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Duplin’s guide to Ag Life

2021


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For the past five years, Farming Matters has been shining the spotlight on Duplin’s diverse agricultural landscape, its notable farmers, agribusiness experts, thought-provoking entrepreneurs, and educators paving the way for future generations of farmers. Today, despite a few curveballs courtesy of the pandemic, we can still proudly say that agriculture and agribusiness, remain North Carolina’s biggest economic drivers. With an annual economic impact of $95.9 billion, NC is one of the most diverse states growing more than 80 different commodities locally to provide the world with a dependable food supply. As NC Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said during his State of Agriculture speech, quoting: “Sometimes we’re tested not to show our weaknesses, but to discover our strengths,” as a statement that defined NC’s farming community during the pandemic — I couldn’t agree more. Here in Duplin, we have a strong and resilient community, a community with people as diverse as its crops. People who turned challenges into an opportunity for growth. This edition of Farming Matters is not just about highlighting innovative accomplishments and telling you about the wonderful things we foresee in the future of Agriculture, but it is also about saying thank you. Thank you to our farmers who work tirelessly, sometimes under uncertain circumstances. Thank you to our educators who facilitate the resources to develop the knowledge that has made Duplin an agricultural powerhouse. Thank you to our leaders who sometimes must juggle many hats to make things happen. Thank you to the agribusinesses and entrepreneurs for their commitment to being leaders in their industries. To the Ag movers ‘n shakers who played a role in making Duplin County number one in NC with total farm cash receipts of $1,027,160,549 for 2019 and the businesses that generated $302,000 in agritourism — a 182% increase in the last decade. And last but not least, thank you to our readers, and supporters. We hope you enjoy this edition of Farming Matters!

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PUBLISHER Jim Sills EDITOR Ena Sellers PRODUCTION Becky Wetherington DESIGN Ena Sellers WRITERS Lauren Branch Curt Simpson PHOTOGRAPHY Lauren Branch Curt Simpson Ena Sellers ADVERTISING Alan Wells Farming Matters is a publication of the Duplin Times and APG Media of Eastern NC. Contents may not be reproduced without the consent of the publisher. For advertising information, call 910-296-0239.


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BEYOND FARMING Blossoming into young leaders

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CREATE, INNOVATE & EXPLORE From the passenger seat to the winning seat

SOWING THE SEEDS OF EDUCATION Interview Ag teachers Mark Stampe and Samantha Outlaw

CHANGING THE MENTORSHIP GAME UMO gives students an edge with real-world experience HOME-GROWN SUCCESS From crop row to organic

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JSCC leader in swine management programs

ONE THE COVER Suzanne Jarman is a senior at East Duplin High School. She will be attending North Carolina State University this fall for a bachelor’s degree in Animal Science. Photo by Gina Halso

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• • • •

Students in the Agriculture Department of Wallace-Rose Hill High School work on planting seeds under the supervision of Mark Stampe. Photos by Ena Sellers

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Watering Fertilizing Weeding Pruning


Hands-on learning a hallmark of agriculture classes Story by Curt Simpson

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I’ll learn.”

Who knows whether Benjamin Franklin was really the one who said those famous words, but the sentiment holds true: Hands-on learning is widely regarded as one of the most effective methods of teaching. It’s also the basis for much of what Mark Stampe and Samantha Outlaw teach their students every

day in the Agriculture Department of Wallace-Rose Hill High School. From instructional time in the classroom, to actually getting hands dirty in the greenhouse, pastures and garden spaces of the school, the point of agriculture education is to give students life experiences. Those experiences could potentially prepare them for a future career in agriculture, or they may just give them practice in daily life and the world of work. Either way, it’s invaluable. As has been the case with just about everything in the year of COVID-19, the way that Stampe and Outlaw taught their classes had to

Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I’ll learn. Benjamin Franklin

change quite a bit. Remote learning was the focus from March 2020 until students came back to campus full-time one year later. Students CONTINUE ON PAGE 10

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WISH LIST: In the future, we would love to expand, as well as improve the pasture area and barn at our school. We also want to modernize the lighting, plumbing, ventilation, and temperature control systems in our barn, to provide comfort and protection for our livestock. In addition, we would like to work toward purchasing a tractor to Despite last year’s setback, interest in Ag programs has been on the rise and it’s a trend Mark Stampe hopes to see continue. Photos by Ena Sellers

assist with our improvements and on-going maintenance and new fencing materials for future enhancement projects.

