All posts by Rachael Smith

Land Grant Partner

May 2021 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

The Collegiate Farm Bureau at the University of Florida is a student organization on the rise. The pandemic hasn’t slowed its efforts to promote agricultural awareness and develop its members through connections to Florida agriculture and the Florida Farm Bureau Federation.

More CFB members means a lot of prospective Young Farmers & Ranchers in the next few years. It means people ready to contribute to the industry as professionals. And it means people who get started speaking up for Florida agriculture as teens and 20-somethings.

Maybe the Collegiate Farm Bureau boom is fueled by the success of its recent alumni:

  • Jamie Fussell is director of labor relations at the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association.
  • Logan Luse is the FFB District 7 field representative.
  • Elise Stoddard Cruce is managing director of leadership development for the American Farm Bureau Federation.
  • Others have started careers at U.S. Sugar, Nutrien, Deloitte, Farm Credit, Columbia County Schools and even the U.S. District Court.

I got a look last month at how then-Collegiate Farm Bureau President Gabe Lucero is already working on the future of Florida farming here on campus. Gabe brought the family of a 13-year-old aspiring animal sciences student to my office after giving them a campus tour and making a pitch for the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS).

Gabe is a senior double majoring in biological engineering and food science who joined CFB in his first month on campus in 2016. He knew Farm Bureau was a big organization, but it was only after he joined that he realized how much Florida Farm Bureau does for its members. He learned from John Hoblick, Jason Davison, Michelle Curts and other FFBF staff members who spoke during club meetings.

And the CFB got him onto farms, like that of U.S. Sugar in Clewiston (thanks in part to Bryce Lawson, who was a CFB member before getting a job at U.S. Sugar), where a busload of members visited to get an inside look at how sugar is made and what the company does to produce the highest yields with the lowest environmental impact.

This is exactly the kind of beyond-the-classroom experience you’ve seen me promote in this space before. I want more students to join clubs, visit farms, work at internships and compete like Gabe did in FFBF Collegiate Discussion Meet, a simulated committee meeting that encourages cooperation and communication in seeking solutions to agricultural issues.

To grow food, we also have to grow talent. Getting our future leaders involved in Florida Farm Bureau as students is a great opportunity to expose them to the importance of advocacy. We want our graduates to be as comfortable with gaveling as they are with gardening.

Charlotte Emerson in the CALS dean’s office advises the club. She shares my philosophy—in fact, she implements it—that our students needn’t wait until graduation to affiliate with Florida Farm Bureau.

Emerson connects students with opportunity. She recruited Gabe to become a CALS ambassador, which put him in the tour guide role that brought him to my office last month.

While Gabe is recruiting for us, we’re prepping him for FFBF membership. At the very least, Gabe plans to become active in his county Farm Bureau when he starts a career. And Emerson will continue to identify and recruit students of agriculture to become voices for agriculture.

J. Scott Angle is the University of Florida’s Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources and leader of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).

Virtual Hill to the Field Encourages Local Advocacy

May 2021 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

Due to the pandemic and strictly regulated travel, the annual Field to the Hill advocacy trip to Washington, D.C. will not take place this year. Instead, Florida Farm Bureau has planned a Hill to the Field Advocacy Week beginning June 1, 2021.

The week encourages county Farm Bureau members to engage and meet with their congressional offices. Florida Farm Bureau will be scheduling webinar educational sessions leading up to the advocacy week on key priority topics to help members prepare for in-district meetings.

“We are very excited to provide this opportunity to our grassroots members,” said National Affairs Director John Walt Boatright. “The week provides flexibility to our members so that they can schedule and coordinate meetings with their elected officials. Meetings can be hosted at the local county Farm Bureau office, member farms, at the in-district Congressional office or virtually,” added Boatright.

The weeklong advocacy event will take place June 1-4, 2021. For more information, contact John Walt Boatright or visit the event website.

USDA Listening Session for Beginning Farmers and Ranchers

May 2021 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

On Thursday, May 6, from 1:30-3:30 p.m. EST, the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will be hosting a virtual listening session with beginning farmers and ranchers to hear how COVID-19 has impacted their farming operations — from market disruptions to supply chain issues. Beginning farmers and ranchers are invited to share their experiences in navigating United States Department of Agriculture (USDA’s) resources for assistance, discuss how their businesses have been impacted and share how they are adapting their operations.

If you are interested in sharing your story, register now. 

Artificial Intelligence Could Use Images from Smartphones to Detect Pests Destroying Strawberries in Florida

May 2021 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

Scientists at the University of Florida developed an app for smartphones that will use images to locate the twospotted spider mite, a pest that potentially ruins strawberry production in Florida. Dr. Daniel Lee, the researcher leading this near-half-million-dollar project, believes this technology is the key to cultivating a more secure future for the Florida strawberry industry.

