When Glen Aiken wasn’t helping his grandfather wrangle cattle in the smothering Texas heat, he was traveling with his father to meat-packing houses across the region.
“I swear I visited every meat-packing plant between Oklahoma City and El Paso before I was 12 years old,” Aiken joked.
So when it came time to choose a college major, animal science was a natural fit.
Aiken spent most of his career studying forage-based diets of cattle, and now he is considered one of the nation’s foremost experts on the subject. But Aiken always knew he would eventually move into administration.
Just as he was ready to retire, such an opportunity arose at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. The institute recently named Aiken the new director of its North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy.
“I am excited to continue our solid relationships with stakeholders and look forward to really strengthening those relationships,” Aiken said. “Another goal is to renovate our current facilities and build on them as we move into the 21st century. It’s important that our research and facilities meet the needs of producer associations and commodities groups.”
Leaders at the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences said Aiken is the perfect person to lead the Gadsden County research and education center.
“Glen’s proven commitment to serving stakeholders, his long record of research, and his history as a Gator make him a great fit to lead one of our research and education centers,” said Jack Payne, head of the food and agricultural sciences institute and the University of Florida’s senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources.
“His long experience with USDA should also prove a valuable asset for a leader on whom faculty, farmers and families will depend to promote and strengthen Panhandle agriculture,” Payne added.
Aiken, who worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture for more than 20 years in Arkansas and Kentucky, said his dream was to end his career at a university.
“I like working with and mentoring young scientists, because they are excited and innovative. They bring a fresh perspective to the research,” he said. “And at North Florida [Research and Education Center], I get to manage land resources and continue my research in grazing. I love the work and the people.”
Aiken has published more than 250 journal articles, book chapters and technical papers during his career. He was elected a Fellow by the American Society of Agronomy in 2006; received the Medallion Award from the American Forage and Grassland for contributions to the forage industry in 2015; and received the Pioneer Award from the Kentucky Beef Network for vision and service in establishing the Eden Shale Demonstration and Learning Farm in 2017.
Aiken received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Texas A&M University, and a doctorate in agronomy from the University of Florida.
The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is a federal-state-county partnership dedicated to research and development for Florida’s agricultural, natural resources and related food industries. It operates 67 county extension offices and more than a dozen research facilities, including the North Florida Research and Eductation Center in Quincy. For more information, visit ifas.ufl.edu.
Special to the Herald