LIVE OAK, Fla. — With an eye on the future, the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center – Suwannee Valley (UF/IFAS NFREC-SV) celebrated a groundbreaking for its new educational pavilion on Sept. 24.
“The educational pavilion provides a much-needed space to continue to expand how we serve our community,” says Bob Hochmuth, UF/IFAS Extension regional specialized agent for vegetable crops and assistant center director.
Over the past five years, UF/IFAS NFREC-SV outgrew its 100-person conference room and has needed an additional space to welcome the 3,000 community members it serves annually through its 100-plus group educational events. Reaching out to the community, the center raised about $225,000 from private donors and agencies to build the educational pavilion.
“It was an extremely humbling experience to see how much support UF/IFAS has in this region,” Hochmuth said. “This isn’t just our educational pavilion, but the community’s educational pavilion.”
“This is the essence of the public/private partnership,” said Scott Angle, UF vice president for agriculture and natural resources and leader of UF/IFAS. “The IFAS staff provides value to the farmers, stakeholders, and people that work in this community. In turn, this community says thank you to this facility by a private fundraising effort to make this educational pavilion happen. It’s really nice to see.”
Once complete, the educational pavilion will include an automated curtain system and breezeway connecting the educational pavilion to the existing conference room. It will be an ideal venue to demonstrate materials and techniques that require outdoor space but with protection from the sun and rain.
“The educational pavilion will be a versatile space to conduct small equipment demonstrations, provide space for exhibits, a location for concurrent classes or breakout sessions, and add to sheltered space available for large meetings like the CARES environmental stewardship recognition dinner,” Hochmuth said. “It will undoubtedly enhance the quality of educational experience for those attending workshops and other events.”
UF/IFAS NFREC-SV is located on 400 acres of land east of the town of Live Oak. When they are not hosting educational events, the center conducts over $30 million in research projects and at least 75 distinct research and demonstration projects. Their research projects focus on water and nutrient management, integrated pest management, specialty and alternative crop evaluation, greenhouse and hydroponic production, and agribusiness.