From the tractor
by Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler
I grew up with a love of agriculture, and knew at a fairly early age that I wanted to be a farmer. I began farming in earnest while I was still in college, starting small with a few acres and operating a roadside stand. I slowly grew my farm, adding more land and equipment as I went along.
It is hard, honest work, but it is also rewarding to see what I have been able to accomplish and build through both good and bad production years.
Farming is not for everyone, but a couple of activities I participated in recently have encouraged me that more young people are thinking about agriculture as a career.
The state FFA officers recently dropped by for a brief visit and I was happy to get to share my story and talk to them about agriculture and the department. They asked some really good questions about the future of agriculture and my vision for the industry. I was pleased that several students are planning to major in an animal agriculture-related field, while others were looking at ag business management, ag education and environmental fields. We need bright young minds in agriculture.
To follow up that meeting, the students returned a week or two later and spent two days learning more about the work of the department and the various types of programs we are involved in. We employ people in a wide range of fields here at the department, including scientists, lab technicians, foresters, marketing specialists, veterinarians, truck drivers, research technicians, entomologists, soil scientists, pesticide inspectors, human resources professionals, accounting technicians, engineers and more. I hope their visit helped further fuel their interest in agriculture.
In addition to the FFA students, I also recently had an opportunity to meet with third- graders at General Greene Elementary School in Greensboro through the Bonnie Plants 3rd Grade Cabbage Program.
More than 53,000 North Carolina third-graders received a cabbage plant from Bonnie Plants. The students grew the plant and had to submit a photo of the student and the plant for the contest. Each class selected a winner and those winners were eligible to win a $1,000 scholarship from Bonnie Plants. There was one student winner per state.
Cassady Teague of Guilford County was the state winner. She planted her cabbage in May last year and harvested the 17-pound cabbage in September.
It is easy to say Cassady has a pretty green thumb; it was a beautiful cabbage plant. I was proud that the winner came from my home county, although that was just a lucky coincidence.
The average age of farmers in the state is 58, so we know we have an aging population. I am convinced that agriculture and agribusiness will soon be a $100 billion industry, which means there will be opportunities in agriculture, especially with a growing world population that will need food, fiber and renewable fuels.
It is an exciting time to be in agriculture as we will be challenged to stretch well beyond current production numbers and yields to meet future food demands. I am proud that North Carolina is in a position to be a leader in this field and I want to ensure agriculture remains our leading industry for many years to come.