LAKE PLACID — Wyatt Youngman admits he isn’t much of a people person. He likes working by himself in his family’s sprawling orange grove in Lake Placid.
So how did this accomplished young man, a junior at Florida Southern College in Lakeland, become the president of the school’s chapter of the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity?
“I run a fraternity; I know it’s an oxymoron,” said Youngman, 22, who was elected in December 2019. “When I first got to college it was kind of boring and I didn’t have a lot of friends. When you join a frat you meet people with similar interests.”
Those interests are agriculture in general; citrus farming in particular. Youngman is a citrus major, as are most of the FSC members of AGR, the national professional and social fraternity of agriculture.
The only other chapter in the state is at the University of Florida.
“The focus of the frat is to bring agriculture people together and build connections,” Youngman said. “Betterment of agriculture is the motto.”
Youngman is the first Seminole and likely the first Native American to serve as president or, as the frat brothers prefer, “noble ruler.”
AGR has a group of vice “noble rulers” who perform tasks including finances, recruitment, house manager and secretary.
According to AGR faculty advisor professor Malcolm Manners, Ph.D., the fraternity is unique in that its scope is both social and professional.
Manners, professor of citrus science and coordinator of the program, has taught Youngman in horticultural science, citrus science and plant nutrition classes.
“I am finding Wyatt to have a good work ethic, a strong sense of responsibility and a desire to move the fraternity forward to success,” Manners wrote in an email. “I think all of the brothers like and respect him.”
Youngman plans to take over the family business when he graduates. The grove consists of 500 acres of Hamlin and Valencia oranges.
Like all orange trees in the state, these suffer from citrus greening disease which will ultimately kill the trees in about 10 years. Prior to the disease afflicting Florida’s groves, Youngman said trees used to live about 50 years.
“I like to look at the trees and see what they need,” he said. “Whether they have a nitrogen deficiency, PH problem or just need water.”
Rita Youngman has seen her son thrive in the grove; he does hedging, topping, irrigation, planting and more.
“His teacher told him he could probably teach the class since he knows so much,” she said. “He is smart, quiet and respectful; everything you want in a son and he is Seminole. I’m very proud.”
Youngman doesn’t see his role as the leader of his fraternity as an extra responsibility; he sees it as a benefit for him, his AGR brothers and all citrus majors at FSC.
“In AGR we get job offers,” he said. “Companies come in looking for citrus majors and offer jobs or internships. We are not really a party fraternity.”