Greene Living - Fall 2022

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A PLACE TO GROW. THE WAY TO LIVE GREENE COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA

2022

SLICES OF LIFE FROM YOUR NEIGHBORS AND FRIENDS FARMER AND THE DAIL’S RECIPE FOR SUCCESS

EARLY COLLEGE HELPS KEEP GREENE CLEAN

RAMS BRING JOY OF FOOTBALL TO SNOW HILL

ALLIE GRAY, TREY CASH AND MORE


SINCE 1907

TOWN OF

HOOKERTON hookertonnc.com

A Small Town with a BIG heart

H o m e t o N . C . W i l d l i f e & We s t e r n U n i o n & N C D M V

SERVICES OFFERED INSIDE THE TOWN OFFICE: NCDMV License Plate Agency Contact: (252) 747-7701 Western Union - N C Wildlife Hunting And Fishing License/Vessel Registration - Notary Utility And Property Tax Collection - Copy And Fax Service Hours of Operation: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday - Friday (except holidays) 303 E. Main St. Hookerton, NC 28538 - (252) 747-3816

Experience Caswell Landing Where You Can Explore The Nature Trails And Wildlife In Its Habitat Or Use The Kayak/Canoe Launch To Paddle Your Way Down The Contentnea Creek. Campsites Available At This Location. If Boating Is On Your Mind, Use The NC Wildlife Boat Ramp @ Wm. Hooker Rd. Or Daughtry’s Landing On NC-123N. Across From Mt Calvary Free Will Baptist Church.

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IN THIS ISSUE 4

9 Hookerton park

15 Adopt a Highway

20

Farmer and the Dail

Greene Central

THE COVER A PLACE TO GROW. THE WAY TO LIVE GREENE COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA

22

30

Teacher of the Year

Trey Cash

2022

2022 EDITION Bobby Burns Editor Willow Abbey Mercando Photography

SLICES OF LIFE FROM YOUR NEIGHBORS AND FRIENDS FARMER AND THE DAIL’S RECIPE FOR SUCCESS

EARLY COLLEGE HELPS KEEP GREENE CLEAN

RAMS BRING JOY OF FOOTBALL TO SNOW HILL

ALLIE GRAY, TREY CASH AND MORE

Zac and Stacy Bailes, who started what would become Farmer and the Dail at Stacy’s familiy farm, expanded into a 7,500-square-foot building at 1329 U.S. 258 in April 2021.

Pat Gruner Beyonca Mewborn Craig Moyer Ariyanna Smith Donna Marie Williams Writers Restoration Newsmedia Layout & Design Green Living© is published annually by The Standard newspaper. Contents are the property of the newspaper and may not be reproduced without consent of the publisher. To advertise in the publication, contact The Standard at (252) 329-9513.

Greene Living Magazine 2022 | 3


‘Best park in the county’ Persistence pays off in Hookerton’s quest to upgrade rec facility By Ariyanna Smith

W

hen April Baker moved to Hookerton in 2007, she recalls the town’s park consisting of a gazebo, a metal slide, a swing set with a torn, decaying seat and basketball courts with grass sprouting between the cracked surface. “I don’t even think there was a rim on the goal. It was just run down and dilapidated,” Baker said of Hookerton Recreation Park. Established in the 1970s, the park at 484 Morris Barbeque Road also featured a ball field and a popular community building. Town leaders knew the park needed fixing, but their small budget could not easily accommodate upgrades. Baker, who now serves as town clerk, said officials in 2010 began a serious search for options to fix the park at the request of residents. They had been stuck at a standstill in part because leasing a portion of the property made them ineligible for grants from the state Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF). “You can’t make any money off of your park if you receive funds from PARTF. We

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were collecting a lease on the land and that prevented us from getting help funding the project. This had been a problem since I came here. It took until about four years ago to finally get in touch with the right people to tell us the steps we needed to take to address it,” Baker explained. The town went to work and made the necessary changes, which included splitting the parcel to cut out areas that violated the grant requirements. After making a few other adjustments, they were finally ready to start working on a grant application. In 2020, officials sought the help of the Eastern Carolina Council of Government, an economic planning and development organization, to assist with the PARTF grant application. Their initial project included plans for a park with a splash pad, an amphitheater and restroom upgrades. When they found out the application was rejected, they were devastated. “We understood it was competitive, but we had just gotten everything done and we thought it was a strong application,” said Baker. Baker and others quickly got back to brainstorming for the next application. This time they worked with Bob Clark, a

Hookerton Recreation Park The park at 484 Morris Barbecue Road on the southeast side of town offers a modern playground with accessible equipment, newly resurfaced basketball, tennis and pickle ball courts, and a paved walking trail in addition to a ball field, picnic shelter, gazebo and a community building. The charge to rent the community building is $250 for rental from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. plus $150 cleaning deposit. The community offers projector and screen as well as internet hotspot. The ball field and shelter is $75 and a $150 cleaning deposit. Lights for the ball field are extra. Call the town hall at 747-3816, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday or stop by at 227 E. Main St. consultant the town had on contract. They decided to widen the net and apply for both PARTF and a Land & Water Conservation Fund grant. “We had really pumped up the commu-


nity and let them know that we needed their input to help us get this park done. We received stacks of surveys from people giving us their input on what they wanted in the park,” Baker said. The responses showed the residents prioritized a walking trail, new playground equipment and restoring the basketball and tennis courts. Many seniors requested cornhole boards and horseshoe pits as well. “We decided that we were going to hold off on the splash pad and the amphitheater and go with what the surveys suggested,” Baker said. This time, they received good news. The town was awarded a $195,400 PARTF grant for the park project. “When we found out, we were told that it wasn’t likely that we would receive the LWCF money too. Folks wanted to hit the ground running since we didn’t antici-

The patriotically decorated shelter at Hookerton Recreation Park features bathroom facilities, a spacious gathering area with large picnic tables, barbecue pits, and a view of the ballpark and playground.

