Oct 5, 2023Newest Florida Ag Hall of Fame inductees announced
Three Florida agricultural industry leaders are the newest additions to the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame.
Eugene “Gene” McAvoy, a longtime southwest Florida regional vegetable and horticultural extension agent, John Hoblick, a retired longtime president of Florida Farm Bureau, and John Schlechter, a grower and equipment company owner, are scheduled to be the 2024 class inductees.
McAvoy, University of Florida (UF) Extension agent emeritus, was a longtime regional vegetable and horticultural extension agent and, until 2022, was associate director for stakeholder relations for the UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) Southwest Florida Research and Education Center (SWFREC) in Immokalee, Florida.
McAvoy, who retired in 2019, is president of Have Gun Will Travel Agricultural Consulting in LaBelle, Florida. He works with the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, the Florida Farm Bureau, the Southwest Florida County Vegetable Advisory Committee, as well as USDA NRCS and USDA ARS to enhance the image and promote the mission of UF/IFAS SWFREC to educate the general public and policymakers about the importance of agricultural.
McAvoy spent more than 50 years supporting and advocating for the agriculture industry in Florida and around the world, according to a news release. In 1997, he joined the Hendry County Extension office as 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 southwest Florida counties.
“McAvoy was an excellent educator and spokesperson for agriculture during his 25 year career with the UF/IFAS Extension service,” according to the release.
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 updated information on pest and disease occurrence on 140,000 vegetable acres.
The longtime Florida Farm Bureau president and CEO, Hoblick, a third generation fern farmer, headed the farm bureau for 15 years. He is owner of Hoblick Greens in DeLeon Springs, Florida, and was noted for helping shape significant state legislation that directly benefited Florida growers.
“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,” according to the release. “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.”
After graduating from UF 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. Schlechter served on several boards aimed at supporting agriculture, including Pioneer Growers Cooperative for 35 years and the Florida Celery Exchange board.
The induction ceremony is scheduled for Feb. 13 at the Florida State Fair’s Agricultural Hall of Fame Banquet in Tampa, Florida.