When growers in Central Florida need help with an alternative crop to citrus, they turn to Juanita Popenoe. The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Extension agent spends her days helping farmers who are looking for options to diversify their groves impacted by citrus greening disease.
“Since citrus greening has hit the industry so hard, citrus growers are looking for alternative crops. As an Extension agent, I am here to provide educational programs and consulting for the fruit industry based on UF/IFAS research,” Popenoe said.
The biggest part of her job is providing programming that helps growers succeed. “These are new crops for this area, and people are still learning how to grow them. So, there is a lot of consulting as well as educational programming needed,” she said.
Popenoe starts a typical day by reading existing and new research on fruit production. “Whether it’s old or new research, or a grower story, I am constantly learning new things about fruit production,” she said. “I get asked about some weird fruit sometimes and have to dig a bit to find out about growing it. There is always new research being reported.”
Popenoe, a commercial fruit production expert, covers Lake, Orange and Marion counties. Her reach is far and wide, as she delves into cover crops, too.
Recently, a grower suffered catastrophic losses due to citrus greening. “He brought his grove back from near death through intensive cover cropping,” Popenoe said. “It is one area that is just becoming the focus of research, and I hope to help out by offering field days to growers so they can see how it works.”
According to Popenoe, the best part of her job is helping growers make connections. “I love it when I am able to make a connection for people that will help them with their business,” she said. “I really enjoy helping people succeed at fruit production.”
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