” said Busy Shires, HFF Director of Conservation Strategies.


Katie Reynolds Wentz, Regional Sales Manager, Triple Crown Feed and Bill Vander Brink, Co-Owner of Elite Equestrian Magazine.

Scout – miniature therapy horse extraordinaire!

HFF Founder, Pauline Hartogh

Guests arriving. Over 400 registered to attend.

Thanks to an amazing corps of volunteers, each guest was greeted with a program and directions on where to find an amazing catered lunch by Fresh Green Tomatoes Catering Company.

HFF’s Director of Conservation Strategies, Busy Shires, with Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn, Jorge Garcia-Bangochea with Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horse, Magic, and HFF’s Executive Director, Sara Fennessy.

HFF President Bernie Little and Dean Saunders

Guy Marwick, Executive Director of The Felburn Foundation, his wife Pat, daughter-in-law Elia and his son Matt Marwick.

HFF Volunteer Nancy DiMaggio discusses the FPA Map with a Guest.

Juliet W. Reid, Chester Weber, and Niki Popp Tripodi.

Marion County Commissioner Michelle Stone, Assistant County Administrator Public Works & Growth Services, Tracy Straub, Growth Services Director, Mary Elizabeth Burgess, and Executive Director at Ocala/Marion County Visitors & Convention Bureau, Loretta Shaffer.

Advent Health Foundation’s Executive Director, Jenna Krager, shares a smile with Magic from Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses.

HFF President Bernie Little with Horse Protection Association of Florida’s new Executive Director, Christine Massinger.


Jorge Garcia-Bengochea and Magic from Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses.

(L to R) Jim Henningsen, President of College of Central Florida, Christopher Knife College of Central Florida Foundation Executive Director, Joe Johnson, CEO of Advent Health Ocala and guest.

Sam Reid and Gary Hartogh, HFF Founder.

Matt Varney from Ocala Horse Properties with Juliet W. Reid.

Mary Phelps of Markel Equine Insurance and Horses Daily (R) along with Gina Capone of Ocala Florida News (L).

Jacqueline Taylor of Equus TV.

Lonny Powell, CEO of the FTBOA (R), with wife, Karen Powell (L) and daughter, HFF Executive Director, Sara Powell Fennessy (Center).

Staff & Board

HFF President, Bernie Little (R) with wife and HFF Founder, Mary Jane Hunt (L).

Board Vice President, Rob Desino (c), with Founders Jim Cannavino, Matt Varney and Elma Garcia Cannavino, and guest, Luann McElduff.

Executive Director, Sara Powell Fennessy.

Director of Communications, Michelle Grald.

Director of Conservation Strategies, Busy Shires.

Summit Articles and Videos


Guest Survey: "What Did You Enjoy Most?"

  • “Especially touching was the spontaneous standing ovation for Charlotte Weber, it was very wonderful to be part of that experience and see her family there with her. The information was fascinating regarding statistics and growth in Marion county. I was amazed to see such a large and diversified crowd in attendance and heard nothing but very positive comments about the entire event either directly or in passing. Excellent job to all!”
  • “My favorite part was the opening speaker (Sara Fennessy’s) ability to address the room. I liked Kevin Sheilley’s presentation and really liked the Acorn Award and thought it was so cool to see Mark Casse in person! He is a celebrity to my family. All of the staff did a great job conducting and participating in the event. A job well done HFF!”
  • “Kevin Sheilley was engaging and such a character. I learned a lot. “
  • “Hearing from the Kevin Sheilley about the economic impact of the horse industry and that the growth of the horse industry and protection of farmland can work together with other smart growth in the County. Thanks to Horse Farms Forever for bringing the right people together and remaining ever vigilant in protecting our local treasure- farmland. “
  • “John Malone is always calm, optimistic and inspiring. George Isaac’s introduction of JM was epic. Kevin Sheilley’s presentation was very informative. He expresses an understanding of the need for urban development as well as preservation. The proof, as they say, will be in the results. Tough job as you can’t please all the people all of the time! Everyone involved made it a great experience.”
  • “This was a well organized event. Thank you for all your hard work. It is certainly appreciated. Having lived in Marion County for about 25 years and watched its growth it is comforting to know that everyone is doing their best to preserve what we love best about it. Long live SLOWCALA.”

Guest Survey: "Ideas For Future Summits"

    • “Keep up the good work! Remind people you are a non-profit and how the operation is structured!”

    • “Testimonials from select farms & breed interests. Drill-down next year on next steps/call to action, updating of issues current & of import at the time.”

    • “What we need to do to assist with conserving our horse farms. “

    • “Transportation and how it relates to conservation. Proposed new Marion County Roads. 75 Interchange North of 27. World Equestrian Center”

    • “More about conservation easements, other alternatives to save the agricultural lands in Marion County”

    • “I would like to know more about any State level protection efforts, laws, programs that are intended to encourage conservation of lands. What can be done by Horse Farms Forever to strengthen those state level efforts, if any exist now? It is wonderful to rely on wealthy and sympathetic land owners but we ultimately need more than that to ensure significant conservation in and outside of Marion County. “

    • “I feel it’s helpful for the people who do not want urban sprawl to understand what plans need to be passed to be able to contain the growth. (i.e., infrastructure such as city water/sewer, etc.). That infrastructure is going to cost money and if it is easier for homes to be built without damaging the environment close together, the need to take over more land will be less.”

    • “Would like to know about volunteer opportunities.”

Thanks to Our Sponsors!

Starting With Our Presenting Sponsor,
Brook Ledge Horse Transportation!




Jacqueline B. Mars

Misty Lane Cattle Co.
Niall Brennan Farm Horse Farms Forever Ocala Marion County



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Always Watching

We work hard to keep you informed, and to represent our members' interests in preserving our horse farms, farmland and the unique character and culture of Marion County's 193,000 acre Farmland Preservation Area.

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