“It will be environmentally sound technology,” Dr. Lee said. “It can save money and labor, increasing the competitiveness of the Florida strawberry industry.

Controlling the twospotted spider mite is crucial to the strawberry industry. If left uncontrolled, these pests can quickly and completely defoliate the plants on which they feed.

“In a lot of seasons, the twospotted spider mite can be the worst pest we have in the field,” said Michelle Williamson, manager of a local strawberry farm in Plant City, Florida. “It can wipe out an area of the field in less than a week to 10 days.”

While this technology may be a few years from being field-ready, preliminary results are promising. If the technology functions correctly, farmers will have access to an automated counting system, which will be a significant improvement from the current, manual system.

“It would be extremely helpful for us on the growers’ side,” Williamson said. “Any tool that we can get in our toolbox helps to give us a better foot out in the field.”

The Florida strawberry industry is the second-largest in production across the United States, with approximately 8,000 acres throughout the state. Damage to the industry caused by these pests reach far into the millions of dollars annually.

For more information on this technology, visit the UF IFAS blog.

Cultivating Tomorrow: Alachua County Farm Bureau President Richard Feagle

May 2021 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

Richard Feagle was elected as president of Alachua County Farm Bureau in January of 2021 after nearly a decade of serving on the county’s board of directors. Feagle grew up in Crystal River and Archer with his parents. He spent summers working in the watermelon fields in Alachua County, where he developed a love for agriculture.

Today, Feagle and his wife, Cecile, own and operate Simmons Cattle Company in Archer, a  farm they purchased from Cecile’s parents. They have two sons, Justin and Ryan, and five grandchildren.

Feagle’s main business is Archer Automotive, a vehicle repair shop in Archer that specializes in diesel, but is a general repair facility of all makes and models of automobiles.

In the fall of 2019, Alachua County Farm Bureau hosted the Inaugural Food and Agriculture Festival at the Cade Museum in Gainesville. Due to restrictions in place regarding the coronavirus, the 2020 festival was canceled. However, ACFB is excited to host the second annual event on November 20, 2021.

“There were roughly 1,500 people who attended the inaugural event and we had more than 20 vendors,” Feagle said. “The goal of the event is to bring awareness to people of where their food comes from and engaging them on the benefits of locally grown food.”

Every Tuesday morning on WCJB-TV 20, ACFB hosts an Ag Fact segment. “Our Board Secretary, Brittany Lee, does a really great job cultivating an interest to consumers about agriculture,” he mentioned. “There’s always something interesting and new to learn about.”

District Field Representative I Position (South Florida) Now Open

SUMMARY:
Florida Farm Bureau Federation is the Sunshine State’s oldest and largest general agriculture organization. We pride ourselves in being the voice of Florida’s farmers and ranchers and keeping their traditions, values and heritage alive for generations to come. Since our founding in 1941, the District Field Representative has been an integral part of the success of our organization. Our District Field Representatives work closely with the volunteers of each county Farm Bureau within their assigned area to accomplish the goals and objectives of our organization. This career requires a person with a deep passion for agriculture, a servant leader’s heart and motivation to succeed.

As a member of the Field Services team, everyone is expected to personally exhibit, at all times, three standards: uncompromising integrity, unyielding work ethic and a positive attitude. Furthermore, our team members are energetic, high achievers with a genuine love for people and seek to consistently improve our personal and professional abilities.

ESSENTIAL DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES:
This position is expected to work autonomously with minimal instruction or direction and be able to accomplish the following:

  • Serve as a conduit between Florida Farm Bureau and the county Farm Bureaus in the district.
  • Collaborate and work effectively with all members of the Florida Farm Bureau team to accomplish goals and objectives as assigned.
  • Work closely with the county Farm Bureaus, regularly attend county events, represent the organization at activities, and increase engagement within county boards.
  • Build and develop productive relationships with your county Farm Bureau leaders and members.
  • Assist county Farm Bureaus in the promotion of agriculture within their respective communities.
  • Assist county Farm Bureaus in the marketing of membership in order to increase recruitment and retention.
  • Work closely with the Leadership Programs Coordinator in fulfilling the goals and objectives of the Young Farmers and Ranchers and Women’s Leadership Programs within their respective district.
  • Help in surfacing and developing effective leaders. Examples are state advisory committee members, YF&R and Women’s participants.
  • Speak on behalf of Florida Farm Bureau at various events throughout the district.
  • Write articles on behalf of agriculture and Farm Bureau to newspapers, legislators, and others.
  • Proficient in the operation of Microsoft Office applications (ie. Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.)

