Palm horticulture specialist Mica McMillan knows a bit about what private industry needs because she was in private industry before we recruited her to UF/IFAS.
And she’s a quick study in how to meet your needs. It didn’t take her long to figure out that if you’re going to put on an education program for the green industry, you need to talk to Linda Reindl, who’s been FNGLA's director of education for 30 years.
With Reindl’s help, McMillan is already bringing together partners, from FNGLA to botanical garden administrators to state officials to private palm growers to her own palm science teammates, and everywhere from Fort Lauderdale to across the pond in Europe.
It all comes together in the Palm Quest Conference on April 12 and 13 in Fort Lauderdale. It’s what you need to get up to speed on a Florida icon.
In some ways, this is the coming-out party, Extension style, for the team of palm talent that UF/IFAS has assembled over the past two years. We hired McMillan in 2021 (five years after she earned a Ph.D. in soil and water science at UF), then added plant mycologist Braham Dhillon. Brian Bahder is now an old hand just seven years into his UF/IFAS career as an insect vector ecologist.
They’re part of a strengthening of the UF/IFAS Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center, which has added faculty strength in nutrient cycling, applied phycology, palm pathology, and palm management since 2020, with an emphasis on urban horticulture.
Reindl and McMillan are looking to engage the strengths of UF faculty and FNGLA staff to build a program that mirrors the success of the Great Southern Tree Conference that Reindl worked on.
At Palm Quest, you’ll get a full dose of science at the two-day conference. But you’ll also get history and an explanation of why palms matter.
Most of all, you’ll connect to a community. You know success in business depends on a network, and Palm Quest is the place for Florida palm producers and other stakeholders to be for those two days. Of course, I’d recommend that the first three people you make a point of meeting are McMillan, Dhillon and Bahder.
The program addresses not just current challenges but future trends. Looking ahead is how you stay ahead.
The scope and complexity of the challenges facing the palm are far beyond the capacity of a single individual to solve. I am grateful to see such an accomplished community forming around the discovery and dissemination necessary to protect our palms.
Not only do I hope palm producers and the landscape industry gain insights that inform their decisions, but I also know their observations and feedback will inform our faculty and inspire them to advance palm science in ways that are relevant and useful. We at UF/IFAS continue to regard Extension as a two-way street.
Scott Angle is the University of Florida’s Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources and leader of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).