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Hookerton Town Clerk April Baker said town officials worked for several years to secure grant funding needed to install modern playground equipment, update athletic facilities and parking and create a walking path. They hope to keep improvements coming.

While your in Hookerton

Located on Contentnea Creek, Hookerton is home to a N.C. Wildlife Resources Service boat landing with a kayak/canoe launch at 107 N. William Hooker Drive as well as public access to the creek at Daughtry’s Boat Landing, located off of Main Street just North of Mount Calvary FWB Church. For a picnic or overnight camping, the town’s website says be sure to visit Caswell’s Landing Nature Trail, accessible from N.C. 123 just north of town. Walking trails, a kayak/canoe launch, picnic/camping area provide access to the beauty of the Contentnea Creek

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pate getting any more money,” Baker said. They had begun work on the parking lot and the courts when they found out they had received a matching LCWF grant, bringing their total to $390,800 for the project. Unfortunately, the funds could not be used to pay for the work that was already in progress. Baker said they are considering using the extra funds to expand the new playground even further.

Luckily, they had waited to purchase the new equipment, which now includes multiple slides, spring riders and accessible swings. Baker explained that the park was created to allow children in wheelchairs or walkers to move freely around the space. There are patches of rubber flooring intermixed with bark throughout the play area. Ramps also were added to the shelter to allow everyone easier access to this area of the park. When her family frequents the park, her two teenage boys like to play basketball while her 3-year-old daughter sticks to the spring riders and the parent-child swing. “It’s a place where families can come together and have something for everyone to do. It’s what everyone had been asking for.” After many years of waiting and a few setbacks along the way, the town celebrated the park’s grand opening on April 30. It now features basketball, tennis and pickleball courts, a baseball field, a paved walking trail, a playground, a shelter, corn hole boards and horseshoe pits. Officials are planning to continue to seek funds to expand the park further. Mayor Bob Taylor is proud to have this park in his town. At 85 years old, he said he doesn’t have much use for it himself but it’s important to the town. Taylor was one of the first on the scene when the playground was vandalized shortly after it opened. He went out to the park and scrubbed the equipment himself. He hopes people from across the county will continue to come to the park saying. “This is the best park in the county and we want people to visit it and enjoy it. We just ask that everyone remember to treat it nicely.”


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Rubberized bark surrounds slides, climbing apparatus, a merry-go-round, spring riders and swings at a playground designed to be accessible to everyone.

The town added two pickle ball courts and a tennis court with professional surfacing with grant money it received.

Prior to the upgrades, grass grew in cracks in the town’s basketball court and the hoops themselves were dilapidated.


Plenty of open space and a fresh coat of paint welcome visitors to the breezy picnic shelter, spacious enough to accommodate a large family reunion, church gathering or a couple of ball clubs.

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HigHway cleanup shows

commitment to community

Early college staff, students mark 10 years keeping Greene clean By Donna Marie Williams

T

ime flies when you’re having fun — at least that’s how Greene Early College English teacher Natasha Martin feels about the school’s 10-year commitment to the N.C. Department of Transportation’s Adopt A Highway program. “Time has a way of going by so quickly and slowly at the same time. When I got our plaque in the mail saying it had been 10 years … I hadn’t realized that number of years had already gone by,” Martin said. The school began participating in the Adopt A Highway program in 2012, shortly after the school was incorporated with Martin as one of its original organizers. To establish the program, Martin joined former GEC social studies teacher Josh McClure, who submitted the original application. “We were talking about Adopt A Highway and thought it would be cool,” Martin said. “We were in the office and he put in the application. After that he left our school and I picked up the torch. I have been renewing our application every four years so we can keep the road.” School officials said interest in this project began in response to a tornado that destroyed the Greene County Middle School in April 2011. Martin and McLure applied to adopt the 1.2 mile road where the school was located and rebuilt. When school is in session, more than 1,200 students travel the stretch daily to either the middle school or Greene County Intermediate School across the street. The same tornado destroyed GEC’s first comGreene Early College students Tyler Crawford, Tyreek Jones, teacher Natasha Martin, and student Wyatt Grantham stand by the Adopt a Highway sign on Middle School Road where students have been cleaning up litter for the last 10 years.

