Norton grows her experience as Henderson County Extension Ag intern


BRCC News | Published December 11, 2019

Portrait of Erin Norton

There are countless majors available to students at Blue Ridge Community College, but according to Blue Ridge student Erin Norton, careers in horticulture and agriculture are crucial to the region and country overall.

The 19-year-old is a North Henderson High School graduate who currently serves as the Henderson County Extension Ag intern at the NC Henderson County Cooperative Extension. Originally from Edneyville, Norton’s love of the outdoors became apparent in high school when she became president of her school’s Future Farmers of America chapter.

“The ag intern position with Henderson County Cooperative Extension shows the great cooperation between Extension and Blue Ridge Community College to provide Blue Ridge students with an opportunity to gain valuable experience while continuing their studies,” stated Dr. Terry Kelly, County Extension Director. “Erin has been a great addition to our program. I have seen her become much more outgoing and eager to learn about all aspects of our program.”

“I typically work with the Extension agents, mainly with the Small Fruits and Vegetables agent. She’ll bring me out to the research station, conduct trials and collect data,” Norton said.

Extension Agent Karen Blaedow explained that since starting at the Extension, Norton has been exposed to various aspects of the county’s agriculture industry, while at the same time gaining hands-on experience with scientific research techniques. By working alongside Extension agents, she is also learning to develop and deliver educational programs to the community.

Norton has worked with blackberries by taking weight, length and even sugar content to help the Extension determine the best methods for growing the fruits. Agents are also testing various treatments on the berries, one of which involves making the bushes more compact with the same berry yield to conserve space in fields.

Norton was first introduced to the Extension by her North Henderson High School agriculture instructor Gary Blackwell, who thought she’d be an excellent fit for the internship.

Following her graduation from high school, Norton chose Blue Ridge Community College to attend due to a variety of factors including proximity, quality and affordability.

“I can stay at home to study, and coming to Blue Ridge is so much more affordable than other options without sacrificing the quality of classes and the education,” she said.

She thinks very highly of Blue Ridge’s instructors as well, describing them as extremely helpful.

In addition to working hands-on in the field, Norton explained that there are countless other behind-the-scenes roles that help make a difference in agriculture without working directly with plants. These can include computer programmers, machinists, marketing specialists, etc.

“With my internship, I’m working with researchers, which is a side of agriculture most people don’t see very often,” she said.

Norton plans to complete her associate’s degree at Blue Ridge. In the future, she is planning to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Education to continue her love of all things green at North Carolina State University.

Extension Agent Steve Pettis stated, “The connection between NC State University and Blue Ridge Community College is growing, and has become extremely valuable to the students of Western North Carolina. Erin’s participation in the Ag Internship and her attendance at Blue Ridge is a prime example of this.”

For anyone considering agriculture careers, Norton encourages all students to job shadow, work an internships and gain hands-on experience.

Anyone interested in horticulture opportunities at Blue Ridge can contact Carolyn Evans at To discuss college transfer options for agriculture fields, contact Laura Baylor at

To learn more about the Henderson County Cooperative Extension Office, visit