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CALS Weekly

Valuing the Business of Agriculture

a man wearing a coat and tie

By Jess Clarke

When NC State University student Seeby Jarvis-Earle was growing up in Raleigh’s urban environment, he didn’t think North Carolina farming was much more than cattle and cornfields.

But he learned many lessons about agriculture’s key role in the state economy — and in the lives of its people — after two North Carolina General Assembly internships in college. Jarvis-Earle, now a senior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, worked with Republican state Rep. William Brisson, a farmer who held leadership positions on the state Legislature’s agriculture committee.

Working with the committee and constituents on farm bills “taught me firsthand what people in agriculture care about and how the legislation that gets moved in the General Assembly affects people in the whole state,” Jarvis-Earle says.

His glimpse into big-picture agriculture included its intersections with commodities marketing, supply chain issues and government programs that enable market access. “I realized just how much our state owes to agriculture for our economic strength, culture and story,” he says. “If I wanted to understand North Carolina and add value to this state, I needed to understand agriculture.”

Jarvis-Earle will graduate in May with bachelor’s degrees in agricultural business management and communication. He has applied his General Assembly internship experience in his current position as student clinic manager in CALS’ Agricultural Entrepreneurship Program in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ARE).

I realized just how much our state owes to agriculture for our economic strength, culture and story.

In the entrepreneurship program, Jarvis-Earle works to enhance agricultural entrepreneurship education at CALS, partly by incorporating hands-on projects into courses. With faculty and students, he also helps North Carolina entrepreneurs and startups find resources for their businesses. And he educates businesspeople in rural communities about innovation, income streams and navigating an ever-evolving economy.  

“In North Carolina, agriculture touches everything,” Jarvis-Earle says. “The principles taught in ARE classes can be extended to any industry.”

Farming’s expansive reach was highlighted in CALS professor emeritus Mike Walden’s 2023 annual report, which includes the monumental economic impact agriculture and agribusiness have in North Carolina: $103.2 billion.

With such a huge footprint, “Now everyone’s asking, ‘Where do we go from here?’” Jarvis-Earle says.

As he examines that question regarding his career moving forward, he recalls his initial college plan. He enrolled in NC State’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences to pursue a childhood dream of broadcast journalism. 

His agricultural experience changed that goal. And he added four minors to his academic workload to broaden versatility around his passion for farming: agricultural entrepreneurship, economics, political science and religious studies.

Working with agriculture and the ARE department, I see how I can give back to the community and how I’m leaving an impact.

For Jarvis-Earle, the significance of stories links those diverse disciplines.

“Looking back through my collegiate career, my different minors and majors come together in answering this question of, ‘What is narrative?’ What narrative am I holding myself to, and what’s the narrative of the people around me?” he says.

His narrative includes an internship with U.S. Rep. George Holding of North Carolina in the former Republican congressmember’s Raleigh district office. Jarvis-Earle learned how effective constituent services can be transformative for people — which could guide him if he eventually pursues a public policy role.

For now, though, Jarvis-Earle calls his ARE work one of his most valuable CALS experiences at a university he chose because it’s in his hometown in the state where he plans to stay.

“Working with agriculture and the ARE department, I see how I can give back to the community and how I’m leaving an impact,” he says. “I feel very privileged to have this great education at a public university as a first-generation college student…That’s the most rewarding part of working with ARE: I can give back everything given to me by my family, mentors and professors.”

Jarvis-Earle also cites ARE’s Office of Student Mentoring, for interview and resume workshops, networking fairs, field trips, and other professional development initiatives that have prepared him to succeed.

As for after graduation, Jarvis-Earle is considering his opportunities.

In the short term, he’ll continue to work for ARE and the Agricultural Entrepreneurship Program. Then maybe a graduate degree eventually in agricultural education or public policy. “Whatever my path is, I want my contribution to be community-focused,” he says.

Beyond that, he’s unsure.

“But I’m very flexible with how things are moving,” he notes. “The big lesson is that there are opportunities everywhere, and you have to be open to finding them.”