Siblings by Grace, Friends by Choice
MOUNT OLIVE- There are many psychological studies documenting the bonds between siblings. But, brother and sister Kirsten and Cody Miller of Wilson, NC don’t need data to validate their relationship. The pair have been close their entire lives, partly out of necessity, but mostly out of love.
Working side by side on their parents’ diverse farm operation of row crops and livestock, Kirsten and Cody have gained a real appreciation for hard work, dedication, and team work. With only 18 months separating the siblings, they have often shared the same hobbies and interests.
In high school, Kirsten served as captain of both the volleyball and swim teams, was heavily involved with the school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), and was an active 4-H member. Equally as busy, Cody also joined the swim team, and was involved in Future Farmers of America (FFA). He participated in numerous 4-H events, including the Club’s shooting tournament, where he ranked sixth in the nation during his senior year.
Even now, when they are in college the siblings still enjoy helping 4-H kids raise show hogs and competing at regional fairs. The pair, along with their father and grandfather, recently competed in the North Carolina Tobacco Growers Association competition at the NC State Fair.
“We raise and harvest competitive tobacco by hand, the old-school way,” explained Cody. “It keeps the family’s tobacco growing legacy alive and helps us preserve that method of farming.”
“It’s a lot of hard work to crop, sucker, tie, and bundle everything by hand,” admitted Kirsten. “But it feels good to work and compete as a family.”
Their dedication paid off. Kirsten won first place receiving an award from the Commissioner of Agriculture. Cody came in second, with their father and grandfather following in third and fourth place. This is the second tobacco growing award the Millers have earned as a family. After each competition, they sell their crop to an artist in Wilson who frames and creates furniture out of the leaves. The Miller’s prizing winning tobacco leaves have been made into chairs, countertops, and framed works of art that are featured in restaurants as far away as Charlotte, NC.
Kirsten and Cody’s passion for and experiences in the area of agriculture have led them to the University of Mount Olive (UMO), where both are pursuing degrees in the field. Kirsten enrolled in the agribusiness program in the spring of 2019. Cody followed a semester later enrolling in the plant science program.
Cody said, “I have really enjoyed my time at UMO. Our classes are small enough that you get to know your professors and they know you. We get lots of hands-on experiences, and we often travel to area agribusinesses. I have been to various farms and a dairy operation. My favorite trip thus far was to Goldsboro Milling Company, where we toured their feed mill. These have been pretty cool experiences that my friends at NC State really don’t get to do.”
Kirsten added, “Growing up on a farm, I knew about agriculture, but not as in-depth as what I’ve learned in college. I have gained so much knowledge since arriving at UMO including in-depth animal science, farm business management, and economics.”
While the Millers hope to return to their family farm after graduation, both want to try their hand at different parts of agriculture as well. Kirsten is on track to graduate in May of 2021 and plans to pursue a job in ag marketing. Cody, now a freshman, is interested in the possibilities of crop consulting and precision agriculture. Both already have internships lined up for this summer. Kirsten will shadow lobbyist Jackson Stancil in Raleigh. Cody will intern with Harvey’s Gas and Fertilizer in Wilson.
Whether in the competition arena, in the classroom, on the farm, at a church function, or just chilling at home, the Miller siblings have an unbreakable bond that only seems to grow stronger with time.
“Attending the same university and constantly competing together has definitely brought us closer,” said Cody.
“Cody is one of my best friends,” Kirsten smiled, “and we wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Kirsten and Cody are the children of Jim and Angie Miller. They attend Marsh Swamp Free Will Baptist where Kirsten is a youth leader and Cody operates the sound equipment.
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 education service centers in Mount Olive, New Bern, Wilmington, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Research Triangle Park, and Washington. For more information, visit www.umo.edu.