Leaders from 50 of North Carolina’s commodity groups and farm-related organizations recently met with N.C. State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to make sure all involved were on the same page for agriculture’s future in the state.
CALS Dean Richard Linton presided at the event which brought together the leaders with CALS administrators and faculty members with a goal of building relationships with the college’s external stakeholders, specifically those who lead the commodity groups, and to thank them for their continued partnerships with and support of the College.
“This is the first meeting of its kind in almost 10 years,” he said. “According to the strategic plan, the ‘student/stakeholder experience’ is at the center of all we do. To ensure we are meeting the needs of our stakeholders and developing future agriculture and life science leaders that will deliver solutions for our commodity groups, a check-in like this is essential.”
“The goals of the meeting were to improve communications with our stakeholders,” said Tom Monaco, CALS Commodity Relations director, “and to bring them up to date on the status of the College’s strategic plan, of the Cooperative Extension vision sessions, of the ways we are attracting students to our College through the ASPIRE program and 2-by-2 agreements with community colleges, and of new research initiatives.”
During the day-long event, participants first heard from Linton, who outlined the process and implementation progress of the strategic plan in his presentation, “Strategically Moving Forward Toward Our Envisioned Future.” Following Linton were updates from associate deans, Joe Zublena, director of N.C. Cooperative Extension; Steve Lommel, director of the N.C. Agricultural Research Service; and Sam Pardue, director of Academic Programs.
After a lunch, the group heard from commodity speakers Deborah Johnson of the N.C. Pork Council, Julie Woodcock of the N.C. Blueberry Council and Sue Langdon of the N.C. Sweetpotato Commission.
During breakout presentations from each of the CALS department heads, attendees were updated on research activities and programs affecting the state’s commodities and its economy.
Feedback to drive future meetings
“All 16 department heads had the opportunity to give overviews of their departments to attendees in four separate concurrent sessions, which were repeated once,” Monaco said.
“The agenda for the meeting was set by a planning committee consisting of commodity representatives. Participation by the department heads was requested by the committee and represents the first time this has been done in a comprehensive commodity leadership meeting with CALS,” Monaco explained.
Planning committee members included Langdon, Johnson and Woodcock, along with Debbie Hamrick (N.C. Farm Bureau), Ross Williams (N.C. Nursery and Landscape Association), Roland McReynolds (Carolina Farm Stewardship), Charles Hall (N.C. Soybean Producers Association) and Monaco (chair).
Post meeting, a survey was to go out to attendees to get feedback on the meeting, Monaco said. “A few verbal responses I and others received at the conclusion of the March 11 were very positive. Based on the survey results, we really need to make this an annual event, since this provides us with an opportunity to reach and interact with a large segment of these stakeholders.”
As Linton said in his meeting invitation, “the CALS strategic plan is focused on creating a positive experience for both our students and our stakeholders. For our commodity groups, this means we are committed to being more engaged and partnering more effectively with you. One way we hope to do this is by re-creating an annual meeting with commodity leaders that will help us strengthen our collaborative relationships.”