Recently, Golden LEAF President, Chief Executive Officer Scott T. Hamilton sat down with Dr. Garey Fox, Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at NC State University via Zoom and filmed an episode of Critical Conversations. In this series, Scott talks with professionals about economic development issues affecting the state.
The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences serves North Carolina through teaching and mentoring, research, Extension and international programs. They train students to become leaders and to meet the needs of agriculture, food, and life science industries. They also make discoveries, solve problems and bring that knowledge to the communities and fields across our state, our nation and our world.
Dr. Fox became the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean on August 1, 2023.
Dr. Fox grew up on a beef cattle farm in a small community in Texas. He was heavily involved in Future Farmers of America (FFA) and received a scholarship requiring him to pursue a degree in agriculture. As a first-generation college student, Dr. Fox leaned on his high school teachers’ recommendations to pursue a career in engineering and attended Texas A&M University majoring in Agriculture Engineering. Dr. Fox joined NC State in 2017 as a professor and head of the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at CALS. He has over 10 years of administrative experience and 20 years of academic experience in research, teaching, and outreach focused on surface water and groundwater interaction related to water quantity and quality.
The Golden LEAF Foundation Board of Directors awarded significant funding for NC State University’s Plant Sciences Initiative (PSI). Dr. Fox explained that the PSI building has been open at NC State’s campus for over a year and is growing into a very interdisciplinary initiative. He shared that the Executive Director of the PSI, Adrian Percy, has focused on innovative research and extension and education as well as entrepreneurship and industry collaborations. The five platforms that initiative focuses on are resilient agricultural systems, plant improvement, education and workforce development, data drive plant sciences, and extension outreach and engagement. Dr. Fox added that a grower Advisory Council has been formed, where identified growers in both the eastern and the western parts of the state are working with the researchers in PSI to help the researchers design projects based on issues the farmers are having.
A skilled workforce has been an issue for all industry sectors. Dr. Fox said he has made a concerted effort to travel across the state to learn from people about the issues with agriculture in North Carolina. He added that a focus on getting high school students interested in the agriculture sector. Dr. Fox continued that combined efforts are simply not producing enough graduates in the sector and that educating more people about the agricultural field and the types of job opportunities that exist in agriculture is going to be really important for the future of agriculture. Dr. Fox said NC State CALS has 17 different degree programs, numerous graduate programs, certificates, and a very strong two-year degree program to build the workforce. Dr. Fox explained that CALS will have to really attract the best and the brightest into agriculture. He said he is working hard on recruitment efforts.
Some of the issues that CALS focused on include how do we produce the food that we’re going to need for a growing population, and how do we address the issue of so many people moving into the state creating expanded urban areas and the loss of farmland.
What is the extension office and then how does it support the farmers in North Carolina. Extension is one of the three missions of our land grant institution. Extension addresses conducting research that helps us identify and solve the issues that are facing our farmers within North Carolina. North Carolina extension has an office in every county in North Carolina and as well as the Eastern Band of the Cherokee. The work that we’re doing through extension is vital because every county stays engaged with farmers, agriculture businesses, and the families. everyday applications and so it is extremely important that we keep our extension program strong that we help them adapt to the
Dr. Fox shared that although the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is a premiere college, his passion is to continuously strive for better by being innovative and interdisciplinary. He shared some of the opportunities he plans to focus on include workforce development, digital agriculture, data collection and sharing, and artificial intelligence use in research. The Food Animal Initiative is another area Dr. Fox is looking to grow. This initiative focuses on the food animal industry in the state of North Carolina.
To learn more about NC State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, click here.