The creation of the Division of Agriculture at the University of Mount Olive (UMO) is a result of the growth that has occurred in the agriculture curriculums over the last few years.
“The University has witnessed growth in student numbers interested in agriculture and it is anticipated this will continue,” said Dr. Sandy Maddox, UMO Division Chair of Agriculture and Director of the Lois G. Britt Agribusiness Center.
Maddox went on to note that the creation of the Division of Agriculture at UMO enables faculty to be able to work together to develop curriculum and participate in outreach efforts that provide UMO students unique opportunities for learning and networking within the agricultural community.
“Through these partnerships the agriculture division has achieved 100% placement of ag graduates,” Maddox stated. “The majority of these graduates are placed in eastern NC or in their respective local communities in other areas of the state. It is essential to the sustainability of our local communities for these graduates to return to their local communities to serve as educators and leaders in the agricultural industry.”
The creation of the Division of Agriculture is what Maddox says will allow for continued relationship building within the agricultural and educational communities. “The division will allow faculty to work collaboratively to expand degree offerings to meet the educational needs of students and the employer needs within the changing agricultural industry across the state,” she said. “Precision agriculture, agronomic principles, sales and marketing, and agricultural education will remain at the forefront of educating students for careers in agriculture.”
Maddox indicated that one of the challenges is continuing to provide students the hands-on learning experiences that take the classroom principles and theories and allow them to be applied in the field. “Through the gracious and generous donations of both individuals and farm families in the region, we are beginning to successfully develop facilities that will allow for a participatory learning experience to occur,” she said.
Three of those additions include the Goodson-Wells Agricultural Mechanics Shop, the arboretum, and the Kornegay Farm.
The addition of the Goodson-Wells Agricultural Mechanics Shop has been an essential learning tool for UMO students, many of whom will be ag educators in the future. The facility has been equipped by funds from individual donations allowing for the purchase of welding and other needed equipment for teaching and training.
An arboretum, currently under construction, will serve as a teaching tool for UMO students and green industry professionals. “Numerous local nurseries are committed to providing materials to help us bring this teaching tool to fruition for the benefit of UMO students and for residents of the region to enjoy,” Maddox said.
Maddox noted that the George R. Kornegay family’s donation of a 70 acre farm for a student learning laboratory will help UMO ag faculty to teach students animal husbandry techniques, traditional production and organic production techniques and principles, soil and water, environmental and natural resource principles and do so at a realistic scale of production. The farm resource will additionally allow students the opportunity to develop sales and marketing strategies and business planning models for the farm and farm products as well as to conduct undergraduate research projects.
“Our students enjoy and excel in a hands-on learning environment,” Maddox shared. “This support coupled with the willingness of the agribusiness community and agricultural producers in the region to open their operations to our students and share their expertise to increase the understanding and knowledge base of the UMO ag students is essential. As program growth continues we hope to one day announce a School of Agriculture at UMO. With the creation of a Division of Agriculture and potentially a School of Agriculture in the future, the University continues to exhibit its commitment to providing well trained graduates for the industry that is the economic engine of North Carolina.”