Greene Living Magazine 2022 | 11


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Greene Early College students in September conducted the first of four cleanups they will carry out over the year. Service projects are required of students to graduate from the school. The cleanup is one of the most popular.

munity service project: moving and restoring the Walstonburg train depot to the Greene County Sports Complex in Snow Hill. Since 2012 students at GEC have participated in 41 cleanups covering 61.5 miles over the 10-year period along Middle School Road, their designated road. For students and staff at GEC, the cleanup has become a welcome tradition. “I think sometimes places don’t have enough traditions. I love the idea of tradition — keeping something going and taking care of something that was started even before you took part in it. It becomes part of your history and culture,” Martin said. “The cleanup of the highway became part of our culture. We are founded on the idea of community service. Cleaning up the highway and having our name on it helps to illustrate our commitment to community service.” Participating in the program for 10 years is a feat to be recognized. The Adopt A Highway program only requires participants to partake in the

cleanup of a designated road for four years at a time. To honor their commitment, DOT gave GEC a plaque and letter thanking them for their service and recongnized them with a marker on their Adopt A Highway sign. “We had made a commitment and stuck to it. Now we were actually being recognized for it. That token of appreciation, the plaque, the letter saying thank you for your service for 10 years — that really meant a lot to me and to all the staff here,” Martin said. While the appreciation was well received, students like senior Wyatt Grantham of Snow Hill, junior Tyreek Jones of Snow HIll and senior Tyler Crawford of Farmville were happy to join the cause. Grantham and Jones have participated in the program since they started at the school. “I try to get out there every time I can. It’s a really good place to be. It’s fun to be able to participate and help clean up the community,” Grantham said. Jones added, “It’s a good thing to participate in. Everyone has always liked to

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GEC officials said 1,200 students a day travel on Middle School Road to Greene Middle and Greene Intermediate, one of the reasons it is important to keep the road clean.

participate in it.” The cleanup has become very popular among the students, according to Martin. “They are ready to go. I have to take the list away so that no more can sign up since our bus can only hold a certain amount of kids. Within the first day or so the list gets full,” Martin said. “The thing that wows me the most is how excited kids get about picking up trash. They can make everything into a game. If you can make cleaning up fun it’s great,” Martin said. Grantham, Jones and Crawford joined more than 40 eager students Sept. 23 to participate in the first of four highway clean ups for the 2022-23 school year. This was the first for Crawford, who was surprised at the number of cigarette butts found along the road. “We got started late walking down the road. Most of the trash had already been picked up. One thing, we found a lot of is cigarette butts,” Crawford

said. “Our bag would have been empty, if not for the large portion of cigarette butts. It was genuinely something I didn’t expect to find.” For Grantham, the amount of safety that went into the cleanup surprised him initially. “With my first experience, I didn’t realize we needed all this protective gear. There is a proper way to go about these things and learning about that made me more aware that as easy as something sounds, it’s always better to be aware of the hazards,” Grantham said. Crawford, Grantham and Jones also serve as ambassadors and are members of the Student Government Association. For them, participating in the cleanup and other community service projects available through GEC helps to build friendships, community and support for each other. “It allows us to be exposed to an array of different skills and things we wouldn’t normally be

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exposed to. Like the highway cleanup, being part of a group and having that team-building activity,” Grantham said. “Being out there — not only with the people from our grade or class, but with other people that we usually would not have had the chance to connect with — we are able to build relationships and have that team mentality.” The cleanup also demonstrates leadership to students at Greene County Middle School and Greene County Intermediate School — both of which are located on Middle School Road. “It’s an important thing because it builds character. A lot of the people from middle school are trying to figure out who they are and what they want to be. By us going out there and showing them this is a good thing to do, it’s a fun thing to do and it needs to be done, it helps their development and gives them a good reason to come to GEC,”

Grantham said. Jones added, “This is a very small school compared to (Greene Central High School). Having these opportunities, like the highway cleanup … allows everyone to become more of a family, which is what I believe we are here.” Keeping the tradition alive is important to Martin who believes that the students are developing essential life skills while participating in the cleanup. “Cleaning up is important because just the behavior of cleaning up is an activity and behavior that you should show in nearly anything you should do. Cleaning up is bigger than in your house or at your school. It applies in real life and in the real world,” Martin said. “Just like cleaning up your desk helps you focus on what’s in front of you or cleaning up at home keeps your living environment clean, cleaning up your community or world helps keep that other place you


The destruction of Greene Middle School by a tornado in 2011 was one of the inspirations to conduct the cleanup on Middle School Road.

live clean also.” Deemed as an essential skill to learn, this year GEC required all of its students to participate in one of the school’s various cleanup efforts. “It’s a life skill. Cleaning up the highway is a way to make the idea of cleaning up larger. Its very important and affects everyone. It applies to real life,” Martin said. “We’re founded on service and community and giving back. Our program is very unique. The opportunities that they get here are very unique and very free. I feel at minimum we can give back

by doing something so simple but so important.” Students hope some of these life skills transfer over into the community. “Keeping the environment clean is not a hard task … When we keep the environment clean as a community we will be better off. It will make us as a community look better and feel stronger and connected,” Grantham said. Since participating in the cleanup, Jones and Grantham have observed there has been less trash on Middle School Road. “It is one thing that is helping and doing these cleanups so often it lowers the amount of trash people throw away. The more trash that is out there, the more comfortable people are going to feel throwing trash out,” Jones said. Crawford added, “I feel like it is a simple and easy thing to do. It goes a long way and I think we are representatives of that.” The Adopt A Highway program is just one of the many community service activities students at GEC can participate in. Students are required to receive 100 hours of community service in order to graduate. This requirement reflects the school’s commitment to serving the community and giving back. “We’re founded on service and community and giving back. Our program is very unique. The opportunities that they get here are very unique and very free. I feel at minimum we can give back by doing something so simple but so important,” Martin said. “It’s been a rewarding experience overall and I’m glad it’s become a culture in our school. Picking up trash is an easy way to teach kids about cleaning up our community, safety and the importance of keeping our environment clean.”

