March 18 was an historic day, as an estimated 1,600 people turned out at the state capital in downtown Raleigh to celebrate and raise awareness of agriculture in North Carolina, a $78 billion business.
Ag Awareness Day was organized by N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, NC State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, N.C. Farm Bureau, N.C. State Grange and N.C. A&T State University’s School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences. Growers and agribusiness leaders from all over the state were encouraged to come to Raleigh and share the good news about the economic value of North Carolina agriculture and new efforts to grow agriculture to a $100 billion industry for the state.
Elected officials from Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler to Gov. Pat McCrory addressed the crowd.
“We have the best entrepreneurs in the world right here in this audience, the people who understand the markets, the people who understand hard work, the people who understand strong work values, the people who have business ethics,” McCrory told the crowd. “These are the people right here of North Carolina, the people of agriculture. The agriculture community is leading the Carolina comeback, and I want to thank you for your hard work.”
McCrory shared his “strategy to lead the agriculture comeback of North Carolina,” including “filling the skills gap” by training new farmers, developing tax strategies that work for agriculture and developing environmental regulations that make sense.
“Who is the next generation of agriculture in North Carolina, when the average age of NC farmers is 57?” he asked. “We need young people to get into agriculture, through our high schools, our community colleges and our universities.”
“Agriculture is leading the way – it is the No. 1 most important industry in North Carolina,” McCrory said. “You are the most important people in North Carolina.”
“We have a (senate) member who reminds us that every day is Ag Day,” said Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger. “At least three times a day, and for some us more than three times a day, we’re reminded of what folks in ag do for us on a daily basis, and we appreciate it.”
“We all recognize that agriculture is the No. 1 industry in North Carolina,” said House Speaker Tim Moore. “It has kept the state going through the great recession that we’ve had since 2008. Every one of us has to eat. If we don’t have homegrown agriculture, we don’t have a sustainable economy.”
Commissioner Troxler thanked those who came to Raleigh and invited everyone to enjoy a barbecue sandwich provided by Farm Bureau before heading over to talk with legislators.
“There are a million reasons not to be in Raleigh today,” Troxler said, commenting on the beautiful weather. “But I hope you’ll go back home and tell the folks that aren’t here that if we have another one of these in the future, they really need to take the time and come and spread the work about agriculture. It’s really important to do this.”
Big day for Dean Linton
Before closing the festivities, Troxler asked if anyone in attendance had a birthday. Then he turned to Dean Richard Linton on the platform and acknowledged that March 18 was Linton’s birthday. The ag crowd sang a rousing “happy birthday” to Linton.
There were exhibits, lots of visitors walking to legislative offices, receptions, more receptions, and finally, an Ag Day baseball game at NC State: Wolfpack versus the UNC-Greensboro Spartans. Appropriately, Linton threw out the first pitch.