A longtime champion and tireless supporter of Florida agriculture, Dr. John T. Woeste is a retired dean and professor emeritus of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).
Raised on a dairy farm in Kentucky, Dr. Woeste earned a bachelor’s in dairy science from the University of Kentucky, and his master’s in extension administration and doctorate from the University of Wisconsin. After several years in leadership roles with extension services in both Kentucky and Wisconsin, Dr. Woeste was appointed in 1976 as the dean and director of the Extension Service at UF/IFAS, a role he held until he retired 19 years later. With visionary leadership and an innovative approach, Dr. Woeste championed the selection, professional growth and development of 400 Extension Service faculty, specialists, agents and staff who served the entire state of Florida.
A former captain in the U.S. Air Force, examples of his leadership are numerous. During his tenure, he revived the agricultural law program at UF, adding funding and organizational guidance for the program. That work earned him the U.S. Department of Agriculture Unit Award for Distinguished Service in 1987. Courses in agricultural law are now taught in the UF Levin College of Law. He encouraged the development of a national agricultural weather working group, which he chaired, and the Florida Automated Weather Network (FAWN), a program still used extensively by the industry during the winter months to this day. He also encouraged and supported focused programs by multi-county agent teams, several of which received national recognition for extension program effectiveness.
Throughout his career and upon his retirement, his commitment to the development of future leaders in the agricultural industry carried through. During his time as dean, he was greatly involved in developing the Florida Agriculture in the Classroom program. Since his retirement, Dr. Woeste has served as a member of the board of the Florida Rural Rehabilitation Corporation (FRRC) and has been president since 2001. Citing a need to support students from rural areas and farms who wanted a college education in agriculture, the FRRC established its first scholarship with CALS in 1985. These scholarship funds have supported hundreds of students over the years.
Dr. Woeste contributed further through his service to the Alpha Gamma Rho (AGR) fraternity, serving as the faculty advisor for the UF chapter while dean. He also served as chair of the AGR Alumni Educational Foundation for 22 of his 24 years on the board.
He has been frequently recognized for his outstanding leadership. Additional honors and recognitions include the National FFA Award for Support of Vocational Agricultural Programs, UF/IFAS with the CALS Alumni and Friends Award of Distinction, and induction into the Florida 4-H Hall of Fame, after spending nearly 50 years of his life involved in the 4-H program from participant to volunteer to administrator.
Now, Dr. Woeste’s induction comes full circle as he served as the master of ceremonies in 2008 and several of the agents he selected and developed during his tenure have been inducted into the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame.