New IFAS Dean Plans to Modernize Extension

Dr. Andra Johnson, who started as dean of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension on Nov. 1, emphasizes that one of his chief duties is to continue to instill in our 650 agents and specialists statewide that one of their chief duties is to serve growers. 


His vision for Extension also includes you, as our partners, fully participating in the search for solutions to your challenges.


Here’s why the new dean is good news for you:


He’s an aggie. Dr. Johnson grew up in rural Louisiana in a family that raised black angus and Brahman cattle as well as row crops. 


He knows how to repair a fence, corral cows into a catch pen and even, at least in an academic setting, artificially inseminate a heifer. He understands what happens on a ranch.


His aunt has served for more than 30 years at USDA. He has previously worked at three land-grant universities and earned three land-grant academic degrees.


Florida ag leaders supported his candidacy, including two key members of the search committee: strawberry industry leader and former Hillsborough County Farm Bureau board member Kenneth Parker as well as UF/IFAS Extension Polk County Director Nicole Walker. Their endorsements were important factors in my decision to hire Dr. Johnson.


Other local Farm Bureau leaders participated in the virtual town halls we held to evaluate the candidates. Gulf Coast Research and Education Center Director Jack Rechcigl also visited with Johnson via Zoom and concluded he’d be good for local agriculture.


Johnson will be thinking of you as he drinks OJ after workouts or carves into his favorite cut of beef, the T-bone. He takes his berries in smoothies. He always has lemons in his home, a sentimental homage to his grandmother who believed them to cure headaches and lower blood pressure.


The vision he presented for modernizing Extension includes an expansion of service to production agriculture.


He wants your agent to stay your agent. We have long had too much agent turnover. Dr. Johnson has a vision for removing the university-based drivers of attrition. He plans to beef up support so agents are not bogged down in administrative duties instead of the programming they’d rather be doing. He’ll advocate for higher salaries to retain high-performing agents. And he’ll work to improve the promotion process that ultimately gives an agent freedom to determine in concert with stakeholders how best to serve the local community as well as job security to build years-long relationships.


He’s a triple threat. In addition to Extension administration experience, he has taught extensively, and he has a record securing funding for research. His skillful integration of the three major land-grant mission areas bodes well for Hillsborough-Polk, which not only have two county Extension offices but three research centers (Gulf Coast REC, Citrus REC and the Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory) and an academic program in Plant City.


He intends, like I do, to visit all 67 Extension offices (I’ve visited 52 as of this writing). Please invite him to your farms as well.


Johnson has been emerging as a national leader who represents the future of Extension. At UF/IFAS, we’re in the business of getting you to the future first, ahead of your national and global competitors.


  1. Scott Angle is the University of Florida’s Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources and leader of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).


5 things to know about Dr. Andra Johnson


  1. He has extensive experience working with commodity associations such as Farm Bureaus, the nursery industry and cattlemen and cattlewomen.
  2. He comes to us from Penn State University.
  3. He’s a Baptist pastor
  4. He’s married and has one son.
  5. He partnered with Lt. General Russel Honoré, commander of military relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina, to establish an air quality monitoring program in Louisiana.

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