Nearly one in every five Florida farms is located in the Suwannee Valley region, so it’s fertile Farm Bureau territory.
That’s a big reason I’ve helped deliver $1 million to the Suwannee Valley Agricultural Extension Center in the past two years from my office, from other parts of UF/IFAS and from sources matching UF/IFAS money.
I was proud to announce some of the details at the Suwannee CARES event in early May:
- A five-fold increase in operational funding for the center.
- Renovations and expansion of the center’s conference room.
- A renovated office and lab building.
- A three-year lease on three tractors.
- A variable-rate irrigation system and surface water pumping station for water and nutrient management research.
- One of five UF/IFAS regional specialized water agents for Florida has been dispatched to Live Oak.
- A new agronomic crops Extension agent co-funded with Suwannee County government.
I wanted to deliver this news in person because the Farm Bureau’s Suwannee CARES event is one of the great gatherings of Florida agriculture for a number of reasons.
First, it brings together the state’s leading agricultural advocates as partners. I was honored to share the podium with Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam and Florida Farm Bureau’s Kevin Morgan.
Second, it honors environmental stewardship. We simply cannot sustain farming in Florida – or anywhere else – if we don’t protect the natural resources that make farming possible in the first place.
Third, it’s a place where growers and other stakeholders speak loudly and clearly, and where UF/IFAS listens well. Many of the items on the list above resulted from the input of Farm Bureau members on the center’s advisory board. Center director Bob Hochmuth does a great job channeling that input into recommendations and making the case in Gainesville for increased UF/IFAS investment.
Those are all things UF/IFAS strives for wherever a Farm Bureau member is located – partnership, sustainability and a two-way conversation about how to help Florida agriculture flourish.
By Jack Payne
Jack Payne is the University of Florida’s senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources and leader of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.