Perspectives Online

CALS graduate student is winner in national Future of Southern Agriculture essay competition

Katie Murray
Photo courtesy Katie Murray

Katie Murray, an N.C. State University graduate student in agricultural education, is among recent winners in The Future of Southern Agriculture student essay contest. Murray, who is pursuing her master’s degree in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, was the $4,000 runner-up winner in the Graduate Category.

Representing the Southeast Region, Murray won for her essay “Sweet Southern Comfort: The Brand for the Future,” wherein she addressed the role of the South in setting the standard for U.S. agriculture’s food production and outlined the challenges for Southern agriculture in the next century and what must be done for it to thrive. Among her suggestions – including cooperation among states, a supply-and-demand strategy based on consumer preferences, the banding together of states in global marketing, and increased assurances of food safety – she offers the label “Sweet Southern Comfort” as a cooperative marketing brand. It’s a label, she says, that “will allow the consumer to have confidence in the food they are purchasing and the standards associated with the cooperative.”

Sponsored by Syngenta and Farm Press, the competition required that essayists base their entries on the following topic: “By 2050, the world’s population is expected to increase to more than 9 billion, up from the estimated 6.7 billion as of January 2009. Taking into account commodity price fluctuations and variable input prices, what is the best agricultural business model to deal with this environment? How can the U.S. Southern farmer continue to compete in the export markets and/or against foreign imports to sustain agriculture as a viable business? What processes should be put into place to ensure the safety, quality and availability of U.S. food, feed and fiber production?”

The essays were judged according to creativity and uniqueness of idea; flow and organization; functionality and professional appeal; and freedom from grammatical and typographical errors.

The contest was open to entrants who are undergraduate or graduate students of University of Arkansas, Louisiana State University, Mississippi State University, University of Missouri, University of Tennessee, Texas A&M University (all in Region 1); Auburn University, Clemson University, University of Georgia, N.C. State University and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (all in Region 2).

One undergraduate essay and one graduate essay from each region advanced to the national final. Of the four finalists, the undergraduate essay and the graduate essay writers with the highest cumulative score were awarded $6,000, and the runners-up each received $4,000.

According to Dr. Ken Esbenshade, CALS associate dean and director of Academic Programs, Murray’s win is particularly significant as this is the first year N.C. State has been included in this contest. Murray is also recipient of the J. Paul and Louise Leagans Agricultural and Extension Education Fellowship from the CALS Agricultural and Extension Education Department.

– Terri Leith