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From Family Farm to Ag Educator

Growing up in rural southeastern Virginia, agriculture has always held a significant place in the life of agricultural education student Ann Morgan Hawthorne. Her grandfathers were involved in farming and the logging industry, and her father and brothers now manage the family farm. Spanning generations, her family’s connection to agriculture runs deep, shaping her own aspirations. While Hawthorne always felt drawn to the farming community, she never envisioned herself operating a tractor. An early sign of her ambitions came in fourth grade when she showcased a cotton plant during career day, expressing her desire to become an agriculture teacher. Hawthorne is now a senior with minors in forest management, environmental education and extension education, and she’s well on her way to pursuing that childhood aspiration.

Throughout her life, Hawthorne’s family has taught her the value of serving yourself by serving others. Despite her grandfathers lacking college degrees, their relentless dedication and hard work left a profound impact on her. Hawthorne attributes their achievements not only to their individual determination but also to the unwavering support provided by her grandmothers. This legacy of selflessness carries on through her parents, who have demonstrated a remarkable work ethic and a willingness to extend kindness to others. Guided by her family’s culture, Hawthorne finds inspiration and endeavors to embody their history of service in her own life.

Concerns about being a “small fish in a big pond” at North Carolina State University were swiftly allayed for Hawthorne, as her experiences with the agricultural and extension education (AEE) program were marked by exceptional support and warmth from professors and advisers. This encouragement emboldened her, even leading her to casually drop by the department office for conversations. Travis Park has been instrumental in shaping her college journey. His advice has helped her make decisions that she knows will have a positive impact on her academic and professional future. Hawthorne views several AEE faculty and staff members as role models, individuals whose influence she will carry with her well beyond graduation.

Touring a meat processing plant in Spain on my study abroad with the Department of Horticultural Science

Hawthorne’s involvement extends beyond her family’s farm into the NC State agriculture community. She’s an active member of the Sigma Alpha Professional Agricultural Sorority and has held leadership roles, including vice president and currently president of the CALS Agri-Life Council. She also led the AEE Club, which recently transitioned into FFA Alumni and Supporters at NC State. Her engagement isn’t confined to campus. She participated in a transformative study abroad program with the Department of Horticultural Science in Spain. The experience illuminated the universality of the human quest for community despite cultural differences, reinforcing her passion for assisting others and deepening her commitment to education.

This past summer, Hawthorne interned at the Northampton County Cooperative Extension office. Her responsibilities included supporting extension agents in diverse programs, including 4-H Summer Fun Camps, On-Farm Research Trials and the Hertford-Northampton Livestock Show and Sale. Her role at the Extension office has not only fostered personal growth but also provided insights into the profound impact of N.C. Cooperative Extension on communities. Hawthorne’s immersion in the workings of Extension has deepened her respect for the program and fueled her aspirations to pursue a career in this domain. During the school year, she works in the CALS Advancement office as a student worker and at Page Farms Pumpkin and Strawberry Patch. 

With fellow pre-service ag teachers from across the state at the retreat

Hawthorne’s journey has been molded by a desire to educate, both within and beyond the classroom. Exposure to N.C. Cooperative Extension through AEE 230 in her freshman year resonated deeply with her personal vision. This resonance drove her to apply for the summer internship, affording her firsthand experience of the community enrichment facilitated by Extension. As she contemplates her career trajectory beyond her undergraduate studies, the timing of her internship couldn’t be more fitting. It has spurred introspection and clarified her path in the realm of agriculture education.

Hawthorne is looking forward to applying to graduate school at NC State this fall with the intent of studying agritourism or agricultural education. Wherever her future takes her, she knows she wants to be part of a career that teaches others about the world of agriculture.

“Agriculture education is the perfect major for me because it has allowed me to learn more about agriculture while being able to teach others – I have loved every minute at NC State. I am excited to continue to be a lifelong learner and help secure the future of our world with food and fiber!”