As you might expect, the department is full of employees who have a strong passion for agriculture. NCDA&CS marketing specialist Heather Barnes’ passion paid off recently as she took first place in the Young Farmers & Ranchers Discussion Meet held in Honolulu earlier this year. Barnes will receive a 2012 Chevrolet Silverado and free registration to the 2012 Young Farmers & Ranchers Leadership Conference in Grand Rapids, Mich., for her first-place finish.
The Young Farmers and Ranchers program provides men and women, ages 18-35, with opportunities for leadership development and exposure to current issues in agriculture. The program is sponsored locally by North Carolina Farm Bureau and nationally by the American Farm Bureau Federation.
While participating with the Young Farmers and Ranchers program is a personal pursuit for Barnes and her husband, she said her work with the department helped her in the discussion meet, which is designed to simulate a committee meeting on various agricultural topics. Her work with the N.C. Farm to School program was particularly useful during a discussion about agriculture’s role in addressing health and obesity issues.
“I could really talk about the efforts going on to fight childhood obesity in the schools,” Barnes said. “Because I worked with child nutrition directors, I knew a lot about the challenges they face.”
She also used her knowledge working with organic farmers across the state, as well as lessons learned on her husband’s farm in Wilson County. Her personal connection with agriculture set her a part from the other 39 competitors from across the country.
Barnes is not the only NCDA&CS employee to excel in the Young Farmers and Ranchers program. Last year, Mountain Research Station superintendent Kaleb Rathbone won first place at the statewide discussion meet. Rathbone was ineligible to participate in the discussion meet again this year, but he did receive the Excellence in Agriculture Award for his work at the research station.
Barnes has agreed to help coach Mt. Olive College’s collegiate discussion team. Moreover, she will continuing showing her passion for agriculture through her work with the department.