UF/CALS Student Named Prestigious 2017 “Cultivator”

Dan Education, Florida, Industry News Release


Crystal Conner with Jack Payne

A University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) student who studies improvements to production and quality of grapes has been named UF’s second Cultivator at the 2017 Farm Foundation Round Table.

Crystal Conner, a plant science major, was one of six college students across the nation recognized as rising leaders in agriculture. The students shared their research during the conference hosted the week of Jan. 4 in Irvine, California.

“It was such an honor to first be selected by CALS Dean Elaine Turner, and then to secondly be chosen by the Farm Foundation Round Table to present my research,” Conner said. “I began this project because I wanted to learn more about tissue culture and its future possibilities. I never imagined that others would gravitate toward the possibilities of its impact at such a fast rate.”

Through her research, Conner plans to advocate for utilizing tissue culture in plant breeding as a means of enhancing food production to address global food security.

“Crystal exemplifies high-achieving CALS students. Her grades and her resume alone make her a stellar representative for UF,” said Jack Payne, senior vice president of agriculture and natural resources at UF and leader of its Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), and a Round Table member. “But it’s Crystal’s character that has really shown through in her studies. She’s idealistic, curious, resilient, passionate about science, and purpose-driven in her research and learning. CALS offers world-class teaching, undergraduate research opportunities and financial support to help students such as Crystal achieve their potential.

Martha Roberts, a retired special assistant of government affairs with UF/IFAS, said she appreciates that the Farm Foundation has recognized the appropriateness of investing in the formation of agriculture leaders. She served as Conner’s mentor during the conference. Roberts hopes to continue supporting Conner in the desire to continue her education through a Ph.D. in environmental horticulture.

“It’s important to foster leadership in the next generation and showcase our best students,” Roberts said. “Florida lost one of our great patriarchs of Florida agriculture, William D. “Billy” Long. As tribute to him, we started raising funds to help with the attendance and travel of future UF/CALS Cultivators. At this year’s conference silent auction, we raised $50,000 to ensure we can move forward with that program.”

The Farm Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit focused on economic and policy issues impacting agriculture, the food system and rural regions, according to its website. The Round Table conference brings together agricultural leaders semi-annually for discussion of these topics. The Cultivator Program began in 2013 as a link for students to enter the work force by connecting with national leaders in agriculture and learning about industry professions.