GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences honored some of its most ardent supporters at its annual Dinner of Distinction, held at the UF Hilton Conference Center Friday evening.
This was the third year for the awards banquet that recognizes individuals and organizations that support and advance UF/IFAS in its research, teaching and Extension efforts.
It is held the same weekend as the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences’ TailGATOR event, which serves as both a celebration of alumni achievements and an opportunity for students to learn more about CALS while networking with alumni.
During the banquet, UF/IFAS officials also honored state Rep. Bryan Nelson, who has a UF degree in ornamental horticulture, for his legislative efforts in support of UF/IFAS.
The 2014 Dinner of Distinction award recipients include:
UF/IFAS Extension Outstanding 4-H Alumnus
Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture, Adam Putnam, is a fifth-generation Floridian, who grew up in the citrus and cattle industries. He joined 4-H at age 8 and spent the next decade in 4-H programs, including the State 4-H Council, where he was elected president. He earned a degree in 1995 in food and resource economics from CALS and was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 1996.
Friend of IFAS Award
Madeline Mellinger is founder and CEO of Glades Crop Care Inc., the largest agricultural consulting firm in the Southeast U.S. The company does advanced crop scouting and pest and beneficial insect population analyses, handles food safety programs for fresh market crops and packers and offers companies help with sustainable Integrated Pest Management alternatives. Mellinger has served on a number of IFAS-related advisory boards, including the UF/IFAS Everglades Research and Education Center, a vice president search committee and co-chaired the UF/IFAS Strategic Planning Committee.
SHARE Volunteer of the Year
Debbie Swindle grew up on a strawberry and vegetable farm and as an adult, remains involved in agriculture and cattle production. She has contributed to numerous scholarships and endowments that support UF/IFAS, hosted the UF/IFAS SHARE Council meeting and helped host the first Farm Ladies’ Breakfast for Ag women in Hillsborough, Polk and Pasco counties.
UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Horizon Award
Flint Johns, a 2004 food and resource economics graduate, also earned a master’s in agricultural and biological engineering in 2006 – while remaining active on the rodeo circuit. After graduation, he went to work for Lykes Bros. Inc. and in 2011, was promoted to ranch manager, where he is responsible for the fourth-largest cow-calf operation in the country. He has served on a number of UF/IFAS advisory and planning committees and tirelessly volunteers his time as a guest speaker and tour host for UF/IFAS groups.
Luis Martinez earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s in food science and human nutrition, after moving to the U.S. from Ecuador in 2003. He served as a CALS ambassador and while in graduate school, invented a processing technology to enhance the flavor and aroma of coffee that is currently being used the Coffee Primero Company. He now works for Darifair and is responsible for 52 manufacturing plants. He chairs the Florida section of the Institute of Food Technologists and in that role, has helped boost scholarship allotments as well as funding for student and alumni events.
UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Award of Distinction
Ernest Sellers of Live Oak earned his law degree from UF in 1967 and has helped UF, IFAS and CALS financially and by giving his time. He’s taught many undergraduate law classes offered through the Center for Agricultural and Natural Resource Law, served on the IFAS SHARE Council since 2003 and in 2012, was recognized as SHARE’s volunteer of the year.
Roger West earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in animal sciences from UF before joining the Animal Sciences faculty. He chaired the department from 1985 through 1988, before retiring in 20023. Since leaving UF, he’s continued to donate his time and energy to many UF/IFAS clubs, animal sciences program and youth livestock judging teams.
4-H Lifetime Achievement Award
Linda Syfrett is founder and president of the Okeechobee County Fair. She has been a 4-H leader in that county since 1987, working with youth in both the dairy and county council clubs. She has chaperoned 4-H trips across the state, including the capitol.
She is a member of the Florida 4-H Foundation Board of Directors and works with the Okeechobee Youth Livestock Show Committee, where she helps promote Florida agriculture programs for 4-H and FFA members.
UF/IFAS Research Partner Award
The Florida Strawberry Growers Association has been instrumental in its support – financial and otherwise – of UF/IFAS research. The organization works with UF/IFAS scientists in a number of areas, including improving post-harvest technology, reducing carbon emissions and creating a reliable computer model system to predict when chemicals should be applied – which could help cut fungicide and pesticide use in half.
UF/IFAS Champion Award
Vam York was married to IFAS founder and former State University System Chancellor E.T. York for 64 years and as his partner, spent decades supporting his global work to end hunger. Since his death in 2011, she has continued in her steadfast support of UF/IFAS and its entire mission, including teaching, research and Extension. She is a longtime member of the Ag Women’s Club and endowed a scholarship that supports an outstanding CALS undergraduate every year. Among the projects she’s been involved with are the Austin Cary Learning Center that opened in spring 2014 and updating a long-term professorship in international agriculture.
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