PEMBROKE — Since joining the Thomas Entrepreneurship Hub at UNC Pembroke in 2018, Ed Hunt has been dedicated to fostering partnerships with the agricultural and business communities.
Hunt is credited with developing agriculture businesses and jobs related to agriculture and providing a much-needed boost in the local economy. Hunt’s dedication and commitment were recognized on the state level as he was presented the Excellence in Regional Collaboration Award during the North Carolina Rural Center’s 2022 Rural Summit.
The event was held at the North Raleigh Hilton on Tuesday.
“For me, it’s a step in the right direction for our community,” Hunt said. “Having the opportunity to represent UNCP during this meeting at the Rural Center was a huge honor. There were leaders from the agriculture community from across the state, so for UNCP to be present shows we are leading the way as far as what business development looks like in our community.”
The Excellence in Regional Collaboration Award recognizes an individual or organization that has developed and implemented innovative collaborations across sectors and regions to secure a more vibrant future for all people in their communities.
“Ed certainly is well-deserving of this award as he has led our efforts over the last five years to improve the economic vitality of the agriculture community in the Pembroke region,” said Thomas Hall, executive director of the Thomas Entrepreneurship Hub, who attended the summit.
“Ed has conducted numerous Good Agricultural Practices workshops, established and runs the Produce Point that has increased the amount of locally purchased produce from 2% to over 16%, and is working to build the AgHealth Innovation Site, establish a Food Market, and restore the momentum the agriculture community had prior to the pandemic. He did all this by building strong partnerships and collaboration with the many like-minded agricultural groups in the region.”
Hunt came to the Hub through a grant from Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust to develop agriculture businesses and jobs around agriculture in the region. He serves as the Hub’s KBR sustainability coordinator and project director for the future AgHealth Innovation Site, a 15-acre site on Deep Branch Road near the COMtech Business Park.
Once complete, Hunt envisions students from UNCP and other colleges researching sustainable farming techniques. The facility will house labs, classrooms, offices and innovative technologies used in farming. The site will offer hands-on agricultural training, farming demonstrations and workshops.
“This is big for us,” he said. “We are building an ag presence in the region. The goal is to increase economic vitality, agricultural production and locally sourced products.”