UF/IFAS Honors Florida Blueberry Pioneer

Alto Straughn_portrait

Alto Straughn, a progressive farmer (Straughn Farms, Waldo, FL) and longtime leader among Florida Extension agents and educators was honored Jan. 12 when University of Florida officials opened a new building that bears his name.

About 200 people gathered midday to dedicate the Straughn Extension Professional Development Center.

Addressing the group, UF President Bernie Machen noted Straughn’s farming efforts, in which he worked closely with IFAS researchers to establish North Florida as a national leader in blueberry production. The crop now generates more than $65 million per year. “A thriving blueberry crop is new to the Sunshine State,” Machen said. “But the mutually beneficial relationship between IFAS extension agents and Florida growers, ranchers and farmers is long and enduring.”

Straughn is known as one of the state’s most progressive watermelon farmers and most notably his work with Southern Highbush blueberries.

A former county Extension agent and state extension specialist, his philanthropy has often focused on helping Extension agents take scientific knowledge gained from university research and get it to agricultural producers and consumers.

He has provided financial support for graduate students in UF’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and created endowment funds for extension and 4-H extension faculty.

The Straughn Extension Professional Development Center will be used for professional development and training activities for Extension faculty from UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

The $4 million, 19,760-square-foot building was built with funds from several sources, including private donors such as Straughn and his wife Patrecia. The couple’s gift qualifies for state matching funds.

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