Preparations are well under way and tickets are now available for Sampson County’s Friends of Agriculture Rally coming up Monday, March 17. This year, Sampson’s Friends of Ag members are excited to welcome Dr. Randy Woodson, chancellor of N.C. State University, as their guest speaker.
Tickets for the annual rally, which will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Sampson County Agri-Exposition Center, are free and can be picked up at the Sampson County Cooperative Extension office, 55 Agriculture Place, Clinton; at the Chamber of Commerce; or at Clinton Truck and Tractor Co.
“We’re excited about this year’s rally,” said Ronnie Jackson with the Friends of Agriculture. “This isn’t the first time we’ve tried to have him (Woodson) here but it’s the first time for us to have the opportunity for him to come. He’s a busy man but he accepted and we’re looking forward to it.”
“Sampson is one of the largest agriculture counties in the state, in the U.S. really, and what we do here ties in well with the mission of N.C. State and what they do in agriculture,” Jackson continued. “I think he (Woodson) wanted to come because it’s where a lot of the action is, both in livestock and field crops.”
Woodson, N.C. State’s 14th chancellor, holds a B.S. in Horticulture from the University of Arkansas and a M.S. and Ph.D. in Plant Physiology from Cornell University. He began his career in higher education in 1985 at Purdue University where he started out as an assistant professor in the Department of Horticulture and later served as head of the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture. He was also a visiting scholar at the École Nationale Supérieure Agronomique de Toulouse in France.
He was then appointed to various administrative positions at Purdue, serving as the associate dean of agriculture and the director of the Office of Agricultural Research Program from 1998 to 2004; Dean of Agriculture; executive vice president for academic affairs; and provost.
Since becoming chancellor of N.C. State, he was been the driving force behind the development and implementation of the university’s strategic plan which includes focuses on student success, faculty excellence, and engagement and economic development.
Over his the course of his career, Woodson’s interests and research has included plant genetics, molecular biology, biotechnology and sustainable bioproducts development, spanning the gap between the detailed science of plant physiology and the practical application of this knowledge in the field of horticulture. He has greatly contributed to the field of plant science, publishing over 100 journal articles and book chapters; his work as appeared in BusinessWeek, The Futurist, and Discover. His work has earned him numerous honors including the Purdue University Agriculture Research Award, the American Society for Horticultural Science Outstanding Researcher Career Award, and the Sagamore of the Wabash Award, the highest service award presented by Indiana’s governor. Woodson, a married father of three, is also a fellow of the American Society for Horticultural Science.
“I don’t know exactly what he will be talking about but I’m sure it will focus on agriculture, agri-business, and the university’s role in that,” shared Jackson, adding that this year is an especially significant time to have Woodson visiting Sampson County. “We are pleased to have Dr. Woodson anytime, but especially this year as the NCSU Cooperative Extension Service celebrates its 100th anniversary statewide.”
“We work closely with the Cooperative Extension,” Jackson pointed out, mentioning how the local Extension provides help to both farmers and hobbyists and has actually been doing so in Sampson for a little over 100 years. “I’m sure that’s part of why the Chancellor wanted to come.”
Last year, some 350 community members attended the Friends of Ag Rally and Jackson hopes that many and more will return this year to hear Woodson and learn more about Sampson’s biggest business.
“We try to show the positives of agriculture. Sometimes the media can paint agriculture not in the best light so we try to create a positive impression and educate people. Believe it or not, there’s people right here that know very little about agriculture even though they’re in close proximity to it,” said Jackson, adding that many may be surprised to learn that in Sampson County, in just one year, agriculture generates over a billion dollars. “That puts us in the top ten, definitely the top 20, in the U.S. so it’s very important.”
“This isn’t just for farmers and ag people. It’s for everybody in town, everyone who lives and works here because their lives and jobs depend on agriculture whether they know it or not. It’s a driving force here,” he stressed. “We’ve got some industry but agriculture is our business.”
Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.