UF/IFAS is as close as it’s ever likely to get to a building boom

We’ve got $5 million in projects under construction or in planning. That should boost productivity, retention and recruitment of people who spend their days figuring out how to make Florida agriculture more prosperous and sustainable.

In November, we cut the ribbon on a 5,000-square-foot expansion of our Gulf Coast Research and Education Center. The addition will make GCREC big enough to hold 150 people – double the number from a decade ago.

By early in 2016 we expect to finish expansion of our Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee. It creates lab space for the new faculty and their graduate students to get to work on solutions to agricultural challenges.

This fall we had a groundbreaking for renovations on our beef teaching unit in Gainesville. Our vision is to provide housing for students, a center where we can put on workshops and better facilities for the management of animals.

Also on campus, we’re building a food security lab that will serve as the hub for efforts to take a big-picture look at feeding the world, from production to post-harvest to transport to marketing to consumers’ plates.

We’re planning a 4-H camp in the Welaka State Forest to give our 200,000-plus 4-Hers a shot at life-changing experiences and develop them as leaders.

Large or small, there are constant improvements and maintenance at UF/IFAS facilities across the state, ranging from a new gravel road in Jay to renovated research labs in Homestead.

Facilities matter. Modern UF/IFAS facilities mean Florida agriculture is more likely to get all it deserves from its land-grant university. We need to keep pace with Florida farmers’ growing needs. We can always use your help making the case for funding for facilities.

We hope we’ll see you at next year’s celebrations of completed projects. We also hope we’ll see you using the buildings to learn and to let us know how we can help you.

Jack Payne is the University of Florida’s senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources and leader of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.