By Richy Huneycutt

Lenoir Community College Sustainable Agriculture Program Chair Tiffany Coward Kennedy of Trenton has always had a passion for agriculture since she was a little girl. Little did she know that passion and love for learning would land her in a classroom teaching at LCC. She is the program chair of Sustainable Agriculture and Agriculture Education, and her enthusiasm for agriculture and teaching is contagious.

“I always knew I wanted a career in agriculture; I just never saw myself in the classroom,” she said. “I was always more of a hands-on learner. But when the opportunity for this position presented itself, I knew it was meant for me. It was my time to give back to the agriculture industry and show future generations the importance of agriculture in our communities and states.”

Heavily involved with 4-H and FFA in high school, Kennedy said going into agriculture was a perfect fit. “LCC agriculture programs are a great way for students to enter the agriculture industry. Agriculture is the most important industry. We are responsible for feeding, clothing, and providing for the entire world,” says Kennedy. “I tell students how they can get into the industry and succeed in agricultural education.”

“We need more students to succeed in agriculture, and LCC agriculture programs are a great way for them to do so. Agriculture programs are a great stepping stone to a career in the agricultural field and provide students with many opportunities for hands-on learning,” she says. “I would like for students to leave LCC with higher awareness about sustainable agriculture practices, as well as knowledge of how different aspects of sustainable agriculture work together.”

Kennedy says that students can earn both degrees while enrolled. “Our classes for Sustainable Agriculture and Agriculture Education have similar coursework. With the Agriculture Education degree, you will take a combination of agriculture courses and education courses to prepare you for the classroom. With Sustainable Agriculture, you focus primarily on agriculture courses and your general education classes.”

Students get to work with animals in the programs. “We teach a general animal science course in our curriculum, but we focus primarily on poultry and swine production because of our geographic location, and those being one of our top commodities.”

“We focus on the entire lifecycle of the chicken and compare the difference between commercial operations and backyard operations, which is what we currently do at the College. This allows us to touch on animal husbandry and care for commercial and backyard operations.”

One of the many great things about these two programs is there are transfer opportunities if someone is interested in pursuing a four-year degree. In addition, the programs have agreements with North Carolina A&T, the University of Mount Olive, and North Carolina State University.

Kennedy said the best part of teaching is connecting to her students on a personal level. “I know that it can be difficult to relate to the information you are being taught in class, but if there is one thing that I have learned, it is that everyone is unique and different. What works well for one student may not work well for the next. There is no recipe or guidebook for how to learn and understand something better. So, when I am in the teaching environment, it shines through when I interact with my students. Seeing their reactions or thinking about what they say can give me ideas about the best ways to teach a particular lesson.”

What do some of her students say? “I wanted to experience what college was like while remaining close to home,” says North Lenoir High School graduate John Hood of La Grange. He hopes to start his own landscaping company. “The hands-on experience and learning new things are my favorite parts. I never thought I would learn how to drive a tractor.”

North Duplin High School graduate Ashley Bowden of Mt. Olive says the one-on-one experience is her favorite part of the program “Our instructor makes us feel like a person and not just a number. I didn’t think I would be able to run a saw and feel comfortable. I plan to transfer to continue my degree in agriculture education and become a teacher.”

GoldenWorth Academy (homeschool) Jordan Therrien of Goldsboro says her favorite part is the hands-on experiences and working with plants and animals. “I want to work in the Christian missionary field using agriculture to teach those overseas about sustainability practices.”

“I love when students come to me and tell me about a new passion for growing a crop or that they are dreaming of buying their own farm one day,” says Kennedy. “I like to think that I have planted some of those seeds in their minds, and sometimes it is great to see them grow into something completely unexpected.”

For more information, visit LCC Sustainable Ag and Ag Education.