By: Kyle Niblett
Located roughly 85 miles from the campus of the University of Florida, Kokomo Farms in Live Oak is a thriving agritourism facility that hosts guests from all over the world. Surrounded by the famous Suwannee River and an abundance of natural cold-water springs, tourists get a deepened sense of farm living and agricultural operations.
The newest feature at Kokomo is an interpretive trail, featuring educational signs designed by College of Design, Construction and Planning student Ana Forrister. Scheduled to graduate in the spring of 2024, the sustainability and the built environment major is currently curating a script for a tour of the farm that guests can take as they discover the peace and tranquility of nature at every turn. By applying the sustainability teachings and principles that she acquired as a SBE student, Forrister has used the new signs to focus on ecosystem services, pollination, symbiotic relationships and more.
“DCP prepared me for this internship because of the emphasis they have placed on being an effective communicator,” said Forrister, who is serving as an active learning program intern for the Sustainable Living Project at the farm. “Since the visitors of Kokomo Farms come from all ages and backgrounds, designing material that can be understood by all members of the community is critically important. This project has also allowed me to apply the sustainability knowledge I have gained throughout my coursework into a creative, educational project.”
Her supervisor, Kokomo’s Hospitality Manager Trudy Benson, is thankful for what Forrister has brought to the table.
“Ana has been a great asset in helping us showcase the nature and sustainability of Kokomo Farms by helping to create and implement interpretive displays for our agritourism efforts,” Benson said. “She has skillfully showcased key aspects of our sustainable methodology and the symbiotic relationships between the farm, nature and the rescue animals here at Kokomo.”
Some of the most fascinating information she has researched during her internship has been related to the native wildlife and plants that Floridians have grown to love. Whether it be pollination, cultural services, medicinal uses, or simply providing shade to the environment, the numerous ecological services that the Sunshine State benefits from is immeasurable.
“This internship has taught me how important environmental stewardship is and how we need to safeguard the ecosystem services,” Forrister said. “These services don’t have a numeric value in our current economy, but they’re invaluable as we move forward with preserving our environment.”
A member of the UF Green Building Club, Forrister most recently began as an undergraduate researcher for the Smart, Equitable, Resilient Mobility Systems (SERMOS) Lab at UF. There, she plans to use her internship experience to build upon her skills in curating resources for sustainability-focused content.
“It is important to be able to communicate and educate others on the importance of enacting sustainable solutions in the realms of design, construction, and planning,” Forrister explained.
Long term, her career plans center around working for a city’s planning department. To do so, she is currently in the combined degree program to earn a master’s degree in urban and regional planning one year after getting her bachelor’s degree. Working for a planning department will allow her to further apply her sustainability principles in the design of cities to help them become more equitable and resilient.
To do so, she plans on using the giant network of DCP alumni from around the world.
“The DCP network of graduates across the globe is immensely important,” Forrister finished with. “I have learned so much from DCP graduates in other specializations and disciplines, and you really feel like you are part of something larger than just a college on UF’s campus.”
Q & A WITH ANA FORRISTER
What would you tell prospective students who are thinking about attending DCP?
I would tell prospective students that they should take advantage of the opportunities available within the college and to go to their professors and advisors for help. They are such an invaluable resource. The DCP professors, advisors, and staff have all been super supportive during my time in DCP and my experience would not have been the same without them!
What has your favorite course/professor been at DCP and why?
My favorite course was on Social and Cultural Sustainability and the Built Environment taught by Hal Knowles. That course was a very insightful experience for me as a student and really exemplifies how special the SBE program is. I felt like I gained so much from the discussions in that class after every lecture. We had such in-depth discussions on equity, art, culture and community.
What has been your favorite memory at DCP and why?
My favorite memory at DCP was when our class spoke to members of Gainesville’s planning department about sustainability initiatives and then toured one of the historic neighborhoods in Gainesville. As part of my Sustainable Solutions for the Built Environment course, it was fun to walk through the neighborhoods and to then use that trip to come up with real-world applications and solutions for the infrastructure systems in the historic districts of Gainesville.
What is the one thing you know now that you wish you would have known your first day at UF?
One thing I wish I would have known my first day at UF was just how many different opportunities there are to get involved on campus. There are so many events to take part in pretty much every single day. Entering college during the pandemic made it a little bit more difficult to find ways to get involved, but there are so many different things to get involved with. You will definitely be able to find something that you’re interested in and passionate about.