GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The goal of any cow-calf operation is fairly straightforward: produce more cattle more efficiently. However, the science of animal reproduction — which includes nutrition, genetics and other health indicators — can be a little less clear-cut.

To help those in the cattle industry better understand reproductive science and incorporate new techniques into their businesses, the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension offers annual reproductive management schools for south, central and northeast Florida, said Bridget Stice, agriculture agent for UF/IFAS Extension Polk County.

Stice is the chair of the South Florida Beef-Forage Group’s reproductive school, which will be held Nov. 15 to 17 at Longino Ranch in Sidell, Florida.

“Since 2012, 68 producers have participated in the south Florida reproductive school, representing approximately 61,856 head of cattle on approximately 525,685 acres in the southeastern U.S. and Central America,” said Stice.

Rick Hartman, who manages a cow-calf operation in Okeechobee County, attended the south Florida school a few years ago and is returning this year to brush up on his techniques. “Reproductive management caught my interest because I wanted to know the reproductive tract better, and I was hoping to become more proficient in pregnancy testing,” Hartman said.

Participants like Hartman can also expect to learn more than how to detect pregnancy and assist in a difficult delivery, said Jonael Bosques-Mendez, director of UF/IFAS Extension Hardee County and one of the school’s organizers.

“The UF/IFAS reproductive schools emphasize hands on, holistic learning,” said Bosques-Mendez. “We offer training for everything that can affect reproduction in our herds, such as body condition, genetics, nutrition and animal behavior.”

For example, a technique developed by Temple Grandin called quiet handling, which creates a calm environment for cattle, can help artificially inseminated cattle conceive, though many aren’t familiar with this approach, said Joe Walter, agriculture agent for UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County who helps organize the central Florida reproductive school.

Taking these science-based methods back to their operations can help producers more efficiently manage their herds, Bosques-Mendez noted.

“In order for medium and small scale producers to make the most of their resources, they need to be producing more beef on the land that they have,” said Bosques-Mendez. “We want to be able to improve the decision-making process of our producers, especially whether they should keep a cow that is not getting pregnant.”

The cow-calf industry is an important part of Florida’s livestock economy. According to the latest figures from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, cattle and calves marketings — which includes animals sold in Florida and animals originating from and sold in Florida — generated $868 million in cash receipts in 2014, an increase from $653 million in 2013.

By: Samantha Grenrock, 352-294-3307,

Sources: Jonael Bosques-Mendez, 863-773-2164,

Bridget Stice, 863-519-1048,

Joe Walter, 321-633-1702 ext. 234,

December 3 is Dine In Day


Who:    Florida residents are encouraged to prepare and eat a nutritious meal in the company of family, friends or coworkers in honor of Dine In Day, a national program facilitated by family and consumer science agents with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension. Family and consumer sciences agents work throughout the state to deliver programs on nutrition, health and wellness, and money management to Floridians.

What:    Though most people know that family meals are important, finding time to sit down and share a meal together can be a challenge. Dine In Day promotes the importance of homemade, group meals in fostering family and community relationships, encouraging healthy diets and stretching food dollars.

Individuals, families and groups can pledge to dine in on Dine In Day at

Diners can also participate on social media by sharing photos and using the hashtags #FCSdayFL and #healthyfamselfie.

According to UF/IFAS experts, homemade, group meals

  • Strengthen group bonds and fosters a sense of security and belonging
  • Encourage more nutritious food choices
  • Reduce risky behavior in youth and improve school performance
  • Teach social skills, cooking skills and table manners
  • Are less expensive than dining out or eating pre-made meals

When:   December 3, 2016 – all day event

Where:   Kitchens, dining halls and break rooms across Florida

Contact: Michael Gutter, 352-392-1761,

UF/IFAS photo by Tyler Jones


Above: Ed Skvarch, director of UF/IFAS Extension St. Lucie County (left), Garima Kakkar, fruit crop agent with UF/IFAS Extension St. Lucie and Indian River Counties (right), and Christine Kelly-Begazo, director of UF/IFAS Extension Indian River County (not pictured), are visiting local farms this week to look for possible hurricane damage. Though crop damage in the Indian River area was relatively mild, damage in Volusia and St. Johns Counties was more severe. UF/IFAS Extension agents play a key role in assessing and reporting hurricane damage. UF/IFAS photo by Christine Kelly-Begazo

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As Hurricane Matthew dumped water and wind on Florida’s east coast last week, it wasn’t long before several alligators were spotted roaming the parking lot at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension Brevard County office. But alligators or no alligators, the two faculty members hunkered down in the facility weren’t about to leave their posts any time soon.

