McAvoy poised to lead ag agents’ national group

Donna and Gene McAvoy at the recent NACAA annual meeting. (Special to the Caloosa Belle)

Gene McAvoy, the University of Florida/IFAS Hendry County Extension director, is looking forward to his new role as president-elect of the National Association of County Agricultural Agents (NACAA), for which he was chosen at its recent annual meeting and professional improvement conference in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Mr. McAvoy served as vice president from 2017 to this year, and he will become president in 2019, concluding his term presiding over the NACAA annual meeting and professional improvement conference in Virginia Beach, Va., in July 2020. He was nominated by members of the Florida county agents’ group to preside over the 3,200-plus-member national association. He has a long history of involvement at the state, regional and national levels, serving as southern regional director from 2012 to ’14 and regional vice-director for two years before that. He was president of the Florida association in 2004.

Mr. McAvoy said he was humbled and honored by the confidence his fellow county agents showed in him by picking him for the prestigious position, adding that he was greatly anticipating the new role.

“I look forward to being able to give of my time and the knowledge that I have accumulated over my career in Extension to give back to NACAA and help to mentor new agents looking into Extension as a career,” he said. “I expect to continue in the tradition of helping to make our association a place where agents can exchange ideas and gain knowledge that they can put back to work in their local communities.”

Asked whether he had any special emphasis or projects in mind for the association when he takes over as president, Mr. McAvoy said: “Extension is changing as the country becomes more urban, and county agents reflect the diversity of our population. We are seeing more females and minorities enter into Extension, and I want to strive to make sure that NACAA provides them with a warm welcome and meets their needs moving forward.”

He stated that he’s also concerned about ordinary Americans’ attitudes toward their food providers. “I hope to act as a voice for agriculture because as more Americans lose touch with their agricultural roots, people have less of an understanding of where their food comes from and what it takes to feed the nation.”

Mr. McAvoy will be the 102nd head of NACAA and only the second Floridian to serve as NACAA president. The first was John Henry Lodge, NACAA president in 1949.

He believes that the nation’s strength is rooted in rural America. “We are dependent on a strong agricultural sector, and I hope to ensure that Extension continues to support America’s farmer and ranchers into the future. Agriculture has an important story to tell, and I am proud to be in a position to do that on a local, state and national basis. God forbid if we ever lose our ability to feed ourselves.

He earned his bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University in plant science and a master’s degree from Rutgers in horticulture, beginning work in 1997 with UF/IFAS Extension as Regional Specialized Vegetable Extension Agent for Southwest Florida. Mr. McAvoy has been Hendry County Extension director since 2005, and as a regional vegetable agent he’s served farmers in neighboring counties as well, including Glades.

Mr. McAvoy noted that he is also thankful and blessed to have the support of his loving wife, Donna, as he takes on this new responsibility.

The NACAA provides leadership and professional improvement opportunities to their members, who work for Extension Service programs through land grant universities across the country and in Puerto Rico.

Chris Felker can be reached at

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