Commissioner Nikki Fried Announces 2020 Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame Honorees
Robert “Robbie” Roberson has owned and managed successful nursery operations for the ornamental plant industry for more than 40 years. His contributions to the agricultural industry go far beyond his own enterprises, however.
Roberson was a founding member of the Florida Foliage Association, serving as its Foundation’s president for three years. When the organization assimilated into what is now known as the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association (FNGLA) in 1993, he became an active member of FNGLA’s local Action Chapter. He received its most prestigious honor, the Gene Batson Award, and was later inducted into the FNGLA Hall of Fame.
Roberson is well known for his advocacy work for the agricultural industry on local, state and national levels. For example, he played a pivotal role in the creation of the UF/IFAS Mid-Florida Research and Education Center (MREC) in Apopka, including leading efforts to secure more than $14 million in funding for the consolidation of research centers throughout the region into one state of the art facility. He continues his involvement with the MREC Advisory Committee, previously having served as its chair.
Roberson has also served on the national Council for Agriculture, Research, Extension and Training, including two years as the chair of its Southern Region; as a longtime member and past president of the Florida Agriculture Council; as the agricultural representative on the Orange County Planning and Zoning Board; and as the chair of the Orange County Commission’s Agricultural Advisory Committee. Additionally, he has held leadership positions on the boards of the Orange County Farm Bureau and Fam Credit of Central Florida. He continues to serve on the FNGLA Political Action Committee.
Roberson was a founding chair of the Apopka Foliage Festival and is engaged in several other community efforts as well.
John L. Jackson’s professional career spanned more than five decades serving Florida’s agricultural industry, including 38 years as a county extension agent for the University of Florida’s Institute of Food & Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) in Central Florida.
Jackson founded two weather alert systems to inform producers of the latest forecasts and assist them with protection efforts during freeze and other weather events. He created Weather Watch in 1969, originally in Lake and Orange Counties; the program has since expanded throughout the peninsula. The Florida Automated Weather Network (FAWN) was born in 1996 when Jackson saw the National Weather Service’s discontinuance of its agricultural weather forecasts as an opportunity to establish a state-wide weather information service for the agricultural community. After he convinced the state’s Ag Weather Task Force to establish FAWN, he helped install the first 12 sites himself. He later developed a FAWN Cold Protection Tool Kit to aid producers during freezes.
Jackson was also instrumental in encouraging citrus producers to use reclaimed water for irrigation and establishing the Mid Florida Citrus Foundation (MFCF) as the research arm of the effort. He served as the MFCF manager for more than 20 years.
Jackson is the only extension agent in Florida ever to have been recognized twice with the United States Department of Agriculture’s distinguished Award of Superior Service: one for his work with reclaimed water, the other for his work with FAWN.
Some of Jackson’s other noteworthy accomplishments include the establishment of an annual equipment operator’s school, now known as Farm Safety Day; the Central Florida 4-H Citrus Project, which over a 20-year period engaged more than two thousand middle and high school students in agriculture; successful revitalization of the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame; and other innovations such as the initiation of grower meetings for citrus producers and the promotion of integrating technology into agricultural operations.
Hugh Fred Dietrich III has been actively engaged in Florida’s agricultural industry in a variety of capacities throughout his life: a lifelong cattle rancher, an agricultural educator and an auctioneer.
The family-owned Flying D Ranch is known for its champion cattle, herd management and land stewardship. Dietrich showed Registered Polled Santa Gertrudis cattle for the first time as a 4-H club member at the age of 12. He continues to do so 60 years later. He was a pioneer in the use of artificial insemination for herd management. The ranch’s management plan promotes soil, water, wildlife and forest conservation.
Thirty years as a Vocational Agriculture/Animal Science instructor in Orange County, FL, provided a multitude of opportunities to influence multiple generations and to help students achieve significant milestones of their own. Dietrich has been instrumental in serving as a mentor to numerous former students and colleagues in the agricultural education profession.
Dietrich has also served as an award-winning auctioneer/ring man at thousands of auctions, including youth livestock events. He has judged livestock shows such as the North American International in Louisville, KY; the Fort Worth Stock Show and state, regional and county fairs across the Southeast.
Dietrich has a long history of leadership and service in agricultural organizations. He has been active in the Orange County Cattlemen’s Association as a past president and longtime board member. He also served as a director with the Florida Cattlemen’s Association, receiving their Rancher Leadership Award and being honored as an Honorary State Director for a lifetime of service to the organization. He is also a past president and longtime board member of the Orange County Farm Bureau.
Dietrich has previously been inducted into the Santa Gertrudis Breeders International Hall of Fame, the Florida 4-H Hall of Fame, the Florida FFA Hall of Fame and the Florida Auctioneer Hall of Fame. He has also received the National Agricultural Education Association’s Outstanding Educator Award as well as its Lifetime Achievement Award.