Great Grads

Man in cap and gown in

Greenhouse work deepened Jarrett Warner’s affinity for agriculture. Here he’s visiting an NC State greenhouse. In high school, he got a job at a greenhouse in Selma where he helped plant 25,000 poinsettias.

NC State’s Agricultural Institute offers six majors, and two outstanding students who are graduating Dec. 20 will be receiving nearly all of them.

Jarrett Warner and Grayson Ferrell both extended their stays in the two-year associate degree program so they could delve into more that the institute has to offer. Jarrett stayed for three and a half years, while Grayson stayed two and a half.

On graduation day, Warner will receive degrees in horticultural science management, turfgrass management, general agriculture and agribusiness management, while Ferrell will pick up two degrees, in agribusiness management and livestock and poultry management.

The Agricultural Institute, or AGI, also offers a degree in field crops technology. Nationally, the institute ranks No. 1 among eight universities that offer the associate in applied science degrees in agriculture, according to Elizabeth Wilson, institute director and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ assistant dean for academic programs.

The program has been granting degrees for more than 50 years. It’s geared for students who are focused, motivated and know what they want to do, Wilson said.

Jarrett Warner: ‘Amazing Opportunities’

Warner, who’s from Davidson County, didn’t grow up on a farm, and he knew little about agriculture. “I come from a residential neighborhood family,” he explained. “My dad’s a firefighter, and my mom owns a bakery.”

As a high school freshman, he wasn’t happy when he got placed in an agriscience class.

“I thought, ‘I don’t want to be in here,’” he recalled. “But I stayed, and I’m glad I did because I fell in love with it from there. I took all the horticulture classes I could, and I ended up being an officer for my FFA chapter.”

Working in a greenhouse during high school deepened his passion for agriculture. And when the time came to apply for college, his teacher, an AGI alumna, recommended that he explore the institute.

I’ve had some amazing opportunities through the Agricultural Institute.

He applied, and after he came to NC State, he took advantage of nearly every opportunity the institute offers. He was president of the Agricultural Institute Club, and he served for three years as a AGI ambassador, introducing prospective students and their families to the institute through the Spend a Day at State program.

Warner has also gone on two study-abroad trips: The first was to Ireland and Scotland, where he toured highland cattle and sheep farms and learned about horticultural gardens. Most recently he went to Norway and Sweden – a favorite trip because of what he calls the countries’ “sheer beauty.” There, he toured dairy and goat farms and learned about fish research. His fondest AGI memory took place while he was on that trip: With three of his professors, he jumped into an ice-filled Scandinavian river.

Warner has enjoyed the trips so much that he’s signed up to go to the Netherlands and Belgium in March.

It’s a small, tight community, and I’ve enjoyed every minute.

Meanwhile, Warner is waiting to hear if he’ll be admitted to a bachelor’s degree program at N.C. A&T State University, with an eye toward securing a position as an Extension agent. He’s also intrigued by the idea of working in a 60-acre, state-of-the-art vegetable greenhouse in Kentucky that he learned about during a trip to an honor society convention.

“I’ve had some amazing opportunities through the Agricultural Institute, and I appreciate that it’s a close-knit program – it’s capped at 400 students,” Warner said. “So it’s a small, tight community, and I’ve enjoyed every minute.”

Grayson Ferrell: ‘It Had to Be’

Woman in a graduation robe sitting on brick stairs
When Ferrell came to NC State’s Agricultural Institute, she knew a lot about farming, but the program not only exposed her to the possibility of managing poultry but also to the importance of agricultural system leaders.

While Warner is a relative newcomer to agriculture, Ferrell has been tightly connected to the industry since she was born. She grew up in Wilson on a 7,000-acre diversified family farm that produces sweet potatoes, tobacco, cotton and soybeans.

There was never a question about where she would go to college.

“It had to be NC State. There was nowhere else I wanted to go,” she said. “My mom came here, my uncle came here, and both are graduates of the Ag Institute. My sister graduated a few years ago, and I have twin brothers that will hopefully come here next year.”

There’s nowhere else I wanted to go.

What’s next for Ferrell? She’s headed home. “Hopefully I will work at the family farm and at the same time work on a bachelor’s degree online from N.C. A&T,” she said.

One thing she’d like to do on her family’s farm is to add chicken houses. She said that Lynn Worley-Davis, the undergraduate teaching coordinator in the Prestage Department of Poultry Science, convinced her to consider poultry pursuits.

“She talked to me at CALS Tailgate and said, ‘You should take one of my classes.’ So I took one, thinking, ‘I don’t care much about chickens.’ But she got me really interested in them.

The Ag Institute has given me an opportunity to become a better leader.

“I’m thinking that adding chickens would give us something different and possibly make more money,” she said. “Tobacco is not doing that great, so a lot of farmers are getting out and having to find something different to replace it.”

When Ferrell looks back on her CALS experiences, she’s particularly proud of serving as an AGI ambassador. “I’m a very shy person, but being an ambassador has made me do things that I probably wouldn’t do if I wasn’t one – for example, reaching out and networking with everybody.

“Telling others about the Ag Institute has given me a good opportunity to become a better leader,” Ferrell said. “I think all farmers need to work together to keep our economy strong, and I want to help by being an agricultural system leader.”

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