S. John Folks
In his distinguished career as an agriculture instructor and manager of Florida Power’s Agricultural Affairs Department, John Folks left his mark on Florida agriculture and helped shape the lives of many of its leaders. Born on a beef cattle farm in 1920 in Montbrook, a small community in Levy County, John served as president of the Williston High School FFA Chapter and was later elected State FFA Vice President. He received the American Farmer Degree from National FFA and enrolled at the University of Florida in 1939. While a student at UF John served as President of the Collegiate FFA Chapter, Alpha Tau Alpha, Agriculture Club, and Florida Rifle Club. He was a champion marksman on the rifle team, fought in the Golden Gloves competition, and was an all-star pitcher as a UF student. After earning his B.S. degree and teacher certification in agriculture in 1943, John joined the Army, where he received a commission in field artillery and later served in combat with the 82nd Airborne.
After the war John accepted a position at UF as an instructor in the College of Agriculture. Among his many accomplishments was his design and construction of the first chute-type swine farrowing unit in the nation. In addition to swine production, John also taught horse husbandry, livestock judging, and animal breeding. After earning his master’s degree in 1950 John continued to teach for three more years and then made a career change. He accepted a position as Agriculture Specialist for Florida Power and was soon promoted to Manager of the Agricultural Affairs Department. John continued to promote Florida agriculture in many ways and was a tremendous supporter of Florida FFA by organizing and sponsoring meat judging, rural electrification, forestry, livestock judging, and many other FFA programs.
He served as the livestock manager at the Florida State Fair for 18 years. John routinely met with state agricultural education staff members to help develop curricula for agriculture programs taught in middle schools and high schools across Florida. In addition, he worked to improve economic and agricultural opportunities through the Florida Rural Areas Development Commission and helped develop Latin American markets for Florida agricultural commodities. He was also founding director of the Florida Agribusiness Institute. This distinguished career earned John many awards over the years. In college John was Noble Ruler of Alpha Gamma Rho and a member of Florida Blue Key. He was named Outstanding Man in Agriculture in 1970 by the Florida Association of County Agriculture Agents and has received numerous service awards from FFA and 4-H.
After teaching for seven years at the University of Florida and working with Florida Power for 29 years, John retired in 1982, allowing him to devote more time to his wife, Laura, their children Christine, John, Connie, and Mack, and their three grandchildren. This also allowed John to pursue other interests such as fox hunting, where he is a well known Master of Hounds and Bench Show Judge. John stays involved in agricultural education and FFA and attends the Seasoned Owls agriculture teacher reunion each year.
John Folks was inducted into the Florida FFA Hall of Fame on October 13, 2007.