UMO is Cultivating the Ultimate Student Ag Experience
MOUNT OLIVE – Much is happening within the University of Mount Olive ag programs. This will be the first full cropping year on the 63-acre student-led Kornegay Farm, new majors are being added, partnerships are being developed, and animal production, forages, and organics are coming on board.
“Our ag programs are truly unique,” stated Dr. Sandy Maddox, Director of the Lois G. Britt Agribusiness Center at UMO. “To my knowledge, we offer more bachelor of science degree options in agriculture than any other private NC institution. We have degrees in animal science, environmental and natural resources, veterinary bioscience-pre-vet, agricultural education, agribusiness, outreach and extension education, and agricultural production systems. The fact that we have a student-led farm which faculty utilize as a platform for applied learning, certainly sets apart from any other program in the state.”
Whether a student wants to return to the family farm or undertake careers in agriculture production, agricultural sales, marketing, crop consulting, precision agriculture, or any other number of opportunities, UMO is paving the way to make those dreams happen.
A newly added organic greenhouse is enabling students to grow vegetable transplants that will be transferred to the farm’s organic unit. In addition to production experience, students gain understanding of plumbing, electrical, and ventilation basics pertaining to the greenhouse. The greenhouse is a step forward in UMO’s goal of working towards organic certification. “We are teaching students about the certification process and what the possible advantages are,” said Maddox.
Plants being grown this spring by both organic and traditional methods include summer squash, snow peas, and broccolini. “Strawberries are also in the ground,” Maddox said. After the final frost, summer crops will include traditional vegetables like tomatoes, watermelons, and corn. The produce will be sold wholesale, to local farmers markets, on campus, and through community supported agricultural programs. “If there is enough interest, we may even have an on-campus produce stand.” Maddox added.
With regard to animal production, UMO students are gaining knowledge and experience through the addition of a small ruminant unit to include 30 – 50 goats and sheep, as well as pasture based poultry layers and broilers. Students have established six acres of pasture in this unit to include two acres of Bermuda grass and 4 acres of seasonal annuals. The ruminants will rotationally graze these forages as students master pasture management, fencing options and rotational grazing principles. They will also learn animal husbandry and production principles including reproduction, animal nutrition, and health.
“The student-led farm is designed to give students a strong background and working knowledge of farm production, management, marketing, and business operations,” Maddox said.
Important to the success of the UMO Ag Programs is the partnerships that have been developed with a number of groups and individuals to create educational and research opportunities. For instance, B&S Enterprises, a major CASE dealer in eastern NC, partners with the University to provide equipment and implements for use at the farm. They are currently providing precision ag equipment and associated software. This is enabling UMO students to become familiar with the many aspects and operations associated with changing technology in agriculture.
By all reports, the Kornegay Student Farm at UMO is becoming a vibrant, diverse, and positive learning environment where students are learning and sharing their unique skills, experiences, and goals. It is a living, learning laboratory where students obtain theoretical and applied knowledge in the production of agronomic and horticulture crops, as well as the production and management of forages, organics, small ruminants, and poultry. The farm also offers itself to the environmental and natural resource students as they evaluate wildlife and its management on the farm. Students in this degree program also assist with the implementation of conservation principles including tillage, erosion, and drainage which affect soil health on the farm.
“It is our goal to give students the knowledge and experience needed to better prepare them to return to family farms or to pursue other ag-related careers,” said Maddox. “And our track record proves we are doing just that.” Maddox notes that the UMO Ag program has 100% job placement of all of its graduates within six months of graduation, and many are hired in their chosen profession even before graduating. “We are meeting our mission when we educate young people who are competitive and successful in finding careers in their field of choice in agriculture.”
The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The University, sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, has locations in Mount Olive, New Bern, Wilmington, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Research Triangle Park, Washington, Jacksonville, in Smithfield at Johnston Community College, and online. For more information, visit www.umo.edu.
UMO Director of Agricultural Facilities Operations Tim Warren, kneeling, works with Jamison Sessoms, a junior agricultural education major from Roseboro and Austin Rash, a junior agricultural education major from Harmony to setup the organic greenhouse.