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.