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still have the option of attending class remotely, and Stampe said about half of his students continue to choose that option. He worries that they aren’t getting everything they need from a computer screen. Students in his class typically learn by doing. Learning by doing has always been a big part of agriculture education, and in membership in the Future Farmers of America. With the financial support of Smithfield Foods, every Ag student at WallaceRose Hill is a member of the FFA, Stampe said. “Every kid that walks in our classroom automatically becomes an FFA member,” he said. “We don’t even think about it. We just send them the invoice and they pay it.” He’s glad to have the support because some students do not have

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the ability to pay the annual dues. FFA membership gives students the experience of being an entrepreneur, but with guidance. They call it an SAE. Supervised Agricultural Experience. It works hand-in-hand with the STEAMA model that was adopted by Duplin County Schools in 2018. STEAMA is an expanded STEM program that focuses on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math and Agriculture. “Entrepreneurship has been a part of the FFA from way back when it started in 1928, so we’ve been doing this STEAMA stuff for almost 100 years now,” Stampe said. An example of an SAE program comes from the livestock that students have cared for in the past. Until the pandemic hit, classes raised bees, a cow, a donkey, two goats, 20 chickens and five ducks.

Most of the animals had to be sold in the last year, though, so now the program has to be rebuilt. A difficult winter knocked out some of the bee production, and the program has gone from five hive boxes down to just two. The bee colonies in those two are doing well, and he hopes they can eventually be split up and grown into more hives. Originally the high school had planned to share their bees with Rose Hill Magnolia Elementary School’s fledgling apiary program, but that will have to wait until they have enough bees to split up the hives. The garden area at the school “looks (overgrown), but it’s allowed to be (overgrown) for a reason,” he said. The weeds are being allowed to flower out so the bees can harvest the pollen, even from weed flowers.


Outlaw hopes to prepare students for showing small ruminant livestock, sheep and goats. “We hope to be able to provide these opportunities for our students to grow into leaders within the agriculture industry,” said Outlaw. According to Outlaw showing livestock is a great way for students to develop skills in leadership, public speaking, and teach them responsibility to properly care for their animals. For Outlaw, being able to “demonstrate and help students develop hands-on skills that will be of value” is the truest blessing. “My favorite part of working with agriculture students is the authentic and highly applicable nature of the courses we offer,” she said. “Over the years, I’ve been able to see many former students enter the agriculture industry with pride and it makes my heart so happy to see them fulfilled in such a wholesome

Over the years, I’ve been able to see many former students enter the agriculture industry with pride and it makes my heart so happy to see them fulfilled in such a wholesome and honest means of living. Samantha Outlaw

and honest means of living.” Students are given as much supervision as possible to make sure they have the tools they need to be successful.

Other projects are not quite as involved, but still valuable. Scientific experiments can be performed and then exhibited in the yearly Agriscience Fair. “Improvement projects” could include work such as creating and installing a landscaping plan at home, church or other places. “What does that improve? Well, potentially it could improve the value of the home,” he said. Students can also learn about careers like being an agricultural loan officer, or a chicken farmer. The old “shop classes” like brick masonry and carpentry that were prevalent in high schools in the past are no longer being held, but the Ag mechanics course now gives students “a beginners taste” of basic tool safety, plumbing, welding, electricity and carpentry. “At least they are getting exposed to it,” he said, “so if that’s an interest that they have, they can take it from there.”

