Land Grant Partner

December FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

dr angleBy J. Scott Angle
[email protected]

The October annual meeting fostered the continuing development of Maddie Dvorak and Bernie LeFils as Florida agriculture leaders. They brought talent to Orlando. The Florida Farm Bureau Federation (FFBF) gave them opportunity.

Maddie, a senior in the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS), won the collegiate division of discussion meet at the FFBF convention. She stood out in a mock committee meeting with her passion for policy to address challenges like how best to connect with part-time farmers.

That is, people like Bernie, who has a small cow-calf operation with his father but earns most of his income as a CPA.

Bernie grew up hearing about Farm Bureau from his grandmother, a longtime state board member. He developed his public speaking skills at FFA competitions as he aspired to attend CALS.

When he got to Gainesville, he served as president of the UF chapter of the Collegiate Farm Bureau. He represented Florida as a national collegiate discussion meet finalist. He served in another FFBF-supported group, CALS ambassadors, and was executive vice president of Alpha Gamma Rho.

For years, Bernie has served the Farm Bureau on its Budget and Economic Advisory Council. He’s a regular at  Florida Farm Bureau Day in Tallahassee.

So he brought to Orlando years of experiences in CALS and FFBF that developed skills he’d deploy in the Young Farmers & Ranchers discussion meet, and we expect he’ll be very competitive in the national competition at the American Farm Bureau Federation meeting in Puerto Rico next month.

Like Bernie’s, Maddie’s journey has been influenced by FFBF and CALS. As a high schooler she participated in the CALS Florida Youth Institute. A highlight of her week was meeting FFBF COO Staci Sims, whom Maddie calls one of her role models. Another was the dawning realization that she wanted a career in public policy.

As Maddie said at the time, “Their (farmers’) job is to produce food. My job is to protect their jobs.” Based on her standout participation at FYI, we sent her to Iowa for the Global Youth Institute held in conjunction with the World Food Prize. In March, FFBF will send her to Jacksonville to compete in the American Farm Bureau’s national collegiate discussion meet.

Like Bernie did when he graduated in 2011, Maddie will earn a degree from our Food and Resource Economics Department. Maddie chose the major because she was told economics is the world’s common language for business and policy, and if she wanted a seat at the table she needed to have something to say and a way to say it.

Bernie speaks that language in advisory council to help FFBF define its positions on estate taxes, changes to the IRS code and tangible property taxes.

Bernie’s been on both our stages, yours in October to collect his winner’s plaque and ours in 2018 with his wife Avery as the CALS Alumni and Friends Horizon Award winners for their outstanding contributions and potential as leaders in the agricultural, natural resource, life science and related industries and professions.

UF/IFAS values FFBF as a partner in providing the places, competitions and mentors for Bernie and Maddie to develop into leaders.

The years our organizations have spent providing Maddie and Bernie with opportunity can yield decades of advocacy for Florida agriculture. Their work in committee rooms can’t help but make the future brighter for those working on farms, in groves and on ranches.

Scott Angle is the University of Florida’s Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources and leader of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).