Graduates Honored, Dr. Fordham Remembered at 7th Annual Ag Gala

The Emmanuel Agriculture Department graduating class of 2023 was celebrated and local farm families were honored on Tuesday evening in the Shaw Athletic Center as more than 250 members of the local community attended Emmanuel’s 7th Annual Founding Farmer’s Gala.

The event served as a thank you to the members of the Northeast Georgia community who have been instrumental in the early success of the Agriculture program.

Event sponsors included Springer Mountain Farms, Pinnacle Bank, and Bar-H BBQ. 

Emmanuel President, Dr. Ron White presented Springer Mountain Farms with the Excellence in Agriculture award. Representing Springer Mountain at the event was Broiler Manager, Ken Martin. 

Agriculture Program Chair, Owen Thomason, Wayne Randall, John Shealy and Melissa Webb  then recognized the 2023 graduates of the program. Graduates include –

Hope Smith of Toccoa

John Dean Daniels of Camilla, Ga

Jaylyne Ward, Stoneville, NC

Kimberly McCall, Lavonia, Ga

Kollin Smith, Bowersville, Ga

Kody Varner, Bold Springs, Ga

Max Owen, Newnan, Ga

Mary Keener, Elijay, GA

Zoe Walraven, Hartwell, Ga 

Zoe Walraven was selected by the Agriculture instructors and  presented with the Outstanding Agriculture Student award. This award recognizes a student who has shown leadership, personal growth and dedication to the Agriculture Department. Zoe has been the Colligate FFA President for three years, recruited for Emmanuel College at the National and State FFA Convention and participated in community service events.  

Madison Nimmons received the inaugural Dr. Leslie Hart Fordham Scholarship. The endowed scholarship was started in the Fall of 2022 after the passing of Dr. Fordham. She made a huge impact on the students and college during her teaching career. Randy Fordham presented the scholarship and spoke about how Madison Nimmons wrote about her “passion for agriculture”. He talked about how, Dr. Fordham had that same passion and the two had that in common.  

At the event, a silent and live auction took place to raise money for the scholarship fund and provide more opportunities for students to study agriculture at Emmanuel. Many local businesses and craftsmen donated items to the event. The program appreciates the support of the local businesses. Wayne Randall supervised the auction and helped to find items for the sale. 

“The huge outpouring of support for the program and graduating seniors was a testament to the strength of pride our community has for the students and college. It has been truly an honor to work with these men and women and I know that they are going to continue to make an impact on the agriculture industry and our world. Our past graduates have already laid the path of success for these students. Over 90% of our past graduates are engaged in the agriculture industry today.” 

VP for Advancement, Brian James spoke about the continued growth of the program and how it wouldn’t be possible without the community’s support. 

 2022 Diversified Agriculture Degree recipient and alumnus, Wyatt Hargrove spoke at the program by sharing what Emmanuel and the Agriculture program meant to him.

“I truly thought COVID-19 would end the Emmanuel experience for me,” he said. “Agriculture and online learning don’t go hand in hand, but this program came out of the darkness with flying colors. If you don’t believe me, look around the room – we’re prime examples of it. 9 graduates, we’re constantly growing.”

Wyatt, who now works as a salesperson for AgriMed Pharmaceuticals is confident that Emmanuel’s Agriculture program helped prepare him for a successful career. 

“From Livestock Evaluation to Ag Processing and Marketing, each course provided useful information,” he said. “Not a day goes by that I don’t use something I learned here.”

He closed by giving a piece of advice to the graduating seniors. 

“One of the things that makes your job the best is if you love it,” he said. “I encourage you to find a career you love. Expand your knowledge and put it to good use because it will help you over time.”

For more information on the Agriculture program or on how you can partner with us by making a contribution to this worthy program, visit or contact Owen Thomason at