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2023 CALS Alumni Awards Recognize Nelson Powell and Justin Somers

four people standing, one holding an award

The CALS Alumni Awards recognize and celebrate exceptional achievements and contributions of alumni from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at NC State. ARE Alumni Nelson Powell and Justin Somers were recognized at the award ceremony, held on October 6, 2023 at the Plant Sciences Building on Centennial Campus. Read on to learn more about the honorees.

Outstanding Alumni – Nelson Powell

The Outstanding Alumni Awards recognize CALS graduates who have excelled in their chosen fields and demonstrated a record of service.

A senior vice president at First Bank & Trust Company in Clinton, North Carolina, Nelson Powell is responsible for the strategic expansion of the bank’s footprint into the North Carolina and South Carolina agriculture and commercial markets.

A Sampson County native, Powell grew up working in the tobacco field and raising hogs on his family’s Bicentennial Farm in Taylors Bridge, North Carolina, and was active in FFA and Boy Scouts. He followed his passion at NC State, where he pursued a bachelor’s degree in agribusiness management. Powell has fond memories of his time at NC State, including running for student body president, serving in the student body presidential cabinet and being a part of the 1996  National Agriculture Marketing Team – who, under the guidance of Professor Bob Usry, qualified for nationals in Nashville, Tennessee.

Outside of his role at First Bank & Trust, Powell is also a professional keynote speaker and through his company, Speak Life, he has been able to educate and advocate for agriculture to thousands of people worldwide. He also frequently writes articles on agriculture, finance and leadership. 

Powell currently serves on the Sampson Regional Medical Center Board of Trustees, the Sampson County Agricultural Advisory Board, the NC State Agricultural Foundation Board and the ARE Office of Student Mentoring Advisory Board. He is also a 2015 recipient of the Honorary  American FFA Degree – the highest honorary degree awarded by the National FFA Organization. Powell is the eighth generation to raise his family on their family farm, where he lives with his wife, Melody and daughter, Lily.

Outstanding Young Alumni – Justin Somers

The Outstanding Young Alumni Awards recognize former CALS students who have excelled early in their careers and show potential for continued success.

Justin Somers, a native of Yadkinville, North Carolina, is a regional director for U.S. Senator Ted Budd, where he represents the senator in an official capacity within his 14-county region, and serves as a liaison between constituent groups and the senator. Prior to this role, he worked as a senior flock advisor at Perdue Farms Inc., where he was responsible for working with contract poultry growers, served as the area animal care and biosecurity officer, and provided oversight of various production trials.

Somers graduated from NC State in 2013 with associate’s degrees in agricultural business management, general agriculture and livestock and poultry management. While pursuing his degrees, he served as treasurer and president of the Agricultural Institute Club.

Over the years, he has served as president of the Yadkin County Farm Bureau and has been a member of the North Carolina Farm Bureau Board of Directors and the Yadkin County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. He also founded and served as the first president of the  Yadkin County Agriculture Foundation.

As an active member of his community, Somers volunteers with NC State’s Entrepreneurship Program and serves on the ARE Office of Student Mentoring Advisory Board and Wilkes Community College Animal Science Advisory Council, among several other local organizations. In 2022, he was elected by the citizens of Yadkin County to serve on the county’s Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors.

In his free time, Somers enjoys playing softball and baseball with his children, traveling, cooking and camping with his family. He currently resides in Yadkin County with his wife, Lindsey, children, Julia and Preston and their chocolate Lab mix, Cocoa.

Congratulations, Nelson and Justin!