Next Gen Ag: Impacting the industry one title at a time

by | Jun 5, 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!

Emory New is a name that many across the agriculture industry might know from her time as N.C. Watermelon Queen. Her love of agriculture, however, started long before 2023 and continued far past her queen years. In fact, Emory is currently working hard to establish her place in the industry and set her path as a leader and voice for agriculture.

In her early childhood years, Emory was involved in 4H and not only learned about agriculture through that program, but also from her father and uncle who raised cattle, farmed tobacco and other row crops. “All of my cousins were a part of 4H when I was growing up in the Nash County/Wilson area, so it was only natural for me to join as well,” Emory said. “As I got older, I joined the 4H exchange club where I furthered my agriculture knowledge by meeting with agriculture students in other states and learned about how crops are grown and raised in their hometowns.” As a student at Southern Nash Middle and High School, Emory was heavily involved in FFA from 7th grade through graduation. During her senior year, she was acting President of the chapter. “My seventh-grade year, our school got an ag program, and I dove in right away,” she said. “As a member of FFA, I not only learned many life skills that have helped get me to where I am today, but I also received many hands-on opportunities that broadened my knowledge of agriculture and sparked my desire to spend a career in this industry.” After high school graduation, Emory headed to N.C. State University to further her agricultural knowledge.

With a bachelor’s degree in Biological and Agricultural Engineering and a master’s degree in Microbial Biotechnology, Emory has a unique perspective and skillset that she brings to the industry. With the life skills taught to her in FFA, like communication, how to build connections and bring people together, and leadership, to the skills that she developed while pursuing her undergraduate degree, like technical knowledge, an engineering mindset, and a passion for agriculture, she is a well-rounded individual that not only brings farming experience to the table but also a wealth of knowledge. “Without agriculture we would have nothing: clothes, food, a strong economy, a healthy environment…none of it,” Emory said. “Even leisure activities and jobs for many individuals would be gone. In fact, 10.4% of the United States workforce is employed by agriculture. It is the essence of our livelihood.” Directly following college graduation, Emory not only began seeking a career in the agricultural workforce, but she also had the opportunity to be a voice and advocate for the industry through her position as the 2022 N.C. Watermelon Queen.

At the start of 2022, Emory was honored to be crowned as North Carolina Watermelon Queen. “It was the best year of my life,” she said. “Not only did I make incredible connections across the industry, but I also had the chance to make a small impact on the industry through my position as advocate for the watermelon growers and agriculture industry workers.” As Watermelon Queen, Emory travelled to many events and farms across the state to meet farmers, talk about the industry, and more. In fact, she still has the opportunity to do some of these things through the sisterhood of previous watermelon queens in our state. “I recommend any girl who meets the qualifications to go for N.C. Watermelon Queen,” she said. “It’s not only an incredible network of women who stick together both during and after your title, but you also gain a lot of knowledge about many aspects of the agriculture industry, build lasting connections, and stand on a platform where you can truly make a difference in agriculture education. It’s a blessing to be a part of and I am honored to say I held that position in 2022.”

In addition to her role as N.C. Watermelon Queen, Emory also started her first agriculture industry job in June of 2023 as both Assistant Project Engineer and Business Development Specialist at Agri-Waste Technology in Apex. In her role, she is responsible for a variety of tasks, including energy audits and nutrient management plans for farmers across our state. “One of my favorite things to do is combine concepts or interests into one passion, which this job has allowed me to do,” she said. “I love being able to work with the farmers and utilize my engineering degree at the same time. It’s the perfect role for me.” Although she doesn’t know exactly where the future will lead her, Emory knows that she would like to become a professional engineer, become more involved with agriculture organizations across the state, and possibly work within agricultural policy to impact the industry on a greater scale.

Emory enjoys working in agriculture for many reasons, but top of the charts for her are the people and the content found within the industry. “There is always something new to learn in this industry,” she said. “You can spend a lifetime growing and evolving in agriculture, constantly becoming a better advocate and leader for the industry.” She loves being able to help reshape the way that people think about and see agriculture and garner a larger appreciation for the industry and its workers. “Farmers and agriculture workers are some of the most hard-working, patient and selfless people that are often taken for granted,” she said. “Being able to not only hear their stories and all that they have ben through to get where they are today, but also tell those stories and advocate for the things that they need to continue the farm or business for years to come is an honor that brings a strong sense of pride every day.”

For those seeking a career in the agriculture industry, Emory encourages you to boldly step in, get involved and don’t look back. “The agriculture industry is worth fighting for. It might take some hard work, patience, and strength to get involved and find what part of agriculture is speaking to you, but it’s worth the effort,” she said. “Be willing to get your hands dirty and work hard for what you want. Ask questions. Search for what calls to you, because it does exist in the agriculture industry, and chase after it with everything that you have.” We are so thankful for all that Emory has already done to further our state’s agriculture industry and look forward to continuing to watch her blossom into an agricultural leader and advocate!