Meaningful Steps

March 2021 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

By J. Scott Angle
[email protected]

I’m nearly halfway through fulfilling a pledge to visit all 67 UF/IFAS county Extension offices. One way I gauge the effectiveness of an office’s outreach—which is, after all, its mission—is whether I get to meet the county Farm Bureau president.

David Hafner (L) and Dr. Angle

Martin County Farm Bureau President David Hafner offered an important endorsement of our service to stakeholders just by showing up when my road tripping took me to Stuart last month. Then he impressed me more when we got to talk.

He’s concerned about his own operation. Cattle wasn’t working for him, so he’s shifted exclusively to small livestock—poultry, pigs and goats. He talked a lot less about his own operation, though, than yours.

By his own reckoning, Hafner is more advocate than farmer.

Hafner came to meet me at the UF/IFAS Extension Martin County office, and he also made time to hear me via Zoom at the October meeting with the Council of Presidents, because he cares about Florida agriculture and because he cares about UF/IFAS support for it.

That support goes two ways. Like many county presidents, in most years he goes to Tallahassee many years to advocate on behalf of agriculture, and he told me that his elevator pitch when he gets a legislator’s ear is about support for the UF/IFAS budget. Again, he’s choosing service over self-interest.

It won’t put any more money in his pocket, but it could put more in yours. A strong UF/IFAS-Farm Bureau partnership is essential to the greater good of Florida agriculture. That’s not just me and President Hoblick. That’s 67 county Farm Bureau presidents and 67 county Extension directors. Just to see Hafner with UF/IFAS Extension Martin County Director Jennifer Pelham told me they understand this. Hafner’s only been president since October, so they’re still building a relationship. Small first steps are meaningful, like Hafner inviting Pelham to deliver a state of UF/IFAS message at his board meetings.

Hafner in turn serves on Pelham’s Sustainability and Commercial Horticulture Advisory Committee to give stakeholder input into Extension programming. And as if he didn’t do enough volunteering for the good of today’s Florida agriculture, he’s also hard at work on its future serving on the local 4-H Advisory Committee.

4-H is where we connected most deeply, for it is a subject dear to both of us. Hafner grew up in 4-H, so he knows firsthand its impact. It certainly succeeded in creating a Martin County leader.

What Hafner’s loyalty also demonstrates is that you reward us not just with political support, but with the relationships and trust that are essential to the dissemination of science that makes farming more profitable, efficient and sustainable.

I’m pleased to see that Pelham and her team are earning that trust. I want to earn it, too. Reach out to me, even if you’re far from Gainesville. I want to meet you, whether it’s at your farm, at the Florida Farm Bureau annual meeting in October, or at your local Extension office.

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).