GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A century and a half ago, the nation was in the midst of unparalleled change and turmoil. The Industrial Revolution had morphed American life at its most fundamental levels, and the Civil War had reduced the U.S. political system to tatters.
With that setting, on July 2, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed what was dubbed the Land Grant Act. The act created funding for a nationwide higher education system-creating a network of colleges rooted in the promise of advancing the country’s agrarian industries. The effort would not only help reunite a shattered nation, it would bolster that union’s new position of world leadership.
Today’s world may seem very different. But from the view afforded by his position in the U.S. House of Representatives, Adam Putnam sees this as a time when the land-grant mission is just as important.
On April 12, Putnam will share that perspective in a lecture entitled “Green-Lighting the 21st Century Land-Grant Mission,” on the University of Florida campus. As part of the York Distinguished Lecturer series, the presentation is free and open to the public.
“Whether you’re looking at the state of Florida, the nation or the world as a whole, we’re going through radical changes that demand responsible action,” said Putnam, who has represented Florida’s 12th congressional district since 2001. “Energy, the environment, water concerns, obesity, starvation-even nutrition, aging and other fundamental health issues-these are global challenges with solutions that will come from our land-grant system.”
Putnam has served on the committees on Agriculture, Budget, Government Reform, Rules and as the leader of the subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and Census.
His time in the house, however, is also marked by a strong support of agriculture that reflects the needs of his constituency. Florida’s 12th district, positioned along the I-4 corridor in central Florida, includes cattle ranches, citrus groves, small towns as well as rapidly changing communities near the metropolitan areas of Tampa and Orlando.
In fact, Putnam was born in the 12th district and was active in 4-H as well as his family’s citrus and cattle operation. He credits 4-H as being extraordinarily influential to his life and career, and touts the organization as one of the most inspirational elements of the land-grant system.
“It seems like we’re always faced with a barrage of bad news about the next generation,” he said. “But 4-H stands out as a bright spot. It not only reconnects young people to the land, it gives them a head start in science and technology in a way no other program can.”
After graduating from the University of Florida with a degree in food and resource economics, he went on to serve in the Florida House of Representatives from 1996 to 2000.
As a representative on both a state and national level, he’s witnessed a strong urbanization trend. These changes, he says, will require a strong understanding of natural resources and an agricultural community that is given the best tools available to feed a population that is growing and diversifying.
“We also have to think about how we interact on a global level-no state or country is an island,” he said. “The developing world and even other industrialized nations are struggling with new ways to power their cities and feed their populations.”
Research on renewable fuel sources, secure food sources and environmentally sound policies create a better future for us all, he said.
The lecture will be held in the Presidents Room of Emerson Alumni Hall at 2 p.m. Parking is available in the O’Connell Center lot. The York Distinguished Lecturer Series is made possible through a gift to UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences from E.T. and Vam York.
For more information about the series, please visit http://yorklecture.ifas.ufl.edu.
Stu Hutson, 352-273-3569, email@example.com