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Community at the heart of the recipe for Farmer and the Dail

Restaurant’s popular menu, engaging online presence have helped make it a destination By Pat Gruner

F

or travelers through North Carolina and Greene County locals alike, the Farmer and the Dail has become a place they can get a taste of home. Its owners said that comes from community collaboration that has helped the bakery and restaurant put Snow Hill on the map for foodies. Farmer and the Dail is the source of almost 50 full or part-time jobs in Greene County as well as a destination restaurant thanks to its menu, which blends creative with contemporary, and its engaging online presence. Owners Zac and Stacy Bailes officially began what would become the business in 2017 on Stacy’s family farm — she grew up in Greene County as Stacy Dail. Operating out of a 1,250-

foot building Tuesday through Saturday, they dished up cookies, cakes, fried pies and biscuit bombs that began drawing crowds. “It’s like Millennial home cooking I guess,” Zac Bailes explained. “We have some of those old-school things like chew bread. The fried pies, I created that recipe because I couldn’t find a good one around here. “We try to have a sense of community and inclusion in what we do so that people of different backgrounds and different sto-

Farmer and the Dail co-owner Stacy Bailes takes orders from customers at its new dining and market facility on U.S. 258 in Snow Hill. Customers come from near and far, said Bailes and her husband, Zac.

ries can see themselves in the food, and the story of the food,” he continued. “Our community is not monolithic so we are trying to be something that can represent folks that love their collards and their hamburger steak with gravy, and the people who like their yogurt cups and their chocolate chip cookie brownies.” Zac Bailes is a Kentucky native who came to North Carolina for graduate school at Wake Forest University. He spent a few years working in political fundrais-

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Lena Cannon rolls a vanilla chocolate chip cookie sandwich filled with vanilla icing and sprinkles. Farmer and the Dail got its start selling sweets.

ing, which is when he met his future wife. When she moved back to Snow Hill to be close to her family, he would eventually move to Greene County along with her. Before the bakery operated five days a week, in October 2015, Stacy Bailes began teaching cookie decorating classes, which she advertised through word of mouth and on her personal Facebook page. Ten-person classes were quickly booked, Zac Bailes recalled, and the couple started to feel like they had something on their hands. In January 2016, the couple began hosting Saturday pop-up shops to sling their sweets along with other items, like bacon and cheese biscuit bombs and fried pies. Zac Bailes said he expected some buzz but they were met with much, much more. “The first one we were not expecting a lot of people to come,” he recalled. “A ton of people showed up and it was taking people an hour and a half to get their food, but they were very gracious and kind to do it.” In 2017 Farmer and the Dail was open five days a week out on the farm. The bakery very quickly outgrew its space, prompting the acquisition of a 7,500-square-foot building at 1329 U.S. 258 in April 2021. The space operates as a full-service, family-style eatery and a retail market with two 15-foot displays – one for sweets and another just for cakes. Trey Cash, Greene County economic development director, said the business has spurred tourism in the county. “Farmer and the Dail is now a destination restaurant in eastern North Carolina,”

18 | Greene Living Magazine 2022

Cash said. “Even when me and my wife have eaten there we’ve seen people from Raleigh or an hour or two away here in Snow Hill to eat at Farmer and the Dail.” That trip means Snow Hill is getting more revenue than the price of a biscuit. “People out of the county are here spending money in the county,” Cash explained. “They’re stopping by downtown Snow Hill. They are buying gas here.” Stacy Bailes’ original posts about cookie decorating served as a sort of blueprint for the restaurant’s branding and strategy moving forward. Its strongest platform remains on Facebook, with over 31,000 followers, but its presence on Instagram is nearing 10,000 followers and it began using TikTok as a tool in June of 2021 and has picked up a dab over 1,500 followers on that platform. Farmer and the Dail has also launched a new website that Zac Bailes said incorporates its new logo and other new branding. The branding is part of continued growth, he said. The family is now in the process of outfitting a building for USDA inspections of products like chicken salad or frozen biscuit bombs. Those products would then be available for wholesale at grocery stores. The online presence was key in making the business a destination restaurant. “We’ve been very intentional about telling a certain story and, trying now, to be very intentional about branding,” Zac Bailes said. “It’s an incredible way for using things … to tell your story and to help people connect with it both near and far.

Zac and Stacy Bailes say they put community at the heart of the Farmer and the Dail.

