Golden LEAF Foundation visits UMO student farm

Agribusiness professionals tout NC agriculture

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The Golden LEAF Foundation recently held an agriculture roundtable at the University of Mount Olive’s student farm to highlight the state’s agribusiness and farming industries.

The event focused on programs supported by the foundation that help expand markets for farmers and offer training to students interested in these fields. The roundtable featured officials from the Northeast Regional School of Biotechnology and Agriscience, the University of Mount Olive and the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission.

“North Carolina is an agribusiness powerhouse,” said Scott T. Hamilton, Golden LEAF president and chief executive officer. “Golden LEAF is committed to helping grow the industry through education and training programs and by supporting programs that boost the sales of agriculture products. We were excited to hear from partners doing the work to support this vital industry.”

Golden LEAF has provided four grants totaling $418,903 for agriculture programs at the University of Mount Olive. Early grants supported the university’s Agribusiness Institute which helps farmers, agribusiness and students. In 2017, Golden LEAF grant funding helped to construct the Sandy Maddox Agriculture and Education Building for classroom, lab and meeting space at the University’s Kornegay Student Farm.

“The funding provided by the Golden LEAF Foundation was instrumental,” said Dr. Sandy Maddox, director of the University’s Lois G. Britt Agribusiness Center and dean of the School of Agriculture and Biological Sciences.

“This Golden LEAF project has created a unique experiential learning environment for UMO agriculture and biology students and the greater agricultural community. The impact of this project will be long lasting as we continue to prepare students for careers in a diversified and emerging agricultural industry,” Maddox said.

Golden LEAF has supported research, technology and marketing campaigns to boost agribusiness and improve crops such as the sweet potato. North Carolina is the number one producer of sweet potatoes in the nation. The NC Sweet Potato Commission Foundation Inc., has received five Golden LEAF grants. These awards totaling nearly $1.3 million have provided support for expanding and increasing markets, creating new sweet potato products and distributing and manufacturing sweet potato products.

One regional early college high school has built its reputation on showcasing careers in agribusiness and agriscience to its students. At the Northeast Regional School of Biotechnology and Agriscience in Jamesville, students in Martin, Pitt, Tyrrell and Washington counties have rigorous graduation requirements that include a 130-hour internship, an applied agriculture project and participation in Future Farmers of America.

Golden LEAF has provided two grants totaling more than $350,000 to the school for technology and technology support.

“As North Carolina’s leading economic driver, agriculture not only forms the backbone of our state, but is the lifeblood of rural communities across eastern North Carolina,” said N.C. Representative John Bell. “Our family farms face many challenges today and it is crucial we all work together to ensure farming and agriculture remains a profitable, attractive and viable profession.

“I want to thank Golden LEAF, University of Mount Olive, Northeast Regional School of Biotechnology and Agriscience, and NC Sweet Potato Commission for their strong commitment and support of North Carolina agriculture.”

A nonprofit organization established in 1999, Golden LEAF Foundation received a portion of the state’s funding from the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement with cigarette manufacturers. Since then, the foundation has been proud to work with these organizations to help build the number of people interested in farming and agribusiness and expand the opportunities for those already in the industry.

For 20 years, Golden LEAF has worked to increase economic opportunity in North Carolina’s rural and tobacco-dependent communities through leadership in grant making, collaboration, innovation and stewardship as an independent and perpetual foundation.

The foundation has provided lasting impact to tobacco-dependent, economically distressed and rural areas of the state by helping create 63,000 jobs, over half a billion dollars in new payrolls and more than 68,000 workers trained or retrained for higher wages.

“I’m proud to see that Golden LEAF supports agriculture as an economic engine for our state,” said N.C. Senator Jim Perry. “We have the natural resources and the workforce development support to continue to thrive in the industry.”

To learn more about the Golden LEAF Foundation, visit www.goldenleaf.org or call 888-684-8404.

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