Friday, 12 January 2018 00:13

TOP STORY: Local Veteran Finds Success at Sandhills AgInnovation Center

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Davon Goodwin, center, has found success as the SAIC's manager. Davon Goodwin, center, has found success as the SAIC's manager. Photo courtesy of SAIC Facebook page.

ELLERBE – It is amazing how sometimes things in life can go almost exactly as planned. But sometimes, life decides to throw a curve ball, and even the best laid plans strike out.

For Ellerbe’s Davon Goodwin, his current role as manager at the Sandhills AgInnovation Center was most definitely a result of the latter.

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pa., Goodwin moved to the Richmond County area upon his completion of high school to begin his college career at UNC Pembroke.  Originally attending UNCP as a member of the wrestling team, Goodwin had aspirations to become a botanist and planned to one day travel the world, practicing medicinal botany.

However, Goodwin decided after his first semester that he’d like to pursue something different with his life.  So, he walked away from the wrestling team and into the Army Reserves.

After nearly two years as a soldier in the Reserves, Goodwin’s unit was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

It was there that his life took another unexpected turn.

On Aug. 31, 2010, Goodwin’s convoy struck an IED while on a mission.  The unexpected blast severely injured Goodwin, leading him to be airlifted to a hospital in Germany, and leaving him with a severe brain injury that, at the time, was unclear if he would ever fully be able to recover from.

“I don’t even know what happened in that truck that day, but when I woke up, things were different,” recalled Goodwin.  “I just didn’t want the same things anymore.” 

But thankfully, Goodwin’s determination and resilient spirit prevailed, and he was able to make a recovery that was once questionable.  And while his mission as a soldier was ended that day, his life took on a different mission.

In a word:  agriculture.

Returning to college, Goodwin worked diligently to earn a degree in biology and botany and began working on a farm in Hoke County.  From there, it wasn’t long until he made his way to Ellerbe and began his current role at the Sandhills AGInnovation Center.

The SAIC, as the AGInnovation Center is often referred, lands somewhere between a standard farmer’s market and a large scale grocer, and follows a business model that is very different than most.  The SAIC also held its grand opening blue ribbon cutting ceremony early in September.

An agricultural aggregator, the SAIC works to bridge the gap between local farmers and wholesale buyers by serving as a central gathering site for the buying and selling of products. 

Through funding and support from Richmond County and its Commissioners, Goodwin and his team are able to help local farmers increase the marketability of their products through the light processing services of washing, packaging and cold storage that they are able to provide. 

This overall structure has proven to be a true win-win for all involved, and one that will serve to ensure that agriculture remains a viable option for Richmond County for years to come.

However, Goodwin doesn’t take his current success for granted and was quick to express gratitude and appreciation towards others.

“I have a tremendous amount of gratitude towards the County Commissioners and the County Managers,” added Goodwin.  “There are not a lot of other projects out there like this, and it’s great that I work for a county that supports agriculture as much as Richmond County does. 

“The County Commissioners stand behind this project and really want to make sure that this becomes a successful model for the county and its farmers,” he added.

Based upon last week’s County Commissioners’ meeting, the appreciation and respect seem to be mutual.  Although unable to attend himself, Goodwin and his accomplishments were publicly recognized by the Commissioners themselves.

The public recognition does not end there.

Over time, Goodwin’s hard work at the SAIC and as a board member for the National Young Farmer Coalition has caught the attention of numerous publications.  The most recent being the winter edition of nationally published Modern Farmer’s Magazine.

Rather than focusing on his work with the SAIC, this article touched on his role as both a veteran and a farmer. 

“Right now, there is a big push around the country to get veterans into agriculture because just like it is for me, it can be very therapeutic,” Goodwin explained.

“It’s one of those things,” he elaborated, “where a lot of times you don’t want to return to a normal job.  For me, being on the land is very therapeutic and it’s something that allows you to get in touch with life again after war.”

But for Goodwin, his role at the Sandhills AGInnovation Center is not about the recognition or accolades.  In his words, “It’s an honor to be a farmer, and to get to serve my community one more time.”

 

 

Last modified on Friday, 12 January 2018 07:55