GAINESVILLE — In an old black-and-white photo, University of Florida scientist Herman Wedgworth stands on a lawn in Belle Glade, Florida, giving a seminar to a group of bean growers. Sprawled on the grass next to him is Wedgworth’s then-4-year-old son, George, listening to his father speak.
That photo says a lot about the legacy of the Wedgworth family in Florida agriculture and its longstanding partnership with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, said Dennis Wedgworth, George’s son and president of Wedgworth Farms.
“My dad had always been highly supportive of UF/IFAS, and I think that goes back to living on the research center campus when he was a kid,” said Wedgworth. “Having grown up in a community of scientists and researchers, he understood the importance of getting the facts correct. To do that, you have to have a strong partnership with the research and science community, and that was UF/IFAS.”
At the Sept. 29 UF/IFAS Dinner of Distinction, George Wedgworth, was posthumously recognized as a UF/IFAS Champion for his life-long support of its mission to further science and education.
During his career, George Wedgworth made a lasting impact on UF/IFAS through endowments to the UF/IFAS Everglades Research and Education Center in Belle Glade, and the UF/IFAS Wedgworth Leadership Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources.
“When Wedgworth Farms decided to make a major gift to the Everglades center, most of that support went to fund graduate student assistantships, visiting scientists and new equipment needed to keep the facility current,” said Van Waddill, former director of EREC, and professor emeritus of entomology and nematology. “The gift will help solve problems for the community in perpetuity, and to me that is the real legacy of the gift.”
The goal of the UF/IFAS Wedgworth Leadership Institute is to produce future leaders in agriculture and natural resources, said Hannah Carter, director of the institute and associate professor of agricultural education and communication at UF.
“Back when Mr. Wedgworth endowed the institute, in the agriculture industry, it was unheard of to invest in people. Mr. Wedgworth was one of the first adopters of this idea,” Carter said. “Mr. Wedgworth’s word carried a lot of weight around the state and in the industry, and I think many others have followed his lead.”
The Wedgworth family was honored to have the program named after them, Dennis Wedgworth said.
“I think we’ve been successful over the years because we’ve had strong leaders like my father, and I think that he epitomizes leadership in agriculture,” he said. “He was a leader’s leader, and he touched every part of agriculture in Florida over his 50-year career.”