Inaugural Alumni Summit Brings Past EFM Classes and Friends Together

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A group of people participating at the alumni summit.The 2024 Alumni Summit served as an opportunity for past participants of the Executive Farm Management (EFM) Program to reconnect, network and hear from industry leaders and nationally recognized speakers. The event, hosted at the Park Alumni Center, kicked off with a welcome reception on the evening of Feb. 21, 2024, and concluded Friday afternoon, Feb. 23, 2024.

CALS Dean Garey Fox addresses attendees at the 2024 Alumni Summit Dinner

EFM alumni and friends were officially welcomed Thursday morning with an address from CALS Associate Dean and NC State Extension Director Rich Bonanno. CALS Dean Garey Fox also addressed the attendees at the catered dinner Thursday evening. Both Bonanno and Fox emphasized the importance of EFM’s mission and pledged their continued support of the program.

Seven speakers of varying agricultural specialties and backgrounds presented at the summit: Jay Abbott, Eric Snodgrass, Karen Eddington, Bryan Dobson, Dr. David Kohl, Mike Pearson and Dr. Matt Roberts.

Read on to learn more about the speakers and sessions during the event!

Greenhouse Vegetable Production
Jay Abbott, Director of Operations, Red Sun Farms, LLC
Abbott is the director of operations at Red Sun Farms, a 20-acre vegetable greenhouse in Dublin, Virginia. With 20 years of director-level experience, Abbott is a highly adaptive industry leader and an expert in the controlled environment agricultural production industry. Summit attendees benefitted from his firsthand experience of the advancements and challenges of greenhouse farming on a large scale.

High Impact Meteorology
Eric Snodgrass, Science Fellow & Principle Atmospheric Scientist, Nutrien Ag Solutions
People in a conference room listen to a talk.Snodgrass is the Principal Atmospheric Scientist for Nutrien Ag Solutions, where he develops predictive, analytical software solutions to manage weather risk for global production agriculture. He focuses on how high-impact weather events influence global agriculture productivity. In his presentation, Snodgrass debunked many misconceptions about weather forecasting and agricultural impact.

Strong Under Pressure
Karen Eddington, Keynote Speaker, The Under Pressure Project
Eddington is a 20-year researcher on The Under Pressure Project and is the author of “Understanding Self-Worth.” As a mental health advocate, she tracks patterns and listens to stories. From an agricultural community, Eddington travels across the country in support of her neighbors. She has done over 50 TV interviews based on her Strong Under Pressure research. In her presentation, she discussed stress management through a research-based approach.

Update on the Agricultural Equipment Industry
Bryan Dobson, CEO, Quality Equipment, John Deere
Dobson holds the position of CEO for Quality Equipment, LLC with corporate headquarters based in Fuquay-Varina, NC, where he is responsible for directing the company’s overall operations for their 36 John Deere agriculture and turf stores throughout North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. In this role, Dobson is responsible for the sales, marketing, operations and growth strategies for Quality Equipment. As the premier agricultural dealer covering more than 84 counties, Quality Equipment is the largest John Deere dealer in North Carolina. With over 650 employees, the company represents products that help producers grow crops ranging from corn to peanuts to cotton.

Strategies & Actions to Put the Odds in Your Favor
Dr. David Kohl, Professor Emeritus, Virginia Tech
An academic Hall of Famer in the College of Agriculture at Virginia Tech, Kohl has keen insight into the agriculture industry gained through extensive travel, research and involvement in ag businesses. He has traveled over 10 million miles; conducted more than 7,000 presentations; and published more than 2,500 articles in his career. Kohl’s wisdom and engagement with all levels of the industry provided attendees with a unique perspective on future trends.

What’s Driving Agriculture Now
Mike Pearson, Broadcast Director, Farm Progress
Pearson was born and raised in South Central Iowa, where he grew to love agriculture on his family’s hog and cattle farm. After graduating from Simpson College, Pearson moved to Grinnell, Iowa where he had the chance to build his own cow herd in addition to working as an agricultural lender. Over the next 10 years, Mike left the world of finance and entered the world of media. He’s previously hosted “Market to Market” on Public Television and the Ag News Daily podcast. Currently, viewers can find him behind the anchor desk as the host of “This Week in Agribusiness” on RFD-TV.

Commodity Situation and Outlook
Dr. Matt Roberts, Independent Economist & Professional Speaker
An independent economist and professional speaker, Roberts received his Ph.D. in Economics from NC State and his work is focused on commodity markets. He formerly served as senior grain & oilseed analyst at Terrain, an offering of American AgCredit, Farm Credit Services of America and Frontier Farm Credit. Roberts has published on technical analysis and the use of derivatives for risk management in agricultural production. His extension and outreach activities focus on biofuels markets and the grain market situation and outlook. He has given testimony before the Ohio House Alternative Energy Committee and assisted state and federal lawmakers on agricultural and energy issues.

Business Meeting and Q&A
In addition to these informative presentations, the summit also gave space for the alumni and friends in attendance to participate in discussion. Whether it be through the networking lunches, a business meeting to collect feedback about future EFM events or a Q&A with Pearson and Roberts, moderated by EFM Board Member Richard Anderson, organizers were able to hear directly from past participants to adapt future events to suit the needs of the changing agricultural industry.

Three people stand beside a flatlands table.“Croptails” with Flatlands
On Thursday night before dinner, an informative cocktail hour was held in partnership with Flatlands Insurance Group. During this time, representatives from Flatlands gave a short presentation on current crop insurance issues that affect farmers.

Student Attendance
EFM Director Michael Best invited students from his Senior Agribusiness Management class to each attend a specific presentation of their choice during the event. The future industry leaders actively participated and often offered their unique perspectives in discussions.

“Attending the Executive Farm Management Alumni Summit at NC State was definitely a highlight of my semester,” Hunter Tharpe wrote in his reflection paper. “As someone studying agribusiness, getting to hear from experts in the field is always exciting, but listening to Eric Snodgrass, a big name in meteorology, was next level. His insights into how weather impacts farming and what we, as future agribusiness professionals, can do about it were eye-opening.”

Thank you to everyone who participated in our 2024 EFM Alumni Summit! We look forward to more events where we once again bring together past, present and future alumni and friends of the EFM Program!

2024 Alumni Summit Sponsors