New UF / IFAS extension office facilitates agricultural research in Newberry

Newberry’s agricultural history began with watermelon. The new UF / IFAS and Alachua County Extension Office continues to celebrate its agricultural heritage and its fondness for summer fruits.

On November 30, UF / IFAS cut the ribbon at 22712 W. Newberry Road. The office is a modern take on the old campus, said Joy Glanzer, who previously served as Newberry Town Commissioner in the Planning Zone.

The UF / IFAS extension office contains new additions such as a kitchen, laboratory and 300-seat auditorium, according to the Alachua County Facebook page.

The kitchen has previously been used to host cooking classes, Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe said. Ultimately, the updated auditorium will be used to host the two to three international conferences that IFAS typically holds each year.

The new office will also have an extension officer on site to answer questions about farming or ranching, Marlowe said.

Originally a mining town, the town made a living from phosphate, Marlowe said. After World War I, Newberry could no longer sell the equipment. A new solution had to be found.

The city found its land to be perfect for growing watermelon and tobacco.

“Newberry was struggling to find an industry and we found it in watermelon,” Marlowe said.

This love for watermelon continued. To date, Newberry has the longest watermelon festival in the United States, Marlowe said.

“When we say Newberry is a farming town, it’s not just because we’ve been farming, it’s because we’ve done it right,” said Marlowe.

From conception to cutting the ribbon, the project took about two to three years.

Most of the planning took place between Alachua County and UF / IFAS.

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“The town of Newberry was involved in things like utilities, sewage, sewage, water, electricity, that sort of thing,” Marlowe said.

Marlowe says Newberry contributed $ 1 million to the Alachua County Equestrian Center and $ 300,000 to purchase the land on which IFAS was located, bringing the city’s total financial contribution to around 1.3 million. of dollars.

“We think we’re right at the epicenter of an area that’s ready for agricultural research,” Marlowe said.

There are three international airports located within two hours of Newberry. Next to the extension office is the Alachua County Fairgrounds and Newberry’s plans for an agricultural technology research park.

It takes a few more years before the agricultural technology park project next door can become a reality. However, Glanzer, 66, says the park will bring attention to Newberry and introduce development farming businesses to the area.

“It’s just a beautiful wedding [between the new office and the Agricultural Technology Research Park]”said Glanzer.

She said the extension office was needed because the old campus was so run down.

“They just needed to modernize their space and make it a viable place for people to come to learn, train and experience all things agriculture,” Glanzer said.

She hopes the new office will attract more agricultural professionals to the community.

“Anything that can count for a small community really helps showcase who we are and what we do here,” said Glanzer.

Contact Allyssa Keller at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @allygatorkeller.

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