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November 2023 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

dr angleBy J. Scott Angle
[email protected]

On June 16, 2020, UF/IFAS agronomist and longtime Gadsden County Farm Bureau member David Wright sent a text that doctors had found a golf-ball-sized tumor in his head. Colleague Sheeja George asked how she could help.

“Keep the crew going,” David responded.

George and colleagues revered David for his work ethic, his humility, and his love for agriculture. He had 10 kids and 10 tractors at his family farm in Quincy.

David’s 45-year career at the North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy contributed to the understanding and adoption of what some call conservation farming. That is, he researched and taught producers about sod-based rotation and crop-livestock integration. It produces better yields and better environmental stewardship.

“We would be hard pressed to find a farm in North Florida that Dr. Wright’s shadow has not been on and had a positive effect on it,” wrote the Farm Bureau leaders in Gadsden, Calhoun, Jackson and Santa Rosa counties who nominated David for the Extension Professional of the Year Award.

And this compliment is recorded in a memory book at David’s retirement: “You don’t really ‘deliver’ a solution; you partner with many and ‘design’ them knowing that there is a human at the other end who is receiving and using it.”

Isn’t that what Extension is at its best?

David was cherished as a man as well as a scientist, so it’s very meaningful to us at UF/IFAS that the Florida Farm Bureau spotlighted Wright’s legacy by posthumously honoring him last month in Orlando. And it was meaningful to David that the Farm Bureau told him about the award before his death in July.

David recognized that science is in part a social phenomenon. In addition to hypotheses, observation and measurement, it depends on trust.

He built that connection and credibility with a question to colleagues: “Do you want to walk a few rounds?” The walk-and-talks around a pond at NFREC explored scientific challenges and built camaraderie.

The line between work and family was thin at best. Most of his kids have helped out at NFREC in some capacity. He considered clients to be friends and would knock on their doors, call them after hours and get to know their spouses and children.

He shared information with scientists nationwide that helped control soybean rust when it first hit the U.S. He also emphasized shared bonds, like when he gave a lobster hat to a departing USDA colleague who was moving to Maine, or when he helped a graduate student find funds to visit his family in Ghana.

David called me as his health deteriorated, and he urged me to start looking for a successor so that important science would not be interrupted. I think it was his way of telling me, “Keep the crew going!”

J. Scott Angle is the University of Florida’s Interim Provost. Since 2020 he has served as UF’s Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources and leader of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).