Ajia Paolillo recently succeeded Steve Futch as the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) citrus Extension agent for DeSoto, Hardee and Manatee counties. COVID-19 social distancing measures have been keeping her out of the field. But she emphasizes that she is “still working and definitely available to help with any problems (growers) have, any questions, any issues that they’re facing.”
Although she didn’t grow up in agriculture, Paolillo says, “I have always loved agriculture ever since I was a little girl.” She was in FFA in high school and participated in citrus judging. “I just really fell in love with citrus,” she says. She visited Florida Southern College, which she wound up attending. “When I saw that I could get a degree in citrus, I was just ecstatic,” she says.
Paolillo spent much time in her early years at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred. She worked there as a summer intern while in college and later held full-time positions there.
Other current and former citrus Extension agents have had an impact on her, Paolillo says. While at Florida Southern College, she met her Extension predecessor Futch and studied under Tim Hurner, a former citrus Extension agent. She says she has watched how fellow citrus Extension agents Laurie Hurner and Chris Oswalt interact with their growers. She has learned how Extension agents give growers what they need “and how we really are the bridge from scientific research and bringing it to a practical application in the field.”
“My focus right now is going to be on what the growers need from me and growing my program around that,” Paolillo says.
This interview with Paolillo is featured in the April All In For Citrus podcast, a joint project of UF/IFAS and AgNet Media. Listen to the full podcast here.
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