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NC Agriculture Commissioner and students share their passion for agriculture at districtwide event

For as long as she can remember, Weddington High senior Emily Qureshi has been passionate about all things agriculture. FFA Fair

And as the vice president of her school’s Future Farmers of America (FFA) club, the aspiring equine veterinarian wanted to find a way to bring all of the district’s FFA clubs together to share their passion for agriculture with others.

The event would include spaces for FFA club members to educate attendees on the importance of agriculture as well as the various careers that are available in that industry. The highlight of the night, she envisioned, would be NC Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler.

After months of working with Troxler’s office in Raleigh, Emily’s dream came true: Troxler would not only attend her planned event but would serve as the keynote speaker.

On April 9, as many as 100 guests milled around the Weddington High media center viewing student showcases about their school’s FFA clubs as well as potential careers in agriculture. Special guests at the event included Weddington Mayor Elizabeth Callis, Union County Manager Mark Watson and Union County Commissioners Dennis Rape and Jerry Simpson.

“I wanted Commissioner Troxler to see the FFA clubs at our schools and I wanted everyone in the county to be more aware of what agriculture really does for everyone. By having these leaders here, they can see how FFA prepares us to lead in agriculture in the future,” Emily said. “A lot of people think agriculture is just farming or working on a tractor, but it’s so diverse. You can spread out and run your own businesses, and that’s what we’re trying to educate other people about.”

FFA  During a program that followed the showcase, Weddington High FFA student leaders talked about how the club has helped to hone their leadership skills and introduced them to a number of careers available in agriculture. NC Cooperative Union County Extension Director Andrew Baucom also showed videos of the far-reaching impact that UCPS’ FFA clubs have had on students throughout the district.

When Troxler addressed the audience, he discussed the current realities and future of agriculture and agribusiness. As the number one industry in North Carolina, he added, agriculture contributes $87 billion to the state’s economy and $492 million in Union County.

“But in production agriculture, we’re probably down to one percent of the population. No one can afford to sit at home and not lead. You have to speak up, you have to teach and you have to educate people about the importance of this industry,” he said, adding that there are more opportunities in agriculture than any other industry.

After the event, Troxler said he enjoyed having the opportunity to meet with UCPS students and see the quality of FFA clubs throughout the school district.

“This is so important to the future of North Carolina. When I heard the students say that this – agriculture – is their calling, it ran cold chills up my spine to know they have that passion,” he said. “And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my life, it’s that if you’re passionate about something, more than likely you’ll be successful at it.”