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Land Grant Partner: J. Scott Angle

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).



Florida Farm Bureau State Annual Meeting Condensed to Two Days

Florida Farm Bureau will hold its 80th State Annual Meeting in-person at the Caribe Royale in Orlando Oct. 27-28. The two-day format will limit attendance and include an abbreviated agenda for the health and well-being of our members and guests.

The meeting will include competitions for Young Farmers & Ranchers events, Youth Speech Contest, an awards banquet recognition for volunteer members, a Legislative Luncheon, the Commissioner of Agriculture’s Ag-Environmental Awards Breakfast, a delegate session to adopt and set 2022 organizational policy and an election of the Florida Farm Bureau president.

Florida Farm Bureau members can register for the annual meeting, book hotel rooms or view the meeting agenda at


Okaloosa County Farm Bureau Hosts A Successful A Day on the Farm Event

September FloridAgriculture eNewsletter 2021

Nixon Farms, an iconic family farm, hosted Okaloosa County Farm Bureau “A Day on the Farm” event on September 11.  This on-farm event was held in conjunction with their annual meeting in order to celebrate local members while raising awareness for agricultural production. As in previous years, the county Farm Bureau hosted a tremendous set of charity projects that directly benefited Ronald McDonald House Charity in Pensacola. Molly Huffman, Okaloosa County Farm Bureau’s Administrative Assistant, along with the Board of Directors, featured modern and antiques tractors with demonstrations along with a tractor parade. Florida Farm Bureau’s Director of National Affairs, John-Walt Boatright, was also in attendance and spoke about current legislative priorities and the value of Farm Bureau membership. You can view photos and Facebook live videos of the event by visiting Okaloosa County Farm Bureau’s Facebook page.

Cultivating Tomorrow: David Hafner, Martin County Farm Bureau

September 2021 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

Martin County Farm Bureau President, David Hafner, and his wife, Alicia, are rooted in South Florida agriculture. The couple met in college and are proud to call Martin County home where they raise their four sons, Tucker (10), Sawyer (8), Easton (5) and Clayton (4).

“To make sure agriculture has a seat at the table, I am very involved in our community and local government,” Hafner said.  Along with being the Martin County Farm Bureau President, Hafner also serves as a member of the Martin County Fair’s Board of Directors as chair of the Agriculture Education Committee, Treasurer of the Indiantown Chamber of Commerce and serves on two advisory committees with the Martin County Cooperative Extension.

Hafner grew up heavily involved in the South Florida equine world; he later branched out into raising livestock such as cattle, goats and poultry.  “2020 saw big changes for my family and our farm,” he mentioned. “At the start of 2020, we lost 70% of our land as our lease was not renewed. This loss of land forced us to sell off our small herd of beef cattle.

Further property line adjustments led to more agricultural losses. Looking at what we had left to work with, and a long drive to take our children to school each day, my wife and I decided to sell the farm and pursue a new property with better opportunities for our family and farm.” The Hafners are currently raising pigs and sheep on a small scale.

Hafner was a member of the Florida Farm Bureau State Young Farmers and Ranchers Leadership Group from 2016-2018 and also part of the American Farm Bureau Federation Partners in Advocacy Leadership (PALS) Program. “I have really enjoyed taking part in leadership training opportunities,” he said. Hafner will be the first Floridian to complete the PALS Program.

As a dad of four, Hafner is passionate about youth agricultural outreach within his community and supports involvement in youth agriculture organizations. “It is this dedication that brought me to Farm Bureau,” he stated. “I love the networking and comradery. Farm Bureau is a family and I love that I have friends in agriculture not only in Florida, but across the country thanks to Farm Bureau.”

There are several Martin County Farm Bureau sponsored events each year that Hafner is particularly proud of.  “Our Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee holds a fishing tournament, “The Buck Wild Fish Roundup,” each Labor Day Weekend to raise funds for agricultural education endeavors,” he stated.

The county’s local Women’s Committee holds the “Winter Vendor and Craft Fair” where funds are collected for food and toys for Martin County families in need and coming into it’s 11th year, the Martin County Farm Bureau 3D Archery Tournament held at the beginning of the year raises money to support local agriculture organizations such as 4-H and FFA.

Hafner cultivates tomorrow by learning and sharing the story of agriculture, and by teaching agriculture to the next generation through 4-H. “I cultivate tomorrow by building a strong and consistent relationship with my elected officials. I cultivate tomorrow by being the voice of agriculture. I am Farm Bureau and together with the 136,000 members of Florida Farm Bureau we are stronger together.”

