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University of Florida

Florida’s agriculture-related employment up 8.7 percent

Topic(s): Agriculture, Economics, Extension, Families and Consumers, Finances, IFAS, Research

Sculptor Steven Siegel, right, and University of Florida art students add plant matter to "Pod," an 18-foot-long sculpture composed of living plants and landscaping debris in the courtyard of UF's Fine Arts Complex. Siegel, internationally known for works composed of post-consumer waste, decided to use plant materials for this sculpture on the advice of a researcher with UF's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. (UF/IFAS photo by Thomas Wright)

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — About 1.52 million people worked full- or part-time in Florida’s agriculture, natural resources and food industries in 2013, an 8.7 percent increase in jobs over 2012, according to a new UF/IFAS economic report.

That figure accounts for 14.3 percent of the state’s workforce, and reflects a 19.7 percent employment increase since 2001, or just under 1 percent annually, according to the report, led by UF/IFAS Extension Scientist Alan Hodges.

“That’s pretty good economic growth in anybody’s book,” said Hodges, a faculty member in food and resource economics.

Agriculture, natural resources and their related industries in the state account for $148.5 billion in sales revenue, the report said. Regional multiplier effects add 633,942 jobs and $83.64 billion to agriculture’s impact on Florida’s economy.

“It’s new money from outside sources that’s circulating in Florida’s economy,” Hodges said. The value-added impacts represent 15.4 percent of the state’s Gross Domestic Product.

(more …)

UF Field and Fork Pantry dedicated; facility will feed campus community members in need


Field to Fork Pantry grand opening ceremony on September 1st, 2015.

Click on image for high-res version. Photo cutline below.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Vowing that hunger should never be a barrier to education, University of Florida officials dedicated the campus’ newest enterprise addressing hunger within the UF community, the Field and Fork Pantry, with a ceremony Sept. 1 that was light-hearted and celebratory yet charged with a sense of urgency and purpose.

“It doesn’t get any better than this, this is a special morning,” President Kent Fuchs said as he addressed the audience of about 150 gathered under a large tent next to the food pantry, located by the Food Science and Human Nutrition building on the central UF campus. “With (the organizers’ shared desire to help the needy) and with your remarkable spirit of optimism and action, I feel that there’s no limit to what we can create together for our campus, our community, our country and, indeed, actually, for the planet.”

The 40-minute event occurred almost four months to the day after the facility’s groundbreaking May 5, and followed a year-long effort by several campus units to establish a campuswide food pantry for students and employees, Fuchs said.

The president credited the project’s success to enthusiastic cooperation among participants that included the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, the Dean of Students Office, the Division of Student Affairs, the Office of the Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, UF Student Government, the College of Engineering, the Office for Student Financial Affairs, Gator Dining Services and Aramark, the UF International Center, members of the University-Wide Pantry Planning Committee, and members of the food pantry’s parent organization, the Field and Fork Campus Food Program. The Bread of the Mighty Food Bank was a significant community partner as well, Fuchs noted.

Next to speak was Jack Payne, UF’s senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources and the top administrator for UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, or UF/IFAS, which provides programmatic and financial support for the project. Payne related how he’d become aware two years ago that food pantries had been established at other universities, and was spurred to request an exploratory survey on hunger at UF. Researchers found that of 1,800 students responding, 10 percent said they had gone hungry at least once during the previous academic year.

Moved by this revelation, Payne began considering how UF/IFAS could help; he then contacted several key campus units and learned that similar plans were being contemplated or developed by other top administrators. Recognizing their common purpose, everyone agreed to collaborate.

Before concluding his remarks, Payne provided a pleasant surprise, an informal announcement that Alan and Cathy Hitchcock, former owners of the Hitchcock’s supermarket chain, had pledged a leadership gift to help support the $290,000 second phase of construction for the food pantry. The food pantry currently occupies a 900-square-foot building that cost $172,000 to renovate and prepare for use; adjacent space for build-out is available. The Hitchcocks will also provide organizers with valuable advice on supermarket design, to help with expansions.

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UF/IFAS expert wins lifetime achievement award for his international work for nonprofits

Topic(s): Announcements, Families and Consumers, Finances, Honors and Appointments, IFAS

Muthusami Kumaran.  Family, Youth, and Community Sciences.

Muthusami Kumaran

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Since 2012, for three summers, UF/IFAS students have travelled to India with Family, Youth and Community Sciences nonprofit management faculty member Muthusami Kumaran to learn about Non-Governmental Organizations (nonprofits) and development.

While there, Kumaran also lends his expertise on strategic planning, fundraising and best management practices to local NGOs.

This year brought an added bonus: Kumaran won the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Sethu Valliammal Educational Trust and the Soka Ikeda College of Arts and Science for Women, for his years of work with nonprofit organizations and NGOs worldwide. The trust, a major NGO itself, operates schools, colleges and vocational training institutions with a focus on providing educational opportunities to underserved students.

“It’s amazingly humbling,” Kumaran said of the award. “I truly consider it an honor to serve NGOs.”

(more …)

UF/IFAS expert urges returning college students to read, know their lease

Topic(s): Economics, Extension, Families and Consumers, Finances, IFAS

Michael S. Gutter, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Family Youth and Community Sciences.  UF/IFAS Photo.

Michael Gutter

For more information, check out this video: http://bit.ly/1STpVY0

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As thousands of college students across America return to school for the fall, a UF/IFAS financial expert has quick, simple advice: Read the apartment lease.

