Your Land Grant Partner

March 2024 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

By Rob Gilbert
[email protected]

I see my job as the new leader of UF/IFAS as supporting the discovery and delivery of knowledge that helps you make a living.

I can’t do it all from the office. I’ll be making a lot of trips across town to Florida Farm Bureau Federation headquarters and across the state to hear from you.

My view of my new job is shaped by my old jobs. I spent years in the field as a researcher listening to growers. I was chair of the Department of Agronomy – the science of seeking maximum yield from an acre of soil.

I saw how much farmers’ field observations and partnership with our researchers contribute to discovery during my five years as dean of UF/IFAS research.

I take over as the University of Floridas interim senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources with the conviction that there’s no better time for a strong UF/IFAS-Farm Bureau relationship than now.

Our partnership will be essential to taking advantage of favorable political conditions. For the next couple of years, people who actually understand agriculture will be in positions in Tallahassee to help craft policy and appropriate resources the industry needs to thrive.

I plan to work closely with President Smith to present a united front to policy makers on what we need to keep Florida growing food and fiber.

2023 Woman of the Year in Agriculture Luncheon honoring Dr. Saundra TenBroeck. Photo taken 02-12-24.

This coming era also holds the promise of technological advances, the likes of which we see only once in a generation. UF/IFAS is working hard to put artificial intelligence to work on your farms. I’ll be asking you what we should be putting it to work on and continuing to consult with President Smith about how to make it happen.

Yet another opportunity is a great partner in President Smith. He has already been a mentor to me with his knowledge of cropping systems in the Hastings area, his connections in and understanding of Florida politics, and his example of servant leadership.

You’ll be top of mind as I work hard to make the most of these favorable forces.

While I don’t make a living off my land, I am married to a Master Gardener, so I’ve enjoyed citrus, lettuce, nectarines and tomatoes grown right on my property. That increases my appreciation of how much work it takes and strengthens my resolve to help you feed Florida.

I’m looking forward to serving as UF/IFAS cheerleader-in-chief and working hard to secure and direct resources to support the science you need to make a living off the land.

Please invite me to your farms and your meetings. Let me know how I can serve. Let’s be partners in making the most of the tremendous opportunities that lie ahead.

Rob Gilbert is the University of Florida’s interim senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources and leader of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).