Florida Farm Bureau Inaugural Ag Day Celebration Draws Thousands of Fans

FloridAgriculture September eNewsletter 2021

Florida Farm Bureau Federation celebrated Florida agriculture and football with a premier Ag Day at the Sept. 4 University of Florida vs. Florida Atlantic University season opener football game.

The Home Field AGvantage  provided Gator® fans an interactive agricultural experience; highlighting different products grown around the Sunshine State and fun farm facts through an interactive farm tour. The tour spotlighted top commodities grown in Florida and the farmers and ranchers who work tirelessly to give Floridians the Home Field AGvantage when it comes to buying fresh fruit, vegetables, milk and meat year-round.

“This was a great opportunity for our organization to promote Florida agriculture to alumni, students and families,” said Florida Farm Bureau President John L. Hoblick. “We had more than 2,000 fans visit the Home Field AGvantage tailgate tent.”

The Ag Day celebrations continued during the game with on-field recognitions for the 2021 Florida Farmer of the Year, Rep. Rick Roth, a vegetable farmer from South Florida. A tribute video to farmers and ranchers also played on the Jumbotron pre-game and at half time.  Fans were encouraged to participate in a social wall using the hashtag #MyAgExperience.

Florida Farm Bureau will continue the Home Field AGvantage celebrations at the Florida State University vs. Louisville game on Saturday, Sept. 25. Seminole fans will also have the opportunity to learn about and celebrate Florida agriculture through interactive farm displays. The tailgate festivities will kick-off at 11:30 a.m.

The Home Field Agvantage website provides fans additional opportunities to learn about agriculture and a chance to register for an ultimate game day tailgate package with tickets.

To view photos from the Sept. 4 event, visit:

Young Farmers and Ranchers Name State Competition Finalists

August FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

Finalists of the state’s top young farmer competitive events were announced at the Young Farmers & Ranchers Leadership Conference July 9-11, 2021. The finalists will advance to Florida Farm Bureau’s annual meeting in October where they will compete for the state title.

Discussion Meet: Sydney Armstrong (Jackson County), Buck Carpenter (Madison County), Dallas Hull (Volusia County) and Erin Jones (Gilchrist County)

Excellence in Agriculture: K’Leigh Combs (Duval County), Matt and Kayla Gonzales (Levy County) and Scarlett Jackson (Polk County)

Achievement in Agriculture: Kevin and Shelby Lussier (Alachua County), Clay and Kari Fulford (Jefferson County) and David Koning (Pinellas County)

Putnam/St. Johns County Farm Bureau President Chance Clay

August 2021 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

Tell me about yourself-county and family-How did you get involved in agriculture?

I am 34 years old, born and raised in Palatka, Florida. I am a 7th generation rancher and I have 2 daughters. My operations consist of cow/calf stocker operation, timber, and a commercial blueberry farm.

I learned to love agriculture at a young age and followed what suit with what my family did. I was fortunate enough to step into a management role. I hope to continue and grow and hopefully set it up for my two daughters, the 8th generation, to have a very successful operation if they choose.

If you farm currently, what crop?

Timber and blueberries

What is your favorite thing about being involved in Farm Bureau?

Farm Bureau is special because of the cross section of different commodities involved. When you attend an annual meeting or a conference you have everybody from aquaculture to beekeepers, it is neat to get to meet and get to know everybody involved in all different commodities.

Is there a Farm Bureau/Ag event that takes place in your county that you participate in or are proud of?

Our YF&R chapter was involved with the districtwide “Meals of Hope” and recently packed 51,000 meals. Our Annual Meeting is really good and we always have a great guest speaker and a big turnout. Overall, I am proud of our board’s involvement with the County and the kids. We are always trying to give back to the students who want to pursue an agricultural career or degree with a scholarship program.

How are you “Cultivating Tomorrow” within your community?

We really try to reach out to future generations by letting them know who Farm Bureau is. I feel that every new generation becomes more and more removed from the farm. St. Johns County does not have an agricultural program in the schools. We are working together to help bring a spotlight on agricultural education in the school system.

Land Grant Partner: J Scott Angle

August 2021 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

By J. Scott Angle

After 25 years, do you keep chasing a dream? Collier County Farm Bureau President Matt Stephenson-Smith does.

