Mike Stuart of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association is retiring from the group. ( File photo )

Mike Stuart, who is retiring from the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association after 26 years, will be inducted into the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2019.

Stuart is one of four Florida agriculture leaders chosen to receive the honor by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. They’ll be recognized at the annual Hall of Fame banquet Feb. 12, according to a news release.

Stuart has been a respected leader, ambassador and spokesman for the Florida fruit and vegetable industry, according to the release.

“His leadership and dedicated service have benefited the grower-shipper community statewide, regionally and nationally,” according to the release. “Throughout his career, he has been a sought-out source of knowledge and expertise in federal, state and industry advisory roles in trade, workforce issues, produce safety, pests and disease, and more.”

Stuart’s career in the industry began at a Newport Beach, Calif., supermarket as a produce clerk. He was a senior vice president for Western Growers, which he left after almost 13 ½ years to join FFVA in 1992.

He represented fruit and vegetable growers in Florida, but has been active at the federal level as well. He has been co-chairman of the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance, providing input for three farm bills, according to the release, and has served in many government advisory positions.

Those include the USDA’s Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee, the Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee for Fruits and Vegetables, the U.S. Agricultural Export Development Council board of directors and the USDA Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee, according to the release.

In 2005, Stuart was named to the inaugural class of The Packer 25, an annual list of influential leaders in the industry.

Richard Gaskalla, who was director of the Florida Department of Agriculture’s Division of Plant Industry, also is being inducted into the hall of fame. Over four decades, he was instrumental in fighting pest and diseases, according to a news release.

He directed the Citrus Canker Eradication Program and helped establish the Citrus Health Response Program. Honors Gaskalla received include the USDA’s Administrators Award. He had leadership positions with the department’s National Plant Board, Citrus Canker Technical Advisory Committee and the Special Task Force on Citrus Canker.

He retired in 2015, according to the release.

The other inductees are:

  • Dairy farmer Don Bennink
  • Sam Killebrew Sr., who invented a bulk fertilizer hauler