It is remarkable the number of people who have visited us out of state. “Other times people will create a different route when they’re heading to the coast from say Maryland to come visit us. It’s because of social media and that story.” Zac Bailes recalled that a business in Snow Hill once paid $600 to overnight ship a package of Farmer and the Dail biscuits to their board of directors in Seattle. He said that there are groups who do quarterly trips from Charlotte to stock up. Cash said that the social media presence


The restaurant employs more than 50 people part and full time and is eyeing further expansion.

of Farmer and the Dail helps promote Greene County. Community partnerships are key in ensuring the food is more than just Internet buzz. All of the bakery’s dairy products are sourced from nearby Simply Natural Creamery. Hundreds of fresh eggs are purchased weekly from local chicken farmers and sausage comes from Nahunta Pork Center in Goldsboro. Coffee comes from Farmville’s Lanoca Coffee Company. Produce varies from collard greens out of Wilson or sweet potatoes from Ham Farms “four miles” down the road. “We try to source everything that we can as locally as we can,” Zac Bailes said. “We have a small marketplace that we’ve opened up inside the restaurant that obviously sells our prepared foods people can get to have a frozen dinner, but we also partner with other local businesses to sell either crafted products or others in that

marketplace.” Matthew Wright, owner of Lanoca Coffee Company, said that Farmer and the Dail was the catalyst for the roaster’s growth. In 2016 he stopped by a pop-up shop late and inquired if the Bailes would be interested in a local product. He started supplying the bakery with his dark roast coffee and within three years had quit his corporate job to supply coffee full-time. “I was doing roasting on the side because I loved doing it,” Wright said. “Their business, as they kind of grew and got bigger, is part of what forced me into growing as well.” Wright said the bakery brews with his beans onsite now due to how much coffee they sell. Initially cold brew was brewed in advance prior to shipping. The bakery also now offers light and medium roast coffees from Lanoca. “People find out you do coffee for Farmer and the Dail, that gives you a little

Greene Living Magazine 2022 | 19


Customers from around the region and out of state have made Farmer and the Dail a destination, which officials say gives the local economy a boost when they buy gas and visit other local business.

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20 | Greene Living Magazine 2022

legitimacy,” Wright said. “Now we are in a 60-mile radius from Bunn down to Goldsboro, little Washington up to Nashville.” After Farmer and the Dail’s new location opened up in 2021, Wright said he started selling commercial equipment to other coffee shops. Lanoca also now offers an academy where Greene or Pitt County residents can stop in to learn how to roast their own beans. Cash said the local flavor makes for great food. “My wife loves it,” Cash said. “It’s great for the county, for our regional community and for me to eat there. The food’s good, the portions are big and you get your money’s worth.” Cash and Stacy went to school together, he said, and her family has been a proponent for the area’s food scene for generations, both as caterers and farmers. The Bailes want to

continue that legacy. “Snow Hill and the larger county have been always incredibly supportive every day, and I think they’re proud of us,” Zac Bailes said. “That is a big part of why we’re here, because we wanted to help bring value — long-term value — to the community. Something to help build up and attract people from out of the county to come visit and experience Greene County.” The taste of home that Farmer and the Dail provides visitors is not for show – Greene County is the Bailes’ home. The couple has two small children, which makes for a personal investment in both the area and the business. “It’s a big part of staking a claim and trying to build legacy both for ourselves and this community,” Zac Bailes said. “This is definitely our home. A big part of it is trying to build a strong home that people are proud of.”


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One week at a time Greene Central Rams and head coach Jay Wilson bring joy of football to Snow Hill

Greene Central head coach Jay Wilson, center, talks with his team following a win over North Pitt.

By Craig Moyer

T

Greene Central’s Dejuan Cobb (23) follows Jaylen Mitchell (56) toward the end zone on a carry during a win over Ayden-Grifton.

22 | Greene Living Magazine 2022

he Greene Central High School football team is off to one of its best starts in program history, but Jay Wilson is taking things a week at a time. The fourth-year head coach said that’s the best way to build a good season and to build a program. “We’re going to make sure that we don’t overlook any opponent, no matter their record or who’s out for them. Everybody is 0-0 on each Friday night, and that’s the approach we need to take,” Wilson said. A North Carolina A&T alumnus, Wilson coached in the Greensboro area before coming back to the eastern part of the state and eventually taking the job at Greene Central. He spent his high school playing days on the gridiron in the Johnston County community of Princeton, west of Goldsboro. He said he knew as soon as he graduated he wanted to get into coaching so he could pass along the life lessons his coaches taught him. “My family was still here and so I came back home and pieces fall where they go and I wound up in a really good spot here in Snow Hill with Greene Central, and I made it my home,” Wilson said. The Rams this year are happy he did. They remained undefeated into October in dominant fashion, outscoring their oppo-


nents by a combined 330-55 in the first eight games. That’s a change from recent history, which included a shortened campaign in 2020 thanks to COVID-19. The team went a combined 9-20 in Wilson’s first three years, including 4-7 last fall. This year, the team matched its 2015 campaign, when it had eight consecutive wins on the way to finishing 10-2 after a first-round state playoff defeat. Wilson needed just one word to describe the key to his team’s 2022 start: preparation. He credited the hard work of his assistant coaches, from the coordinators to the specialists, in preparing their respective groups of players each week for Friday night. Wilson added that for the two-and-a-half hours the team has to practice each day Monday through Thursday, not one moment goes to waste. “There is no wasted time, there is no wasted motion, everybody is working hard on their individual skill that they’re going to bring back to the team,” Wilson said. ”Then we put all those things together and the product is what it’s been for these first several games.” For anyone who has ever been around the Rams program on a game day or even at practice, Wilson’s energy transfers its way through the team. Coaches and players alike credit that energy for making the team play at its highest level every week. “Him bringing that high energy every day can be contributed to the offense. He throws his inputs in there and really gets us going,” offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator Demarcus Whitehurst said. Lineman Tyler Williams added, “He pushes me a lot and challenges me to stay working

