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Sunday, January 16, 2022

IFAS extension turns 100 and earns historic marker

UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences' extension is celebrating its 100th birthday this month.

As part of UF’s original status as a land-grant university, the IFAS extension was started in 1915 to conduct agricultural research that could be shared with neighboring farming communities, IFAS Dean and Director for Extension Nick Place said.

Today, IFAS’s research benefits people in all 67 Florida counties, he said. Its goal is to find new ways to look at agriculture, food safety, nutrition, sustainable food production and other agriculture-related fields.

On Wednesday, UF History Advisory Council chair Joe Kays recognized the program with a historical marker — a blue sign that labels an area as historically significant to campus.

It is the 13th historical marker at UF. The sign is planted firmly in the ground at Rolfs Hall on Buckman Drive.

"Everything started in that part of campus," Place said.

The marker is a testament to how crucial the IFAS program will continue to be for agriculture and conservation, said UF soil and water science first-year graduate student Drew Land.

"IFAS impacts people every day by providing people the most innovative solutions to feeding the world," the 20-year-old said.

As IFAS has grown, it has become more inclusive, Place said. Within the past 100 years, it has expanded to offer services to both rural and urban areas.

UF alumna Aparna Gazula said she uses the skills she learned through IFAS every day.

She now works as an IFAS Extension Alachua County horticulture agent.

"The main goal is sharing with the clientele of the county the unique aspect of what we do — that’s getting the research information from the state into the county," she said.

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In 2014, Gazula said about 24,000 people attended different classes that the Alachua extension office offered. About 113,000 people contacted the extension for help, ranging from drip-irrigation questions to pesticide trainings. The county offered more than 500 educational programs.

Bob Hochmuth, an IFAS regional specialized extension agent for Suwannee Valley, said he has worked with the program for 28 years.

He said as new technology and new challenges arise, the research done at IFAS will help solve problems and continue to move the industry forward.

He said he likes to be able to watch the farmers he works with adopt new technologies first-hand.

"It’s fun to be a part of that success," Hochmuth said.

Kays said the program’s centennial celebration marked its historic recognition.

"I think the neat thing is that (people) can learn a little bit about the university as they walk across campus," Kays said.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect corrections. The UF IFAS agricultural extension is celebrating its centennial this month. We originally reported otherwise. The story has also been updated to reflect that the historical marker is located at Rolfs Hall. We originally reported otherwise. The story has been updated still to reflect that the marker at Rolfs Hall is the 13th historical marker at UF. We originally reported otherwise. The headline has been updated to reflect these changes.

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