Remarks at Flavors of Florida

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Remarks at Flavors of Florida

Former UF President’s House

Gainesville, FL

March 23, 2015
Welcome, everyone, to the second annual Flavors of Florida.
IFAS and the Plant Innovation Center sponsored tonight’s event to showcase the fruits of our labor. To showcase the vegetables and ornamentals of our labor, too.
We’re doing research that no one else is doing. Tonight is an opportunity for us to give you a glimpse, a taste, and a whiff of how a preeminent university operates.
Thank you all for responding to our invitation to be part of something special. Something that celebrates our ability to improve the human condition.
Something that gives us a chance to change the world together.
Something that says, “We want to be good ancestors.”
Among our guests tonight are President Kent Fuchs and First Lady Linda Fuchs.
They get LOTS of invitations. I know why they accepted this one. We serve the best food!
Seriously, though….. Their presence demonstrates their commitment to the land-grant mission. This is, after all, President Fuchs’s fourth land-grant university. He was born on a farm in Oklahoma and sold mangoes from a roadside stand in Miami. The First Lady comes from a farming family in Norway.
Here at UF, the Fuchses have also inherited a beekeeping operation. While Bernie Machen was at a conference in Washington, Chris and her daughter visited the White House. To their delight, she discovered that Michelle Obama had a hive.
So Chris Machen had a couple of hives put in here at the far edge of the lawn behind you.
You may taste a touch of Florida honey in some of the dishes tonight. IFAS is working hard to make healthier bees and better honey. The Fuchses’ inherited hives will supply the honey for next year’s event.
That’s how things start. With a small number of individuals. Individuals like Dave Clark, Harry Klee and Linda Bartoshuk.
A few years ago, we fought off an attempt to poach Dave. We didn’t do it by fattening his salary. We did it by giving him support for his group – the kind of support that’s only possible because of the people who come to gatherings like this.
We gave Dave’s group support to launch a dream. It started as the Plant Innovation Program with a handful of elite individuals. The program has been run from an office in Fifield with a whole lot of academic commendations and an Elvis on velvet.
They have more National Academy members than staff. They pursue a scientific understanding of what people like and how to deliver it to the world through new plants and foods.
Last week, we achieved a major milestone when we signed the paperwork that officially established the Plant Innovation Center. Dean Burns will give you a couple of details, but the upshot is it gives us the opportunity to continue our journey toward world-changing agricultural innovation.
Dave has about 30 faculty affiliated with the center. And they’ve created some of the best-tasting tomatoes in the world. They’ve also created the Gator Glory coleus we use at graduations and special events to celebrate our excellence. We expect to feature Gator Glories prominently at events that mark our ascension to top-10 status.
The Center is one of those only-at-UF things. The complexity of today’s challenges demands multidisciplinary responses. There are so few places where an agricultural college shares a campus with a medical center, with a business school and with a college of liberal arts. But we’re one.
No one else is doing what we’re doing. You’re all in on the ground floor of something big.
It’s not just the scope of what we do. It’s the mindset. We promote collaboration. We institutionalize it with operations like the Plant Innovation Center.
We have Vice President of Research Dr. David Norton here tonight. He’s our promoter-in-chief of collaboration, and we’ve invited him to say a few words.
[VP Norton speaks.]
Thank you, David.
Next I’d like to introduce the person responsible for overseeing our research operations from Fifield Hall to Homestead. I appointed Dr. Jackie Burns dean of research at IFAS last summer. Just months into the job, she’s already building a legacy with her support of projects like the Plant Innovation Center. Jackie?
[Dean Burns speaks.]
Thank you, Jackie.
And now, the Center mastermind himself. He’ll tell you more about the Center and introduce the first course of tonight’s meal. Dave?
[Clark speaks. Payne returns to lectern after dinner.]
OK, foodies let’s reconvene.
I loved hearing the compliments for the chefs and especially for the UF-developed foods. It’s music to my ears.
But let’s pause for a minute and think about the bigger meaning of tonight. We live on a planet where nearly a billion people go hungry every day. Malnutrition affects half the people on the planet when you consider not just starvation but obesity.
Someone’s got to do something about this. That someone is us – me and you, not just Dave Clark and Kevin Folta.
As you can see, hunger is already outpacing us, and the pressure is about to ratchet up. The projections are for another two and a half billion people on the planet by 2050. That’s on a collision course with subdivisions replacing farms, a shrinking water supply,– and, yeah, I’m going to say it -- climate change.
Innovation is the way to stave off untold human misery.
Why us? Because we’ve got the A-team.
The focus.
The organization that can put the resources to work.
And one of the strongest and most diverse plant breeding programs in the nation. It’s a major contributor to plant breeding worldwide.
We’re so grateful for your show of support tonight for the Plant Innovation Center. No one else is doing what we’re doing. You’re all here at a historic moment where an investment can make a huge impact.
Together we can continue producing new varieties of more beautiful foliage, of fruits and vegetables that are more prolific, tastier and more nutritious.
We want you with us as we make this major leap forward from program to center. And we invite you to become financial partners to ensure our continued success. Ongoing innovation keeps Florida farming in business. Private support is critical to developing and marketing new products.
If you want to help UF/IFAS make a global impact, please introduce yourself to one of our researchers or to one of the development staff here tonight. There’s also gift information in your program and your gift basket. You can also take home the display products and plants, everyone! Thanks again for your consideration.
We’re all here because we’re already true believers. Let’s go from belief to action. Let’s all be good ancestors.
Good night, everyone, and thanks for coming.

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