Meet The Fellows - Keonte’ Edmonds
Grow with Google and the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture have selected the Farm Bureau Foundation Fellows, who will create lessons that make digital skills and agricultural literacy more accessible to students across the country, with a focus on rural classrooms.The Fellows will focus on equipping rural students with classroom and career-focused digital skills while introducing students across the country to fundamental agricultural concepts.
Meet Keonte' Edmonds:
Keonte' Edmonds grew up in a rural area of Brunswick County, VA, where his family raised beef cattle and other livestock. He helped his grandfather run the family farm. Keonte' grew up in a single-parent home with his mother and two of his seven siblings that were surrounded by extended family who lived nearby. As the oldest child on a family farm, Keonte's responsibilities left him little time for extracurricular activities. He didn’t have much guidance when thinking about a career path, but his love for agriculture and animals fueled him.
“I was kind of the surrogate father for my family. I didn’t have a lot of mentors growing up,” Keonte' says. “But I have family members who were educators that I looked up to. I have loved animals all my life, so I wanted to be a veterinarian.”
Keonte' became the first member of his immediate family to attend college and received his bachelor’s degree in animal science from Virginia State University. While a student, he interned at Cub Creek Science Camp in Rolla, MO, and held leadership positions within several organizations. Upon graduation, he was a 4-H camp counselor at Airfield Science Camp in Virginia. The experience allowed him to nurture his passion for animal care and it sparked a new passion for teaching, which he saw as the perfect way to make a difference in the world. Keonte' earned his master’s degree in agricultural education from North Carolina A&T State University in 2013. While a graduate student and working full-time at Banfield Pet Hospital, he interned at the United States Department of Agriculture for the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service with the veterinary services division in Oklahoma City, OK. He also completed a summer enrichment program through Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
After college and successfully completing student teaching at Southeast Guilford High School in Greensboro, NC, Keonte' got his first job teaching agriculture to middle schoolers in North Carolina. He founded a chapter of FFA at his school and led his students in building a working greenhouse that became their agricultural laboratory. Suddenly, a whole new generation of kids from rural farming communities had their own educational mentor to look up to, a mentor who devoted his time before, during, and after class to sharing his love of agriculture — the kind of mentor that Keonte' himself never had.
“They just loved the opportunity to learn about agriculture,” Keonte' says. “That’s what I enjoy the most: taking a student who didn’t want to learn, and helping them find a passion for learning something new built on the relationship we have together.”
As a minority, being both black and LGBTQ+, Keonte' is well aware that his career path in agriculture may be nontraditional. But that’s exactly the point. He wants to show children of color, LGBTQ+ youth, and anyone else who feels that agriculture may not be “for them” that there is indeed a place for them in this community and industry.
“Representation is important. I hope my legacy is that I can be a voice for students who may be as confused as I was about what they want to do,” Keonte' says. “I love agriculture, and I want them to see that there is a different type of person who can be represented in agriculture.”
Keonte' has been named Teacher of the Year by the students and faculty of both South Granville and Heritage High Schools in North Carolina. He was recognized as a Career and Technical Education Career Success Star in Virginia and as a spotlight teacher by the National Association of Agriculture Educators through the National Teach Ag Day campaign. With many of his former students in the room, Keonte' publicly received validation to continue using his voice to advocate for the value, dignity, and importance of building a bridge between the next generation of farmers, scientists, engineers, and the nation’s agricultural future. Being a Farm Bureau Foundation Fellow is the next step in that journey.
Today, as Keonte' pursues his doctoral degree in agricultural education from North Carolina State University, he hopes to use technology and his position as a Farm Bureau Foundation Fellow to introduce more young people to the many joys and countless professional pathways in agriculture.
He currently teaches agriculture at Apex Friendship High School and through North Carolina Virtual Schools while working part-time at Banfield Pet Hospital. In these roles, he's seen the power of technology to connect youngsters to a world of career opportunities in agriculture they’d never imagined.
“I can expose students to those different options and career opportunities that they didn’t know about,” he says. “We can plan out what they need to do to get there.”
Growing up in rural Virginia, access to technology made a difference in educational success in his community. That’s why Keonte' wants to make sure tomorrow’s leaders and champions of agriculture have the digital skills to advocate for this industry, and for themselves. As part of his fellowship, he is working to develop a place-based curriculum that incorporates agriculture, technology, and digital skills into a lesson on Google's Applied Digital Skills platform.