October 2021 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter
By J. Scott Angle
When you lead as long as John Hoblick has, you develop historical perspective.
John quoted Lincoln. He paid tribute to the pantheon of Florida agriculture, leaders such as Carl Loop and E.T. York—people he knew. And he framed the Farm Bureau-UF/IFAS alliance as a generations-old relationship of which he considered himself a temporary steward.
He recounted how the Farm Bureau moved to Gainesville in 1956 to be close to the University of Florida. And then how in the 1980s he himself moved to Gainesville for the same reason.
He became a double Gator—sort of. After he earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, he became one of the early alumni of the UF/IFAS Wedgworth Leadership Institute.
John embodies the close ties that underpin the success of both our organizations. John says UF provided him his foundation, and in gratitude he has given back to his alma mater.
For 15 years as your leader, he strengthened the relationship with UF/IFAS. He served on myriad UF/IFAS committees, including those that searched for new UF vice presidents for agriculture and natural resources.
He knew at least seven of us: E.T. York, James Davidson, Mike Martin, Jimmy Cheek, Jack Payne and now me.
Cheek was his friend first, then a professional peer as a fellow CEO. When Jimmy left to become chancellor at Tennessee, John traveled to the induction ceremony to support him.
When Jack Payne retired, we invited two outsiders to speak at what turned out to be Jack’s farewell dinner because of COVID. John was one. And he used the occasion to talk about something larger than himself and Jack.
He exhorted a ballroom full of UF/IFAS supporters not to take the special relationship for granted. Not every state has such a strong partnership between its Farm Bureau and its flagship land-grant university, and that comes at a cost to both organizations and to the state they serve.
When we tried to express our appreciation for John and his team at an annual dinner in August hosted by our Extension professional association leaders, John turned it around and made part of the night about Farm Bureau’s appreciation for UF/IFAS. Drawing upon a years-long professional relationship with Sanders, he surprised her and the assembled group with the announcement that she is the Farm Bureau’s UF/IFAS Extension professional of the year.
John was among the first to welcome me to Florida, and his counsel and friendship was essential to helping me navigate my first year as VP. I’m glad he spent so much time with the UF/IFAS family, sometimes at the expense of time with his own family. Your voice has been stronger at UF/IFAS because he has been engaged and connected to us.
John reminds all of us in Florida agriculture that we’re all links in a food chain, but in this case one that goes back generations and will extend to posterity.
Thank you, John, for your leadership, your friendship and your support. Thanks, too, for reminding us of the long view, that the work of championing agriculture is never done.
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).