A friend once described Weston McCorkle as the “voice of the State Fair livestock shows.” That nickname, given nearly 20 years ago, has stuck ever since as many people still refer to Weston as “the voice.”
In many ways, Weston is the perfect person to serve as the voice of the livestock shows as he has a deep love and connection to both the N.C. State Fair and North Carolina agriculture.
Weston currently serves as an agricultural programs specialist at the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. He joined the department almost a year ago, in the midst of the pandemic, and works closely with farmland preservation and conservation efforts that also benefit military training and readiness.
A large portion of his job involves working closely with several local and national agricultural programs. One of his primary responsibilities is to work with SERPPAS, the Southeast Regional Partnership for Planning and Sustainability, a collaborative partnership of state and federal agencies within the southeastern United States that makes resource-use decisions supporting national defense, natural resource conservation and sustainability.
Another one of his projects has been working with North Carolina’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, to connect farmers with people living in our state’s food deserts. Additionally, he works with the state’s Commodity Assessment Program and Sweet Potato Commission.
Before joining the department, Weston’s career — though rooted in agriculture and problem solving — transitioned between a variety of interests and skills. His job duties over 18 years involved helping to oversee a 4-H Ag Career Science and Livestock programs, troubleshooting technology issues users were having, management of a dairy herd, deputy fire marshal at N.C. State University and a loan officer with AgCarolina Farm Credit in Smithfield.
While the deputy fire marshal position was a departure from agriculture, Weston’s experience as a volunteer firefighter made him well qualified him for this job. Weston celebrates his 28th year volunteering at Swift Creek Fire Department this year.
Throughout all these different jobs, Weston always made sure to take 10 days off every single year in October to go to the N.C. State Fair where he would announce at the livestock shows.
He got his start announcing the livestock shows in college. He was a part of the Animal Science Club, and they volunteered every year at the livestock shows. In 1991, the show needed someone to announce, and he was “volun-told,” if you will, to announce. Later on, in the late 1990s, he was asked to come back to announce the sheep and cattle shows and has continued to announce ever since. In 2014, Jim Smith, the man who had announced the open dairy shows for 60 years, retired. Jim asked Weston to take over his shows for him which Weston considered to be a great honor.
“That was really an honor for me. For someone that has been doing this for 60 years to ask me to carry it on.”
One of Weston’s favorite aspects of the livestock shows is the community surrounding the program. He loves seeing the judges interact with the participants and the parents interact with their children. There is a sense of respect and camaraderie shared among those who participate in the shows. Weston also admires the hard work kids put in when they decide to care for and show an animal.
“I enjoy watching the youth show off their work from the previous months, and I enjoy seeing the accountability and responsibility they have taken on and how proud they are to display their project.”
He knows that the Youth Livestock Program helps mold the youth in our state. The shows help them become more knowledgeable about agriculture and develop a deeper appreciation for nature. They also hone their communication skills and build relationships with those they show with.
While Weston enjoys all the livestock shows at the fair, there are two that he looks especially forward to each year, the Junior Dairy Costume Class, and the show for participants with special needs.
“A lot of times we discount or overlook folks with disabilities, so the Special Livestock Show at the State Fair ensures inclusion for individuals who may not have the opportunity elsewhere. It’s a good feeling to see folks who have special needs get to do some things that they typically wouldn’t.”
Weston thoroughly enjoys the time he spends at the fair each year. His love for the fair dates back to his childhood when he was involved in the State Fair livestock programs. He grew up in the 4-H program in Cabarrus County and showed sheep.
“I’ve had a love of the fair for years. There’s friends, fellowship, ties and memories. The friends I grew up showing with now bring their children to show today.”
Weston’s love for agriculture in general can also be traced back to his childhood. Until he was seven years old, his family lived next to a local preacher whose son worked for a local farm and collected toy tractors. When Weston would visit, the two would look at the toy tractors together. He remembers this friendship providing a spark for his interest in agriculture.
When he was seven, his family moved to Harrisburg. Their new neighbor, Eugene Cochran, had beef cattle, and Weston would help him around the farm. He would get off the school bus at the end of the day, drop off his books, and head straight for the neighbor’s house.
“He was a very influential individual to me. He was Uncle Gene to me. That’s where I got my first love [for agriculture] and got to try my first hand [at farming].”
Then Weston became involved in 4-H and became close friends with another family in the program who was in the dairy business. This family introduced Weston to dairy cattle. He helped with putting out straw, feeding, and early morning milking. He even had his own room at their house so whenever he went over to work on the farm, he would have a place to stay. This family’s kindness and willingness to help him learn had a profound effect on Weston.
“They were like a second family to me.”
Since childhood, the people he met, the places he lived and the opportunities that came his way, all shaped him in significant ways. These experiences developed within him a love for agriculture, and it prepared him for a successful career in the field.
“My love for agriculture comes from where I grew up and how I grew up and the people that I was fortunate enough to have taken me under their wing.”