Skip to main content

UF/IFAS CALS to offer food and resource economics major in Plant City beginning January 2018

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Nathan Cox has worked in the landscaping and lawn maintenance industry in Riverview, Florida, since high school. Six months ago, he began his own landscaping and irrigation company while finishing his associate’s degree at Hillsborough Community College.

When Cox, a lifelong Gator fan, heard the University of Florida’s IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) would be offering its food and resource economics (FRE) major in Plant City, Florida, he knew it would be the perfect degree program that would allow him to reach his long-term career goals. Cox is one of four students who have applied to begin the FRE program in Plant City, which will start January 2018.

“I think the FRE program is going to give me the knowledge and skills to really be able to take my business to the next level through growth and expansion,” Cox said. “The internships with big-name landscaping companies really caught my attention.”

The biggest attraction of the food and resource economics degree program for Cox is the Plant City location.

“I can’t easily move my landscaping business,” Cox said. “I honestly wouldn’t have an opportunity to do the FRE program in Gainesville, and completely online programs don’t fit my learning style.”

CALS offers several majors across Florida for transfer students through its statewide course offerings. These statewide locations include Apopka, Fort Lauderdale, Milton and Plant City. The academic standards and curriculum are exactly the same as those at the Gainesville location. The FRE major will join the geomatics and the agricultural education and communication majors currently offered in CALS’ Plant City location.

“The FRE program will allow students to continue to work on family or business farms while earning a premier education in FRE at a local facility,” said Kenneth Parker, executive director for The Florida Strawberry Growers Association. “As technology changes and as we move into the next generation of agriculturalists, students will need to prepare themselves to be a step ahead in the competitive marketplace.”

The degree program offering emerged from a public-private partnership in the Plant City community. At 2 p.m. on Nov. 7 at 1200 N. Park Road in Plant City, The Florida Strawberry Growers Association and The Florida Strawberry Festival will present UF/IFAS CALS with a check that will support adjunct faculty and a scholarship endowment for FRE students studying at Plant City.

“[The FRE department] has been doing research and extension work with these folks for a long time and now we’re adding the teaching component to our relationship with these strawberry farmers,” said FRE department chair, Spiro Stefanou. “This makes the partnership a true land-grant story.”

The FRE department also hired Luis Peña-Lévano as a full-time lecturer in Plant City to meet the in-person classroom needs of students. Originally from Honduras, Peña-Lévano comes to UF/IFAS CALS after completing a Ph.D. in agricultural international trade from Purdue University, and an M.S. in agricultural and applied economics from the University of Georgia.

“He has a very practical perspective, in terms of wanting to connect economics with the needs of clients and relevancy to students,” Stefanou said. “Luis brings a high level of energy to the position and is extremely personable. He’s excited to be here, and we’re excited to have him on board as well.”

If you are interested in supporting the FRE degree program at CALS’ Plant City location, visit here.


The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) administers the degree programs of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS). The mission of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences is to deliver unsurpassed educational programs that prepare students to address the world’s critical challenges related to agriculture, food systems, human wellbeing, natural resources and sustainable communities. Visit the CALS website at, and follow CALS on social media platforms at @ufcals.