“We have a very large generator at the office that we needed to keep running during the storm in case people at the county facilities lost power and had to move to our facility,” said Linda Seals, director of UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County.

Seals’ staff weren’t the only ones hard at work helping residents and emergency personnel weather the storm. From housing evacuated livestock to manning the phones at local emergency operations centers, UF/IFAS Extension faculty across the state put in many long hours and a few sleepless nights keeping people safe and informed.

“We serve 20 million Floridians year-round in our day jobs, but in a crisis we work 24/7 to help those most in need” said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “We demonstrated all weekend long how much we value our relationships. Our actions told our communities that this isn’t just a job to us. This was about helping friends, neighbors and community members.”

For instance, Sharon Treen, director for UF/IFAS Extension Putnam and Flagler Counties, spent 53 hours over four days at the Flagler County EOC, while her staff assistant Martha Creamer worked 12-hour days and even took a night shift at the call center. Other Putnam and Flagler faculty assisted with food distribution and animal evacuations.

Meanwhile, at the Seminole County EOC, Barbara Hughes, director of UF/IFAS Extension Seminole County, and other faculty and staff were busy helping county employees with logistics, planning and public information. “We were working 12 hours on, 12 hours off — but when our shifts were over, we still had to stay in the EOC, so we slept on the floor under desks,” Hughes said.

In addition to acting as a community resource, UF/IFAS Extension agents play an important role in documenting and reporting damage to the state’s agriculture industry.

For example, over the weekend agriculture agents with UF/IFAS Extension Volusia County began assess damage to the county’s citrus, fern and livestock industries. “Our fern industry has been seriously hit and is a top priority for us right now,” said Dennis Mudge, director of UF/IFAS Extension Volusia County. The county has lost about 50 percent of its citrus, he said, and many livestock owners are dealing with damaged fencing.

Saqib Mukhtar, UF associate dean for Extension and agricultural programs leader, reports agents’ damage assessments to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This information helps the USDA assist hard-hit areas through grants and programming, said Bonnie Wells, agriculture agent with UF/IFAS Extension St. Johns County, who likewise spent the last few days visiting farms and assessing losses.

“Many farmers in St. Johns County and the Hastings area have experienced large or total losses of their crops due to the storm,” Wells said. “As agriculture agents, we are ‘second responders’—after the first responders make sure everyone is safe, we come and try to help producers get back on their feet.”


By: Samantha Grenrock, 352-294-3307,

Source: Jack Payne, 352-392-1971,


GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty will be sharing their expertise on the theme of Florida’s animal agriculture at the 39th annual Sunbelt Ag Expo — the largest agricultural expo in the southeast.

About 80,000 people are expected to attend the expo, held Oct. 18 to 20 in Moultrie, Georgia.

“Our experts in UF/IFAS Extension are thrilled to represent our programs, and we are proud to participate in such an important event. It is a great opportunity to meet others who are as passionate about agriculture as we are,” said Nick Place, dean of UF/IFAS Extension.

Visitors come to the expo to learn about the latest agricultural research, technology and marketing tools, according to the expo web site.

At the permanent UF/IFAS building, displays and exhibits will tell the story of Florida’s animal industries, starting with the resources that go into raising animals and ending with the safe preparation of animal proteins. In addition, attendees can hear presentations on livestock forages and poisonous plants by UF/IFAS researchers in the expo’s Beef Barn, or head over to the pond section to learn more about Florida’s fisheries.

Visitors to the UF/IFAS building will also get a chance to sample some “Gator Giveaways,” such as peanuts from the Florida Peanut Growers Association and Florida Orange Juice from Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Company.

Representatives from the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) will host a booth where high school students and their families can learn about the wide range of degrees and educational opportunities in the college.

The Sunbelt Ag Expo is held at Spence Field, 4 miles southeast of U.S. 319 (Veteran’s Parkway) on Georgia Highway 133 near Moultrie. Expo hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday, and 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday. Admission is $10 a person per day, or $20 for a three-day pass. Children 10 and under and accompanied by a parent get in free.

For more information, visit

By: Samantha Grenrock, 352-294-3307,

Source: Nick Place, 352-392-1761,



GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension is working closely with Florida’s emergency operation centers to provide emergency information and assistance to those in the path of Hurricane Matthew.

“The local UF/IFAS Extension office is a disaster response resource in every community in Florida,” said Angie Lindsey, assistant professor of family, youth and community sciences. Lindsey is the UF/IFAS point of contact for the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN), a national organization of Extension educators who work to prepare communities for disasters.