Samantha Outlaw talks to her class about beekeeping.

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Dr. Edward Croom and his wife Phyllis. The couple who has been married for 34 years, enjoyed a few moments of laughter as they posed for a photo in front of a farm tractor.

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UMO gives students an edge with real-world experience Story and photos by Ena Sellers

A vast sunlit field and the sound of a gentle breeze .. traveling through the giant tires of a tractor, twice the height of an average person, set the scene to what was the start of an exciting day at the Kornegay Student Farm. Located only 18 miles north of Kenansville in the town of Mount Olive, the student farm is where Ag students with the University of Mount Olive get hands-on experience for 12 weeks. Here is where I met with UMO President Dr. Edward Croom and a few members of his team. Croom is highly regarded for the wealth of knowledge he brings to the academic and farming communities, not only for his broad educational background and professional experiences but as someone who grew up farming and worked his way up. “Farming operations were a lot smaller. Farming back then was a neighborhood thing,” said Croom. “The farm taught you how to work, it created a work ethic — I learned a lot of life lessons.” Farming today is still labor-intensive, but with the advent of new technology, specialized research, and the development of artificial intelligence, a lot of processes are

From Left to right, Rhonda Jessup, UMO Public Relations director, Trace Guaer, who is a student intern and Dr. Edward Croom.

We’re small enough to really address the needs of every student. It’s not a one-size-fits-all. Dr. Edward Croom

much more “simple.” But simple does not always equate to easy, especially in a field where many variables play important roles to obtain the desired outcome. This is where education and real-life experience become crucial to success.

Croom’s vision for UMO is to prepare students to meet today’s workforce needs, whether it’s through a fouryear degree, licensing, or certifications. He wants UMO students to have access to a platform that connects them with industry-leading companies where Ag students can get hands-on experience with the latest technology. “(Companies) come here to implement trials and our students have an opportunity to build relationships with those folks,” said Croom. Precision farming technology is revolutionizing the agriculture industry. This type of technology arms farmers with the tools and a wealth of data needed to quickly

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and efficiently evaluate things such as crop health and soil condition and enables them to make informed decisions. “We have developed a really good relationship with CASE IH, we work with NS enterprises to supply state-of-the-art precision tractors, sprayers to demonstrate the importance of precision agriculture,” said Dr. Sandy Maddox, Dean of the School of Agriculture and Biological Sciences. “There is

so much they can do.” Thanks to the partnerships with these companies, students can not only learn how to use the latest technology but see and experience firsthand the value of using precision Ag tools. “The equipment pays for itself. It gives them a snapshot of what precision Ag is and reap the benefits in the long term, not only to the health of your soil but to the bottom line,” said Maddox. “When students

More than 50,000 jobs in agriculture are available in the US per year, yet there aren’t enough qualified graduates to fill the spots. Source Business Insider go into agribusiness they have an understanding of what the cost is to obtain certifications and the process of how to go about it. They will also be able to assess different concepts and answer questions such as “Is it going to benefit me if I put an organic farm? If I market it, what will the cost-and-benefit radio be? That type of question.” Students learning “real-life agriculture” is one of the main goals the instructors focus on. “To apply what they learn in the classroom, so they can see it in real life and participate

The primary purpose of boer goats is for meat production, however a growing number of farmers keep them as show goats. They are very docile animals. Ginger is a boer goat, at the time of the photo she was about to have babies. Photo by Ena Sellers

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Source American Boer Goat Association


Heroes come in many forms. To our North Carolina hog farmers, who have helped ensure our food supply remains strong during these unprecedented times, our gratitude knows no bounds. You are among our nation’s unsung heroes, helping to keep food on America’s tables. And it is because of your hard work and incredible dedication that we at Smithfield Foods are able to continue producing “Good food. Responsibly.®” We value your partnership—today, tomorrow and every day.

