Two people who had major impacts on Florida citrus, Bobby McKown and John Stitt, are among four who will be inducted into the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2021. They will be inducted at the Florida State Fair’s Agricultural Hall of Fame Banquet on Feb. 16.
McKown spent his career championing and defending Florida agriculture and the Florida citrus industry’s health and well-being. Taking the helm of the state’s largest citrus growers association as executive vice president/CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual, McKown led Florida’s citrus industry through a critical period.
Over the course of his career, McKown earned a reputation as an expert in international trade negotiations and was appointed by five presidential administrations to every trade committee, task force and advisory position of any influence. He participated in developing four different trade agreements, including the North American Free Trade Agreement and the General Agreement for Tariff and Trade. He not only protected Florida citrus growers from unfair trade practices, but he also worked to gain the best results for the state’s agriculture industry.
Stitt realized early in his career that the agricultural ecosystem in Southwest Florida was vastly different from that in Central Florida and the region around Lake Okeechobee. He saw a great need for research in beef cattle pastures, citrus, and sandland sugarcane production. His vision led to the development of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Southwest Florida Research and Education Center (SWFREC) in Immokalee. Today, the center provides cutting-edge research for citrus, vegetables, water quality, soil science and weed science.
In addition to serving on numerous advisory committees to the Immokalee center, Stitt has been extensively involved in industry organizations, including the Florida Cattlemen’s Association and Florida Farm Bureau. Stitt led the charge to establish the South Florida Agricultural Council, and with the cooperation of the legislative delegation, the council secured $2.39 million in funding for SWFREC’s construction. In 1988, the board of regents, UF/IFAS leadership and the council developed a five-year plan to complete the staff funding. The result was the opening of a fully funded research center staffed with a director and 12 researchers.
Reggie Brown and Wayne Smith will be inducted along with McKown and Stitt.
Brown was executive vice president of the Florida Tomato Exchange while also leading the Florida Tomato Committee and the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange.
Smith was a professor, director and professor emeritus at the University of Florida. In retirement, he served as interim dean for UF/IFAS Research and the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.
Source: The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame Foundation
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