Recently, Golden LEAF President, Chief Executive Officer Scott T. Hamilton sat down with Rich Linton, the Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) at N.C. State, via Zoom and filmed the third episode in a new video series called Critical Conversations. In this series, Scott talks with professionals about economic development issues affecting the state.
Dean Linton provided his perspective on where he sees future opportunities for growth in North Carolina’s agriculture and agribusiness sectors.
During the conversation, Dean Linton addressed one of the solutions to building value-added agriculture in the state. He said that the Food Innovation Lab in Kannapolis is a unique strategic effort among the Department of Commerce, Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina (EDPNC), N.C. Department of Agriculture, and N.C. State. The purpose of the facility is to build North Carolina as a leader in plant-based food innovation and to bring food manufacturing jobs to all the parts of our state. The Golden LEAF Foundation Board awarded a $2.2 million grant to purchase equipment for the pilot food manufacturing facility. Learn more about the NCFIL by visiting the NCFIL website.
One of the biggest initiatives CALS is working on is the Plant Sciences Initiative (PSI). The PSI will be housed in a new $160.2 million dollar facility that will include advanced tech labs that will enhance and expand agriculture innovation in our state. Dean Linton said the N.C. Plant Sciences Initiative was envisioned by farmers, championed by state leaders, and approved by state voters as a part of the Connect N.C. bond referendum. The facility will open in February 2022. Golden LEAF has been a key supporter of the Plant Sciences Initiative since the beginning. The Golden LEAF Board has awarded a total of $48 million, the largest single contribution ever made to CALS and one of the largest in university history. For more information about PSI, visit the PSI website.
During the last edition of Critical Conversations, Scott spoke with EDPNC CEO Chris Chung about the labor shortage employers across all sectors in North Carolina are facing. N.C. State has several educational programs both two and four year to help grow the talent, knowledge, and skills of the agriculture workforce. Dean Linton stated that the $93 billion North Carolina agriculture industry that employs approximately 800,000 people in the state’s mostly Tier 1 and Tier 2 communities has more jobs available than are being filled. With such a strong job demand, there is much work to do. Golden LEAF recently awarded N.C. State nearly $1 million to support the Agricultural Institute (AGI), a two-year degree program based at N.C. State that provides training for careers in agriculture and related fields. The project helped with the creation of two new programs to address challenges for livestock producers and processors. Learn more about the Agricultural Institute here.
Lastly, Dean Linton addressed what the future of CALS looks like. Dean Linton stated that the need to grow more food for a rapidly growing population requires research, especially from land grant institutions. He also stated that with the growing and changing needs in today’s society, it is important to create a workforce with the ability to adapt to change. Finally, he stated that it is important to support the career paths of our extension agents, who are on the ground working directly with farmers. Golden LEAF supports agribusiness through several of its programs. Learn more about it here.
Critical Conversations is a new feature in the Golden LEAF newsletter every month. The next edition will be in our August 12th edition of LEAF Lines.