Growing up in Wildwood, Florida, provided Michael Joyner with an abundance of mentors in the farming and ranching industries – people who demonstrated to him their dedication to providing food and fiber to the world. Their commitment to agriculture and serving others became his passion, too.
During Joyner’s first semester at the College of Central Florida, he met with an adviser and shared his desire to help Florida agriculture in his future career. The adviser
immediately called the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS), part of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS). With an interest for public policy as well as agriculture and natural resources, Joyner transferred to UF to major in food and resource economics through CALS.
“I knew that UF was one of the great land-grant universities in the country,” Joyner said. “It was the perfect choice and I enjoyed every minute of my two years at UF. It also laid the foundation for a 35-year career in the industry that I love.”
At the UF/IFAS Dinner of Distinction on Sept. 27, Joyner was recognized as the recipient of the 2019 CALS Alumni and Friends Award of Distinction for his outstanding contributions to the agriculture industry and his loyal support of the college.
“To recognize our accomplished alumni like Mike Joyner is an honor,“ said CALS Dean Elaine Turner. “Two of our college’s core values are service and collaboration, and Mike has been a wonderful role model for our current and future CALS students as someone who gives back to both his alma mater and the agriculture industry in many ways.”
Joyner has held positions at Florida Farm Bureau, the Florida Forestry Association, and now serves as President of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, representing farmers when policy is being made at the local, state and national levels. His time with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection under former Gov. Jeb Bush’s administration and in serving former Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam allowed him to represent agriculture within government while policy was in the process of being made.
Describing the CALS curriculum as “solid”, expectations “high”, and faculty as “always available”, Joyner found that as a student he was able to understand the big picture of how to be the best agriculture advocate.
Joyner recalls faculty who had a lasting impact on him while he served as a student assistant for the UF/IFAS Food and Resource Economics Department chair at the time, John Gordon. He remembers fondly how much John Gordon, Rod Clouser, Roy Carriker, P.J. van Blokland and John Holt fed his passion for agriculture through their care and attention. Joyner continues to invest in CALS students and graduates in an effort to pay the mentorship of these faculty members forward.
“Agriculture needs smart women and men who have a passion for finding solutions to the many challenges we face,” Joyner said. “I have tried to encourage young people who have an interest in the sciences to choose a career in agriculture.”
The time and personal attention Joyner received while as a student in CALS never stopped after graduation. His personal connection with faculty led him to contact them for additional information when needed during the policy-making process.
Joyner encourages students to make the most of their time in CALS. By reaching out and interacting with CALS alumni, students can land a job, but Joyner said it’s ultimately about seeking advice and counsel from alumni on issues that will impact our communities, state and world. “I tell my daughters, ‘It’s not about you; agriculture is about serving others,’” Joyner said.
At the end of the day, the opportunity to work for those who are called to the agriculture profession is rewarding to Joyner. Crafting public policy that helps farmers and ranchers stay competitive in the marketplace allows Joyner to be in a position that benefits Florida agriculture.
“I have been fortunate; I hope I have made the most of it,” Joyner said. “I love UF, IFAS, CALS and this industry. I am humbled by the [Award of Distinction] and understand that it is not about me. I am grateful for the opportunity I have been given to serve our industry.”