Greene Central’s Okie Edwards (9) stiff arms an Ayden-Grifton defender as he fights to get out of bounds in the closing seconds of the first half of a game earlier this season.

hard.” “He’s very enthusiastic, hard-working, very hard on us, but that’s definitely a good thing,” wide receiver Jaylen Wynn said. “He just makes sure we focus one week at a time on the next team.” With the success of the team comes the coaching staff ’s challenge of keeping the players level-headed and prepared for each new opponent. Wilson continues to stress a week-by-week approach, which seems to be effective so far for his team, offensive coordinator Delmus Willis said. “It’s been fun, but it’s also been demanding because

you’ve gotta keep 16-, 17- and 18-year-olds level-headed and as you know, this day and age with social media it’s kinda hard sometimes, but they’ve done a great job of staying even-keeled and working hard every day,” Willis said. While the team has several skill-position players on both sides of the ball, it all starts up front on the offensive and defensive lines. Willis, also in his fourth year with the team, knows his high-powered offense would not be where it is today without the work by the linemen. “I’ve always said as long as I’ve been coaching, you can’t

have a successful offense without a front five,” Willis said. “We could have 3,000 yards passing, 5,000 yards rushing, if the front five ain’t working, then we’ve got zero.” It was nearly a total rebuild after the team lost a few starters from last season’s team. Whitehurst stressed the hard work put in throughout the summer is paying off this fall. “We did a lot of moving around, convinced a lot of guys to buy into the team and put together a great front five that came together during the summer and worked hard all the way back to May,” Whitehurst said.

Greene Living Magazine 2022 | 23


The core of the line on both sides of the ball is made up of underclassmen, with just one senior lineman on the roster this season. One of those underclassmen is Williams, who plays on both sides of the ball for the Rams. The sophomore said the team is enjoying the season’s strong start, but is still looking for more moving forward. “It’s been fun. It just makes you want to play more when we’re winning and keep working hard going into the playoffs,” Williams said. Willis stressed that while the offense has a handful of electric athletes, they would not be able to make the plays they have been making without the offensive front five. One of those playmakers on the outside is Wynn, who also plays on the defensive side of the ball as a safety.

Greene Central’s Jamari Coppage breaks away from an Ayden-Grifton defender on a 32-yard carry. Coppage finished with 196 yards rushing and two touchdowns in the Rams’ win.

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Wynn, a junior, credited the line for the team’s big jump from last year’s 4-7 record to this season’s undefeated start. “It’s great seeing our running backs’ and receivers’ success. Our O-line is doing great this year and it feels better as a team this year than last year,” Wynn said. As for the rest of the season, Wilson is looking for more of the same and hoping his team can stay healthy. “The main part is making sure that we’re as healthy as humanly possible going into

each week and making sure that we’re prepared going into each week,” Wilson said. He added the community support has continued to be great, as parents and others help out with everything from laundry to feeding both the varsity and JV teams before games. “They come by and make sure the guys understand they are proud of us and what we’re doing and they want us to keep going and keep representing the community and the county as we have been,” Wilson said.

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Greene County Teacher of the Year Allie Gray speaks to fellow educators during a districtwide staff assembly at the start of the 2022-23 school year. (Greene County Schools)

Meet Allie Gray,

teacher of the year

By Ariyanna Smith

A

llie Gray has always known she wanted to be an educator. “I always say I got it from my grandmother. She was a teacher and I was born on her birthday. I got my middle name (Rose) from her and, as of now, I’m the only grandchild of hers that became a teacher. I think she favored me a little bit because of that,” she says with a laugh. Now, just seven years into

her career, the Greene County Intermediate School teacher is being recognized as the county’s 2022-23 Teacher of the Year. Gray began pursuing her goal of becoming a teacher 10 years ago when she left her hometown in Maryland to attend East Carolina University. Her time in school and an internship in the third

grade at West Greene Elementary confirmed this was the job for her. “I’ve always wanted to be involved in some part of the education system and work with children,” she said. After graduation, she accepted a teaching position at Greene County Intermediate School. “At our first meeting, I knew that she had what it took to be an awesome

teacher. One who would dedicate herself to ensuring the success of students academically and socially,” recalled Jada Mumford, GCIS principal. Gray went on to prove her principal’s predictions about her were correct. Gray immediately felt at home in Greene County, recalling, “I really loved the small-town feel of teaching in Snow Hill. It reminded me of where I grew up because of the strong sense of community.”

Greene Living Magazine 2022 | 27


Greene County teacher of the year Allie Gray leads a reading lesson with students in her fourth-grade class at Greene County Intermediate School in October.