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Within six months of graduation, 100 percent of our students go to work in ag if they so choose. Dr. Edward Croom

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in it” is the main goal, said Maddox. “We’re small enough to address the needs of every student,” said Croom, who pointed out that education is not a one-size-fits-all. He also said that within six months of graduation, 100% of their students “go to work in ag if they so choose.” Internships are a requirement for all students, said Dr. Heather Glennon, assistant professor of Animal Science who added that one of the special opportunities is when it comes to working with businesses. “We have partners who are looking for student help,” said Glennon. “They’re requesting our student help because they know we have

good students who like to work hard. We do have a lot who will do an internship for the summer and after they graduate they are offered a full-time position.” One of the benefits of the internships at the farm is that each student gets real-world immersive training by working with livestock and the crops day in and day out. They get to apply all the concepts learned in class and even treat the animals for things such as parasites. Students not only learn about the different types of pastures for the animals, but they also plant them. “(Students) learn proper animal handling and management tech-


niques, like trimming their feet and give injections,” said Glennon. “We learn about the different feeds they need for proper nutrition. All the students in our classes get to work with the sheep and the goats doing that kind of stuff.” As we walked around the farm visiting the animals, I felt overjoyed by the friendliness of the animals and welcomed the raspy lick of the calves as content and excited as my waggy-tail dog’s kisses. “Right now we’ve got these two donkeys,” said Glennon. “The students have been doing a lot of work with them to walk on a lead line. The goal is to be able to hook them

Beef cows in NC

Cattle producers Source NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Photos by Ena Sellers

N.C. ranked four in broiler production in 2017. National Agricultural Statistics Service, USDA

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Currently, the university has over 300 students enrolled in its agriculture programs. They offer 13 traditional agriculture programs and three online.

Brooke Johnson, Class of 2018 Occupation: Program Technician at the Duplin County Farm Service Agency, USDA Major: Agriculture Education, Outreach and Extension “I gained a better and more in-depth understanding of the many moving parts of the agriculture industry through my studies at UMO. I also became more aware of all the opportunities available in this industry which lead me to my career with USDA and assists me daily when working with producers at Duplin FSA.”

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Joseph Rogers, Class of 2019 Occupation: Assistant Operations Manager Meherrin Major: Agricultural Production with a concentration in Business “Growing up farming in Duplin County led me straight to the University of Mount Olive where I studied agriculture. During my time at UMO. After graduating, I accepted a job as the Assistant Operations Manager at Meherrin in Warsaw. In this position, I daily apply both the knowledge and communication skills that I gained while at UMO.”

Analise Ritter, Class of 2021 Occupation: This summer she will be working as an Assistant Manager at Diamond P. Ranch in Montana. In the fall she will return to North Carolina to work horse shows and further her involvement in the equine industry. Major: Animal Science “I am excited for what the future holds,” she said. “When I am working with horses I never feel like I am working. To me, that is a sign that I am in the right field and I am choosing the right career path.”


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up to the cart and to pull the cart around campus.” Last fall, Glennon’s class got to work with newborn calves. “The students bottle-fed the calves and learned about halter-breaking them so we can walk them. We use them for judging too,” said Glennon. Most recently Glennon’s students finished a six-week poultry project “they raised chickens. They liked them so much that they bonded and they’re taking their chicken home and I guess surprising their parents” she said as she showed me around the hens and explained the difference in the taste is because the chickens are on pasture “eating a lot of green material and a lot of

bugs, making the yolks are a lot richer” and full of flavor. “We’ve got a bunch of different colored laying hens and we sell the eggs,” said Glennon. “We can’t make enough eggs for all the people on campus who want them. They’re in hot demand, that’s for sure.” According to Glennon, there is a shortage of agriculture qualified educators in North Carolina. “A lot of high schools and middle schools are offering the ag program,” said Glennon. “So they need ag educators to fill that need. We’re trying to fill that need.” She said some of her students want to be agriculture teachers, and others are going into Agribusiness, “Some might be vets — that’s

“A lot of high schools and middle schools are offering the ag program,” said Glennon. “So they need ag educators to fill that need. We’re trying to fill that need.” Heather Glennon

our newest degree, pre-veterinary sciences.” The sky’s the limit when it comes to educational opportunities at UMO.