Stephenson-Smith entered the University of Florida as a 24-year-old transfer in 1994. Decades later, he found himself still taking undergraduate courses, spending evenings after work staring into a computer screen feeling like his eyes were about to bleed.

At least two people never gave up on his dream. One, of course, was Stephenson-Smith himself. The second was UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Dean Elaine Turner. She knows that being in the opportunity business—helping students achieve their goals, their dreams—sometimes means being in the business of second or third opportunities.

As much as Stephenson-Smith wanted a degree, he also wanted a career in agriculture. Career leapfrogged ahead with a job offer in 1996. A grower in Southwest Florida gave him 36 hours to decide—Gainesville or Naples, degree or job.

Stephenson-Smith packed the car and drove south. Even as he succeeded in business, he felt he had unfinished business. The dream. He couldn’t see it as clearly as before, couldn’t figure out how to make the time, how to get back to Gainesville, and how to make the case for readmission with a checkered transcript.

About 10 years ago, Turner, then the associate dean, helped him see the path back. It’s called “Fresh Start.” It’s a readmission opportunity under special circumstances that resets the student’s GPA. Turner collected his letters of recommendation and personal statement, mapped out prerequisites he’d need to take in Southwest Florida and cleared him for readmission.

When it came time to move to Gainesville, again, it wasn’t the right time. He was fresh off a divorce and wanted to stay near his two sons in Collier County.

That was where things stood until about six years ago, when Turner came to Immokalee to attend an event at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Southwest Florida Research and Education Center.

Turner recognized Stephenson-Smith across a crowded auditorium and asked for an academic progress report. By Stephenson-Smith’s telling, in that auditorium encounter Turner was academic adviser, psychologist, and motivational speaker. She encouraged him to enroll in UF Online.

It was the nudge he needed. He enrolled, with a major in environmental management in agriculture and natural resources.

By this time, it wasn’t about his career. But it was still about family. He wanted his sons to see him take care of unfinished business, to realize a dream.

That dream, shrouded in fog at times, became so clear that it included a summa cum laude designation, and he earned the grades for it. It required a written thesis, though, and that was a challenge given his work, family and other academic responsibilities.

Again, Turner and CALS administrators helped him find a way. Three months before graduation, after extensive self-study, Stephenson-Smith passed the certified crop adviser exam. CALS administrators advised him to convert those hours of preparation into a written thesis. He titled it “Certified Crop Adviser Exam Preparation.”

Turner approved it. Stephenson-Smith was ready to come to Gainesville in spring 2020 to walk in a commencement ceremony as an honors graduate. COVID-19 shut down in-person ceremonies, of course.

Turner’s philosophy is that there are many different paths to a degree. Some paths start through traditional freshman admission, some through transfers and others through re-entry. Turner says, it’s her job to help students find the path (or Stephenson Smith’s case, the paths) to get them to their goals. That includes a path across the stage. This past spring, the 2020 graduates were invited to Gainesville for the ceremony, and Stephenson-Smith came with his parents and his sons.

The diploma is the epilogue of a story of inspiring persistence that likely makes him an effective Farm Bureau leader. And it has the signature of a dean who helped make it happen, to find the path, to achieve a dream.

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).

Digital Media Coordinator

SUMMARY: Success in this full-time position requires that the employee must be a self-motivated individual who possesses the ability to write clear prose, excellent computer skills, a mastery of desktop publishing software and a sound understanding of contemporary news media. The employee must also be able to perform well within a dynamic professional office environment. The Digital Media Coordinator reports to the Communications Manager.


Primary Duties

Creates and posts items daily to Florida Farm Bureau Federation’s social media accounts including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest and YouTube

Coordinates FFBF’s comprehensive social media platform schedules and conducts extensive analysis on monthly metrics, reporting findings to the Public Relations Division

 Develops video content and graphics as needed for social media

Creates social media toolkits for county Farm Bureau volunteer leaders and for recurring, state-wide events

Maintains digital photo library of FFB event photos and assists in organizing FFBF’s digital assets

Assists in the development of branded emails and templates for company-wide email platforms and conference/meeting electronic forms

Updates the Florida Farm Bureau main website and the FloridAgriculture website

Distributes FloridAgricutlure monthly eNewsletter

Develops and edits podcasts

Conducts PR social media workshops to county Farm Bureau leaders

Monitors innovations in electronic communications and reports on these developments to the Public Relations Division

