Ponytail Ag is hitting the road again this morning! Follow us on social media using #PonytailAg for behind the scenes peeks.
In an effort to promote some of the amazing North Carolina women in agriculture, the N.C. Biotechnology Center’s Ag Sector Development team, N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, N.C. Farm Bureau and Feed the Dialogue N.C. created the Ponytail Ag campaign. During the four-month tour, key stakeholders from each organization will be traveling across the state’s six regions —Western, Greater Charlotte, Piedmont Triad, Research Triangle Park, Eastern and Southeastern— to interview influential women involved in all aspects of agriculture, from the farm to the lab and from government to schools.
This morning, we take off for our second leg of the tour in the Research Triangle Park (RTP), where we’ll be interviewing some awesome women involved in beekeeping, farm management, ag tech, vineyards & wineries, soil health, and food processing.
Leigh-Kathryn Bonner of Bee Downtown
Research Triangle Park, North Carolina
As a fourth generation beekeeper and North Carolina State University graduate, Leigh-Kathryn Bonner founded Bee Downtown after college to do her part to save the bees! By teaming up with companies to place hives in urban locations, her company now has more than 250 hives across the Southeast. Bonner has brought bees to the forefront and was named Southern Living’s Southerner of the Year in 2017, Inc.’s 30 Under 30 Young CEO's, and a Forbes 30 Under 30 Listmaker in 2019. We’re excited to be attending a beehive demonstration where Leigh-Kathryn will be showing us honeybees in action!
Michelle Grainger, Managing Director of the Executive Farm Management Program
Raleigh, North Carolina
We’re looking forward to talking with Michelle Grainger,the Managing Director of the Executive Farm Management (EFM) Program. This program is an exciting new program offered by North Carolina State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and its partners; NC State Cooperative Extension Service, Poole College of Management, Clemson Cooperative Extension, East Carolina University’s College of Business, and University of Georgia Cooperative Extension. The program is created exclusively for large, commercial, family-owned operations across the Southeast who grow, pack and/or process tobacco, fruit and/or vegetables.
The program features12 days of content and curriculum taught across 3 sessions in 3 states over the course of 6 weeks. EFM is designed to increase the management competencies and profitability of specialty farms across the Southeast, by utilizing a holistic operation-focused curriculum.
Mary-Dell Chilton of Syngenta (retired)
Research Triangle, North Carolina
Mary-Dell Chilton, Ph.D., led a team of university researchers in producing the first transgenic plant. Her research laid the groundwork for significant contributions to plant biotechnology, ultimately resulting in the discovery of novel methods to improve a plant’s ability to control pests and manage extreme environmental conditions. Dr. Chilton began her corporate career in 1983 with CIBA-Geigy Corporation (a legacy company of Syngenta) and later founded its first biotechnology research lab. Under her leadership, Syngenta was the first company to commercialize a biotech trait in corn (Bt). Dr. Chilton retired in 2018, but her legacy of innovation will continue through the Syngenta Seeds’ R&D program. Dr. Chilton has been recognized for her extensive contributions to science. Notable awards include the World Food Prize in 2013 and the Benjamin Franklin Medal, joining an esteemed group of historical honorees including Thomas Edison, Pierre and Marie Curie, Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking. Chilton was also inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
Karen LeVert of Ag TechInventures
Research Triangle Park, North Carolina
Karen LeVert is co-founder & CEO of Ag TechInventures (AgTI). She has a keen interest in advancing early stage technologies into the commercial marketplace and Ag TechInventures has a sole focus on technology innovation in agriculture. Previous to AgTI she co-founded Southeast TechInventures as a technology innovation lab focused on further developing promising technologies from university research labs.
Ms. LeVert’s business experience encompasses both corporate and entrepreneurial worlds with over twenty-five years of successful leadership experience in start-ups, technology commercialization, and executive management. She started her career at a Fortune-500 insurance company in positions of increasing responsibility from computer programmer, to controller, to general manager of a 500-person Property & Casualty service center. Her first entrepreneurial venture was launching a franchise bioremediation company in 1998 that she later sold in 2001. Before co-founding STI, Ms. LeVert co-founded a Silicon Valley based software company focused on recruiting in collegiate athletics. She holds an MBA from the University of Dayton and an Information Technology undergraduate degree from Eastern Michigan University (EMU). Ms. LeVert received All-Academic honors while captaining her Division 1 basketball team at EMU.
Along with her professional duties she serves as a Board member for the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, North Carolina School of Science and Math, NC IDEA Foundation, and LCBA Life Insurance company.
Diana Jones of Jones Von Drehle
Thurmond, North Carolina
Jones von Drehle Vineyards and Winery is family-owned and operated in the small town of Thurmond, North Carolina. Chuck and Diana Jones and Ronnie and Raymond von Drehle are in-laws who had a mission to start a fine wine vineyard and winery in their home state of North Carolina. Their journey began in 2007 when they found the perfect land under the Blue Ridge Mountain skies. Jones von Drehle is an Estate Winery, producing wines solely from the thirty acres of vines they grow on their property.
Cristine Morgan of Soil Health Institute
Morrisville, North Carolina
Dr. Cristine Morgan is responsible for developing and establishing the scientific direction, strategy and implementation plan for Institute research programs and establishing the research priorities for the Institute. Her duties include leading scientific research and coordinating projects carried out at various institutions that advance soil health science and result in useful and reportable results.
Prior to joining the Institute, Dr. Morgan was Professor of Soil Science at Texas A&M University in College Station, TX, where she was recognized for outstanding collaboration, teaching, research, and mentoring. Her emphasis was in soil hydrology, pedometrics, and global soil security. Among her many accomplishments, Dr. Morgan conducted ground-breaking research on how management practices influence soil-plant-water relations. She also developed methods that were adopted by USDA for easily measuring soil carbon. She has a history of applying her knowledge for addressing real-world problems experienced by farmers and ranchers and is passionate about educating others.
Laura Lee of Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina (EDPNC).
Cary, North Carolina
Laura is the Business Recruitment Manager-Food Processing of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina. The (EDPNC) is focused on recruiting new businesses to the state, supporting the needs of existing businesses, connecting exporters to global customers, helping small business owners get their start, and attracting tourists and visitors from all over the world.