By Kathy L. Collins

Each year, men and women who have dedicated their lives to the agriculture industry in Hillsborough County are honored at the Annual Harvest Awards Ceremony. The most prestigious of the awards is the Harvest Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2016, Brandon resident, Tony Ippolito became the 26th recipient of Harvest Lifetime Achievement Award.

Ippolito worked as the General Manager of the privately-owned Tampa Wholesale Market for 32 years. Ippolito grew up around the market because his dad was one of the businesses at the market. Ippolito said, “The interaction with the farmers who came to sell their products was very gratifying as business was conducted between sellers and buyers.”

In addition to working as the General Manager, Ippolito was a frequent guest on an early morning show, “RFD Florida.” The show aired on WFLA-TV. Ippolito explained, “For more than 20 years in the 1960’s and 1970’s, on Fridays of each week, I was a guest on to display and describe fruits and vegetables that were available locally. It was challenging and also very rewarding for me to serve as the ambassador for healthy food preparation and consumption.”

Ippolito was also a civic leader and served on the advisory council of the Hillsborough County Cooperative Extension Service and was named the Extension’s Volunteer of the Year.

Ippolito retired in 1989. However, retirement has not stopped Ippolito’s extraordinary involvement with food. Since 1993, Ippolito has volunteered, along with his wife of 58 years, Jean, at the Seffner Methodist Church Meals on Wheels (MOW). “I cook, along with others on the MOW team, and each Monday, 85-90 meals are delivered to homes for individuals who are homebound,” said Ippolito. The Brandon Meals on Wheels has over 19 churches that participate Monday through Friday to serve 275 individuals on a daily basis.

Ippolito said that he was shocked and humbled when he found out that he would receive the Harvest Lifetime Achievement Award. “In my view, farmers and the industry folks that support farming are the very core of the community. I felt honored beyond words to be recognized and to be included.”

Ippolito turned 93 in November. “I appreciate so much each day that allows me the freedom and the resources to continue my small contributions to the health and care of people in our community,” said Ippolito.