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