We Before Me

Published By: Latasha Ford December 9, 2023

Fort Valley State University senior Casey Hunter is earning his animal science degree on Dec. 9.

Casey Hunter has made a name for himself on Fort Valley State University’s (FVSU) campus and beyond with his leadership, involvement and service to others. He lives by the motto, “We before me,” which has set the tone for his rising success.

The senior animal science major will graduate a semester early on Dec. 9 with a job offer from Corteva AgriScience already under his belt.

However, describing himself as an introvert, Hunter stepped onto FVSU’s “yard” with reservation as he sought to become the outgoing Casey he is today. Joining the Wildcat pack in 2020 during the height of COVID-19 was an exciting but daunting adventure as he tried to adapt to a new environment, online learning and connecting with new people.

“Everything shifted right before I came to college, but there is always a blessing in the lesson,” he said. “It prepared me for later down the road.”

One thing he did know well was agriculture. The Perry, Georgia, native has roots in southwest Georgia. He recalled growing up on his paternal grandparents’ farm in Grady County, where he learned to raise and show pigs as a youth for Future Farmers of America.

“That taught me about the agriculture market and responsibility. I had to check on them (pigs) every day regardless of whether I wanted to. But I saw the reward in it. That experience taught my brother and me many good character traits and values,” he said.

Not only did his parents, Casie and Duchess Hunter, and grandparents expose him to agriculture at a young age, they also educated him about Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Blue and Gold reigns strongly in the Hunter lineage with his father, great-aunt and several other family members graduating from FVSU. His older brother, Lazar Hunter, is also an FVSU alumnus with a degree in animal science, along with his father.

Therefore, FVSU was at the top of the list of college choices, and agriculture topped the list of degree options as well.

“Helping others and an industry that is always going to be in need led to my decision to pursue agriculture. It aligns with my passions,” Hunter said.

The then-freshman stepped out of his comfort zone on campus and in the agriculture field. He built up his confidence when he ran for class president in his first semester and learned the importance of networking. Although he came in second place, this taught him: “What is reward without the risk?”

This outlook served Hunter well as he began taking advantage of the many opportunities that came his way. He became a member of the Alpha Pi Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc. and the National Collegiate Council for March of Dimes. He was also elected to serve on the FVSU Royal Court as Mister Sophomore and served as a senator for the FVSU Student Government Association.

Hunter also desired to experience diverse career options in agriculture, thereby committing to different roles for internships. In spring 2021, he interned at Baldwin County High School in Milledgeville, Georgia. He shadowed the agriculture teacher and assisted with creating activities such as introducing healthy snacks to children. He also worked on the school farm and assisted with grant proposals.

Additionally, Hunter interned at the National Wildlife Federation through the Thurgood Marshall College Fund in the summer of 2021.

“It taught me a lot about myself as an individual but also as a professional,” he said. “It confirmed that I can do something big in the professional realm and can interact with people in different areas.”

In 2022, the Perry High School graduate worked at Perdue Farms in Perry, Georgia, as a plant operations intern, gaining production experience. Then, in the summer of 2023, he worked at Syngenta as a crop protection sales intern.

“I traveled to south Georgia, north Florida and southeast Alabama to work primarily with their new peanut seed formulation by collecting data in various locations,” Hunter explained.

He spent a lot of time in the peanut field but also gained some knowledge about the research process from scientists at the University of Georgia and Auburn University. His experience further involved meeting with retailers and growers.

“It was very insightful. I put my best foot forward,” he said.

Hunter and his FVSU peers visited West Africa in November 2022.

In November 2022, Hunter joined six other FVSU students to take the trip of a lifetime to West Africa to learn about the operation of cocoa and shea butter production. He expressed while in Africa, “This experience and the knowledge I’ve gained have been so pivotal for me in wanting to become a change agent within the agricultural sector.”

Working toward this purpose, Hunter served as an Agriculture Future of America (AFA) Ambassador and on the AFA Student Advisory Team. He commended FVSU’s Fanisha Maze, a collegiate liaison for AFA. “She saw potential in me that I didn’t see. That potential became fulfilled opportunities,” he said.

His connection with AFA led to an interview with Corteva AgriScience. He will work in sales for the seed and crop protection division under the Associate Territory Management Development Program.

“I will be the only African American in my cohort,” Hunter said. “That is another reason why I want to be in agriculture. Not too many people look like me. There are perspectives to be heard and understood. I am glad I am leading the pathway.”

Among these vast opportunities, Hunter is also a recipient of the FVSU 1890 Scholarship, the James H. Porter Scholarship and others. He attributes his success to God first, his family and his perseverance.

“I struggled with self-confidence. I proved to me that I could make a name for myself. Fort Valley creates that environment to make you want to chase your dreams and do something outside your comfort zone and excel in it,” he said, commending FVSU mentors such as Barcado Styles and Dr. Archie Williams.

“I could not have done it without that support and welcoming spirit,” he added.

His advice to students is: “If you put yourself in a box, you are only growing as far as that box. Be open to different ideas and opinions. You can come to Fort Valley and still be yourself. The avenues, networking and professionalism are all here at FVSU.”