MOUNT OLIVE — The University of Mount Olive Department of Agriculture and Biological Sciences will hold a ribbon cutting for its newest addition to the George R. Kornegay Jr. Student Farm at 11:30 A.M. on March 22. The new structure, a first-of-its-kind in a private college ag program setting in North Carolina, will serve as a commodity handling facility, food hub and training and demonstration site for students and local farmers.
The 5,000 sq. ft. building was constructed to meet certification standards and is equipped with cooler storage capacity, cleaning, grading and sorting capacity as well as limited freezer capacity. The facility will handle, store and process commodities grown at the Kornegay Student Farm and consolidate commodities from local growers to distribute to various market channels including CSAs and mobile farmers markets.
The Agricultural Commodity Building will create a hands-on educational environment for students and farmers to observe operational and production practices that could be implemented on the family farm. It will also provide a platform to demonstrate traditional and organic agronomic/horticultural crop production diversification principles, strategies and market development options with business models for new and existing farmers, resulting in risk reduction through demonstration and education.
The project was funded by multiple partners including the Agricultural and Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund, which assisted with equipment purchases; and the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, which was the lead donor for building construction. Multiple private donors also contributed to the project.
According to Dr. Sandra Maddox, dean of the School of Agriculture and Biological Sciences, the new facility will add significant value to the university’s ag program and the local community. “Diversification and expansion of existing operations as well as infrastructural improvements allow farmers to broaden their market share and add stability to their operational plan,” she said. “Increasing the operational capacity of the family farm improves the potential for growth in farm income. This facility will allow for this to occur with a network of local farmers engaged.”
The University of Mount Olive plans to expand the facility to include commodity processing, which will add value and increase profitability. Students and farmers will be trained to understand and implement food safety handling principles, organic production, handling and marketing opportunities, value-added diversification strategies for production and marketing to allow for operational diversification and increased profitability potential.
Construction began in November 2021 and the building was completed in February. The new Agricultural Commodity Building will be used immediately to expand production and meet the needs of the community for a central distribution location.
The public is invited to the ribbon cutting located at 408 Garner Chapel Road in Mount Olive.
— From University of Mount Olive Public Relations