Being called for such a time as this is what makes Owen Thomason our Faculty spotlight this week. Thomason has been selected as the Program Chair for Emmanuel’s newest program of study, Diversified Agriculture.
With a background in Agriculture and his involvement with FFA, Young Farmers, and other organizations, it was clear that God had planned this moment long before anyone knew.
After attending Abraham Baldwin Agriculture University for a year, Thomason went on to attend the University of Georgia where he earned his Bachelor of Arts in Agriculture Education. After receiving his BA, Thomason found a job in Soperton, Ga, where he taught Agriculture for two years while working earning his Master’s in this field of study.
Leaving Soperton, he and his family moved to Franklin County. Serving as an Agriculture teacher and Young Farmers instructor for the county, Thomason served at Franklin County High School for 29 years until his retirement this past June.
“I retired in June of this year, with 29 years at Franklin County, a total of 31 years teaching,” Thomason said. “I also received my Master’s degree from the University of Georgia during that time and I also received my Education Specialist degree in Leadership and Administration from Clemson University.”
With a great career behind him, Thomason began to look forward to retirement. However, an old conversation that he had years ago with his daughter would prove to be the beginning of a new chapter in his life.
“About 3 years ago, Brian James [Vice President of Advancement and Alumni Relations] and I had this discussion about Emmanuel offering a degree in Agriculture. My middle daughter was going to school here,” Thomason said. “She came home one day and said 'Dad, why don’t they offer an Agriculture degree at Emmanuel?'”
Thomason replied to his daughter, saying that was a good question. Thomason then approached Mr. James with the same question his daughter asked of him, to which Mr. James replied, “that’s a good question.”
A year later, God began working on a solution. One day, Mr. James and Thomason took a ride to look at a farm in Colbert, GA. Mr. James told Thomason that the owner would give Emmanuel the land on one condition, they start an Agriculture program.
Now in the Fall of 2016, a once unanswered question will become a dream realized. With the Diversified Agriculture degree, students will have an option to choose from the following concentrations: Agricultural Business, Agricultural Science, and Agricultural Missions.
“A Diversified Agriculture degree gives students an opportunity to get a little bit of everything,” Thomason said, “but not a specialist in any area. Once they pick a concentration, they can specialize in an area but they can also get that overall Agriculture experience.”
Thomason also mentions that what sets this program apart from other Agriculture programs is that students will gain a skill in addition to their knowledge of their chosen subject, whereas with most programs you only gain knowledge.
“In my home, I made it a requirement for my children to learn a skill before they left home. The same will be true for these students: I want them to learn a skill along with their degree,” Thomason said. “Because many times, you gain a college degree, but it’s all in your head; there’s no skill that goes along with it. So this degree is one where you will not only gain it in your mind, but you’ll gain a little experience.”
Being a whole-hearted believer in hands on learning, Thomason’s next step is building a greenhouse.
“The first phase is to build a greenhouse, because that’s our immediate need. We plan on offering a greenhouse course in the Spring,” Thomason said. “Then we’ll build a teaching and learning center. That area will be where students can have demonstrations and labs, where we can bring in live animals and they can get that hands on experience.”
With plans for construction underway, Thomason’s hopes are that this program and its facilities are not just for students’ benefits, but for the community as well.
“We want to get the community involved with the college—we want them to be a part of it,” Thomason said. “We already have some community partners and we want to gain some more because this college is not just about this area, it’s about all of North Georgia, the state of Georgia, and the United States and we want to make it a valuable part.”
With this in mind, Thomason feels as though the community aspect of Emmanuel is what makes it unique. Not only that, he believes having an Agriculture program at Emmanuel in addition to the other majors offered allows for students to go out and change the world.
“I think it’s a good fit. It’s small enough where they can get that individualized attention,” Thomason said, “but the opportunities are big enough that they can see the world.”
For more information about the Diversified Agriculture program, please visit: www.ec.edu/ag or email Mr. Thomason at email@example.com.