GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Kalan Royal has agriculture in his blood. His family has been involved in Florida’s citrus and cattle industries since the 1860s.
That has fueled his passion, making him an ideal fit as the new livestock agent for the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Extension Highlands County.
“I am proud to carry on a long agricultural heritage,” said Royal. “I developed a passion for the industry at a young age, helping with our family’s commercial cow-calf operation in Wauchula and riding with my dad during his time as a grower-relations manager in the citrus business.”
Growing up, Royal’s favorite responsibilities were feeding cows with his younger brother and spending time in the industry with his father throughout his childhood.
“I learned the values of a handshake, hard work and honesty,” he said. “Now as I look back, the joke with my dad is that he was preparing me for my future career, back when I was riding with him to work where I learned how to communicate with producers.”
As the newest member of the UF/IFAS Extension Highlands County team since November, his focus has been on building relationships with livestock producers throughout the county. He has served on committees with the UF/IFAS South Florida Beef-Forage Program which coordinates extension and research activities for enhanced forage and cattle production in Central and South Florida. He has also launched a monthly newsletter for cattle producers, “Raising the Steaks: Improving Cattle Production Efficiency and Knowledge in Highlands County.” With the newsletter, he’s trying to engage other stakeholders and producers for insight on needed programs.
“There are many educational programs and resources available to producers through UF/IFAS Range Cattle Research and Education Center, and there are many agent groups like the UF/IFAS South Florida Beef-Forage Program,” he said. “I hope my efforts will be viewed as a helpful and trusted resource by livestock producers, beginners or experienced, in the community as we continue working towards building a sustainable livestock industry in the state of Florida”
A graduate of South Florida State College, Royal obtained a bachelor’s degree in supervision and management, then participated in additional industry training programs obtaining certifications in beef quality assurance and advocacy.
While some might consider his path to this position at Extension as traditional having grown up in the industry, he made strides to diversify his skills. After graduation, he spent five and a half years traveling the southeastern United States as a sales representative. His role was working with fruit and vegetable, and turf and ornamental growers in the field representing crop protection and nutritional products for soil and plant health. He also worked with fruit and vegetable packing houses to provide products for their food safety programs.
“Spending those years as a sales representative gave me the ability and confidence to communicate with producers, network with them, educate them on our products and identify solutions for them,” said Royal.
Royal kept busy in the cattle industry by working on the family’s business and fulfilling his goal of owning a commercial cow-calf and registered Brangus cattle herd.
“I spend a lot of my off time managing my cattle,” he explained. “Some people may consider this additional work, and at times it can be, but it is relaxing and rewarding. Knowing that I can carry on my family’s agricultural heritage and my grandfather’s Circle R Bar cattle brand is humbling.”
An opportunity to use his skills and work full-time in the livestock sector led him to Extension.
“Being able to help producers without having to make a sale to do so was appealing and Extension provided me with the chance to do this,” he said. “My heritage in the industry drives me to carry on that legacy and to help others be successful so they can remain in the industry and pass on their legacy to the next generation of their family.”
The experience and skills from his sales career that focused on education and relationships has served him in his new position as an Extension agent, explained Royal. Building trust and relationships with producers is one of the most important skills and aspects of Extension with the goal of educating by providing science-based research and solutions, he said.
“I am fortunate to have grown up in what I consider the greatest industry on earth,” said Royal. “Farmers and ranchers work across the world in acres, not hours, with the common goal of feeding others through the blood, sweat, and tears they pour into their operations.”
–Lourdes Mederos, UF/IFAS