There is a new leader for nearly 650 extension workers and specialists working in every county in Florida to help growers stay profitable and to help all Floridians lead better lives. Dr. Andra Johnson begins as Dean of the UF / IFAS Extension and Director of the Florida Co-operative Extension Service on November 1.
Here’s why I picked Johnson out of six highly qualified finalists who were interviewed in two rounds of research:
It is an aggie. Johnson is committed to staying focused on production agriculture. The vision he presented for modernizing extension includes an expansion of services to productive agriculture.
Johnson grew up in rural Louisiana in a family that raised cattle, cotton, corn, and wheat. Her aunt served over 30 years with the USDA. He previously worked at three land grant universities and obtained three land grant university degrees.
Florida farm leaders backed his candidacy. Whatever you grow, your producer association was probably represented on the search committee or at candidate stakeholder interviews.
He wants your agent to remain your agent. We are losing too many agents too early in their careers. Sometimes you hire them, and that’s okay. But Johnson has a vision to remove the attrition factors created by universities. He plans to step up support so that agents aren’t bogged down with administrative tasks instead of the programming they prefer to do.
He will advocate for higher salaries in order to retain the best performing agents. And it will work to improve the promotion process which ultimately gives an agent the freedom to determine, together with stakeholders, how best to serve the local community as well as job security to build lasting relationships.
He’s a triple threat. In addition to his experience in extension administration, he has taught extensively and has a record of securing research funding. He also skillfully integrated the three main areas of the land grant mission, using agricultural extension courses, for example, as a training ground for future agents.
Johnson will be his own man. One of my few instructions for him will be to get out of the office and visit you. As of this writing, I have visited 47 of our 67 extension offices. I want Johnson to tackle them all before I do and visit stakeholders like you while he’s at it. Please invite him to your farms as well.
Johnson has established himself as a national leader who represents the future of Extension. At UF / IFAS, our mission is to bring you into the future first, ahead of your national and global competitors.
What you need to know about the new leader of the UF / IFAS extension