Help Us Welcome New Extension Agent Luis Rodriguez Rosado
by TERESA SCHIFFER
The UF/IFAS Extension Polk County office has a new agent, and he’s excited to help farmers and growers here make a positive impact on their community, environment and economy! Luis Rodriguez Rosado is serving as Small Farms and Pesticide Education Extension Agent, filling a position that was vacant for the past year and a half due to COVID.
Rodriguez Rosado started in his new position in early May. He will be working primarily with new farmers just beginning their agricultural journey, helping them to get established as growers and giving them information on how to run a successful business.
“One of the things we do is to give them any kind of education or assistance,” Rodriguez Rosado explains. “I can go to their farms and visit to do different types of classes for the different commodities here in Polk County. One of the classes I taught in June was basically teaching people how to start an agricultural business — know about their market, know about writing a business plan, know about what liabilities and what assets they may have, and what is the advantage you can actually get from what you are going to produce. So basically, that’s the main focus of this Small Farms program, is to help these small farmers grow and be successful here in Polk County.”
These resources are available not only to new farmers who are just starting out but also to all small farmers in the area. A “small farm” is defined by the USDA as any agricultural operation that makes less than $250,000 per year. About 90 percent of the farms in Florida fall into this category. In Polk County, this covers most of our blueberry, poultry, beekeeping, hydroponic, and greenhouse operations, among others. The Extension office has separate agents dedicated specifically to livestock and citrus producers.
The goal of the Small Farms program is to help these types of operations be successful not just for their own sake but to benefit the community, as well. Having a large variety of small farms in Polk County means there are more types of fresh produce and other commodities available to people here. This benefits people financially by reducing prices of products that don’t need to be shipped far, plus there are health advantages to having more fresh vegetables, fruits and other foods easily accessible.
The other main duty of Rodriguez Rosado’s position is Pesticide Education, for which he is responsible for teaching people about integrated pest management. He helps growers attain the licenses and certifications they need in order to use various pesticides. In addition, he provides them with information on how to use those substances responsibly. The goal is to help growers minimize environmental pollution and toxic exposure to humans when using pesticides.
Integrated pest management involves using multiple techniques to control pests, such as biological, mechanical, and physical controls, plus any other means that prove effective. The goal of this type of approach is to minimize the number of chemicals used to control insects and other pests, thereby reducing pollution to our waters and lands.
“We teach people to use what they need, and don’t use more,” Rodriguez Rosado says in explaining the office’s stance on chemical pest control usage. “That way, we can teach them how to avoid pesticide resistance in the future. We teach them how to switch pesticides when they need to, and when not to use pesticides.”
Rodriguez Rosado comes was born in Puerto Rico and he has been in Florida for almost three years. He studied at the University of Puerto Rico, where he attained both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in Animal Science. The master’s degree work involved a focus on animal nutrition. He worked in an extension office in Puerto Rico for two years as a Dairy Farm Agent, and though he was not officially responsible for pesticide education there, he was very involved in helping people with their pesticide-related inquiries there.
Central Florida Ag News welcomes Luis Rodriguez Rosado to Polk County and his new position at the UF/IFAS Extension office! With his enthusiasm for helping farmers succeed while safeguarding the environment for the future, he is sure to be a fantastic asset to Central Florida’s agricultural community.