More than 300 visitors had a chance to pick colorful flowers, harvest sweet potatoes and cassava, squeeze fresh orange juice, and learn about graduate programs, student organizations and agriculture-related businesses and career opportunities at the Fall Festival hosted on the grounds of the Horticultural Sciences Teaching Farm.
The festival provided an opportunity to help students understand the types of careers available through the Plant Science Major and to showcase the Horticultural Sciences teaching farm. “The University of Florida and the IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences put a lot of effort into making amazing experiential opportunities for students,” at the teaching gardens, said Dr. Dina Liebowitz, Plant Science program director. “We want the whole community to come out and enjoy, and experience all the opportunities crafted by farm manager Zack Black, staff, faculty, and students.”
The Plant Science program is an interdisciplinary major in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences consisting of faculty from six different departments. “The Departments of Agronomy, Environmental Horticulture, Horticultural Sciences, and Plant Pathology are core members of the Plant Science Major and Minor,” Dr. Liebowitz said, “and they all offer classes, seminars, and research opportunities within each of their specialties. The Departments of Entomology and Nematology, and Soil, Water, and Ecosystem Sciences are both affiliates that help our students engage with the fascinating broader systems in which plants operate.”
The festival gave students the chance to explore opportunities available in the plant sciences. “There are so many things that you can do,” said Dr. Liebowitz, “from native species restoration to biotechnology and crop improvement to sustainable agriculture. There are so many fascinating and fulfilling careers in plant sciences, and so we want people to be able to explore.” The festival featured 18 organizations, including student clubs, graduate programs, and an “Opportunities Corner” featuring businesses, UF IFAS/Extension opportunities and the Career Connection Center.
The Plant Pathology Department was represented by students, faculty and staff, as well as Department Chair Dr. Mathews Paret. “Representing the department at the booth was a valuable experience,” said Dr. Paret. “The team was able to share with the visitors what plant pathologists do on a day-to-day basis, and how our work impacts crop production in Florida, and globally. Most importantly we were able to talk about career opportunities for plant pathology students in academia, government agencies, industry, international organizations, and non-government organizations. We even had some actively growing fungal pathogens in sealed petri plates for display.”
The festival demonstrated the interdisciplinary nature of the program. “Together, this program draws on an incredibly strong community of faculty and staff that helps students explore an interdisciplinary education in the plant sciences,” said Dr. Liebowitz, a sentiment shared by Dr. Paret, the Plant Pathology department chair: “It is very important that Plant Pathology works very closely with other departments in the Plant Science program. The joint mission is educating students on the production and management of crops, and that requires effective interdisciplinary experiences at all the departments affiliated with the Plant Science program.”
To see additional photos and video from the Plant Science Fall Festival, visit the UF Plant Pathology Instagram page at https://www.instagram.com/ufplantpath/