Doyle Carlton talks about the origin of Roman III Ranches

Doyle Carlton III is not only the patriarch of the Carlton family, and Roman III Ranches, he’s also the chairman of the board at the Florida State Fair Authority.

Roman III Ranches ranks 12th among cattle numbers, out of the approximate 5,000 cattle ranches in the state of Florida, according to the Florida Cattlemen’s Association.

Carlton was born to Doyle Carlton Jr. and Mildred Carlton in 1947 in Tampa, but his family lived in Wauchula. A quick internet search brings up a number of stories, Wikipedia pages and more on the family and their long history in Florida, which dates back to the 1800s.

In fact, Carlton’s grandfather was elected governor of Florida in 1928.

Bridgette Bello, CEO and publisher of Tampa Bay Business and Wealth, interviewed Carlton in front of a sold-out crowd, at The Rez Grill, in the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tampa. See more images from the event here. 

This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

You told me about the outreach you’ve received since gracing the cover of Tampa Bay Business and Wealth in January. Can you share a little bit about that with the audience?

The day the article came out, and I was not aware it had come out yet, I started receiving texts and emails from Texas, Georgia and all over Florida. This article covered a lot of territory in a short period of time. I know on Facebook stuff moves very fast and I think that’s how most of it was spread. I received a lot of comments from all over the country, literally. And the vast majority of the people talked about what a great job you did writing the article.

For those of you who read the story, we did have a typo when we said national, instead of nutritional. I wanted you to have the opportunity to talk about why nutrition is an important part of the business story.

I was talking about how we handle our cattle and the fact that they take such good care of us, and have for so many years, that we feel like we naturally want to take good care of them. We try to provide for them through health care, through proper vaccination programs and really, we try to make sure they have the proper nutritional care that they need. We put a big value on the nutritional end of it as well as how we handle the cattle. We use small crews and work with them as quietly as possible to make it easier on them, which in turn makes it more productive and beneficial for us.

Oftentimes, because there’s so much time between when we do the interview and when the magazine actually comes out, something exciting has happened in between. Have you had any acquisitions, or is there anything on the horizon, that you can tell us about so that we all know something nobody else does?

We have acquired an additional lease. In fact, we just reached that agreement this morning and I’m supposed to sign everything Monday and I know it’s going to go through. It’s not a huge deal, but it does increase the capacity of one of our operations by about 40 percent. We’re excited about that. We’ve got a couple of other things working but right now, for confidentiality reasons, I really can’t talk a great deal about those tonight.

What’s the origin of the name Roman III Ranches?

Around when I was in the fifth grade, a long time ago, I joined the 4-H Club. My dad gave me a heifer for my project and he designed the brand because I’m Doyle Carlton III. He had a brand that was JR for Junior and then he had an additional brand, the triangle, but he’s the one that designed the Roman III. He gave me that calf and then he would give me calves along the way.

By the time I got out of high school, and completed my time at Texas Christian University, between what he had given me and, a lease he made available, I had about 25 head of cattle. And then was able to purchase 25 more. And that was kind of the way it started a long time ago, but it was all because of what he made possible for me.

And it was the same things that had been made possible for him by his dad. But the Roman III, we’ve kept the brand. As we’ve been blessed to expand like we have, we felt like we needed to have a blanket company instead of having different brands for separate ranches. We just put everything under that and the title’s a little bit cumbersome, and some people don’t understand really what it is when they hear Roman III Ranch, but it’s all about the brand. 

You asked if there was one word that I had to pick out that you said the most, and you just did again, it was “blessed.” Please talk about your blessings.

I would keep you all here way too long and probably lose some of the crowd. [Laughter.] But there is not a more blessed person in this room, city, county or state than Doyle Carlton III. And I mean that from the bottom of my heart. The Lord has blessed our family in so many ways. It’s  just so interesting, and such a blessing, just to see how things come to dovetail in. One thing follows after the other and you look back and want to be able to take a lot of credit for what you’ve done. Look back and just trace what he’s done in your life and the things that he’s made possible. There’s no way to describe it but being blessed.

I know you spend a lot of time giving back and blessing other people because of that. And I think that that speaks volumes. Let’s talk about your second love. The Florida State Fair starts soon. Are there any surprises?

Well, first of all, it’s the best 12 days in February. There is going to be a lot of surprises. But if we tell you what they are, they won’t be a surprise when you get there. So just come on out.

Final question, and then we’ll let everybody storm the stage and ask you their own questions. We have a limited amount of space in the magazine and so we didn’t get to go into quite as much detail as we would’ve liked to about Cracker Country. Do you want to talk about it here?

When the Fair moved from downtown, it was previously near the University of Tampa, they stopped at Raymond James Stadium for a year or two and then moved out to where the Fairgrounds is located now. And there’s 340 or 350 acres, a lot of land. And there was this one corner of the Fairgrounds that’s about four or five acres. It’s got these beautiful trees and it’s just a beautiful setting. And my dad was the chairman of the board then and my mother was involved too, and they were looking at that one section of the Fairgrounds and thinking how beautiful it was and what can we do with it that would be something special for the state of Florida and can be educational to the young people in Florida. They thought about the Cracker Country—Cracker being the name of the people that migrated from the Carolinas and Georgia into Florida.

The terrain was so tough and it was so thinly populated, that when the people would travel through moving their cattle from the North to the South, they would pop their whips to keep the cattle going, to make the [cracking] noise to keep them going so they wouldn’t lose them in the brush.

But the people down the way that heard the folks coming with the cattle and popping their whip would say, “Here come the crackers.” And so that’s the origin of the name. Unfortunately, it’s taken on a different context in some areas. We won’t go there because we know what the original intent of the name was. If it was presented to you in the right way, take it as a compliment.

Mom and dad felt that that corner of the fairgrounds would be a nice place to move some buildings and set up a little history area, of the turn of the century Florida, with the support of the Florida State Fair Authority and the Fair board. They entered into the development, so to speak, of Cracker Country in the first year. And we’ve got the director of Cracker Country here tonight, Cindy Horton. But the first year I think we had three buildings and that was 1978. I was over there for the Fair and I was looking at Cracker Country. I thought, well, Mom and Dad are usually pretty good visionaries, but they’ve dropped the ball on this because there’s three buildings that look more like a ghost town more than a town.

But then, before the next year, they started adding buildings. And then we had 13 of the original buildings that have come from the Florida Panhandle, all the way to Tampa, and they were delivered in their original state. Now they have been refurbished, obviously.

One of the visions I had was being able to get the young people involved and so they started bringing some of the elementary classes out on field trips, and some of you may have been through there. We started showing them the history and we’re still doing those tours today.

Almost 26,000 kids have come through on field trips and it’s really cool. Something I would encourage all of you to do is to stop by Cracker Country, and let us give you a tour, if you haven’t been there yet.♦

About CEO Connect

TBBW’s “CEO Connect” series is an exclusive, invitation-only, monthly event that brings together many of the Tampa Bay area’s top business leaders to meet and mingle. Presenting sponsors were ServisFirst Bank, Taylor White Consulting and Celebrity Cruises. Gold sponsor was DCE Productions and hospitality sponsor was the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa.

The evening begins with a cocktail reception for about 120 guests, followed by a live interview of well-known, C-level executives who provide insight into their personal lives, careers and views on issues affecting the business community.

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