LAKE ALFRED, Fla. — When you meet Ajia Paolillo, you might think that everything old is new again.
That’s because Paolillo, the new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension citrus agent for DeSoto, Hardee and Manatee counties, leans heavily on the experience of faculty colleagues from previous experiences.
“I learned so much working with Steven Futch, Bill Castle and agents Laurie Hurner and Chris Oswalt,” explained Paolillo. “They really inspired me to pursue an Extension career in citrus and work directly with growers.”
Paolillo recently started in her position, taking over the role that Futch served in until his retirement in 2019.
A graduate of Florida Southern College and the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Paolillo worked with the citrus Extension program at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center before working with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) Division of Plant Industry as a citrus nursery inspector.
Her path to her position was not a traditional one: Her family did not own a grove. They weren’t even employed in the agricultural field. She first fell in love with citrus as a high school student serving on her school’s citrus judging team. After learning as much as she could about citrus at Florida Southern, she took time for family and eventually followed her passion about citrus, working at UF/IFAS CREC and then FDACS.
Now that she has returned to UF/IFAS Extension, Paolillo intends to hit the groves running.
“My goal is to help the grower. I want to learn specifically what they need to be successful and continue to grow citrus,” said Paolillo.
Paolillo will have offices in each of the counties she serves. If you don’t see her at growers’ meetings, you can reach her at email@example.com.
–Brad Buck, UF/IFAS