Next Gen Ag: Education and Livestock working hand in hand

by | Apr 23, 2024

Next Gen Ag is a year long series that will run on our In The Field blog, Facebook page, Instagram page and Twitter account. Each Wednesday, we will highlight a young person pursuing a career in the agriculture industry. Individuals can be in high school, college, or recent graduates who are working to establish a career in agriculture. Stay tuned each week to meet some of our industry’s future leaders!

One experience has the power to change a lifetime, at least it did for Susie Douglas of Watagua County. Although she didn’t grow up in agriculture, Susie recently started her first job in the industry and couldn’t imagine herself anywhere else.

Growing up, Susie had a knowledge and appreciation for the agriculture industry but didn’t gain hands-on experience until elementary school. “My family always knew about agriculture and had a strong appreciation for farmers, but we weren’t a farming or agriculture family,” she said. “In my elementary school class, we attended a farm tour where I gained a physical experience with agriculture and fell in love with livestock.” Susie kept that love of agriculture all the way through high school. After graduating high school, she started college at NC State University where she dove even further into pursuing a career in agriculture.

At N.C. State University, Susie majored in Animal Science with a concentration in extension. Starting college in 2020 brough challenges but also blessings for her because she got a job at the N.C. State Dairy Farm that year. “I learned a lot while working at the dairy, and that’s really where my love and interest for agriculture took off,” she said. “I gave tours out there and not only got to experience the hard work of our state’s dairy farmers, but also see the education gap that exists for many people regarding their food and agriculture.” Bridging that gap is a huge part of what Susie aims to do through her work every day! “I love to educate people on the myths that exist throughout the agriculture industry,” she said. “Agriculture is how we survive. It’s everything that we do. It’s how we feed, clothe, and shelter the world. The more people that know and understand agriculture the better off we all will be.”

After graduating in May of 2023, Susie took a job as the 4H agent in Watagua County. “I love that I can combine my love of agriculture with teaching kids,” she said. “It’s fun to see their eyes light up as they get involved in agriculture and learn about the role that it plays in their lives.” As a 4H Agent, Susie manages a variety of activities including, regular 4H meetings, chicken shows, equine club, poultry club and classroom education. “There hasn’t been a 4H agent in our county for eight years, so this position is really new,” she said. “In the past few months, I have seen interest grow so much in our programs and I can’t wait to continue impacting the community in that way moving forward.” Although she doesn’t know exactly what the future will bring in her career, Susie knows that she would like to remain a relevant supporting member of the agriculture community. “I want to help change the narrative of agriculture that people see,” she said. “No matter where the future takes me, I want to give agriculture a brighter future for our state. Being able to do that while also continuing to educate kids would be the ultimate dream.”

A passion for agriculture, education, and an appreciation for the people in agriculture are all skillsets that Susie brings to the industry. “As a new and emerging leader in this industry, I have a real appreciation for the people in agriculture and the passion that drives them every day,” she said. “I appreciate all that they do in the public eye as well as behind the scenes. That’s what drives me to support them and educate others on their hard work every day.” In fact, the people within the industry are Susie’s favorite part of working in agriculture. “There is nothing quite like the culture found in agriculture,” she said. “Everyone is accepting, hardworking, friendly and always willing to give a helping hand.” Susie has seen this dynamic up-close and personal within her community as many farmers stepped up to help a local dairy farmer keep his business afloat when he became ill. “It was amazing to see the community come together to keep the farm running for him until he recovered,” she said. “That’s a reflection of the entire industry to me. Competition might exist but it never feels that way. At the end of the day, we all want each other to succeed.”

For those seeking a career in the agriculture industry, Susie challenges you to ask questions and get involved. “Don’t count yourself out before you even try,” she said. “It can be intimidating to ask questions and put yourself out there, but you will never know where your passion lies until you get involved. So just jump in!” We are so proud of Susie’s determination and passion for the industry that drives her forward as a 4H agent every day. We can’t wait to see where the future takes her and how the program continues to grow!