September 2021 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter
By J. Scott Angle
Cindy Sanders didn’t have to be lured to the UF/IFAS Extension Farm Bureau appreciation dinner in August. She organizes it with other Extension agents. She even personally prepared the night’s most popular dish, blueberry cobbler.
So she was doing what she’s usually doing—working to support the Farm Bureau—when President John Hoblick stood up and started an announcement. He wanted to recognize someone who grew up in the Farm Bureau family—as a teenager, she had been the organization’s Miss Florida Agriculture. Her father had worked for the Farm Bureau as a field rep. Her roots run deep as a 6th generation agriculturalist growing up on her grandfather’s citrus and cattle ranch in Polk County.
Wait…. Sanders thought when she heard that at the back of the room….That’s me.
Then Hoblick announced that Dr. Cindy Sanders had been named the Farm Bureau Extension Professional of the Year.
She wiped her hands off and went to the lectern to accept. Clearly surprised by the announcement, she jokingly thanked Hoblick for not revealing the year she was Miss Florida Ag.
Although the Miss Florida Ag program is no longer, Sanders has carried on the ambassadorial role. For decades she has connected people to their food and to Farm Bureau members who produce it. She has delivered county commissioners, congressional staffers and the public to your Alachua County farms to hear about the importance of ag in the county and the state. She’s led busloads of people to dozens of local farms over the years, handing the tour guide microphone along the way to the county Farm Bureau president.
She has partnered with Farm Bureau to shepherd hundreds of children a year through a series of where-does-your-food-come-from stations at the county fair. It has given youth a chance to milk cows, to taste local peanuts and to play “beef bingo.”
In her capacity as leader of the Alachua County Farm Bureau Women’s Committee, Sanders has even set up a table outside local supermarkets to talk agriculture with shoppers. With Farm Bureau-supplied gift certificates, she has enticed them to the table to listen to the story of local agriculture during Food Check Out Week.
Sanders has technical and academic expertise as a triple Gator with advanced degrees in animal science and Extension leadership. She is an expert in livestock, and in her pre-UF/IFAS days managed a local ranch. But there was never a pre-Farm Bureau era. Even then, while in the private sector, she served on the Alachua County Farm Bureau board.
Since she became the county Extension director 14 years ago, she’s distinguished herself through leadership as much as through technical assistance. She serves on Alachua County’s Rural Concerns Committee, an advisory panel for county government. In 2018, in recognition of her dedication to serving the Farm Bureau, she was appointed an ad hoc member of the Alachua County Farm Bureau board, and she’s there every month.
She called it an honor to be nominated by the Alachua County Farm Bureau and President Richard Feagle for an award whose previous winners include Bob Hochmuth, Gene McAvoy, Libbie Johnson and Danielle Sprague.
Sanders’s leadership proved instrumental in a years-long effort to get a new county Extension office that will allow for the expansion of programming and increased public accessibility by moving to a site with many more residential neighbors. Sanders expects to open the new office this month and to hold a ribbon cutting this fall.
The ribbon cutting will be another opportunity for her to tell the ag story. It’s yet another way she’ll bring commissioners, citizens and farmers together. That’s what Extension professionals do. I’m proud to have Farm Bureau recognize that few do it better than Dr. Cindy Sanders.
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).