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April 17, 2024 5:09 am

UMO celebrates 20 years of agriculture growth

A highlight of the UMO celebration of 20 years of agriculture growth was the presentation of several Partner in Agriculture Awards, given to individuals and businesses who have provided outstanding support to the agricultural programs at the University of Mount Olive. The awards were presented to, from left, Jimmy Gentry, Dewitt Hardee, Tommy Pittman, Randy Maness, Rhonda Campbell, G.W. Stanley, David Herring, Shawn Harding, Rose Raper, Bob Kornegay, Steven Brake, Edward Croom, Scott Hamilton, William Upchurch and Sandy Maddox.

MOUNT OLIVE – The University of Mount Olive School of Agriculture and Biological Sciences recently celebrated its 20th anniversary with a banquet and awards ceremony.

During the event, agriculture students shared information on curriculum advancement, instructional development, internships, student organizations and community service projects. They also discussed future opportunities and projections. More than 300 people attended the event held in Kornegay Arena.

“The students of our agriculture programs and our collegiate clubs wanted to take this opportunity to recognize and give thanks to the individuals and agribusinesses that have made the growth of the agriculture programs here at the University of Mount Olive a reality,” said Dr. Sandy Maddox, dean of the School of Agriculture and Biological Sciences. “There is no way to individually recognize everyone that has provided support to our programs, but hopefully this banquet helps to show our appreciation.”

A highlight of the evening was the presentation of several Partner in Agriculture awards, given to individuals and businesses who have provided outstanding support to the agricultural programs at the University of Mount Olive.

David Herring of Hog Slat is a member of the UMO Ag Advisory Board and was instrumental in the completion of the Education and Agriculture Building at the Kornegay Student Farm. He continues to provide guidance and support in multiple areas important to the advancement of the agriculture programs at UMO. Through his work with Hog Slat, Herring is a nationally and internationally recognized advocate for the pork industry.

Scott Hamilton with Golden LEAF Foundation is the organization’s third president. Hamilton works with the Golden LEAF Board of Directors in their efforts to bring positive economic change to communities in North Carolina through the foundation’s grant programs and scholarship programs. Both of these programs have benefited students at the University of Mount Olive. The work that Hamilton and the Golden LEAF Foundation do is critical to the future of agriculture.

Steven Brake of S&N Enterprises has opened his farm to UMO students to educate and encourage the consideration of the poultry industry as a positive career path.  Brake has shared his expertise with hundreds of UMO students and has expanded his educational efforts to include more visitors including k-12 school groups, FFA chapters and community college and university students, as well as international leaders. Brake is an important advocate for the UMO ag programs and his passion is greatly appreciated. He almost always wears his UMO hat and shirt, and he is completely committed to education and telling the truth about agriculture production to all that will listen.

William Upchurch serves as the executive director of the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission and works with the board to assist tobacco dependent individuals, businesses and communities impacted by the tobacco buyout through innovative grants. The Agribusiness Center is grateful to have been a grant recipient for many important projects. Upchurch has assisted UMO’s agricultural programs in various other ways, including serving as a judge for FFA regional competitions hosted at the university and has answered the call to serve as a speaker when asked.

State Representative Jimmy Dixon has provided opportunities for UMO students to attend and speak to the House Agriculture and Education committees. He has provided support for many UMO educational initiatives that are strengthening rural communities through education. A farmer by trade, Dixon is a solid supporter of the agriculture programs at the University of Mount Olive.

Bob Kornegay, manager of marketing at Tri-County EMC, is a UMO graduate and serves on the Agricultural Advisory Board for the School of Agriculture and Biological Sciences. His input and advisement has been exceptional and has resulted in providing service to the Kornegay Farm in a safe and affordable manner. In addition, Kornegay has been pivotal in a newly forged partnership with UMO and Tri-County EMC to develop charging stations at the Kornegay Student Farm. These stations will one day charge vehicles and potentially tractors.

Shawn Harding, president of the N.C. Farm Bureau, is a unified voice for the interests and needs of farmers and farming communities. He provides opportunities for UMO students to develop leadership and agricultural advocacy knowledge and skills through the Collegiate Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee. Through his support, Young Farmer and Rancher members are able to attend state and national conventions and expand their knowledge of agriculture and the issues farmers face at the local and national level.

Dewitt Hardee, former director of the North Carolina Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund, has worked with the UMO Agribusiness Center on numerous educational outreach programs to preserve family farms. His advocacy for the UMO agriculture programs and outreach efforts and his guidance and support has been exceptional.

Jimmy Gentry, president of the North Carolina Grange, has strengthened individuals, families and communities through several grassroots actions, service opportunities, advocacy for agriculture and rural areas and public awareness. The grange has supported UMO through financial contributions, participation in AgFest and serving as a judge for FFA events. UMO faculty and students have served in leadership roles in the grange, been speakers at state and local events and participated in grange activities. UMO and the grange have shared a common vision for educating the next generation of leaders to meet the needs of rural North Carolina.

Tommy Pittman, former Piggly Wiggly deli and produce retail director with Food Farm: Home of the Original Piggly Wiggly, has been instrumental in securing sponsorship and resources for the food needs at UMO’s Annual Ag Fest event.  Even after retirement, he has worked to provide more options each year and to make the event memorable for all students.

G. W. Stanley, Tim Parrish, Randy Maness and Chester Pipkin, fondly known as the “Got to be N.C. Boys,” have really made a mark on UMO. They have worked hard to provide support for events through marketing materials and items at conferences and conventions and much more. UMO’s AgFest would not be what it is without this group. They are always eager to collaborate and assist with all aspects of the day.

Smithfield Foods has provided great support to the University of Mount Olive and communities across our state. Smithfield Foods provides internship opportunities, careers, sponsors special events and offers scholarships to students in our region and beyond. In addition to putting bacon on the table, Smithfield Foods provides funding to special events within our communities including sponsoring AgFest.

Dr. H. Edward Croom, president of the University of Mount Olive, has exhibited exceptional leadership during some very difficult times for the university and the nation, including the COVID-19 pandemic. Using grace and faith as his guide, Croom’s commitment to not only the agricultural program at UMO, but also to every student at the university is unmatched. Owning his own farm and being the father of a UMO grad, he understands and appreciates the value of a UMO education. He daily shares UMO success stories with businesses and individuals that have the capacity to strengthen and expand the reach of UMO.

Rose Raper, former first lady of Mount Olive College, for 41 years has left a left a lasting legacy on UMO. Even after her reign as first lady, Raper has continued to be a great supporter of everything at the University of Mount Olive, including, but not limited to, UMO Agriculture. For her service and stalwart support, she was awarded the Lifetime Partner in Agriculture Award.

Maddox has served in many different capacities at the University of Mount Olive since 2017.  She has been a professor, director of the Agribusiness Center, division chair, club advisor, and founding dean. Her favorite role however, has been that of mentor. Maddox has influenced countless lives through her dedication, encouragement and commitment to agriculture and to UMO. Maddox, who will step down from her role as dean in May, will continue to serve the University as an advisor on special projects.

In closing, CFFA President Anna Brown asked, “How many other university banquets have you been to that are conducted completely by students? We are given opportunities that others are not. Sometimes we are not certain that we can achieve them, but somehow we always do. That is growth. This university has transformed us into agriculturists and taught us many life skills to be used in our future careers. We are appreciative of our faculty, of the leadership, and of the many supporters like those we recognized here tonight. Without you, this program would not be what it is today.”

— From University of Mount Olive Public Relations