At the start of 2022, Paige King Johnson was signed as the first Musical Ambassador of our Got to Be N.C. Program. We caught up with Paige to learn about her experience this past year and what the opportunity has meant to her.
Music, much like agriculture, has a way of being passed down through generations and instilling a passion that lasts a lifetime. Paige King Johnson, local singer-songwriter from Angier, grew up in a musical family and began to fall in love with it at the age of ten. “Both my mom and dad were musical, which is where I believe I got my performance skills and talents from,” Paige said. “My grandfather gave me my very first guitar for my tenth birthday and it lit a fire in my soul that has guided me to where I am today.”
In addition to being a musical family, the Johnsons are also a farming family. Paige grew up helping her dad tend to the animals, including horses, donkeys and lambs, and was very involved in 4H and FFA at her local high school. “I was very much the nerdy horse girl in school,” she joked. “I would show every year at the N.C. State Fair and other horse shows in the area. I have a lot of fond memories of helping my dad around the farm, even if I didn’t consider them fond at the time.” Paige’s family continues to own and operate their family farm and her husband, Griffin, works with them full-time.
With a background in both music and agriculture, Paige had a deep desire to blend the two worlds together. In 2020, the opportunity presented itself through a zoom call with a local 4H group. “I was performing for the group on zoom because I am an alumni of 4H. Two individuals with the NCDA&CS Marketing Division were on the call, Tim Parrish and G.W. Stanley,” Paige said. “They saw my talents and heard about my background with both FFA and 4H. That’s really where the journey began, because they started to see the same vision that I had of allowing music and agriculture to work together.” At the start of the program, Paige’s main responsibility was to write a song that helped spread the word about the Got to Be N.C. Program and get people excited about agriculture, especially the younger generation. Throughout the year, the opportunity has morphed to include not just the song, but school visits, local partnerships and performances, farm days and the first ever N.C. AgStar Talent Search.
The release of Paige’s single, “Homes in the Hometowns,” broadened the opportunities available to both Paige and the department through the musical ambassador program. “This song came at a time where I was living back at home with my parents and seeing the day-to-day activities of farm life again,” she said. “The song honestly just came to me as memories of my childhood on the farm started flooding back and as I continued to watch all the hard work that my family and the farm employees put into agriculture every single day. It was the easiest song I have written in a very long time because of the heart and passion behind it.” If you listen to the lyrics of the song, you hear more about the true grit and grind that farmers and other agriculture industry workers take on each day. “That’s what I really wanted to portray in this song, the heart of what farmers do for our agriculture industry and the world at large,” Paige said. “So many people give up their career and much of their lives to contribute to this industry. It’s amazing to know that these farmers work so incredibly hard, simply for the wellbeing of others, because none of us would be able to survive without them.” That pride in our state’s agriculture industry is what drives Paige day in and day out to educate people, whether from the stage or in the schoolhouse.
Throughout her year as Got to Be N.C. Musical Ambassador, Paige has visited nine schools across the state to perform Homes in the Hometowns, teach about what the N.C. Department of Agriculture does on a daily basis and present the endless opportunities that exist for a career in agriculture. Typically, these visits last 45 minutes to one hour and allow Paige to tell her story in agriculture and music, perform a few songs, educate students on the Got to Be N.C. program and the events they offer each year and provide resources to help the students get started on their own path in agriculture. “The school visits have honestly been my favorite part of this partnership with the Department of Agriculture,” she said. “It has been so rewarding to connect with these students and hear about what they are already doing in agriculture and with music. It has reignited my belief in the future generation because they asked so many insightful questions, presented incredibly innovative ideas and had a heart for the agriculture industry that is unparalleled.” Paige continues to keep in touch with many of these students through social media and is proud to be a mentor that can encourage them in their pursuits of agriculture and music.
On March 4th, Paige will have the opportunity to mentor more young artists as well as perform and emcee at the first-ever N.C. AgStar Talent Search Competition Finale. Taking place inside the Scott Building at the N.C. State Fairgrounds, the event will feature fifteen finalists from across the state of North Carolina. These finalists were narrowed down through four auditions in various parts of the state last year. “I am looking forward to seeing how much these individuals have grown and used the advice given to them during auditions,” Paige said. “Not only will it be exciting to crown the very first Got to Be N.C. AgStar, but it will also be a joy to watch them grow in their career and see how they will work to benefit agriculture and incorporate their local producers and businesses.” Tickets to the finale are $15 each and can be purchased online through the Eventbrite page. The finale will begin at 6 p.m.
Music and agriculture overlap in many ways because both take a lot of faith, hard-work, grit and perseverance. “Music allows us to express the world of agriculture in a new way,” Paige said. “Both are important to the heart of our communities and, when used together, can reach new audiences and educate the world, not just our state, about the importance of our farmers and N.C. Agriculture.”
So, what has Paige learned throughout this experience as our Got to Be N.C. Musical Ambassador and what exactly has the opportunity meant to her? “I am humbled and grateful to have been blessed with this opportunity,” she said. “The department didn’t have to take a chance on me and hitch their wagon up to my career, but they did. They let me have a voice and, through that leap of faith, we were able to merge two industries together into a beautiful partnership.” Not only has the ride been humbling, eye-opening, crazy and hectic, but Paige has also learned a lot about herself and the world of agriculture through it. “Even though I grew up in the agriculture industry, I’ve learned so much more than I ever realized about the resilience of our farmers, diversity of agriculture in our state and the impact that it makes, not just in North Carolina, but across the world,” she said. “I truly have been thankful for every moment, and I look forward to finding new ways to spread the story of N.C. Agriculture through my music and help pave the way for the next generation of both our industries.”