Professor/Farmer Named Director of SWREC

Jim Rogers General

Michael Burton practices what he preaches. That quality makes him an ideal selection for the director of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Southwest Florida Research and Education Center (SWFREC), effective July 1.

Director of SWREC
Michael Burton

Burton spends the academic year teaching and conducting research in agronomy at Missouri State University. In the summer, he runs the family farm just outside Springfield, Missouri.

“On the farm, we grow sweet corn, strawberries and pumpkins among other crops — and it keeps me grounded,” Burton.

J. Scott Angle, UF senior vice president agriculture and natural resources and administrative leader of UF/IFAS, brought up Burton’s farming experience as one of many reasons he appointed Burton.

“Dr. Burton cares about producers because he is one, the leading local producer of sweet corn, strawberries, pumpkins and watermelons to a grocery store in Springfield,” Angle said. “And he espouses a leadership philosophy of encouraging and rewarding faculty for the work that needs to be done to serve stakeholders.”

Burton said he and his family were excited from the start about the possibility of moving to Southwest Florida.

“The passion and commitment of the SWFREC stakeholders, faculty, staff and students was so evident during the time I was in Immokalee — it really galvanized my interest,” he said. “I’m honored to lead this team.”

Burton’s insight with growers may give him an edge with Southwest Florida stakeholders. He knows many issues and opportunities await. Issues include climate change, pests, diseases and natural resource conservation.

Those variables make it a challenge for the region’s farmers to compete in the global marketplace.

“We’re at a key point for international competition,” Burton said. On the plus side, “Florida’s got some terrific options. There are excellent growers.”

That’s a major reason he’ll look significantly to the center’s advisory committee for input on how SWFREC can help them.

“We’ve got a pool of wonderful scientists and students at the center, and I look forward to working with them all.” Burton said.

“Problem-solving is the key,” Burton said. “Florida benefits when we identify and extend solutions to problems our growers face. Removing or minimizing barriers to quality and productivity can reduce costs, keeping our products competitive and affordable.”