Editor's Note: This is the Field Notes column published in the November-December 2013 issue of Citrus + Vegetable Magazine.

By the year 2050, the world will have another 2 billion mouths to feed compared with today’s 7.1 billion people. 

Arable land, energy and water resources are limited, so expanding the number of acres or hectares cultivated isn’t really a viable option.

To help meet the challenge, agriculture is going to have to farm smarter, drawing on the latest technology, reducing waste and opening its collective mind to new ways of doing things.
Earlier this year, Vance Publishing Corporation, the parent of Citrus + Vegetable Magazine, kicked off its 40 Under 40 program. The goal was to find the best and the brightest young minds to help lead the charge and recognize them for their forward thinking.

And this is not a one-time project, either. Vance Publishing Corporation plans to make it
an annual effort. Beginning on page 19, you’ll find profiles of those 40 industry leaders, all of whom are 40 years old or younger.

One name you’ll no doubt recognize is Adam Putnam, who in a few short decades has served at both state and national levels and is now Florida’s agricultural commissioner.

Not only does Putnam possess an open mind, but he’s also guided by strong moral beliefs of what’s right, says Mike Stuart, president of the Maitland-based Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association.

As a congressional representative, Putnam pushed for immigration reform—a topic not always a popular topic among his Congressional cohorts.

“But he was never afraid to do what he thought was best for the people he represented,”
says Stuart, who has worked with Putnam for more than 16 years on various issues.

Shortly after being elected ag commissioner, Putnam worked with the state legislature to have responsibilities for school lunches moved from the Department of Education to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

He streamlined the purchasing process so multiple school districts could pool orders. This also made it more enticing for growers, since they could deal with fewer, larger orders rather than numerous small ones.

In addition, Putnam’s department educated school menu planners about crop seasons and what fruits and vegetables would be available at any given time. This allowed them to try to source local, when possible. Many schools have incorporated produce and farming into lesson plans, educating students about the economic, scientific and nutritional contributions the industry makes to the state.      

Take some time to read not only about Putnam but the 39 other young leaders that Vance has recognized in our special section.