The 28-year-old spent her first two years teaching fourth grade before moving to fifth grade for the next four years. Though she enjoyed her time teaching fifth grade, she says there is something special about the fourth grade. “Fifth grade is the year of really teaching them about responsibility and preparing them for middle school. I en-

joyed being a part of that with them, but there is something magical about fourth grade. The kids are 9 turning 10 and they still just really enjoy school. They’re also learning who they are and finding their independence. Fourth grade is where my heart is.” Now, in her seventh year of teaching, she has returned to the fourth grade where

she teaches students reading and social studies. Gray is an instructor in the Los Puentes Two-Way Immersion Program, a dual-language program where she spends half of the day teaching students in English then another instructor teaches them Spanish language arts, math and science for the remainder of the day. Gray says one of the most

gratifying things about her job is “seeing students fall in love with reading.” One of her favorite books to read with her class is called “Wish” by Barbara O’Conner. It tells the story of a girl who finds the true meaning of family in unexpected places. “I do this specific novel every year. This book seems to be the one that shows them, if

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GCIS Assistant Principal Taylor Moore, left, and Principal Jada Mumford, right, congratulate Gray on being named the school’s teacher of the year in March. Gray would go on to with the district teacher of the year recognition. (Greene County Schools)

they don’t already know, that reading can be so powerful.” The story is also set in North Carolina, a bonus for Gray who strives to make their assignments engaging and relatable. Encouraging her students’ autonomy is another core principle of her teaching philosophy. “I’m always focused on the needs of the whole child. I see them as more than just fourth graders and I try to really get to know them as people,” she explains. “Before you can teach them, you have to know them. You have to build a relationship and let them know you are invested in them and their wellbeing. It really makes the job easier when they feel like they can open up.” She says the daily time allotted for social-emotional learning helps build those important interpersonal skills that students will need both at home and school. To help them practice those skills, she says she takes every opportunity available to get the kids talking. “My favorite class memories are any of the moments where my kids and I are just laughing uncontrollably over something silly. I like to see them just being kids.” She also attends their sporting events whenever she can. “I want to show them that I see their success outside of school and it’s not just about grades and test scores. Any chance, big or small, to talk with them and encourage them shows that you are invested and that can go a long way,” she said. Despite feeling fulfilled by the work she is doing with her students,

Greene Living Magazine 2022 | 29


Gray says it’s a difficult time for teachers. She said the past few years have been especially challenging, even for the most experienced teachers. She notes that the pandemic has magnified some existing issues with the education system such as insufficient teacher recruitment and retention rates. “Teacher retention is an issue that impacts all of us because it affects class sizes. This is one of the biggest issues we are facing, especially in the upper grades of elementary. I’m really passionate about having smaller class sizes because we need to make sure that all the kids are getting the attention they deserve.” Gray recalls a period at the start of the pandemic when classes were halved as a safety measure saying, “It was amazing what we could get done and just how quickly you can build your relationships with your students when you have a smaller class.” Despite the challenges public school teachers are facing, Gray plans to keep working with her fellow teachers and school staff for their students. “I am really thankful for Greene County and I feel that I’ve been given a lot of opportunities

to grow as a teacher here,” she said. Gray was selected as the teacher of the year in March from among five finalists for the honor, one from each of the county’s schools. She encouraged colleagues to stay strong for the students during an opening meeting at the start of the school year. “Even though we have been pushed these past few years, each child in your class was placed there for a reason. We must be our best because we mean more to them than we realize.”

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Greene County’s Trey Cash embraces new role

Economic developer will devote energy to growing industry By Beyonca Mewborn

T

rey Cash likens economic development to dreaming and to tending a garden. Dreamers imagine the bounty that can grow; good gardeners lay the ground for a new crop and take care of existing rows to help them flourish. “Economic development is really a dreamer’s job, so you’re not thinking about today, you’re thinking about five years, 10 years, and 15 years down the road,” said Cash, Greene County Economic Developer with the N.C. Global TransPark Economic Development Region. “It’s not just trying to attract new business, but making sure you grow your own garden, so we’re making sure that we are keeping our existing businesses here, keeping them happy. We’re trying to help them expand and improve their success

32 | Greene Living Magazine 2022

right here, and we want to be their partner in that.” The folks who hired Cash for his new role in June said the 32-year-old Greene County native is in a prime position to do just that. He was born and raised in Greene County and has devoted his life to public service here, most recently serving as the county’s elections director. While working for the county, he’s seized on opportunities to help those trying to add jobs and improve the county’s quality of life. Officials said he was a natural pick for a job that will bring focus to the county’s economic health, a post leaders envisioned in 2020 when Greene, Wayne and Lenoir county governments along with the N.C. Global TransPark created the NCGTEDR to combine resources to focus on regional assets in an effort to benefit all. Cash knows the county and its people, and has the energy and passion needed for the

mission. “Anytime I needed help doing anything with a client, Trey was always willing to step forward and say look, I will help you, and it didn’t matter if it was working hours or after hours,” said Harold Thomas, the TransPark organization’s former vice president. “He was willing to help, he showed up, he showed a lot of willingness, and desire to see Greene County improve as well as a desire to see the Global Transpark Economic Development Association improve.” Cash and other leaders in Greene, Wayne and Lenoir counties along with state Global Transpark officials see great promise in working together to capitalize on the jetport in Kinston and the area’s workforce, education system and natural charms. Thomas was a plant manager at Dupont in Lenoir County then the economic