Lindsey, who works with the UF/IFAS Center for Public Issues Education in Agriculture and Natural Resources, helps UF/IFAS Extension agents develop disaster response tools and further collaboration between agents and local officials.

While every UF/IFAS Extension office coordinates differently with city and county officials, each has a plan in place. “Helping out during times like these is part of Extension’s role in communities. We are in a state that is surrounded by water—we have to be prepared,” Lindsey said.

Lindsey, who previously worked with communities on Florida’s Gulf Coast recovering from the 2010 Deep Water Horizon oil spill, became the point of contact for EDEN in August. With one hurricane — Hurricane Hermine — already under her belt, she said she’s learned a lot just by watching UF/IFAS Extension agents come to their community’s aid during an emergency.

Lindsey encourages residents, including those who work in agriculture and natural resources, to contact their UF/IFAS Extension county office directly for information and assistance before and after the storm. Contact information for local offices is available through

UF/IFAS Extension information about how to prepare for and recover from a hurricane is also available online.

Home and infrastructure

Family health and wellness


Agriculture and natural resources


By: Samantha Grenrock, 352-294-3307,

Source: Angie Lindsey, 904-509-3518,

UF/IFAS photo by Tyler Jones



The following locations are closing at the noted times due to Hurricane Matthew:

UF/IFAS Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory in Vero Beach – Closed Wednesday at noon, closed Thursday and Friday

UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce – Closed Wednesday at noon, closed Thursday and Friday

UF/IFAS Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center in Fort Lauderdale – Closed Wednesday at 5, closed Thursday and Friday

UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead – Closed Wednesday at 5, closed Thursday, Friday TBD

UF/IFAS Florida Partnership for Water, Agriculture, and Community Sustainability in Hastings – Closed Wednesday at 5, closed Thursday and Friday

UF/IFAS Everglades Research and Education Center in Belle Glade – Closed Wednesday at 1, closed Thursday, Friday TBD

UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred  – Closed Thursday at noon, closed Friday

UF/IFAS Mid-Florida Research and Education Center in Apopka – Closed Wednesday at 5, closed Thursday and Friday

UF/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee  – Closed Thursday at 1, closed Friday)

UF/IFAS Range Cattle Research and Education Center in Ona – Closed Thursday at 1, closed Friday

UF/IFAS Plant Research and Education Unit in Citra – Closed Friday

Photo by relif/iStock


GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Someday, Trey Richardson would like to work in a skyscraper—as a farmer. Those two things—high-rise buildings and agriculture—may seem at odds, but Richardson, whose passion is hydroponic farming, thinks this combination may be part of the solution to feeding a world of 9 billion people by 2050.

“I want to be a part of securing the food supply,” Richardson said. “My dream is to create my own vertical farm in a big city.”

A senior at Oakleaf High School in Orange Park, Florida, Richardson will discuss this and other ideas about feeding the world October 13 to 15 at the Global Youth Institute (GYI), a prestigious international conference hosted by the World Food Prize Foundation and held each year in Des Moines, Iowa.

During the three-day experience, he will be among 200 other high school students from 30 states and seven foreign counties who will tour cutting-edge research facilities, meet with Nobel and World Food Prize Laureates, and present their research and recommendations to scientific, humanitarian and agribusiness leaders from 65 countries.

“I’m looking forward to being around very influential people who want to listen to my ideas and see how the leaders of the industry are combating tough issues in today’s world,” said Richardson. “Also, the chance to hear other high school students’ opinions and ideas about these issues is very exciting.”

This past July, Richardson’s essay on promoting sustainable agriculture in Haiti earned him a spot at GYI when he presented it to a panel of judges at the Florida Youth Institute (FYI). FYI is a week-long summer program sponsored by the University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the World Food Prize Foundation.

“My favorite part about FYI was the hands-on approach we took to learning about the agriculture industry,” Richardson said. “For example, visiting the UF/IFAS Suwannee Valley Agricultural Extension Center in Live Oak, Florida, was a great experience for me. I was able to learn about the different hydroponics systems they are researching and using. Considering that I would like to use hydroponics in my career, getting my questions answered by an expert in the field was very beneficial.”

Richardson and three other FYI participants will attend GYI this year. Once they enter college, all GYI attendees are eligible to apply for the Borlaug-Ruan Internship, a program offered by the World Food Prize Foundation that sends students all over the world to study with top agricultural researchers.

“I will definitely want to make the most of this opportunity when I go to college,” Richardson said of the internship.

By: Samantha Grenrock, 352-294-3307,

Contact: Elaine Turner, 352-392-1963,

Charlotte Emerson, 352-273-3575,

Screwworm Alert


USDA has confirmed New World Screwworm cases in Big Pine Key in Key deer.