QUALIFICATION REQUIREMENTS:
In order to perform the job successfully, the District Field Representative must be able to perform all the aforementioned duties, while being required to plan, conduct and attend various evening and weekend activities. The requirements listed below are representative of the knowledge, skill, and ability required.

The District Field Representative is required to live within one of the following counties: Broward, Collier, Dade, Glades, Hendry, or Palm Beach County.

EDUCATIONAL REQUIREMENTS:
A bachelor’s degree in an agricultural related field from a four-year college or university, and two years of work experience or master’s degree required.

LANGUAGE SKILLS:
A District Field Representative must have the ability to read, analyze, and interpret general business periodicals, professional journals, technical procedures, or government regulations. They also must be effective in writing reports, articles, and business correspondence to a variety of audiences. They should be proficient in presenting information in a professional manner and to competently respond to questions from groups, members, and the general public.

REASONING ABILITY:
A District Field Representative is able to solve practical problems and interpret a variety of instructions and information furnished in written, oral, and other forms. Emotional intelligence is necessary to achieve productive relationships with our members and county Farm Bureaus.

PHYSICAL DEMANDS:
The physical demands described here are representative of those that must be met by an employee in order to successfully perform the essential functions of this job.

  1. While performing the duties of this job, the employee will be required to travel extensively by automobile, during all hours and in various weather conditions.
  2. Will be required to aid and assist in setting up meetings, moving tables, plants and other materials moving weights up to 50-60 lbs.
  3. May be required to drive a truck or van.

 

APPLY NOW

Land Grant Partner

When you grow food, you grow Florida’s economy. Science helps grow them both.

Our state wisely invests in the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences to deliver this science. UF/IFAS innovation keeps Florida Farm Bureau members in business.

We do it crop by crop. The Florida agriculture industry is really 300 industries, from avocados to zucchini. UF/IFAS has expertise in all.

We even help launch industries. UF/IFAS blueberry breeders have created varieties that thrive under our state’s low-chill conditions, taking blueberries from you-can’t-grow-that-here to a $60 million-a-year Florida industry.

The story of Cedar Key as a fishing village could have been over after a gill-net ban outlawed a way of life. But UF/IFAS helped make this the beginning of the story, not the end. It’s a story we call “Clamelot,” in which scientists trained fishers to become clam farmers, and now the village is the clam capital of the eastern United States.

Just as you couldn’t do it without us, UF/IFAS couldn’t do it without you. You lend acreage for experiments. You volunteer as 4-H leaders and on advisory councils that help us define a research agenda. The scientist-farmer partnership ensures that state funding is put to use solving relevant problems.

We reach so many of you because we’re your neighbors. About half of UF/IFAS employees work outside of Gainesville. We have Extension agents in all 67 counties and researchers in 18 off-campus research stations and demonstration sites across the state. They work in more than 1,200 classroom buildings, laboratories, greenhouses, barns, and Extension auditoriums.

We do it person by person, family by family. We educated John Hoblick twice—once, as an undergraduate in our College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, to be a farmer, and again through our Wedgworth Leadership Institute, to be a leader. Then we educated his son Johnny, who recently started a career in plant propagation.

The state’s investment has helped us attract $141 million in research funding to Florida last fiscal year, much of it from the federal government and other out-of-state sources. That’s more than a sixth of the total research portfolio of a major research university.

This legislative session marks an important moment for continued public support. UF/IFAS is on the cusp of helping usher in an era of growing even more food with even less environmental impact through the use of artificial intelligence (AI).

The university launched a $100 million AI initiative last year. UF/IFAS is already tapping it to hire the first of its allotment of faculty from the 100 university-wide who will help infuse our entire curriculum with AI.

The next generation of UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences AI-literate graduates will enter a job market already ripe with opportunity. A recent study reports  59,400 annual job openings in food, agriculture, and the environment nationally, but only 36,000 new college graduates with degrees in those fields.

The value of their degrees is also boosted by our consistently high rankings—4th in the nation among ag schools as measured by U.S. News and World Report, and first in the world in entomology by one ranking.

We touch virtually every citizen in the state through our Extension programming, from 5-year-old 4-Hers learning about aerospace as they create marshmallow rockets to great-grandparents in our Elder Nutrition and Food Safety classes.

You’ve always been solid supporters of our funding requests in Tallahassee, and we really need your help again this year. Keep in touch. We want to know how we can support you.

 

Scott Angle is the University of Florida’s Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources and leader of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).

Cultivating Tomorrow: Washington County Farm Bureau President George Fisher

April 2021 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

Washington County Farm Bureau (WCFB) President George Fisher is a second generation cattle and hay farmer, currently raising the third generation. He and his wife of 26 years, Stacey, and their two sons, Michael and Matthew, co-own and operate Arrowhead Beef located near Chipley in the Florida Panhandle. Fisher also has a daughter, Vanessa, who lives in Hoover, AL, a suburb of Birmingham.

