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Farm Credit’s Ron O’Connor named National Friend of Extension

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015 by tamara

During the recent October 2015 National Epsilon Sigma Phi (ESP) Conference in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho, Florida’s Ron O’Connor was named a National Friend of Extension for Epsilon Sigma Phi. Each year, ESP recognizes up to four volunteers from across the country – business leaders, volunteers or public servants – that go above and beyond in their assistance to Extension professionals. Extension is the National system of delivering research-based programs and information to the people from Land-Grant Universities.

Sumter County Agent Martha Maddox originally nominated Mr. O’Connor for this recognition, which was endorsed by Florida ESP and UF/IFAS Extension. Florida’s Alpha Delta Chapter of ESP, made up of faculty from the University of Florida/IFAS and Florida A&M University, recommended Mr. O’Connor for this national award.

A native Floridian and graduate of the University of Florida, Ron O’Connor is deeply devoted to the Extension family and plays a vital role in supporting the total Extension program. Ron said, “I was honored to receive this award at the National level. I accepted this award on behalf of the three Florida Farm Credit Associations and the hard working, resilient, member-borrowers. They provide me the resources that allow me to work with the wonderful professionals in UF/IFAS Extension at both the state and county levels.”

He began his career with Farm Credit of Central Florida in 1987 as Marketing Manager and was named National Farm Credit Marketer of the Year in 1997. During his tenure at Farm Credit, the association’s marketing and advertising programs have earned four Crystal Biostar Awards, symbolizing the Farm Credit systems best program in that category. He also chairs the statewide marketing committee, which combines resources of all three Florida Farm Credit Associations to achieve maximum exposure for Farm Credit at Florida’s premier agricultural events. He currently serves as Director of Marketing and Governmental Affairs, where he is charged with coordinating advertising and marketing programs to enhance awareness of the Farm Credit Advantage. Additionally, he tracks legislative and regulatory issues affecting the association and communicates with appropriate organizations and individuals on behalf of Farm Credit as directed by their Directors and President.

If there is an UF/IFAS Extension or agriculture event going on in Florida, you will probably see Ron O’Connor there, whether it’s an industry event, Extension, 4-H or FFA, Ron is usually in attendance, and is generally taking pictures to memorialize the event, and which he shares openly.

Ron serves as a Board member and primary photographer for the Florida Ag Hall of Fame, is a member and Past President of The Florida Agriculture Institute, is Past Vice President of the Florida Citrus Showcase and serves on the Florida FFA Foundation board.. Additionally he is a member of the Florida Council of Cooperatives, Florida Citrus Mutual, Florida Cattlemen’s Association, and FNGLA’s Allied Committee, and has received an Honorary FFA Membership and Degree.

Ron has been responsible for providing numerous sponsorships for Extension and 4-H Youth activities throughout his 25 plus years with the Florida Farm Credit System. The sponsorships Ron helps provide through Farm Credit assist in reducing the costs of conducting these educational programs and helps reduce the fees that would otherwise be passed to participating Extension clientele. Through Ron’s efforts, Farm Credit sponsors the annual Florida Association of County Agricultural Agents Young Professional Award, which includes not only a plaque but a monetary award as well; the agent recipients use these funds for local programming or for expanded professional development training. Ron was instrumental in securing a $20,000 sponsorship from the National Farm Credit Council Services for the 2012 NAE4HA conference held in Orlando, which made Farm Credit the biggest sponsor of this conference, and helped reduced the registration cost for Extension agents attending that professional development event.

Ron has served in numerous advisory and support roles for Extension groups and activities over the course of his career with Farm Credit. He serves on local 4-H and Extension Advisory committees, as well as area and state wide committees. He is one of the Stakeholder Advisory and Planning Committee members of the Extension Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises Conference. This is the major state wide annual conference for small and alternative farmers. He has not only secured sponsorship funds for this conference from Farm Credit, but serves in the planning advisory capacity for the conference as well. Ron is one of the Extension supporters we can truly always count on for support whether monetarily, advisory or in lobbying efforts on Extensions behalf.

Epsilon Sigma Phi is professional fraternity of Extension Educators across the US. It leads the Extension System in providing and facilitating professional development that focuses on the Extension organization and the Extension professional.

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