Next Gen Ag: Investing in the future of N.C. Agriculture

by | May 29, 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!

Passionate individuals often make the best teachers due to their whole-hearted belief in the subject. Although Trace Guyer didn’t grow up directly in the agriculture industry, he did tend a garden with his father for many years in Haywood County. That not only sparked his interest in agriculture, but influenced him to join the FFA, where the interest blossomed into passion and dedication. Today, Trace is working hard to educate the next generation of leaders and drive their passion for our industry.

Growing up in the Western part of the state, Trace learned how to grow a variety of crops at the hand of his father. “My dad always enjoyed having a garden because it gave him something to do outside and generated rewards for his hard work,” Trace said. “For many years I helped him tend the garden and learned how to grow tomatoes, potatoes and more. I still tend and harvest a garden at my personal home today because I grew to love it so much.” Due to the interest in agriculture developed in the garden, Trace joined the FFA in his freshman year of high school. Not only was he involved with FFA all four years of high school, but he has also served in the collegiate FFA throughout his college years. “Agriculture is the most important industry in the world because a county that cannot feed itself cannot thrive,” he said. “I want to learn all that I can about this $111.1 billion industry so that I can make the largest impact possible during my agricultural career.”

Where high school FFA focuses on personal development, leadership skills, and agricultural education, collegiate FFA focuses on serving the community through agriculturally based projects. “FFA harnessed my love of agriculture. Joining the organization was the best decision I’ve ever made,” Trace said. For most of his life, Trace knew that he wanted to be a teacher. Both of his parents are schoolteachers, so you could say it runs in the family. It wasn’t until he joined the FFA that he discovered his desire to teach agriculture. “Ultimately it was FFA that made me change from a straight teaching degree to an agriculture education degree. From the connections I made in FFA, to the projects I took part in, like helping to raise a cow, to the skillsets I learned, FFA shaped me into the man that I am today and established my place in this industry.” After graduating from high school, Trace started college at the University of Mount Olive pursuing a degree in Agriculture Education and a minor in Ag Business and Plant Science.

As a senior in college, Trace is not only finishing up his degree and getting excited about launching his career in agriculture, but he is also already gaining hands-on experience by serving as a student teacher at Enka High School in Buncombe County. “Five days a week, I teach three agricultural classes, which equals about 80 students,” Trace said. “I have loved the opportunity of not only getting to know these students, but getting to practice in the field that I am getting ready to (hopefully) enter full time. It’s been a blessing and a privilege.” Although his student teaching will end at the conclusion of his senior year, Trace hopes to teach high school agriculture when he graduates, either at Enka or another local high school. “Whether I am in the school system or outside the school system, I know that I want to spend my career teaching others about the importance of agriculture,” he said. “In fact, the ultimate dream would be to have my own farm operation with crops, greenhouses, and livestock where I could also educate people who visit. I could host classes for people to join as well as host tours on the farm. You can learn a lot in the classroom, but even more when the experience is hands-on, and you can see things with your own eyes.”

Even though he didn’t directly grow up in the agriculture industry, Trace has many skillsets and talents that he brings to the table as an incoming industry leader. “Many stereotypes exist in the agriculture industry, even some that I believed myself before I got involved in FFA and agriculture classes,” he said. “I believe that I can bring a new perspective to the industry because I have seen both sides. I know what it feels like to buy into those misconceptions, but now because of my education, I also know the truth. That gives me an edge to educate people on both sides.” Trace also has a passion to advocate for the industry and educate others about all aspects of agriculture. “I worked my way into this industry, so I believe that I can be a helping hand to others who are coming up behind me,” he said.

Trace loves many aspects of working in the agriculture industry, but his favorite part is reaping the rewards of his hard work at the end of every day. “Both in the classroom and on the farm, you reap what you sow in agriculture and that makes all the hard days worth it,” he said. “No matter where I go in agriculture, this industry fills me with pride and reminds me of why I do what I do on a daily basis.”

When students approach Trace about pursuing a career in the agriculture industry, he always starts the conversation by asking a question and giving a piece of advice. “My first question for anyone who is seeking a career in agriculture is have they prayed about it and talked with their family and friends,” he said. “Then if the answers to those questions are yes, I remind them that some people will doubt them or tell them that they can’t do it, but they must find their ‘why’ and let that drive them forward.” We are so proud of all that Trace is doing to educate the next generation of agriculture leaders and look forward to seeing where the industry takes him!