Every day before dawn, they saddle their horses, coil their lariats and whips, and ride out to work the herds. They are Florida Cowboys — living legacies of the longest history of ranching in America and guardians of the landscape that has shaped them. As keepers of the last frontier, Florida cowboys share their land with bears, panthers, and other endangered species, along with irreplaceable wetlands that help sustain the state’s strained water resources. Yet their world has gone unseen, overlooked or forgotten for too long. Without awareness, we are in danger of losing both a culture of people and the landscape they have been quietly managing since before the Civil War.
Photographer Carlton Ward, Jr. has been documenting Florida ranches to share a vision of what is at stake as the face of Florida changes. His stunning photographs, complemented by twenty historical, cultural, and environmental essays from Dana Ste Claire, Joe Akerman, The Nature Conservancy, Audubon of Florida, and the Seminole Tribe, among others, celebrate the grit and raw beauty of the Florida heartland and its enduring cowboys.