Emerging Leaders Award: Justin and Erica Edwards

Justin Edwards with Ed Emory at the awards ceremony. Erica was unable to attend.

The purpose of the North Carolina Pork Council Emerging Leader Award is to recognize and honor a pork producer aged 40 or younger who has contributed to the pork industry in North Carolina and exhibits potential for leadership. In previous years, this award was known as the Pork All-American.

Both Justin and Erica Edwards have been committed to sharing the story of agriculture. Justin has done this through farming and outreach. Erica has done it through the classroom. First as a teacher and now as an assistant principal.

Justin and Erica own a diversified farm operation in Duplin County, including pigs, cattle, row crops and produce.

They are bringing people onto their farm through a direct marketing produce operation. It isn’t a profit-driven operation, but a conscious decision to allow people to connect with how their food is grown.

Both are actively involved in the North Carolina Farm Bureau through the Young Farmers and Ranchers program.

You’ve likely seen them both in North Carolina Pork Council videos, too. Justin has been a spokesperson in the “Well Raised” series videos as well as in a video supporting legislation to help protect agriculture. His wife and daughter make a cameo in the “Well Raised” videos too.

In January, they were awarded the American Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers Achievement Award. The Achievement Award recognizes Young Farmers & Ranchers who have excelled in their farm or ranch and have honed their leadership abilities.

Erica has been working in the Duplin County school district to create agricultural opportunities for teachers and students to learn more about where their food comes from, holding a district-wide workshop for teachers and utilizing Ag in the Classroom lessons.

Since the inception of this effort, thousands of students have worked in raised bed gardens, hatched chickens, shown hogs with 4-H, shadowed farmers to learn more about farming, and above all learned where their food and fiber are produced.

Together, they organized and held a successful agriculture night at an elementary school highlighting local agricultural businesses, crop commodities from our area, and specific work found on farms creating opportunities for the non-farming public to become a part of a working farm.  This event was held at an elementary school with 600 students in attendance.

We know they are just getting started. So we are proud to recognize Justin and Erica Edwards as this year’s Emerging Leaders.