(Above) U.S. Rep. Valerie Foushee listens to Justin Snyder, Associate Vice President of Workforce Development, explain future plans for the Covington Agriculture Education Center.
(August 7, 2023) – The 47-acre Covington Agriculture Education Center operated by Alamance Community College is a dream come true for students and instructors in the school’s Agricultural Sciences department. Since the college acquired the expansive farm on Jim Minor Road in 2019, grants and other financial sources have helped ACC to develop its potential to serve as a true working and teaching property. This is what brought Congresswoman Valerie Foushee (D-4th District) and other VIP guests to the property to learn how students benefit – and what is still needed.
Rep. Foushee’s visit on August 3 was the first time an elected member of the U.S. Congress had seen the facility up close. Among the half dozen other interested visitors were Reginald Speight, State Director of USDA Rural Development, and Bob Etheridge, Farm Services Administration Executive Director and retired U.S. Congressman.
“It’s important for people to understand that agriculture is our state’s number one industry. So anything we can do to help, that’s why we’re here,” said Rep. Foushee during her visit to the farm.
According to a staff spokesperson, Congresswoman Foushee is interested in establishing stronger connections with ACC and its agricultural-related projects and initiatives. Rep. Foushee’s interest this year, in particular, has ramifications in Washington because the national farm bill is up for renewal.
Bill and Nancy Covington transferred ownership of their 47-acre farm to Alamance Community College via the ACC Foundation on the condition that it remain an agricultural facility and be used to teach students.
(Above) Congresswoman Valerie Foushee speaks with ACC Interim President Dr. Larry Keen during her visit to the College’s Covington Agriculture Education Center. At right is Bob Etheridge, Farm Services Administration Executive Director and retired U.S. Congressman.
During the VIP group’s farm site visit, ACC Agricultural Sciences Department Head Jerry Hackney explained the importance of the Covington Agriculture Education Center for students and the larger community.
“It is our dream, and our desire, and our will to make this a very unique land lab that is unlike anything else in North Carolina or at any other community college,” Hackney said. “It’s all about giving our students a hands-on approach to learning valuable life skills.”
Hackney itemized key points currently in operation at the site: continuing education classes, Horticulture Technology labs, meat animals on site, and a new class in Backyard Chicken Production set to begin in spring 2024.
“We are actively producing and processing meat birds on this site, and that includes chickens and turkeys,” said Hackney. “We are in the beginning stages of sustainable egg production, we will start meat rabbit production this fall, and we want to expand that. We have plans for a barn down the hill that will incorporate sheep and meat goat production.”
(Above) Congresswoman Valerie Foushee listens as Agricultural Sciences Department Head Jerry Hackney addresses the VIP guests at ACC’s Covington Agriculture Education Center.
Future plans at the farm site also include incorporating Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) into the currently operating market garden, crop production, and nursery production.
ACC is also in the early stages of planning a registered Vet Tech program at the farm site to join the handful of such programs in North Carolina.
“At the Covington farm location, we can improve the quality of instruction our students are receiving, and make the labs and classes we teach more like a real world scenario,” said Justin Snyder, Dean of Industrial Technologies and former department head of Horticulture Technology. “Our goal is to produce highly qualified students ready to join the local workforce, as well as support the local green industry companies. This land will allow us to better meet that goal.”