Marion County Farm Bureau Establishes Endowment with UF to Support Local Ag Students

Jimmy Cheek, far left, accepts a $100,000 check from Richard Barber of the Marion County Farm Bureau to establish an endowment for UF students
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Everyone knows farmers grow food, and now one farming organization is helping the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences grow the next generation of agricultural professionals.

The Marion County Farm Bureau has established a $100,000 endowment to benefit students in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences who hail from Marion County and pursue agricultural careers.

It’s just the second endowment created at UF by a county farm bureau, said Jimmy Cheek, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources.

On Friday, November 9, the farm bureau presented the funds to Cheek. The endowment is eligible for up to $50,000 in state matching funds.

“This is an excellent gift from the Marion County Farm Bureau,” Cheek said. “This will be an endowment in perpetuity to award scholarships to students from Marion County who are studying in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.”

About six students will benefit from the endowment each year, receiving a $1,000 scholarship, he said. If there are not sufficient students in one year to award all scholarships, the remaining funds will be used to support research at UF’s Plant Sciences Research and Education Unit in Citra.

The check was presented by Richard Barber and Todd Dailey of the Marion County Farm Bureau.

Barber, a Marion County peanut farmer and retiring member of the bureau’s board of directors, said the endowment was established in part because IFAS has supported local agriculture through its work.

“We’ve had a lot of success with IFAS over the years, with the research that they’ve done and with the students that we’ve sent up here, we’ve always been very proud to be a part of educating the students here in Marion County,” said Barber, a member of the bureau’s board of directors for more than 28 years.

Many of Marion County’s agricultural leaders are UF graduates, said Dailey, the bureau’s scholarship chairman and, like Barber, a UF grad.

“We look forward to supporting the young kids that are interested in agriculture, helping them make it through college and also promoting the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences,” Dailey said. “And we hope that at least a percentage of them will come back to our county with what they’ve learned.”

The board has also established a $30,000 endowment with Central Florida Community College in Ocala. The bureau will continue its longstanding scholarship program, which has provided more than $70,500 to support Marion County youth in higher education.

Endowments provide an excellent opportunity for agricultural organizations to establish long-term, renewable support for UF programs, said Ken DeVries, assistant vice president for IFAS development.

“This is the kind of gift that will make a real difference,” DeVries said. “We call it ‘making the margin of excellence’ for our programs and it’s very much appreciated.”

As part of UF’s Florida Tomorrow capital campaign, IFAS is striving to build its endowment base in research, academics and extension, he said.

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