Agricultural education major Clay Beasley looks forward to teaching ag mechanics classes in carpentry and welding, two of his favorite subjects, after he graduates from North Carolina State University. This summer, he learned the nuts and bolts of NC State Extension work in the fields of Wilson County.
As part of the Extension Summer Internship Program, Beasley worked closely with Tommy Batts, agriculture and commercial horticulture agent, and Norman Harrell, county Extension director. The paid internship was part of the NC State Rural Works! Program to boost awareness of career opportunities in rural counties.
A native of rural Princeton, about 30 miles from Wilson, Beasley grew up gardening and participating in FFA.
“I came in with limited crop experience, so I’ve been learning a lot about tobacco and vegetable crops like peppers and sweetpotatoes, and all of the intensive work that goes into growing them,” he says.
Meeting the farmers that Batts and Harrell consulted with gave Beasley an appreciation of the complexities of raising crops, and how Extension can help.
“There are so many things that can go wrong, from even before you put the seed in the ground to whenever you sell it,” Beasley says. ”There’s just so many factors to consider. And Extension plays a vital role in mitigating those issues.”
Beasley’s Extension experiences included monitoring on-farm tests of tobacco, sweetpotato and cotton varieties, as well as a new 50-acre sesame trial.
“Sesame is a non-host to root-knot nematode, so we’re hoping that it can be viable as a crop to put in rotation with sweetpotatoes, since that’s such a big problem,” he explains.
Another important aspect of his summer work was entering survey data from farmworker training workshops in Wilson, Nash and Edgecombe counties, working with Estefania Ramirios, Extension farmworker health and safety educator.
Beasley’s interest in becoming an ag teacher stemmed from his experiences in high school FFA, when he served as an officer every year. Because teacher turnover at his school was high — six ag teachers in four years — Beasley found himself dedicating extra time to follow through with projects his instructors had started.
He plans to start his career in the classroom as part of the North Carolina Teaching Fellows program, which covers tuition for graduates who agree to teach STEM subjects, such as high school agriculture, for four years. Beasley has added a concentration in agricultural engineering technology to his ag education coursework.
He wants to be a well-rounded high school teacher who’s equipped to share a variety of career options with his students.
Wherever his teaching career leads, he’ll remember what he learned this summer.
“I definitely see Extension as another great way to teach people and to change people’s lives, but in a different setting and with a different group,” Beasley says.