It was a moment of true awe in this year’s Florida Ag Hall of Fame dinner. It was in the video tribute to inductee Harold Mikell, a 1950 graduate of what was then called the UF School of Forestry.
Mikell caresses the trunk of a tree and tilts his head back 90 degrees to look skyward at the bough. It’s a tree that started as a sapling he put in the ground as an FFA student – 73 years ago.
Mikell’s face shows the effort of a man trying to take in the majesty of his own creation. Mikell went on to a career as director of the Florida Forest Service, during which he was responsible for planting 5 billion more trees.
We in the agriculture and natural resources field are in an enterprise for the long haul. We do so much for the health of pines that stand for decades. We provide food that feeds generations. We make it more likely that our grandchildren will see panthers, manatees, and snail kites.
We all spend time and energy chasing quick wins. That’s not wasted effort. Incremental gains contribute to progress.
What Mikell’s experience reminds us, though, is that a seed we plant today can bear fruit – or wood -- generations later.
The induction into the Hall of Fame of Lowell Loadholtz spoke to me, too. In fact, he spoke to me even more directly, peppering his acceptance speech with “You hear that, Dr. Jack?” as he talked about a 33-year career as an Extension agent.
Martha Roberts was recognized just the day before as the FDACS woman of the year in agriculture. She had two careers, one in FDACS and a second in IFAS, from which she (sort of) retired last year. She’s an Ag Hall of Famer herself. Her outstanding service opened more doors of opportunity for all women to become leaders in agriculture.
Acknowledging our predecessors deepens our appreciation of their continuing impact. I was already reminded of Mikell every time I visited the Stern Learning Center in our Austin Cary Forest, where Mikell and his late wife Juanita have their names on the library.
Mikell, Loadholtz, and Roberts inspire us because we share their dedication to stewardship of the planet as servants of agriculture and natural resources. We may not all make the Hall of Fame, but our collective efforts will benefit people many years from now.