ONA, Fla. — As a child working and living on the family farm, Brent Sellers took on the nickname, “Weedhopper,” because an acquaintance said he was always jumping around in the weeds.
“Who knew at age 5 or 6 that I would work as a weed scientist?” said Sellers, reflecting on his childhood moniker.
The Sellers family raised corn and pigs. But financial strains of the 1980s caused Sellers’ parents to work side jobs. With no family assets, Sellers received a Pell Grant and went to college.
He attended Purdue University, where he earned a bachelor’s in biology and a master’s in botany and plant pathology. Sellers went on to earn his doctorate in agronomy from the University of Missouri.
In 2004, Sellers started as an assistant professor of agronomy at the UF/IFAS Range Cattle Research and Education Center in Ona, Florida, in Hardee County. He has published more than 50 refereed manuscripts and worked his way up the academic ladder.
Now, Sellers has now been named director of the UF/IFAS RCREC, said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources.
“After an international search, we found that the vision and talent we need was already in Ona,” said Jack Payne, UF vice president of agriculture and natural resources. “Brent proved himself as interim director for the past year, offered up a clear vision of his priorities for Ona and has applied a weed scientist’s eye for detecting challenges before they become threats. He framed all these issues as opportunities – to plan infrastructure, reinvigorate the advisory council, adopt new technologies and reinforce federal and state partnerships. Importantly, he also committed to outreach as the best way to remain relevant.”
Sellers has served as interim center director for nearly a year, since John Arthington was named chair of the UF/IFAS animal sciences department on the main campus in Gainesville.
“The RCREC is an incredible facility with extremely talented faculty, staff and students and is supported by a remarkable group of clientele — the Florida cattlemen and cattlewomen,” Sellers said. “I am honored to be named the fifth director of the RCREC.”
Sellers, a UF/IFAS agronomy professor, said he inherits an excellent team at the center, which was established in 1941. It’s a good mix of junior and senior faculty. “Everyone gets along, and I think the future is pretty bright.”
His time as interim director allowed him to see whether he wanted to work as an administrator.
Now that he’s in the saddle as center director, he’d like to discuss hiring additional faculty for the Range Cattle REC.
“I think we need a faculty member who can help increase our forage production efficiency,” Sellers said. “I think someone with expertise in precision agriculture would be extremely beneficial for the center and our clientele. Another faculty position may include an animal scientist with some grazing systems expertise.”
Sellers has goals in mind, starting in his first year and going out five years:
- Three months: Access to better Internet and phone capabilities.
- Six months: Update the center’s strategic plan. “In order to do that, I want our faculty to come together and outline our goals and potential faculty positions that we feel would benefit the center as well as our clientele.”
- 1 year: Finalize the strategic plan and begin to design improvements to infrastructure and equipment on the farm side of the research center. “These upgrades are necessary for cattle welfare as well as employee safety and they bring us up to the state-of-the-art center that we need to be.” To do this, Sellers said he needs to start working with IFAS Advancement to promote a fundraising campaign for facility upgrades.
- 5 years: “I’m hopeful we will have been able to raise the funds for the upgrades that I feel need to happen for us to reach the next level. If so, I hope to have begun construction on our cattle handling facility and other improvements at the center.”
By: Brad Buck, 813-757-2224 (office); 352-875-2641 (cell), firstname.lastname@example.org
The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS)
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 brings science-based solutions
to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents.