TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Wilton Simpson and the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame Foundation announced Eugene McAvoy, John Hoblick, and John Schlechter as the 2024 Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame Inductees. The induction ceremony will be held at the Florida State Fair’s Agricultural Hall of Fame Banquet on February 13, 2024.
“Today, I am proud to announce three new inductees into the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame whose contributions to Florida agriculture leave lasting legacies,” said Commissioner Simpson. “Eugene McAvoy, John Hoblick, and John Schlechter exemplify the resilient, hard-working, and innovative spirit of Florida’s agriculture community, which produces the most affordable, abundant, and nutritious food supply in the world.”
Eugene McAvoy has spent over 50 years supporting and advocating for the agriculture industry in Florida and around the world.
McAvoy was an excellent educator and spokesperson for agriculture during his 25-year career with the UF/IFAS Extension service. He joined the Hendry County Extension Office in 1997 as the Vegetable/Horticulture Agent. In 2004, he broke new ground as one of UF/IFAS’ first Regional Specialized Extension Agents. In this role, McAvoy was responsible for developing and implementing educational programs for vegetable producers in five counties in Southwest Florida.
In 2005, McAvoy also took on the role of County Extension Director for Hendry County. He maintained these dual responsibilities until he retired in 2019. On his retirement, he was granted the title Extension Agent Emeritus by the University of Florida.
Less than a month into his retirement, he was invited to become the Associate Director for Stakeholder Relations at the UF/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center. He served the agricultural community of Southwest Florida in this capacity until July 2022.
McAvoy is well-known for his South Florida Pest and Disease Hotline, which he published biweekly during the vegetable production season until his retirement. The hotline provided growers with up-to-date information on pest and disease occurrence on over 140,000 acres of South Florida vegetables. He also publishes the Pest of the Month Column in Florida Grower magazine, which highlights a different pest or disease affecting Florida vegetable crops.
John Hoblick is a third-generation farmer and owner of Hoblick Greens in DeLeon Springs. He is a proud grower member of FernTrust Co-operative since 1996. As a champion for agriculture, he advocates for the livelihood and profitability of farmers and ranchers statewide. His love for farming led him to become the president of Florida’s largest agricultural organization, representing more than 131,000 member families.
As a leader within the Florida Farm Bureau Federation, Hoblick tirelessly advocated for a wide range of issues, including trade, labor, rural broadband access, animal welfare, farm policies, food safety, energy, environmental regulations, water quality, and water availability. Hoblick recognized the global impact of regulatory decisions on the agricultural sector, and prioritized engagement with policymakers.
During his tenure as president of Florida Farm Bureau, Hoblick helped shape significant state legislation that directly benefited Florida farmers and ranchers. These legislative accomplishments encompassed strengthening the Right to Farm statute, expanding tax exemptions for Florida’s agricultural community, establishing agricultural certifications to prepare students for careers in agriculture and advocating for funding for UF/IFAS and the Fresh from Florida program.
Hoblick’s contributions extended to the national stage, where he served on various boards supporting agriculture, including Southern Farm Bureau Casualty Company Board of Directors, American Farm Bureau Federation Board of Directors, and the USDA Agriculture Trade Advisory Committee. He garnered recognition as the 1998 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Florida Farmer of the Year, graduated from the Wedgworth Leadership Institute for Agriculture, and was bestowed an Honorary State Degree from Florida FFA and Honorary American Degree from National FFA.
After graduating from the University of Florida in 1958, Schlechter began his life-long career as a farmer and bought Everglades Farm Equipment from his father in 1971, making it a fourth-generation business within the Schlechter family. His love and marriage to Eleanor has stood strong for 68 years, along with their four sons, eight grandchildren, and six great grandchildren.
For many years, Schlechter has served on several boards aimed at supporting agriculture, such as the Sugarcane Growers Cooperative board for 10 years, the Pioneer Growers Cooperative board for 35 years, and the Florida Celery Exchange board for 10 years.
Schlechter has dedicated his time to serving his community and making a meaningful difference in the lives around him. He served for 15 years on the Glades Day School board and coached multiple little league teams for 10 years or more. For over 50 years Schlecter has been a deacon at The First Baptist Church of Belle Glade, while serving as a Sunday school teacher and organizing a food pantry to feed the community.
Schlechter’s lifetime of service and hard work has been recognized by many organizations. He was named Ag Man of The Year by the Belle Glade Chamber of Commerce, while he and Eleanor were jointly honored with the Citizen of the Year award by the same organization, as well as the Farmer of The Year award from Western Palm Beach County Farm Bureau. Through his lifetime of service and hard work, Schlechter continues to make a profound impact on agriculture, his loved ones, and his community.
More information on the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame and the banquet can be found at FloridaAgHallofFame.org