St. Lucie agricultural agent wins national, state honors
TCPalm – September 24, 2011
ST. LUCIE COUNTY — St. Lucie County agricultural agent Edward Skvarch has been awarded state and national honors for his expertise in teaching commercial nurserymen, landscapers and small farmers the best way to do anything from pruning a tree to diagnosing a disease on a tomato plant.
Skvarch, a 13-year commercial horticulture educator for St. Lucie County Cooperative Extension and the University of Florida, just received two achievement awards for excellence in his educational programs — one from the National Association of County Agricultural Agents and the other from the Florida Association of County Agricultural Agents.
Skvarch wears many hats. He provides pesticide application training for landscapers, teaches best management practices such as proper application of fertilizers to vegetable growers and nurserymen and provides hands-on lessons so his students know how to do what he’s taught them. He also helps small farmers and nurserymen solve problems.
“These awards mean a lot to me,” Skvarch said. “They are given by my peers. It’s really a team effort, though, because without my colleagues in our county office, I couldn’t do everything we have to do. They are right there with me.”
He also won high praise from Anita Neal, the director of the county’s cooperative extension service, which provides agricultural education services to residents and businesses in St. Lucie County through a cooperative arrangement with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
“Ed’s ability to design educational programs to meet the needs of the community positioned him to receive these awards and many accolades from growers and landscape maintenance professionals he works with,” Neal said.
He also spends a lot of time out in the field, visiting nurseries, landscapers and small farms.
“One of the things I do is for vegetable growers, where we look at ways growers can have a good product and also a safe product, for example fencing to keep small animals and animal waste out of the plants,” he said.
Commercial nursery owners such as veteran Gary Roberts, owner of Gary Roberts Nursery and Landscaping in Fort Pierce, say Skvarch has played a big role in helping them achieve success and maintain their businesses in tough times.
“He has become so knowledgeable and done so much for us and for the agricultural industry,” Roberts said. “He is so deserving of this award. He’s always been there for me. If he didn’t know the answer, he’d find it. And these days, you need to save every penny you can, and he’s helped us do that.”
Bruce Hopper, owner of Plant Haven Wholesale Nursery on West Midway Road, said Skvarch comes out to his place and helps train nursery employees.
“He’s demonstrated how to trim a tree the proper way, he’s helped with citrus greening problems, and he’s just been a good friend to the industry in every way,” Hopper said.
“He deserves a lot of accolades for all the effort he’s put in.”