Innovation through digital tools and data science The development of artificial intelligence tools and technologies such as drones, remote sensors, and satellites, provides farmers and researchers, alike, almost instant access to a wealth of data with critical information for in-the-field decisions. According to Bayer, this allows farmers to efficiently monitor things like plant health and nitrogen utilization, around the clock. These technologies can analyze data at very fast speeds providing useful feedback.

Above, GPS data is transmitted to the systems in the tractors working the fields. On the right, a drone’s camera delivers high-resolution images from different areas of the soy field, aiding to optimum plant cultivation. Photos courtesy of Bayer.

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Enjoying growth of unique produce delivery service Story by Curt Simpson Who’s your farmer? It’s a question that most consumers can’t answer in these times when produce is shipped in from other states and even outside of the country, and when the same fruits and vegetables are available year-round due to greenhouses and growing seasons that follow the global climate. Strawberries, for example, were at one time a luxury

that could only be enjoyed in spring in Eastern North Carolina, but now they can be found in the produce section of most grocery stores 12 months a year. The only problem is that sometimes produce shipped in from hundreds, or even thousands, of miles away, just isn’t fresh or very flavorful. Some also worry about the number of hands that have touched their food before it reaches their table. In a backlash, of sorts, to the ability to have everything, all the time, a growing number of consumers want to be able to have an answer to that question: Who really is your farmer, and where and how is your food really grown? In Duplin, Pender and New Hanover counties, many

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Through his planning, Douglass is able to grow up to ten crops in a year on one relatively small parcel of land, and he has about 60 individual crops that make up the year-round rotation for the whole farm.

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folks are now answering that their farmer is Farmer Steve. Stephen Douglass, has been running Turner Family Farms as a small fifth-generation farm on Wells Town Road, outside of Teachey, for several years. Douglass has a direct connection with his produce, and with his customers that most grocery store suppliers cannot match. He grows and harvests most of the food on local family-owned land, puts it in delivery boxes each week, loads up his car, and then personally delivers those boxes to his subscribers at the end of each week. Most of the produce in the box has been harvested less than 48 hours prior to delivery, with some crops being harvested the same day. It’s about as fresh as you can get. While delivery days are always hectic, Douglass says it’s his favorite part of the week since he gets to see his customers and catch up. Many of those customers show him photos and share recipes of what they’ve made from his produce each week. Douglass’ business model has always been a bit of an experiment, where he may try a crop, or a type of

The soil is just so much better here. We can grow something all the time. Basically it’s a year-round product. distribution, like a farmer’s market, or even different farm locations, like one he tried in Castle Hayne, until he figures out something that works. One thing that he has learned that works particularly well is the rich farmland and climate in Duplin County. “The soil is just so much better here,” Douglass says. “Everybody knows that. That’s the thing about this area. We can grow something all the time. Basically it’s a yearround product. We can deliver 52 weeks a year.” “You can’t do that up north, and you can’t do it in the deeper south, either,” he said. Douglass says he learned a lot about planning and design when he worked as a landscaper in Rich-

mond, Va., and that the skills he picked up there have helped him to have a productive small farm here. He enjoys drawing it out and putting the pieces of the puzzle together. “It’s an intensive, rotational kind of growing,” he said. “Crop rotation and succession is a big deal. It’s complicated. You can’t grow the same things in the same place all the time because it depletes the soil. We’ve got all sorts of spreadsheets to keep up with it.” Through his planning, Douglass is able to grow up to 10 crops in a year on one relatively small parcel of land, and he has about 60 individual crops that make up the year-round rotation for the whole farm. “Cool season here is amazing,” he said. “Broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collards, carrots, onions; it’s just awesome!” Late summer, he says, is one of the most challenging times of year with its intense heat, sporadic rain and bugs. Though he lived out of state for a large part of his life, Douglass has always had family in the Teachey area. His maternal grandfather, Manley Turner, Sr. ran a successful U-pick

