Perspectives Online

CALS, NCDA&CS launch campus speaker series


At the Feb. 18 session of the Commissioner’s Lecture Series, Steve Troxler, state agriculture commissioner, describes his recent trade mission to China.

Photo by Marc Hall
In February, North Carolina agribusiness and industry leaders shared their global agriculture marketing expertise with N.C. State University students, faculty and other attendees at a new forum series. Held at Williams Hall on the N.C. State campus, the session was the first of three planned events in the Commissioner’s Speaker Series. The joint project of N.C. State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services aims to combine their resources to develop the next generation of agricultural “influencers” and help prepare college students to lead and succeed in agriculture.

CALS students packed a stadium classroom in Williams Hall to hear about international agriculture marketing at the Feb. 18 forum.
Photo by Marc Hall
The February 18 session, “International Agriculture Marketing,” co-hosted by the CALS AgriLife Council, will be followed with a March 11 series offering called “The Realities of Farming as a Career Choice,” at Bostian Hall, co-hosted by Alpha Zeta , as part of the annual Ag Awareness Week Forum. Then on April 14, the CALS Agricultural Institute will co-host “Innovation in Agriculture: What’s the next ‘big thing’?” at Williams Hall.

The series will feature a variety of leaders from across the agricultural community whose presence and presentations will provide educational enrichment opportunities for CALS students. Steve Troxler, state agriculture commissioner, is host and moderator for the series sessions.

Troxler (far right) was moderator of a discussion featuring panelists (left to right) Jeff Turner, Carson Barnes, Scott Fields and Patrick Ford.
Photo by Marc Hall
“There’s no doubt that CALS students are getting a great education. After all, the faculty and resources are excellent,” said Troxler. “We want this speaker series to supplement that classroom and lab education with information … from panels of farmers, exporters, food business executives and other experts about the following topics: international ag marketing, farming as a career and innovation in agriculture.”
In the first session, Troxler credited Dr. Barbara Kirby, director of the CALS Agricultural Institute, for working with him to develop the idea and lay the groundwork for the forum. He then presented an overview of the state agricultural sector’s place in the global economy, sharing results of his department’s successful trade missions to China and the United Kingdom, and indicating future international markets for the state’s commodities and products. He described the recent China mission as “successful beyond our wildest dreams,” as it resulted in China buying 52 million pounds of North Carolina tobacco and 5,000 bales of the state’s cotton.

Ford, Fields, Barnes and Turner listen as Troxler (right) explains a key point about the politics of international markets.
Photo by Marc Hall
Additionally, he said that North Carolina leads the nation in production of sweetpotatoes and that the United Kingdom is one of the state’s best customers, mentioning a grocery store he visited in England which advertised “North Carolina Sweetpotatoes” for sale. He also noted the significant role the state will play in feeding the world in the future.

Troxler then was joined in the discussion of international agriculture by panelists Patrick Ford of Ford Gourmet Foods, maker of Bone Sucking Sauce; Scott Fields of PS International, an international agricultural commodities trading company headquartered in Chapel Hill; Carson Barnes of Farm Pak and its parent company Barnes Farming Corp., the nation’s largest grower of sweetpotatoes; and Jeff Turner, executive vice president of Murphy Family Ventures, turkey grower and owner of Turner Farm in Pink Hill.

Patrick Ford tells the audience about how advances in information technology have enhanced the marketing of his food products, including Bone Sucking Sauce.
Photo by Marc Hall
All four directed their comments to the students in attendance as they shared their experiences in agricultural product development, marketing and export. They offered tips on what to take advantage of, such as making wise use of new information technology; how best to work with international customers, such as diplomatically learning their cultures and protocols; and what to always be aware of, such as regulatory processes, futures and currency status, supply and demand issues and the tactics of foreign competitors, as well as the impacts of local news, political climates and hidden agendas on the success of U.S. products in certain global markets.

The students took away valuable lessons on embracing technology when it comes to marketing products and the increasing importance of agricultural commodities exports. As Turner put it, while a business is not built on exports alone, “international marketing, going forward, is going to be our future.” --Terri Leith

Jeff Turner of Murphy Family Ventures tells how local growers can be affected by changes in international market preferences.
Photo by Marc Hall
The panelists join student members of the CALS AgriLife Council, which co-hosted the event.
Photo by Marc Hall