GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Raised on a family farm in Orange Heights, Florida, Reggie Brown recalls taking his chickens to the Gainesville town square for a 4-H contest when he was about 9 or 10.
“I won the blue ribbon. I was real proud,” Brown said.
As a child, Brown immersed himself in such Florida 4-H projects. For another project, he helped set up a roadside market to sell fruits and vegetables from the family farm. His brother and sister-in-law now operate the roadside market, in business for more than 50 years.
Brown eventually worked for the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension for about 15 years. He also led or worked with grower groups. Additionally, Brown has served on numerous committees to help farmers and to assist UF/IFAS in advancing its teaching, research and Extension goals. He was inducted into the Florida 4-H Hall of Fame in 2002.
For his dedicated service to Florida agriculture and commitment to the land-grant mission, UF/IFAS recently recognized Brown as the 2018 Friend of UF/IFAS.
“I was surprised and quite shocked,” Brown said of the honor, which was given to him in October at the UF/IFAS Dinner of Distinction. “I was very honored to be included. It’s one of the most significant honors I’ve received.”
“I have great respect for what UF/IFAS does,” he said. “I have many close friends who have worked within that system and around that system. Having been singled out was a significant honor to me, personally.”
In addition to growing up in Florida 4-H – which is part of UF/IFAS Extension — Brown earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. Between getting his college degrees, Brown spent two years in the military and later married his wife, Lanita.
Brown began his career teaching horticulture in North Carolina. He returned to Florida as a UF/IFAS multi-county Extension agent for vegetable crops and horticulture, and later served as a vegetable crops agent and director of UF/IFAS Extension Collier County.
In 1989, Brown joined the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, handling marketing and membership. Ten years later, he was hired as executive vice president of the Florida Tomato Exchange and manager of the Florida Tomato Committee, retiring in January 2018.
Brown worked tirelessly throughout the Tomato Suspension Agreement and in the establishment of the NAFTA-based Dispute Resolution Corporation. In 2008, the United Fresh Produce Association recognized Brown for his work toward improved food safety in fresh produce nationwide. He continues to serve on the USDA/U.S. Trade Representative Agricultural Advisory Committee for Horticultural Crops.
Brown has served UF/IFAS in many roles – founding member and past president of the UF/IFAS CALS Alumni and Friends Board, from which he received the 2001 CALS Award of Distinction; member and past chairman of both the UF/IFAS SHARE Council and UF’s Leadership and Education Foundation; and advisory board member and inaugural class alumnus of the Wedgworth Leadership Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources.
“Philosophically, I believe in paying it back or paying it forward,” Brown said of his continued involvement in UF/IFAS. “Whether it’s teaching, Extension or research, the overall contribution of UF/IFAS motivates me to do anything.”
“UF/IFAS provides the opportunity to advance people, whether it’s through 4-H or leadership,” Brown said. “It’s also the cornerstone to advance food and fiber. The system is the envy of the world.”
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