J. Scott Angle: From Lab to Landscape

July 26, 2020

Meet Scott Angle: 

  • Director, United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture, 2018-2020
  • President and CEO, International Fertilizer Development Center, 2015-2018
  • Dean, University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, 2005-2015
  • Ag bona fides: Angle had a farm in Maryland that had been used to grow vegetables for his brother’s restaurant as well as wine grapes and hay.
  • Favorite tree/lawn/ornamental plant: Weeping blue spruce 

There’s a change in the corner office at UF/IFAS, but not in its strong scientific support for the Florida green industry and FNGLA. For an indication as to what kind of partner your new UF/IFAS leader will be, check out my record in Georgia. 

I was honored to receive the Georgia Green Industry Association Vivian Munday/Buck Jones Memorial Lifetime Achievement Award for contributions to the horticulture, landscaping, and lawn maintenance industry. So when I was interviewing for the job here, I was glad to see the relationship between UF/IFAS and FNGLA was strong enough that Ben Bolusky was on the search committee.

My interest in turf in particular goes back to childhood. Back then I dreamed of being a golf pro. When it became obvious that wasn’t going to happen, I sought another way to make fairway and putting green in my office.

I pursued a turf management focus in earning my bachelor’s degree. Meanwhile, I had a job maintaining fairways and greens on an upscale course. The state’s golf superintendents’ association helped with a modest scholarship.

I thought I was headed toward a career as a course superintendent. Then during my master’s degree program, my co-adviser left for another university, and the one with whom I was left was a soil scientist. He won me over to his discipline.

He also won me over to academia. I wanted to teach, research, and bring know-how to people who manage natural and designed landscapes. Professor of soil science was a way to do that.

Turf still has my interest. Last year, as director of the National Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, I visited UF/IFAS for a two-day tour of its NIFA-funded science. A highlight was visiting with Kevin Kenworthy, who showed off dozens of turf varieties.

Little did I know I’d be back 15 months later as leader of this great scientific organization. I’ve long recognized the UF/IFAS turf team as one of the nation’s best going back to my days as dean of the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

UF/IFAS Food and Resource Economics faculty will soon publicly report nearly $30 billion in annual output sales and a workforce of more than 200,000 people in the Florida green industry. That’s a vital economic driver for our state – especially when tourism takes the kind of hit it’s taken so far in 2020.

UF/IFAS FRE faculty also report Florida’s green industry is the nation’s second largest in sales after California. All other states trail us by billions of dollars. Together we’re serving the nation.

The best way to keep this up is by continuing the partnership recognized at last year’s UF/IFAS Dinner of Distinction where FNGLA was honored as industry partner of the year. Much of my first few months will be dedicated to listening and learning what UF/IFAS can do to strengthen the partnership. I hope to hear from many of you.

UF/IFAS is a powerful resource both in terms of intellectual capacity and infrastructure. Call upon us anytime and anywhere. Our job and the reason we wake and work each day is to support folks like you who keep Florida green and beautiful.

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).

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