Fact sheet available at 

For more information, please see:

Photos courtesy of Heather Walden, assistant professor of parasitology, UF College of Veterinary Medicine. Click image to enlarge.

Datil Pepper Cook Off set for October 1


AUGUSTINE, Fla. — On Oct. 1, about 1,000 people are expected to attend the ninth annual Datil Pepper Cook Off to celebrate the iconic pepper. The Datil Pepper Cook off, as part of the Datil Pepper Fall Festival, is hosted by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension St. Johns County in St. Augustine, Florida.

Attendees will sample an array of datil-themed fare prepared by local restaurants, and experience cook-offs and tasting contests. Those making the journey to this foodie hot-spot should keep in mind that the datil adds more than just a “kick” to a dish, said Joanne Cooper, family and consumer science agent with UF/IFAS Extension St. Johns County and cook off festival organizer.

“The datil is as hot or hotter than the habanero pepper,” Cooper said. “During our hot sauce competition, which usually has about 50 entries, there is a lot of milk and bread on hand for the judges.”

However, the datil’s unique “hot-sweet” flavor keeps people coming back for more. Around 5,000 food coupons are sold each year at the festival, Cooper said.

In addition to a variety of datil-inspired foods, the festival showcases the skills of amateur and professional chefs, Cooper said. “Restaurants like to participate in the festival competition because of the caliber of our judges, who are mainly culinary professionals, so winning means a lot to them and to their peers,” she said.

The datil pepper is the official plant of St. Johns County, Cooper said, and not by accident.

The bright green and orange peppers are a classic ingredient in Minorcan cuisine, Cooper explained. So, for the many St. Johns County residents descended from the region’s early Minorcan settlers, the pepper is a pungent reminder of their cultural heritage.

For those who can’t take the heat but love to garden, the Datil Pepper Fall Festival, also held on October 1 and 2 at the UF/IFAS Extension St. Johns County office, offers locally made crafts and ornamental plants. Pumpkins will also be available for purchase.

Admission to the Datil Pepper Fall Festival is free. Coupons for food samples at the Datil Pepper Cook Off are one dollar each.

Location: 3125 Agricultural Center Drive

St. Augustine, FL 32092


Schedule: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1

10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2

The professional restaurant competition is held Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

By: Samantha Grenrock, 352-294-3307,

Source: Joanne Cooper, 904-209-0430 ext. 4787,

Photo by Flander/iStock

UF/IFAS FRED faculty win EPAF awards

epaf awards

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty in the food and resource economics department have each been selected for UF/IFAS Extension Professional and Enhancement awards.  These awards highlight exceptional UF/IFAS Extension programming, and earn faculty additional funding and program support.

borisova smaller

Tatiana Borisova

Tatiana Borisova, associate professor and Extension specialist, has been selected for the Wells Fargo Extension Professional Award and Program Enhancement Grant, which recognizes a proposed educational program that responds to a public policy issue.

Borisova, who specializes in water economics and policy, is interested in educating Floridians about water resource management.

“In recent years, changes to water resource laws and regulations have rapidly accelerated in Florida and the U.S.,” said Borisova. “Meanwhile, public knowledge of water laws and regulations is limited. Public participation is vital for development and implementation of water resource management programs.”

Borisova added, “a large segment of the Florida public—Spanish-speaking residents—still have limited access to UF/IFAS Extension information related to water management.” Her proposed program, “Statewide Water Policy Extension Program for Florida’s English- and Spanish-Speaking Audiences,” aims to address this gap.

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Edward “Gilly” Evans

Edward ‘Gilly” Evans, a professor at the UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, Florida, has been selected for the Seymour Goldweber Extension Professional and Enhancement Award, which recognizes excellence in on-going educational programing.

Evans’ program teaches growers how to use online software that helps them become more financially literate and market-savvy when selling their product or adopting alternative crops.

“This program is aimed at enhancing the long-term profitability and sustainability of agriculture in Florida by increasing grower’s knowledge of a wide range of new and emerging crop industries, and improving the growers’ skills and ability to make sound business decisions,” Evans said.

For example, “One grower has recently diversified his operation and is now planting pitaya (dragon fruit). This grower could see his earning increase from $500 per acre to about $10,000 per acre,” Evans explained.

Borisova and Evans will be recognized for their achievements September 29 at the Extension Professional Associations of Florida conference in Daytona Beach, Florida.

By: Samantha Grenrock, 352-294-3307,

Sources: Tatiana Borisova, 352-294-7666,

Edward “Gilly” Evans, 786-217-9263,