U.S. Agriculture Deputy Secretary Xochitl Torres Small visited the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences to see innovative research first-hand and to engage key stakeholders.
The visit is part of Torres Small’s College Tour, which began earlier this month and continues over several weeks. Torres Small is visiting public and land-grant universities, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-serving Institutions, Tribal Colleges and Universities and community colleges across the country to highlight how each institution type is partnering with USDA to advance student success, rural prosperity, climate-smart practices, competition and sustainability.
The deputy secretary was joined for the visit to UF by Chavonda Jacobs-Young, USDA chief scientist/undersecretary for research, education, and economics.
Torres Small met with UF/IFAS deans, industry stakeholders and students to discuss ongoing research and the future of agriculture in Florida and beyond.
“Land-grant universities are the connection between the people on the ground — in the field — and the research of the future,” she said.
She said her favorite part of the visit was talking with students about the opportunities for the next generation of agricultural employees. Students spoke with her about how they were inspired to work in their industries and how they can connect their research with the real world – such as how local production ties in with solving food insecurity.
She said she was impressed by UF’s supercomputer, the HiPerGator, which UF/IFAS researchers use to do cutting-edge research.
“It’s opportunities like this that help grow the next generation of agricultural leaders,” Torres Small said.
Torres Small and Jacobs-Young toured UF/IFAS properties, including the Field and Fork Garden, a blueberry research building and a lab focused on potato research.
Jacobs-Young said the several hours she spent with students were invaluable.
“My favorite part of today was the student conversations. They were so forward-thinking,” she said. “We want to be on the ground and relatable to this next generation of workers. I want the students to see that we look just like them.”