Dr. W. Bernard Lester was born in Havana, Florida, and grew up on a “shadeback farm” that produced the tobacco plants that provided the outer wrappers for cigars. Lester was involved in Havana High School’s Future Farmers of America, earned an Eagle Scout designation and received the Service Award from the American Legion.
Following his service in the Army Reserve program, Lester attended the University of Florida where he majored in agriculture economics and poultry sciences. Lester received his master’s degree in agricultural economics in 1962 and received his Ph.D. in agricultural economics from Texas A&M University in 1965.
Lester returned to Havana, Florida, and began his career as a research economist with the Florida Department of Citrus. Lester was named Economic Research Director for the Florida Department of Citrus in 1969, where he was responsible for administering and conducting all economic research activities for Florida citrus products, and was promoted to deputy executive director then executive director in 1979.
In 1986, Lester took a position with the Alico Inc. board of directors until 2005. During this time, he joined the Gulf Citrus Growers’ Association and was actively involved in all aspects of the association’s mission. He also served on the board for Orange-Co Inc., Agri-Insurance Company, International Fruit Inc., Florida Fresh-Pak, Saddlebag Lake Resorts, and the Sugarland Harvesting Co.
Lester provided leadership to Florida agriculture and landowners through his 20-year service with the Florida Land Council and has served in various capacities in numerous educational and service organizations, including: serving as a trustee for Florida Gulf Coast University and acting as a member on Florida Southern College’s Citrus Archives Advisory Committee, in Future Business Leaders of America and many more.