AGRICULTURE IN FLORIDA is high-tech. It’s not Old McDonald’s Farm anymore, and in order to feed our global population of 10 billion by 2050, we need to invest in our youth. We need to mentor young people and set an example of how innovation and passion can continue to propel the agriculture industry forward. Our 2016 Woman of the Year in Agriculture, Judi Whitson, has dedicated her life to these goals.
I was honored to name Judi as the Woman of the Year in Agriculture due to her dedication to agriculture and to the next generation who will carry the torch.
Judi was born into a Navy family in Brooksville, Fla., and moved with each change of her father’s duty station, ultimately returning to her home state where she graduated from Jacksonville’s Ribault High School in 1969. In 1991, Judi became the Executive Director of the Hillsborough County Farm Bureau and tackled the challenge of bringing together one of the most agriculturally productive counties in the state. Her efforts resulted in the Hillsborough County Farm Bureau becoming one of the leading counties in terms of membership, involvement, and overall achievement.
Judi’s passion for Florida agriculture is evident in her contributions to numerous ag-centered programs. With assistance from educators in Exceptional Student Education (ESE), Judi developed and wrote the curriculum for the Ag-Abilities program, which is designed to teach ESE students the many facets of agriculture and prepare them for careers in the industry. Annually, over 130 ESE students throughout the county benefit from this unique and enriching program. Judi also co-founded the Ag Venture educational program. Each year 7,200 students and approximately 37,000 fair goers enjoy the opportunity to touch, taste, and see Florida agriculture in action.
Judi is also involved in the Xtreme Cuisine program, which highlights “Fresh From Florida” commodities while teaching nutrition to elementary and middle school children. Additionally, Judi actively advocates for family farms, works to bolster 4-H and FFA programs throughout the state, and donates countless volunteer hours to the Florida Strawberry Festival, Farm City Week, and Food Check-out Week.
The Woman of the Year in Agriculture award is sponsored by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Florida State Fair Authority, and the award will be presented to the recipient during the 2017 Florida State Fair in Tampa. Judi is an immeasurable asset to our agriculture industry.
article by ADAM H. PUTNAM, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture