Two UF/IFAS Leaders Selected for 2019 Florida 500 List

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida/IFAS earned two spots on this year’s Florida 500, Florida Trend Magazine’s second annual list of the state’s most influential business leaders.

Among the 18 agricultural sector leaders the magazine identified for the 2019 compilation are Jack Payne, UF senior vice president of agriculture and natural resources, and Leslie Sturmer, a UF/IFAS Extension agent specializing in shellfish aquaculture.

“My recognition is really a reflection of UF/IFAS as a whole,” Payne said. “The research and innovation coming out of UF/IFAS influences every industry within Florida’s agricultural and natural resources sector. It’s incredible to realize the difference our leaders make throughout the state.”

Payne’s profile in the magazine highlights the work of plant breeders to develop new varieties to minimize the usage of fertilizer and water, the formation of a task force on algal blooms, and the creation of a working group of agricultural leaders to address adaptation to climate change.

Sturmer is lauded for her role in Cedar Key’s clam industry, crediting her with helping to create the $40 million industry. After a 1995 law banned gill-net fishing, Sturmer worked to retrain commercial fishermen to farm clams instead.

Sturmer says she is humbled by her appearance on the Florida 500, although, like Payne, she is quick to share the recognition.

“Being a part of the development of a shellfish aquaculture industry over the past 30 years is reward enough,” Sturmer said. “The recognition really goes to the hardworking men and women who make this industry a success: the seed producers, clam and oyster growers, shellfish wholesalers, and related businesses.”

The Florida 500 list appears in full in its latest print edition or can be found online at The selections, decided by Florida Trend’s editorial department, represent 15 categories of industry in the state – agriculture, arts and entertainment, education, energy, finance and insurance, hospitality/tourism, information/tech/media, law, life sciences, manufacturing, philanthropy/non-profits, professional services, real estate, retail/wholesale, and transportation.


The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS website at and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.


Posted: September 16, 2019

Category: Agriculture, Natural Resources, UF/IFAS
Tags: Agriculture, Aquaculture, Awards And Recognitions, Jack Payne, Leslie Sturmer, Natural Resources, Shellfish

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