John Stitt realized early in his career that the agricultural ecosystem in Southwest Florida was vastly different from that in Central Florida and the region around Lake Okeechobee. He saw a great need for research in beef cattle pastures, citrus, and sandland sugarcane production and, through his vision, led to the development of the UF/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee. Today, the center provides cutting-edge research for citrus, vegetables, water quality, soil science, and weed science.
In addition to serving on numerous advisory committees to the Immokalee center, Stitt has been extensively involved in industry organizations, including the Florida Cattlemen’s Association and Florida Farm Bureau. Stitt led the charge to establish the South Florida Agricultural Council, and with the cooperation of the legislative delegation, the council secured $2.39 million in funding for construction. In 1988, the Board of Regents, the UF/IFAS leadership, and the council developed a five-year plan to complete the staff funding. The result was the opening of a fully-funded research center staffed with a director and 12 researchers.