Karla Hernandez has joined the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) as the DeSoto County Extension director and livestock agent. Her mission is to deliver research-based programming and educational resources focused on supporting agricultural and livestock producers in DeSoto County. In her position, Hernandez will work with the county and local growers to provide research-based programming in the competitive livestock area of UF/IFAS. One of her top responsibilities will be to build strong relationships with producer groups, agribusiness and other agencies to identify ongoing and emerging needs of cow-calf seedstock producers and agriculture in general.

Her background includes training and experience in forage production, native grasses, and small animal nutrition. Hernandez received her doctorate in Agronomy, and Plant Science from South Dakota State University; she received her master’s and her bachelor’s in Animal Science from University of Puerto Rico. Her doctorate research focused on the evaluation of prairie cordgrass for biomass production on marginal land in South Dakota and Kansas.

Hernandez is excited to become more involved in the community and looks forward to meeting with local stakeholders. You are encouraged to call or stop by the DeSoto County Extension office to say “Hello!” The office is at 2150 NE Roan Street or call her directly at 863-993-4846.

Arcadian: Share your background and how you came to DeSoto County.

Hernandez: “I am an animal and plant scientist looking for new venues to educate the public, producers, and stakeholders. I have worked with Extension as the Forages Field Specialist for South Dakota State University for a period of six years. As a mother of two young girls, I was passionate to search for better opportunities that could bring us closer to home; Puerto Rico. DeSoto County offered that opportunity to build a resilient extension program with the collaboration from the community and other members.”

Arcadian: What things will you focus on? What are the issues?

Hernandez: “It is my mission to develop and disseminate unbiased, research-based, up-to-date information and resources in support to producers in DeSoto. My work will be focused on livestock production, forages, and agriculture in general. As the county extension director, I will have a major responsibility leading our office and staff members into a successful path where we can establish solid relationships with associations and producers. I am on the stage of detecting issues for the county. I have prioritized developing a needs assessment and developing relationships with pertinent stakeholders.”

Arcadian: Any trends nationally that play out in DeSoto County?

Hernandez: “No, not that I know of. However, one of my goals for DeSoto County is to be recognized by other organizations for our work and leadership.”

Arcadian: What do you tell others entering your field, what’s your advice?

Hernandez: “Agriculture is a very extensive field. It is always changing. I like to tell others that getting into this field requires passion, desire to learn, and the ability to establish relationships to build a strong system. I always like to reinforce that commitment is crucial and willingness to work in a team environment makes the difference.”

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