QUINCY, Fla. — The UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center (NFREC) celebrated a century of agricultural innovation and education in an Oct. 1 ceremony in Quincy.
“More important than the temporal milestone is what has happened in those 100 years,” said Barry Tillman, a renowned UF/IFAS peanut breeder who is the interim director of the NFREC. “Many transformative discoveries have come out of the North Florida Research and Education Center, and our teaching, research and Extension discoveries have helped transform North Florida agriculture.”
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The center, which was founded to research the region’s main crop at the time – tobacco – has since been at the forefront of researching every commodity to be grown in the region over the last 100 years. From longtime staples like peanut and cotton, all the way to the current testing of carinata, which can be used for biofuel, and cold-hardy citrus fruits, like the satsuma mandarin.
“From our very small beginnings in 1921, with a single plant pathologist and 23 acres, the NFREC now encompasses over 2,300 acres and three locations spread across 150 miles,” Tillman shared. “It’s among the most diverse agricultural and natural resource programs in the state within the UF/IFAS system. We look forward to the next 100 years and serving the needs of our clientele and stakeholders in Florida.”
In addition to welcomes from Tillman and environmental horticulture professor Gary Knox, who served as master of ceremonies, the morning featured presentations from several local and state figures recognizing the milestone. These included Scott Angle, UF vice president of agriculture and natural resources and the leader of UF/IFAS; Bobby Durden, retired UF/IFAS Extension agent and owner-operator of Durden Red Angus; Ron Barnett, a professor emeritus who retired from the NFREC; Mathews Paret and Ian Small, current NFREC assistant professors; Mack Glass, president of the Cold Hardy Citrus Association; and Gadsden County Commissioners Ron Green and Eric Hinson, who presented a proclamation on behalf of the Board of County Commissioners.
Angle highlighted the importance of farming to the future of feeding the world and environmental conservation, as well as the contributions of UF/IFAS research, education and Extension efforts to those goals.
“We’ve got a lot of challenges on this planet,” he shared. “We’ve got to double food production by the year 2050. A lot of that’s going to happen here in Florida.”
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.