Florida Extension Agents Recognize FWA’s Laura Land with Outstanding Agriculturalist Award
Laura L. Land
Research Committee Chair, Florida Watermelon Association
Jody Land Farms
304 SW Suwannee Ave.
Branford, FL 32008
The UF/IFAS Florida Extension Agents belong to their professional association known as the Florida Association of County Agricultural Agents (FACAA). This association has nearly 200 Extension Agents from across Florida. Each year, the association recognizes individuals who go above and beyond to help Extension agents in their local, regional, and statewide educational programs. One of the 2023 recipients of this prestigious award, The Outstanding Agriculturalist Award, is the Florida Watermelon Association’s very own, Laura Land of Branford, FL. She was nominated by Lafayette County Extension Agent, Emily Beach and NFREC- Suwannee Valley, Regional Extension Agent, Bob Hochmuth. Laura is well known as a strong leader in the Florida watermelon industry and nationally. In their nomination, Hochmuth tells of a story that exemplifies Laura’s special vision and her help to Extension. Before her election to the FWA Board about ten years ago, there was little to no educational program, IFAS booth, nor Extension attendees at the Annual Florida Watermelon Convention. Her vision was to start small and grow this relationship each year until she would become President, and in that year, her vision was to have a full 2-hour educational session co-organized with Extension Agents. Her vision became a reality and several FACAA members have presented at this session since its inception 5 years ago. Laura also has been a great supporter and promoter of the Suwannee Valley Watermelon Institute and helped Extension Agents start that event with humble beginnings in her hometown of Branford. Laura writes and endorses several support letters each year on behalf of FWA for UF/IFAS Research and Extension faculty for grants, totaling $1.8 million over 18 grants in 2022, including several FACAA members as PIs or Co-PIs.
Laura was raised in Suwannee County and still resides in the area along the Suwannee River managing the family farm with her husband, Jody Land. She is the Past President of Florida Watermelon Association and held all BOD positions in the officer rotation. She currently serves as the FWA Research Committee Chair maintaining a strong link to UF/IFAS. Other well-deserved recognition includes Florida Farm Bureau’s CARES Environmental Stewardship recognition, 2019 Outstanding Service Award for FWA, and 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award for FWA.
In addition to helping start the “Grower’s Educational Session at the Annual FWA Convention, she was inspiring and encouraging to a small group of Extension Agents in the Suwannee Valley to start an annual meeting for local growers, now known as the Suwannee Valley Watermelon Institute, which has become the largest single grower-attended watermelon meeting in Florida. When a group of nine Extension agents had a great idea but needed funding support for printing the Florida Watermelon Field Guide, it again was Laura who helped make it happen. She and her husband, Jody have attended, supported, and promoted many Extension events, field days, field trials, and Institutes during her career and has guided Extension Agents on Food Safety program needs for growers and promoted FSMA and other food safety trainings. She has also served as an advisory committee member to both NFREC-Suwannee Valley and Suwannee County Extension, and as a member of UF/IFAS Extension Roadmap Committee.So, it is with great pleasure FACAA was able to recognize Laura Land as the FACAA Outstanding Agriculturalist in 2023 in Daytona Beach at the Extension Professionals Association of Florida Conference on August 29th.