Utilizes communication monitoring software to recognize industry trends, discover related editorial content and analyze the publicity value of FFBF’s digital and editorial efforts

Represents Farm Bureau at state and county events as media personnel

Serves as a staff photographer

Secondary Duties

Prepares original articles for the FFBF website, e-newsletter and other media produced or managed by the Public Relations Division

Assists the Director of Public Relations in the preparation of plans for website development, Farm Bureau event promotions and other division projects

Provides research assistance on assigned topics

Assists in proofreading items for the Public Relations Division

Serves as the office A/V equipment operator at various FFBF meetings

Performs other duties, as assigned


Four-year college degree (major study in journalism, public relations or related discipline preferred) or an equivalent combination of education and experience


Ability to use the tools of Microsoft Office suite, including Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint

Proven ability to use WordPress

Proven ability to use Adobe Creative Suite programs, especially Photoshop and Illustrator desktop publishing software for the layout and design of original content, along with InDesign and Premiere Pro.

Ability to write clear prose for publication

Superior interpersonal relationship skills

A working knowledge of emerging media

A willingness to build upon existing skills and develop new ones in the position


Must be able to travel within the state or elsewhere.


Must be able to read and interpret documents. Proficiency in writing letters, news articles and press releases must be demonstrated with completed work. Must be able to make presentations before both professional and non-professional audiences.


Must have a knowledge of basic mathematical concepts and be able to apply them in various tasks of calculation and computation.


Must be able to solve practical problems and operate with a number of variables in situations that are not determined by standard, repetitive arrangements. Must possess the ability to interpret a variety of instructions furnished in written, oral, diagram or schedule form.


The physical actions expressly stated or implied above are representative of the kinds of demands that must be met by the employee to perform in this position successfully. Reasonable accommodations may be made so that individuals with disabilities may be enabled to carry out the essential functions.

While performing the duties of this job, the employee is regularly required to sit, use hands to finger, handle or feel objects, tools and controls and see, talk and hear. The employee is occasionally required to reach with hands or arms. The employee is occasionally required to stand, walk, stoop, kneel, crouch and/or crawl. The employee must use a computer keyboard and view a screen.

The employee must frequently lift or move up to 10 pounds. Specific vision requirements required by this job include close-up vision and the ability to adjust focus.



The above statements are intended to describe the general nature and level of work being performed.  They are not intended to be construed as an exhaustive list of all the essential duties, responsibilities and requirements of personnel

Cultivating Tomorrow: Hardee County Farm Bureau President Steve Johnson

July 2021 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

Hardee County Farm Bureau President Steve Johnson is a fourth generation farmer from Wauchula. He and his wife, Andrea, a fifth generation farmer, live in the same house that Steve grew up in. They have three children, B.J., Emma Jane and Laney.

Steve and Andrea produce beef cattle, citrus and custom harvesting  in Hardee and Manatee Counties under Treeair Cattle Company and Johnson Harvesting, Inc.

This December will mark two years that Johnson has served as president of Hardee County Farm Bureau, though his involvement in Farm Bureau goes back to 2002. “Andy Neuhofer is the District Field Representative for our area and he was the one that encouraged me to join,” said Johnson.

“Over the years I have served on the county board of directors, as secretary and as vice president,” he added.

In addition, Johnson has dedicated 14 years to serving on the Florida Farm Bureau State Board of Directors where he currently sits as vice president.

Johnson explained that it’s the people in Farm Bureau that you come to know that make it special. “It’s nice to get to know like-minded folks, people you can depend on for life,” he said.

Each year, in November, Hardee County Farm Bureau holds the annual Ag Fest. The event has been held at the Hardee County Cattleman’s Arena in Wauchula. It is an opportunity for elementary school students to learn about agriculture first-hand from local farmers, ranchers and other agricultural producers and wildlife specialists.

“We have been doing this event for over 20 years,” Johnson mentioned. “We bring in roughly 400 4th graders, feed them and teach them over about a 6-7 hour period about local agriculture through 20 different stations from milking cows, citrus,  hay production, row crop production and even the phosphate miners come in to present.”

“Agricultural technology is constantly changing,” he added. “It’s important to have youth understand the changes and adapt to them. It’s possible to grow more on less land and we need to get them excited about agriculture. What they are doing today can make a difference for years to come.”