SALMEMBURG — John Fortner was recently selected to lead the North Carolina Agriculture Teachers Association.
The Lakewood High School agriculture teacher will be in charge of representing more than 400 ag teachers throughout the state. He said he’s very humbled to be in the position. NCATA’s mission is enhance and support state and local agriculture education programs.
“We’re in support of the teachers and getting more teachers into our profession,” Fortner said.
He was nominated by a group of teachers representing different regions throughout North Carolina. For NCATA, he previously served as president-elect. He’s also a board member of the state’s FFA organization.
The 1997 graduate of Union High School earned an associate’s degree in applied science from Sampson Community College. He later graduated with a bachelor’s in agricultural education, minoring in horticulture science from North Carolina State University in 2003. After college, he began working at West Carteret High School in Morehead City. After five years, he returned to teach at LHS. He’s been teaching agriculture to local students since 2008.
Fortner grew up on a small family farm in the Taylors Bridge area, which produced tobacco, corn and soybeans. While working in the fields, he learned the importance of hard work. He also took a lot of agriculture classes in high school.
“That’s just what I wanted to do,” Fortner said. “I’ve been around agriculture all my life. I wanted to do something where I could stay at home and stay in the field of ag.”
As a teacher, he loves teaching students agriculture.
“I love giving back,” he said. “Most students today don’t come from farms. But being in Sampson County, everyone knows about farming and we just try to connect them to what we’re all about and how important agriculture is.”
Fortner added that some media outlets or special interest groups may try to put a negative light on agriculture. But as a teacher, Fortner stressed the importance of teaching how valuable farming is to the community. It’s something he wants to continue at Lakewood High School.
“I’m not ready to jump ship yet,” he said.
He was inspired by Gerald Barlowe, his agriculture teacher during his freshman year of Union. Barlowe was also an FFA advisor and encouraged Fortner to join the organization. Barlowe is now the state advisor for North Carolina FFA.
“I learned about FFA and what agriculture education can do for a person from him,” he said. “I wanted to keep with it. Once I became a teacher, I still kept in touch with him.”
Fortner resides in Harnett County with his wife, Beth, a guidance counselor at South Harnett Elementary School. Together they have one son, Caden. His parents, Robert and Sue Fortner, reside in Sampson County.
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