Opportunities to Grow

On an annual basis, agriculture and agribusiness contribute $84 million to North Carolina’s economy and provide roughly 17 percent of the state’s jobs. While the ag industry steadily grows, so does the number of farmers approaching retirement. A recent USDA forecast projects the need for 22,500 additional trained workers a year to fill open positions in the agricultural sector.

NC State’s Agricultural Institute has launched an initiative to connect a talented workforce with agriculture. North Carolina has one of the largest veteran populations in the country and as veterans leave military service many are looking for new jobs and opportunities.

“Veterans offer a specific type of work ethic. They get up, get the job done,” said Robert Elliot, veteran liaison for the Ag Institute. “It doesn’t matter what problems they have in front of ‘em, they’ll figure out how to get it done.”

The Agricultural Institute offers educational experiences both inside and outside the classroom. At Elliot’s family farm, Cypress Hall Farms in Franklin County, he works with veterans and trains them how to grow, market and sell their products. Private support is paramount to the success of these hands-on initiatives. Donors provide critical resources that enable the Institute to build on existing work, create new opportunities for students and support scholarships.

“The Ag Institute is such a special program, it makes real differences in lives,” Beth Wilson, director of the Agricultural Institute, said. “We help to grow the whole person.”