Madeline Mellinger had only about a year of experience working with growers in the Everglades Agricultural Area when they asked her to serve as their adviser on pest management.
During that year she had established their trust through consistent and accurate advice dispensed in person over the course of seven-day, 1,200-mile workweeks. Mellinger was the growers’ choice for another reason—they had no one else. Their previous consultant, the one Mellinger had been working for, had gone out of business.
So Mellinger founded Glades Crop Care with six clients. Half a century later, the four who are still farming—or their children or grandchildren—are still clients. Glades has grown from a one-woman operation to 38 employees serving clients nationwide.
Mellinger pioneered what today we call integrated pest management (IPM). She persuaded growers to spray as needed and according to forecasts, a departure from the traditional strategy of sticking to a predetermined schedule.
March is Women’s History Month, but I started celebrating it with Mellinger in February. I was proud to sit at the head table with Commissioner of Agriculture Wilton Simpson and with Mellinger as her nominator at the Woman of the Year in Agriculture award luncheon in Tampa. The who’s who of Florida ag leadership in attendance testified to the impact Mellinger has had on the industry.
A true IFAS supporter
Few women or men volunteers figure so prominently in UF/IFAS history. She has served five senior vice presidents as a CARET delegate, traveling to DC annually on her own time to advocate for the University of Florida and the land-grant university system. She and her husband Charlie have been called the “godparents” of our Doctor of Plant Medicine program.
Mellinger has chaired or served on numerous UF/IFAS advisory boards. She has lent her perspective to our strategic planning as a committee co-chair and served on the search committee that identified one of my predecessors. She continues to provide valuable data to UF/IFAS Extension agent Craig Frey who is leading a multiagency partnership to monitor thrips so that FDACS is able to declare a quarantine only when needed.
I find it a bit unfortunate that we still need a woman of the year in ag award, but we do. We don’t see women’s stories told often enough, in agriculture just as in other sectors. We are proud to honor and work with Mellinger and the many women in UF/IFAS and across Florida who are impacting the future of agriculture every day.