Fresh dugs are planted on a plasticulture bed and irrigated within 30 minutes. 23


I didn’t realize there were so many people in the county that would want this. Stephen Douglass

strawberry farm on the land where Douglass now grows his produce with his son Ian. He has another son, Garrett, who lives in San Diego. Douglass moved back to Teachey 10 years ago so he could take care of the farm and be close to his grandmother, Margaret Southerland Turner, who was in a rest home in Rose Hill at the time. He went to see her every day while she was alive, and he took care of the house and farm, and “did little farmers market types of things.” He began a farm in Castle Hayne

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and started a service where customers would sign up to get deliveries of whatever produce he was harvesting each week. While the farm in Castle Hayne didn’t last, the service, commonly referred to as a CSA or Community Supported Agriculture, did. “We always thought that was the way to do it, like a subscription kind of service,” he said. He focused most of his efforts on the Wilmington area due to its larger population, and he ended up with around 40 regular subscribers. At

the beginning of 2021, however, he started looking for customers closer to home, and it’s turning out to be a big hit locally, too. “I didn’t realize there were so many people in the county that would want this,” he said. “We started off the year with just two clients in Duplin County, and now we’ve got a dozen, with more and more joining us all the time.” Now his clients stretch from as far north as Mount Olive down to Leland, with several concentrated in Beulaville, Kenansville, Rose Hill


Our specialty is and Wallace. Word of mouth is how many have found Farmer Steve, but he has an online presence as well. Douglass communicates with both existing and potential customers through his website, www.turnerfamilyfarms.com, his “mostly weekly” blog posts, a Facebook page and a Youtube channel that features cooking videos “where you can laugh at me while I act like I know what I’m doing in the kitchen” and videos from the farm. A new Facebook group called “Eating Seasonally with Turner Family Farms” began a few weeks ago. More than 150 members share their culinary creations with each other through recipes and photos. While he is doing what he loves, Douglass said he sees the farm very much as a business. He took agri-

culture classes at James Sprunt Community College, and one of his instructors told him, “If you’re doing this as a hobby, it’s not going to work. You have to make money.” Douglass said his customers are about to see a big change in the produce that they’ve been receiving through the winter and into the spring. While most of the familiar white delivery boxes have been filled with cold weather crops like collards, kale, turnips, carrots and sweet potatoes, the new crops coming in soon will be lighter leafy vegetables like lettuces, squash and zucchini, cucumbers, potatoes, eggplant and different types of melons. And don’t forget the home-grown tomatoes. “Our specialty is tomatoes,” he

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tomatoes. It’s the sulfur in the soil here that makes tomatoes taste good. Soil matters.

said. “It’s the sulfur in the soil here that makes tomatoes taste good.” “Soil matters.”

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Dessa Houston, 17, in Horticulture II class. Students learn floral design and made prom corsages. Photos courtesy of Haley Davis

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Story by Lauren Branch

Developing a student’s potential for leadership, personal growth, and career success is not only a motto but a way of living for members of the National Future Farmers of America

I feel like it’s prepared me for the next level of where I want to go with agriculture.

The non-profit organization dates back to 1928 and was originally established as a career and technical student organization. But don’t let

the name trick you, as most people assume the organization only teaches farming skills — it is so much more.

