By Martie Thompson
St. Johns County UF/IFAS director Tim Wilson grew up near the oil fields in west Texas, but found himself drawn to animals. He knew he didn’t want to become a veterinarian, but after taking classes in animal reproductive physiology he said he found his passion. He earned a bachelor’s in animal science and a master’s in beef cattle reproductive physiology from Texas A&M and set a goal to work with cattle ranchers. Upon graduation, he became the statewide beef cattle specialist at the Extension Office at the University of Georgia and served as a resource to the public to provide adult education related to his specialty. Next, he and his family moved south to Florida, and he took a job as an extension and livestock agent with UF/IFAS in Bradford County. Now, he serves in St. Johns County, where, although primarily agricultural, he said he does get to utilize his cattle expertise. (“Yes, St. Johns County does have some cattle,” he said.) He is married to Katie Wilson, a physician’s assistant at Baptist Primary Care in Julington Creek. They live in NW St. Johns County with their three children and family dog, Camper.
Q: How did you meet your wife, Katie?
A: We met at work at the Extension Office in Georgia. She worked as a 4-H agent and I worked out in the field. After we had our first child, she wanted to move closer to her family and that’s why we moved to Florida. We moved to NW St. Johns County, in the same neighborhood as her sister so we could raise our children together. I commuted each day to my job in Bradford County. Eventually I decided that I wanted to work closer to home and fortunately around that time, St. Johns County Extension was looking for a director at that time.
Q: Can you explain what UF/IFAS is and what it does?
A: Every state has a land grant university; in Georgia, it is the University of Georgia and in Florida, it is the University of Florida. At each of these universities they have teaching, research, and extensions, which basically provide community adult education, specializing in agriculture, human and natural resources, and the life sciences — and to making that knowledge accessible. Bradford County was more rural and certainly St. Johns County has a different demographic, with coastal communities as well as urban sprawl from Jacksonville, but we do have strong agriculture in the southern part of the county. I also currently offer a three-day regional class in cattle reproduction, which is on the very front side of the cattle business. I like to help ranchers make better decisions so they can be more successful in their business.
Q: How is the St. Johns County extension office set up and what types of things do you provide for the community?
A: We have five agents with different expertise and responsibilities. For example, our horticultural agent oversees landscaping education and the many questions that come in on that topic, as well as the Master Gardener program. We have a commercial agriculture agent and a family consumer science agent along with two 4-H agents. Everything comes back to food systems; we want to help improve knowledge in this area.
For instance, our commercial agriculture agent might be asked, “Can we grow artichokes in this area?” And yes, we can. Then, our consumer science agent might provide a demonstration of how to prepare artichokes in a recipe. We offer classes and educational materials to the public; check our website at https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/stjohns/ to see our upcoming schedule.
Q: What is your favorite part of your job?
A: No two days are the same and I never know what questions I will be asked by the public. The part of my job that I like best is that I get to help people and I get to work with our great team of agents, who are so very knowledgeable.
Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?
A: I like to spend time with my family. I also like to travel and try new things.
Photo courtesy Tim Wilson