As a way to give thanks to a community so supportive of agriculture, the Sampson County Friends of Agriculture is hosting its annual rally next month.
The Rally for Agriculture will begin at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 18, at the Sampson County Agri-Exposition Center in Clinton with a sponsored meal.
According to Ronnie Jackson, chairman of the Friends of Agriculture Board of Directors, the rally always tries to keep the focus on the importance of agriculture to the community, and this year will not be any different.
North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler will be the keynote speaker during this year’s rally. Raised in Guilford County, Troxler has spent his entire career in the agriculture industry, as founder, owner and operator of Troxler Farms.
“Steve will bring very valuable information to the rally and its guests,” Jackson shared. “He works hard to do what he can to promote agriculture in this state.”
Troxler took office in 2005, and has kept focus on developing new markets for North Carolina farm products, preserving working farms and protecting the state’s food supply.
A past president of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA), Troxler is also a former chairman of NASDA’s Food Regulation and Nutrition Committee and was honored with a 2015 NASDA award for his commitment to food safety. He served as president of the Southern Association of State Departments of Agriculture in 2010-2011.
He also serves on the boards of the N.C. Foundation for Soil and Water Conservation, the Rural Economic Development Center and the N.C. Biotechnology Center. He is a member of numerous organizations, including the N.C. Tobacco Research Commission and the Southern United States Trade Association.
Troxler’s knowledge of the agriculture industry is expansive and he has been recognized for his hardwork and dedication to the agriculture industry.
For his work in farming and as a public servant, Troxler has been recognized with numerous awards. He was named a 2016 Tobacco Great and received a 2015 Distinguished Alumni Award, both from the N.C. State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and a 2015 Friend of the River Award from the Land of Sky Regional Council.
His support of agritourism and several major tourism projects in the state earned him the 2014 Public Service Award from the N.C. Travel Industry Association. Other recent honors include the 2013 Forest Conservationist of the Year Award from the N.C. Wildlife Federation; the 2012 Meritorious Service Award from the N.C. Soybean Producers Association; the 2011 Elliot O. Grosvenor Food Safety Award from the Association of Food and Drug Officials; the Distinguished Service Award from the N.C. Agricultural Foundation; and a leadership award from the Western North Carolina Livestock Center and WNC Communities.
During his career, Troxler also has been honored with the Conservation Guardian Award of the Guilford County Soil Conservation Service; the Phillip Morris Outstanding Young Tobacco Farmer Award; the Outstanding Young Farmer Award from the North Carolina Jaycees; the N.C. Agricultural Extension Service’s Outstanding Service Award; the Certificate of Merit from the NCSU chapter of Gamma Sigma Delta agricultural honor society; and an Honorary State FFA Degree. His family was named “Tobacco Farm Family of the Year” by the Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina.
Troxler is a 1974 graduate of N.C. State University with a bachelor of science degree in conservation and a concentration in environmental studies. He and his wife, Sharon, have two sons, two daughters-in-law and five grandchildren. In his spare time, Troxler enjoys restoring antique farm equipment and playing with his dog, Kate.
The rally is the main event for the Friends of Ag each year, and a way of thanking the community for its support while again driving the importance of agriculture home to the masses.
“It’s just a feel-good rally about agriculture,” Jackson said of the annual event. “It’s designed to deliver pertinent information about topics related to ag. We try to have topics that are of interest to people who have an interest in agriculture.”
When the Friends of Agriculture was started, it was to educate people about the importance of agriculture — not just in Raleigh, but to those in this community. Bringing information to the masses that highlights the vital role agriculture plays is remains a steadfast goal of the organization.
“A lot of people seem to not really understand how big that is in Sampson County and in North Carolina. Sampson County is probably the top agricultural county in North Carolina and ranks very highly nationwide,” Jackson noted. “The combined value of crops and livestock is about $1.3 billion per year.”
Friends of Agriculture has made it its mission to deliver that message, and Starling will be the most recent voice to do so at Thursday’s rally. Crowds are usually hundreds-strong each year, with some topping out at about 700 at its peak.
“We work hard to educate people about farming,” Jackson said. “Farming and agriculture are vitally important to our community and our state.”
Anyone interested in attending this year’s rally should get a ticket from Clinton Truck and Tractor or the N.C. Cooperative Extension office on U.S. 421.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.