The Title Is New, but My Commitment to Farmers Is Not

By Rob Gilbert


You are about to see the biggest expansion of UF/IFAS presence in support of Hillsborough/Polk agriculture in a generation.

Gulf Coast Research and Education Center

As the University of Florida’s new interim senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources and head of UF/IFAS, one of my goals is to deliver two big projects to your region in the coming years:

You’d have to go back at least to the 2005 opening of the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center (GCREC) to find a moment comparable to what we stand on the precipice of today. 

I’ll work hard on your behalf to make the most of this moment. As soon as former Senior Vice President Scott Angle was appointed provost, I was on the job in Tallahassee working to secure state support for the AI center.

I also traveled to Washington almost immediately in search of agency and congressional support for agricultural science. I am pleased to continue Florida Strawberry Growers Association leader Kenneth Parker’s service as a Florida delegate in the national group of land-grant university advocates that travels to DC to testify to the positive impacts of federal funding. 

I have plans to travel to Hillsborough and Polk, too. I hope to meet many of you – the people who produce Florida’s food, feed, fuel and fiber. Your voice is vital to shaping science. 

My title is new but my commitment to farmers goes back decades. I spent years as a researcher in the field listening to growers. I saw how much growers’ field observations and partnership with our researchers contributed to discovery during my five years as dean of UF/IFAS research.

Parker at Flavors of Florida

With global competition, labor challenges, adverse weather events, disease and urban sprawl all making it harder to farm in Hillsborough and Polk counties, now is a moment to maintain a strong connection with UF/IFAS. 

Please invite me to your farms and your meetings. Let me know how I can serve. Let’s be partners in the once-in-a-generation opportunities that stand before us.

Rob Gilbert is the University of Florida’s interim senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources and leader of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).

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