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Giving Thanks on Thanksgiving

For me, Thanksgiving is a holiday that grows in importance each year. Putting aside parades, Black Friday and family arguments, it’s a haven of peace and gratitude. We don’t often take enough time in our busy lives to gather with family and friends to enjoy a communal meal, continue family traditions, catch up with each other and express thanks for the things we’re fortunate to have. This applies as much to us in the UF/IFAS family as it does to our dinner guests, so I’d like to take a moment — before we dig in, as it were — to express what I’m thankful for this year.

I’m thankful that all our Extension folk are safe and sound after Hurricane Michael. While many of our facilities suffered considerable damage, it could have been much worse. I’m especially thankful for the professionalism and spirit of our faculty and staff. In the Panhandle and throughout the whole state, your quick response, effectiveness, endurance and generosity lessened the potential damage, and in the months ahead it will help Northwest Florida make a faster, more lasting recovery. I’ll also be thankful when Hurricane Season is over for this year.

I’m thankful for the hard work of our volunteers, the 28,000-plus people who this year gave more than 1 million hours of service to 4-H, Master Gardener and Master Naturalist programs, water-quality monitoring, financial planning assistance and many other vital programs in their communities. Volunteers are not only the backbone of our programming, but they also act as our ambassadors.

I’m thankful for our partners and supporters in government, industry, education and natural resources. UF/IFAS Extension owes its existence and its purpose to the close ties and free exchange of ideas we have with our community partners on all levels. I’m especially thankful for our partnerships with food pantries and shelters that help provide nutritious, wholesome meals to people in need.

I’m thankful for the farmers and ranchers of Florida, who provide the food we eat at the table, the clothes we wear, the raw materials for our homes and furnishings. Throughout the country this Thursday, when people sit down to dinner, many of the traditional foods we enjoy—sweet corn, snap beans, citrus, sweet potatoes—will come from the families of growers in our state. It’s gratifying to know we play a small part in that.

I’m thankful for the ground-breaking research and education that comes out of UF/IFAS, which have increased the productivity, efficiency and safety of our food systems. Thanks to institutions like IFAS, U.S. farm and ranch families, which constitute only 2% of the population, are feeding the world. And while I’m on the subject, I’m thankful for events like the Florida Farm Bureau’s Farm-City Week (November 14-22), which reminds us where our food comes from and helps to bridge the gap between rural and urban communities.

I’m thankful for the faculty and agents of Family and Community Sciences, who remind me and others about the importance of thawing the turkey, cooking it to a minimum internal temperature of 165°, using MyPlate as a guide to balanced meals and getting in a brisk walk before collapsing on the couch; not to mention using ‘I’-messages to defuse family conflicts, managing expectations to reduce holiday stress, and listing SMART goals to budget for next year. It’s never too late to learn!

Finally, I’m thankful for my family, including my UF/IFAS family. It is a daily pleasure and a privilege to work with each and every one of you. Be safe and be well!

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