MOUNT OLIVE, N.C. — Several high school FFA members and agriculture teachers from all across NC recently participated in a Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) Camp at the University of Mount Olive. Participants traveled from as far north as Tarboro, as far south as Fayetteville, as far east as Plymouth and New Bern, and as far west as Yadkinville for the weeklong experience. Campers visited farms, participated in community outreach projects, learned about SAE project opportunities, and experienced college-life during the overnight camp.
“Service is an integral part of FFA,” said Edward Olive, Director of the Lois G. Britt Agribusiness Center at UMO. “In fact, the last line of the FFA motto is ‘living to serve.’ Service is a big part of what these participants did this week.”
The group volunteered with Habitat for Humanity in Goldsboro where they assisted with a new home building project. They gleaned 7,840 pounds of collards with the Society of Saint Andrew, which were donated to Make a Difference Food Pantry in Mount Olive. They also volunteered at the Cliffs of the Neuse State Park, where they cleared trails and assisted with other projects.
To help inspire students with their SAE project ideas and diversification, they visited several agriculture operations and businesses throughout the week where they learned about new technologies, agri-tourism, and research. Attendees heard presentations on financial planning, resume writing, interview skills, business etiquette, agriculture communication, and more.
Never failing to end each day with a bang, the campers participated in a number of recreational activities including a rodeo, fun park activities, a visit to Simply Natural Creamery, and a Down East Wood Ducks baseball game.
“I had so much fun at this camp,” said Dalton Overby a North Johnston High School student from Kenly, NC. “We have toured many farms and learned a lot about SAE.”
Sara Zagada Gonzalez, from Cary High School in Wake County, said the highlight of the week for her was the rodeo. “I particularly enjoyed watching the barrel racing,” she said. “I also liked learning more about agriculture, which is more than just buying food at the grocery story. Agriculture it about business, family history, technology, and so much more.”
Alexa Bishop a rising junior from Pine Forest High School in Cumberland County said, “The highlight of the week for me was the rodeo and the watermelon tasting at the Clinton Research Station.”
Callie Shackleford, a rising sophomore from South Lenoir high School in Kinston, said, “My favorite part of the week was meeting all of the people and learning about agriculture.”
On the final day of camp, participants toured the Clinton Research Station, a Division of the NCDA, as well as heard remarks from North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, the sponsoring entity of the camp. At a celebratory luncheon, students received certificates of completion, as well as 45 hours of SAE credit. Teachers and FFA advisors received three CEU credits.
Lyndy Boggs, a 2021 UMO alumnus and a first-time agriculture teacher with Cary High School said, “I have really enjoyed touring the many farming operations and seeing the students’ excitement as they have learned and explored more about the agriculture industry.”
“This opportunity would not be possible without the support and participation of agricultural educators,” said Dr. Sandy Maddox, Dean for the School of Agriculture and Biological Sciences at UMO. “It is exciting to see our alumni continue to support us in all that we do and encourage their students to participate as well. This continues to grow our UMO family.”
Edward Olive said, “FFA members from all across NC are always looking for ways to expand their knowledge in agriculture, learn more about agriculture careers, and gain experience in SAE. This camp provides awesome opportunities for that all in one place. We are thankful for all of our partners who opened their farms and businesses for tours and information sharing. We are especially grateful to the NC Tobacco Trust Fund Commission and the support of our elected officials who support the Trust Fund and do so much for present and former our tobacco-dependent communities. Many of our campers and FFA advisors come from those rural, tobacco-dependent communities.”
Olive stated that the camp is in its second of a three-year grant cycle, and plans are already in the works for next year’s camp. “Stay tuned,” he said. “There is always something new and exciting happening with the UMO School of Agriculture and Biological Sciences.”
The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The University is sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists. For more information, visit www.umo.edu.
–Rhonda Jessup, University of Mount Olive