Greene County’s Trey Cash was named vice president of the N.C. Global TransPark Economic Development Region and director of Greene County Economic Development in July. (Global TransPark Economic Development Region)

development assistant working with Lenoir County when he retired for the first time 14 years ago. He started working with Greene County as economic developer when officials formed the TransPark group, but approached it as a temporary role. “I went into it because at that point Greene County had several organizations that weren’t functioning, so the goal was to set those up, and also bring some new industry into the county and help expand what was already in the county,” said Thomas. “So, I set out working on developing a Greene County manufacturing association which included all people that make things in the county, developing the Greene County Transportation committee, and Trey was a part of that; he assisted, he was aggressive, he was interested, he showed a lot

of willingness to work and try to make improvements in the county, and pretty quickly he became a possible candidate in our eyes.” With those three counties and the Global Transpark coming together, there was a need for staffing to put boots on the ground, said Cash, who filled Thomas’ post as vice president in addition to Greene County economic developer. “We have me in my new position, we have our senior vice president (Mark Pope), who’s a very experienced developer, and a marketing staff, so it gives us more of an opportunity here in Greene County to function at a higher level and be able to market ourselves better because we have a bigger and more experienced staff to do so,” said Cash. Cash said their goals with the Global Transpark Economic Development Region are

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to market the region better to attract new businesses and to ensure their existing businesses and industries are growing. “So what we’re doing is we’re looking at the future, looking at our workforce, looking at our demographics, and our school systems to ensure that we’re prepared for five years to 15 years down the road for potential growth from new businesses and existing businesses,” said Cash. Efforts have already borne fruit for Greene County. In August, state grant funds totaling $175,000 were announced to help H&T Trucking expand its hub in Bullhead Township south of Stantonsburg, eventually adding 75 jobs. Building Envelope Erection Service — BEES — cut the ribbon on an expansion in April that will add 17 jobs. And officials in November announced circuit board maker Precision Graphics is opening a facility that will create 70 jobs in Snow Hill, expected to start up early next year. As a hometown booster, it’s that kind of success Cash wants to see more often. “I was born and raised here in Greene

County, I’m a Greene Central graduate, I got an associate’s degree from Wilson Community College, then I got my bachelor’s degree from Western Carolina and my MBA from Fayetteville State University,” Cash said. He worked for Greene County Emergency Management including a stint as deputy director for emergency services, then he was a planner for the state department of Emergency Management. He served as county elections director for four years. He and his wife also have a daughter who’s a year and a half old, and Cash wants to build a future for her. Cash said his hopes are to say to his little girl in 20 years, look what we’ve been able to do for Greene County, and hopefully watch it grow from now until that time has passed. “I’ve been working in state and local government for 10 years, the last four years I was the elections director for Greene

County, and that was a great opportunity for me to meet and greet all the citizens of Greene County when they went out and voted,” said Cash. “I listened to their concerns I heard their feedback and that opened my ears and my eyes to a lot of citizens here, so I’m able to transition into the economic development role by knowing all these citizens and being able to speak to them, and say look I’m here for you now, I’m here to help support your business.” Kyle DeHaven, Greene County manager for seven years, said that’s why Cash is someone they are really excited to have working with the county. He brings a different perspective to every conversation, a valued perspective, and they’re very fortunate to have someone of his caliber of education, training, and experience around”, he said. “I’m hoping that that fresh perspective translates into a new look at how econom-

Cash says the Global TransPark Region has a team in place and assets needed to develop and help existing industry grow and recruit new business to the area. (NCGTEDR)

34 | Greene Living Magazine 2022


ic development and Greene County work together so that we can bring the best businesses and improve current businesses the most in Greene County for our business and our citizens,” said DeHaven. Being a native of Greene County put him a step ahead of others who may have been qualified for the position because leaders in industry and commerce are already familiar with him. His familiarity with the region and his love for it also help him sell it to prospective employers. “I think new business is vital to a community for many reasons,” said DeHaven. “Expansion and development of that community provide employment, it gives a reason for people to come, It increases tax base, and it’s just great for growth in a local economy.” Cash said he thinks people will be excited for him to step

Cash worked in multiple Greene County and state government roles before taking on the economic development post. (NCGTEDR)

into this role and that he is going to put all his energy into it. “I’m a younger guy, so I’m putting a lot of energy into this role that hasn’t had a lot of energy in a long time,” said Cash. “We are going to try new endeavors, we’re going to talk to more business owners, and just put ourselves out there

more.” He said he will focus on existing businesses “to make sure they know we are here. We want to grow our own garden and that means going out to our existing businesses because if you look at the data from the past 10 years, 70 percent of jobs created in any county in North

Carolina have been through those existing businesses and industries that are already in your county. “So we’re going out this year and we’re trying to meet all business owners to let them know that hey this is what we do, we’re here to help you and support you,” said Cash.

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Getting to know the residents of Greene County over the years helps Cash support their businesses, he said. (NCGTEDR)

Greene Living Magazine 2022 | 35