To some, reviewing the lease may seem obvious; to others, it may seem onerous. But it’s time well spent, said Michael Gutter, an associate professor of family financial management and associate dean of Extension at UF/IFAS.

Most students won’t understand the legal language of a lease, but if they read it, they’ll know whether they’re responsible for cleaning the carpet and the kitchen, for example, Gutter said. They’ll also find out major points, including the conditions under which a deposit is refundable.

Also, keep in mind that whoever signs the lease must pay the rent, Gutter said. Sometimes, at least one parent or legal guardian may have to co-sign the lease to ensure the rent is paid. That’s because some college students have little to no credit.

“Like any business owner, landlords want to make sure that they’re going to get paid,” Gutter said. “The co-signer is very much the back-up plan. If the tenant fails to make the payments on time, they may contact the co-signer for payment. There’s a true commitment; it’s not just a moral backing.”

(more …)

UF/IFAS study sheds light on how willing we are to adjust our energy bills

Topic(s): Economics, Environment, Families and Consumers, Finances, Green Living, IFAS, Research, Weather

Energy upgrades 080415

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — All it takes is six questions. You answer those, and University of Florida researchers say contractors will know how willing you are to upgrade your home for energy efficiency and whether you can afford the improvements.

Heating and cooling make up 54 percent of American households’ utility bills, a primary concern for Randy Cantrell, a UF/IFAS assistant professor and Extension specialist in housing and community development. For some people, their monthly energy bill comes as sticker shock. But we all react differently when we open the envelope, and Cantrell calls that response “botheredness.”

Cantrell wanted to know two things: how bothered people are by their energy bill and whether they can afford to do something about it. So he and Brad Sewell, a graduate research assistant, used a web-based survey of about 1,000 American homeowners to divide them into groups based on utility bill botheredness and budgetary constraints for household upgrades.

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UF/IFAS study sheds light on homebuyer types

Topic(s): Economics, Families and Consumers, Finances, IFAS, Research

Cantrell for web 033115

Randy Cantrell

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Some homebuyers want to live near the best schools and shopping. Others favor houses that look gorgeous from the outside. Still others are motivated by the house’s cleanliness. But a University of Florida housing specialist found multiple types of homebuyers and what lured them to buy homes after the housing bust.

That data could help Realtors and people trying to sell their own homes.

While real estate remains largely focused on “location, location, location,” post-housing-bust homebuyers fall into four categories and five sub-categories, said Randy Cantrell, an assistant professor in the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

A few years ago, a South Florida Realtor asked Cantrell what compelled people to buy homes after the most recent real estate boom-turned-to-bust, defined as any time after 2008. Since 2008, potential homebuyers have competed for mortgages typically reserved for those with credit scores of at least 680 – out of a maximum of 850 — and riskier mortgages are no longer available, Cantrell said.

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UF/IFAS implements the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program this tax season

Topic(s): Families and Consumers, Finances, IFAS

A pink piggy bank set atop a pile of money.  Savings, investment, finances, cash, coins, dollars.  2012 UF/IFAS Extension Calendar image by Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Jess Gaylor, a retired Army veteran, saw a sign on his church bulletin board for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program and decided to give the free program a try to file his income taxes.

“It was available when I needed it and the cost was definitely right and it was close to the house,” said Gaylord, who files married with his wife Martha. “I’ve told several people about it.”

UF/IFAS Extension is currently implementing the VITA program in 10 Florida counties to help under-served individuals and those who are at risk for abuse by unscrupulous tax preparers. (more …)

UF/IFAS Extension working to help farmers and ranchers keep it all in the family with AgSave$ Program

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Extension, Families and Consumers, Finances, IFAS


GAINESVILLE, Fla. — For Marianna farmer and rancher Ken Barton, the combination of business and family is more than just a balancing act – it is his livelihood.

Barton is 10 years away from retirement, and concerned about how he will hand over the reins of the family business he established in 1979 to his son and son-in-law.

“I think one of the things that kind of sticks out in my mind – what will I need to do to make sure that when I’m ready to retire – or simply have a smaller share and smaller responsibility – how do I leave that to my children without a huge tax burden on them or me?” Barton asked recently. He owns 260 acres and leases another 1,500 to grow row crops and raise cattle. “That’s my concern  ─ that we can transfer that farm and those assets to the next generation without hidden things – things that we’re not aware of that could cause us the most problems.”

Many Florida farming and ranching families face that same question, and that’s where the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ Extension program, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Florida Department of Financial Services, are stepping up with a new take on the 6-year-old Florida Saves program. It’s called Agriculture Saves ─  or AgSave$ ─ and it is designed to help farmers and ranchers make that transition from one generation to the next. (more …)

New videos from UF/IFAS Communications

Topic(s): Announcements, Finances, Food Safety, Landscaping, Research, Uncategorized

UF/IFAS Communications has a slew of new videos that can be used for Extension or other educational purposes. Here is a roundup:

Vacation on a Budget –  (3:31) A fun family vacation does not have to break the bank – University of Florida/IFAS Financial Expert Dr. Michael Gutter explains how to have fun in the sun without going in the red.

Scallop Harvesting 101 (3:00)  Scallop season is underway in Florida. Betty Staugler with UF/IFAS Sea Grant Extension, has some tips to help get you started.

Operation: Protect Our Pets – When Fleas Attack – (5:11) In this installment, UF/IFAS Entomologist Faith Oi addresses the different stages of the flea life cycle while UF Veterinarian Dunbar Gram demonstrates using a flea comb to look for fleas. (more …)

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