Most middle and high schools have an FFA chapter on campus to help support students who are interested in learning about agriculture. Students can join their school FFA chapter starting in the 6th grade. The advisors focus on bringing out the strong attributes of each student and using that to help them become leaders in their school and communities. Students participate in conferences, competitions, workshops and even business meetings. In classroom and workshop settings, students are not only learning about the agriculture industry

Avery Padgett, 17, in Horticulture I class. Padgett waters the plants in the greenhouse.

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It’s a great program. I wouldn’t be where I am today without it... Haley Davis

Logan Brown, 18, Students that take agriculture classes are exposed to a variety of woodworking and yielding skills. Photos courtesy of Haley Davis

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but also gain real-life experiences that will benefit them for the rest of their life. The agricultural program consists of three components: Classroom/Lab instruction, Supervised Agricultural Experience, and Student Leadership Organizations. Premiere leadership is gained through leading meetings and leading the chapter. One goal of all officers is to lead a business meeting using the parliamentary procedure. Officers can also move up in

ranks. They start as a local chapter office, but they can move up to the federation which covers Duplin and Onslow counties, then to regional, state, and national. The same applies when it comes to the classroom. The classroom section of the program focuses on teacher training at the students school. This is where they get their FFA knowledge base and begin learning about the importance of being a leader. “I always tell every class that we’re past the days of cows, sows, and plows,” said Haley Davis, East Duplin FFA Advisor. “Agriculture is such a diverse industry now. You can go into fields for food science, mechanics, engineering, business, marketing. There are so many degrees that you can go into that are related to agriculture. Even jobs such as horticulture and floor design. There’s a lot out there.” Ag is no longer the traditional format — like row crops or animal production. “I love teaching the kids and working with them,” said Davis. A lot of students look forward to competitions because it is a chance for them to show their skills, and win awards. There are many different competitions associated with FFA, but most are categorized under two areas: Career development events (CDE) and leadership development events LDE. CDE’s focus on the student’s career path and associated skills, under LDEs you will find things like public speaking, speeches, job interviewing, job shadowing, etc. “There are over 30 competitions students can be a part of,” said Davis. “Some CDEs include forestry, horticulture, dairy, poultry, vet science, and agricultural communications.” Current senior and president of the East Duplin chapter, Dessa Houston, first heard about FFA in a club presentation shown to them in high school. She had experience through


Female and male ratio. Source National FFA

her family farm so it was a natural transition to join FFA. “I grew up on a farm and already had that agricultural background. I just felt like it would be a good fit for me,” said Houston. “Now that I have been in it for (four years) I love every minute of it. I feel like it’s prepared me for the next level of where I want to go with agriculture.” Students leave FFA with a sense of accomplishment, a broader knowledge about the agriculture industry,

Taylor Dail, 18, pictured above driving the orange tractor competes in the State FFA tractor safety and skill CDE.

a vision for their future, and the ability to go out and be a leader wherever they may choose. “I was an FFA member and served as an officer throughout high school. It’s a great program. I wouldn’t be where I am today without it. I went into high school as a quiet and shy little girl that

would never in a million years thought I would be leading a meeting or talking out loud, and here I am today,” said Davis. ”By the time I was a senior, I was leading meetings and talking at different events, and now I am in my classroom teaching and trying to inspire others as well.”

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Story and photos by Lauren Branch

North Carolina is a state filled with rich soil, making it an ideal place for farmers to grow corn. While the pandemic brought some serious challenges to the agriculture community, tough conditions didn’t stop a father and son from having a successful yield in 2020. Henry Dail and his son Paul Dail won third place in the 2020 North Carolina Growers Association, National Corn Yield Contest in the Conventional Irrigated Class with a yield of 234.2366 bushels per acre. The Dail’s winning hybrid was a Pioneer P1464VYHR. “Paul pulled the hard labor” for the

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winning yield last year, said Henry crediting his son for bringing home third place at the state level on his first time doing it alone. Paul has been working with his dad at Dail Farms all his life and

after graduating James Kenan High School in 2014 he pursued a degree in Agricultural Business Management at North Carolina State University. For Paul, planting corn is the best next to harvesting. He enjoys


