Jack Payne: The coronavirus has not sidelined science

April 15, 2020

Early action helped. The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences' beat-the-clock hustle ensured the continuity of our service to you. The coronavirus has not sidelined science.

One of the extraordinary early responses was the quick transformation of teaching of environmental horticulture and our many other disciplines. Our instructors, administration, and instructional technology professionals took the classes attended by 6,000 students in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and put them all completely online in days.

This keeps students on track to graduate on time and prevents gaps in the education they’ll need to be productive 21st century citizens. These are 6,000 potential future employees. At the very least, they’re 6,000 future customers who will be ag ambassadors who can tell friends, families, co-workers, fellow worshippers, and strangers from where their plants, trees and turf come.

Esen Momol and Tom Wichman discounted the price of their green industry best management practices instruction online and via DVDs. You can access the training here or here. They’ve also discounted two one-hour online Florida Friendly Landscaping™ Program classes.

UF/IFAS Miami-Dade Extension commercial horticulture agent Vanessa Campoverde, an active member of FNGLA’s Miami-Dade Chapter, hustled to some in-person activities to serve industry before widespread shutdowns. When infections began to impact air travel, she jumped in the car and drove six hours from Miami to Live Oak for an important training she needed to help Miami-area producers. She also rushed to squeeze in Spanish-language training for workers who needed to keep their pesticide licenses from expiring during a potential shutdown.

Commercial ornamental production Extension agent Shawn Steed didn’t cancel his class to familiarize nursery growers with pesticide regulations. Steed, the FNGLA Tampa Chapter president, held it live on Zoom. It went smoothly, and he even saved a grower from Palm Beach a stay at a Tampa-area hotel he would have incurred to attend the training in person.

It seems like so much has changed in just weeks. Some things don’t change at all, like our commitment to you in the green industry. We’re still working to support your work supplying natural beauty to an anxious world.

Jack Payne is the University of Florida’s senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources and leader of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

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