Erik works as the UF/IFAS Franklin County Extension Director and as a Regional Specialized Agent for the Florida Sea Grant program in Northwest Florida. His Extension office is located in the historic fishing village of Apalachicola. Due to the small-town, rural nature of Franklin County, he is the only Extension Agent and provides a wide diversity of expertise on topics ranging from home horticulture and gardening to 4-H youth development, natural resources, and invasive species issues.

Growing up in what used to be a rural environment in Central Florida, Erik spent his free time roaming the woods and waters around his home near Apopka. Back then, once school was out for the summer, parents could just turn the kids loose to explore. After receiving his first 5-speed bike, he could be anywhere within a five-mile radius of the house. After high school, Erik worked (not so diligently) to cram a two-year A.A. degree into five years at a local junior college. When he decided to get serious about the future, he moved to Gainesville with his wife Terri and completed a B.S. in Wildlife Ecology in the normal two years; then on to Purdue University for a M.S. in Wildlife.

Coming to work for Extension was the result of a late-career change for Erik but his jobs leading up to this were a great training ground for a well-rounded County Agent. Erik worked for five years after college with the former Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission (GFC now FFWCC) as a regional Education Specialist and then as the statewide Nongame Education Program Coordinator. Then, on to a brief 23-year stint at the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve as the Education Program Coordinator. This put him in the right place at the right time when the opportunity came to join the UF/IFAS Extension team in the Northwest District. His Extension programs focus on supporting the seafood industry, coastal resource stewardship, and a nice mix of “whatever folks need. The diversity of the job is what keeps it interesting,” says Lovestrand.

Erik Lovestrand teaching

Erik teaching about horseshoe crab at Ecology Field Day in Jefferson County.

With their three kids grown and on their own, things have not slowed down much. Terri runs a home day-care and manages a girl’s travel volleyball club. There are four grandkids in the picture now too. Erik enjoys the home garden, spring turkey season and annual hunting adventures on St. Vincent Island. When he retires, he says he will get back to his hobby of making custom knives, something that has gone dormant since he began this job for some odd reason. “I’ve been very fortunate indeed, to have had the career opportunities that bring me to this place,” says Lovestrand. “The NW Extension District is a great place to work!”