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what he does and working with his family on the farm. “I’ve been on a tractor since I could reach the pedals,” Paul said jokingly as he shared he has been planting corn from the passenger seat since he was three. “And this year I finally planted the corn myself, and that was very exciting.” Each year, thousands of growers enter the National Corn Yield Contest, contributing to the body

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Run the planter at two miles per hour. Accuracy of the planter’s seed spacing is very important. Source NCGA, NCYC 31


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Photos by Lauren Branch

of research that helps farmers feed and fuel the world. Last year the NCGA NCYC received 7,844 entries from 48 states. According to Debbie Borg, NCGA chairperson, the national contest brings farmers together to create, innovate and explore ways to optimize the nation’s largest crop. The contest challenges growers to use it as a platform to explore ideas and production techniques not only to win and earn national recognition but to meet the critical demand for food, fuel, and fiber all while preserving natural resources. Paul was happy about the positive outcome but felt he could have done better. “We knew we had some decent corn, but we didn’t treat it as anything special,” said Paul. “I didn’t think we reached our full potential,

There is more technology in a tractor these days than on your very own desk, and in your car. Rhonda Garrison

so to find out that we placed third in the state for conventional irrigated (class) was kind of surprising.” “The corn industry has changed a great deal over the last 20-30 years,” said Rhonda Garrison, Corn

Growers Association of NC executive director. “Precision Ag techniques have changed farming, as a whole, in a big way. There is more technology in a tractor these days than on your very own desk, and in your car. It’s allowed farmers to (grow) smarter, and more economically. Yield numbers may not have changed a lot, but the profit from those yields have.” Paul’s advice to new farmers and Ag students interested in the industry is to ask as many questions as possible. “People are willing to share the information if you ask the right questions,” said Paul.”Get in touch with your local (Agriculture) office. They have a bunch of good resources up there, and funding for new farmers.”

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USDA Photo

Story by Junious Smith III James Sprunt Community College swine management education ranks among the top in the state and third nationally. JSCC recognizes the rich agricultural heritage of North Carolina and continues to update its programs to meet the needs of its residents. The Swine Management Technology Associate in Applied Science Degree is now available online, with open labs for individuals who need hands-on experience. Students learn about best management practices, record-keeping programs used by the swine industry and have access to new anatomy models. The mission of the Swine Technology Program is designed to provide students with experiential learning

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The models provide students with opportunities to learn the right way to do something, make mistakes, and practice before working with a live animal. Aaron Miller

opportunities and focus on basic animal management practices. “Students learn to communicate effectively through scenario-based projects,” said Rebecca Perkins Swine Management Technology student and apprentice.

James Sprunt has recently received over $30,000 worth of animal models from grant funding. “The models provide students with opportunities to learn the right way to do something, make mistakes, and practice before working with a live animal,” said Aaron Miller Agribusiness Technology major. Programs at James Sprunt provide students with the flexibility to take courses as face-to-face, hybrid, or online. According to Molly Best, a student in the Applied Animal Science Program, most of her classmates work, go to school, and have family obligations. Students can earn up to nine industry-recognized credentials as part of the agriculture programs. Chase


Britt, an Agribusiness student who currently works on his family’s farm, has earned four certifications and stressed the importance of continued education. “It does not matter how much you know in this field. There is always something you can learn,” said Britt. “One of the major things that have helped me most is the importance of record keeping and how it helps to quickly identify changes that need to be made on the farm.” The JSCC Foundation sponsors registration and books for students not eligible for financial aid. For information about the programs, contact the school at 910296-2400 or visit jamessprunt.edu. Editor’s Note: This story is published courtesy of James Sprunt Community College. Livestock and Poultry Technology Instructor Star Jackson works with Agribusiness Technology major Aaron Miller during a class. Photo courtesy of JSCC

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