Fisher began his agriculture career in 2000 when he began overseeing his father’s operation and expanding it.  Fisher explained that his cattle are raised in what is known as “herd-life harmony,” meaning that they never undergo stress and live an idyllic farm life.

Arrowhead Beef produces grass-fed beef from both Parthenais and marbled Wagyu cattle. Beef processing and aging are performed in a local USDA-inspected facility also owned by Fisher.

Arrowhead Beef is one of only two farm operations in the state of Florida that legitimately raise, butcher and distribute their own meats. Fisher transformed his family’s original 1976 farm of 80 acres into a 1,110 acre true cradle-to-grave operation.

Fisher became president of WCFB two years ago when he succeeded long-time WCFB president Bruce Christmas. The county floats at around 1,450 – 1,500 members.

WCFB promotes agriculture year-round hosting annual dinners/breakfasts at the County Youth Fair, partnering with the Tourist Development Council to set up a booth presence at local events, hosting the County Annual Meeting each fall and most importantly, attending Farm Bureau’s annual legislative event in Tallahassee, Farm Bureau Days.

“Our county Annual Meeting is held the third week of August at the Washington County Ag Center,” Fisher explained. “Unfortunately, we were not able to host last year because of COVID-19 but we are moving forward with plans to have the meeting this year.”

The meeting brings in great attendance and members fellowship over a meal, guest speaker and annual business is completed. WCFB plans to continue recognizing a Farm Family of the Year at future annual meetings in the new Ag Center which was rebuilt after suffering damages from flooding due to Hurricane Sally last year.

The annual Tallahassee trip is something near and dear to Fisher. “I try to get as many people as possible to travel to Tallahassee for Farm Bureau Days,” he said. “There is nothing more important than our members being able to speak their voice for Washington County agriculture at the state level.”

Fisher is Cultivating Tomorrow within his community with plans to spotlight WCFB members on the county’s social media channels and the monthly Bulletin. His hope is that by promoting members and local businesses, in return, will shine a positive light on Washington County agriculture.

He shared a family recipe for Oven Baked Steaks below:

Oven Baked Steaks

INGREDIENTS:
1 head of garlic, peeled and separated
Fresh rosemary, 2-3 sprigs
Steak, your choice of cut, Ribeye or Strip works well
2 tablespoons of  butter, more if you like

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place steaks along with 3-4 cloves of garlic and rosemary in a plastic bag and seal. Let the flavors penetrate the meat for about 3-4 hours.

Heat a cast iron skillet until it is sizzling hot, add butter and the remaining garlic, add steaks and sear for about 2-3 minutes per side.

Place the cast iron skillet in the preheated oven and cook for 5-10 minutes for medium rare. Additional time if you prefer your meat cooked more done. Remove steaks and let them rest for about 5 minutes, slice and enjoy!

Inaugural Women’s Leadership Regional Conference Welcomed Statewide Audience

April 2021 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

More than 125 women volunteer leaders participated in the 2021 Women’s Leadership Regional Conference March 20. The “Cultivating Tomorrow” regional conference was held in four locations: Marianna, Starke, Tampa and Okeechobee.

Women from each location were able to participate in both in-person and virtual workshops.  Keynote speaker Jolene Brown, AKA “The Dr. Phil of Agriculture,” kept the audience engaged with her energetic and interactive session on handling day-to-day business challenges. Other conference highlights included a hands-on Ag activity to share with elementary students and a workshop on telling your Ag story on social media.

County Women’s Committees were also honored for their community service through the Women’s Program Activity Awards. As the designated conference charity, the women collected multiple deodorant items for the Pace Center for Girls. View photos from event.

Hill to the Field Encourages Local Advocacy

April 2021 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

Due to the pandemic and strictly regulated travel, the annual Field to the Hill advocacy trip to Washington, D.C. will not take place this year. Instead, Florida Farm Bureau has planned a Hill to the Field Advocacy Week beginning June 1, 2021.

The week encourages county Farm Bureau members to engage and meet with their congressional offices. Florida Farm Bureau will be scheduling webinar educational sessions leading up to the advocacy week on key priority topics to help members prepare for in-district meetings.

“We are very excited to provide this opportunity to our grassroots members,” said National Affairs Director John Walt Boatright. “The week provides flexibility to our members so that they can schedule and coordinate meetings with their elected officials. Meetings can be hosted at the local county Farm Bureau office, member farms, at the in-district Congressional office or virtually,” added Boatright.

The weeklong advocacy event will take place June 1-4, 2021. More information on the educational webinars will be announced on our website. For more information, contact John Walt Boatright.