2018 Alexander County Plan of Work

Approved: January 26, 2018

I. County Background

Alexander County is a small, fairly rural county in North Carolina with a population of 37,198. The major racial mixes in Alexander County are 87.1% white, 5.5% black, and 5.2% Hispanic. Senior adults are expected to compose nearly 20% of the population by 2020. This will double their number from the year 1996. Geographically we are extremely diverse with being relatively flat in the southeastern section, having the Brushy Mountains in the northern and western sections and Lake Hickory bordering the entire southern portion of our county. The highest mountain is Hickory Knob at an elevation of 2,560 feet. However, the majority of the county is comprised of rolling hills. Agriculture is still a large income generator for its citizens, bringing in 212.3 million dollars last year. As small as our county is, it is ranked 3rd in apple production, 4th in poultry layers, 4th in dairy cows, 5th in peach production, 9th in broilers and 10th in beef cattle for North Carolina. Unemployment for Alexander County is approximately 4.1%. Only 13.0% of our citizens have a BS Degree or higher and 16.8% of our citizens are below the poverty level. Increasing numbers of Alexander County youth are overweight and an increasing number of school-age youth have been identified as diabetic. However, being rural and having a low property tax rate, we have become bedroom communities on the southern border for Hickory and on the eastern edge for Statesville. All these facts and situations add up to many educational opportunities for our local Cooperative Extension Center.

Issues identified in our most recent Environmental Scan that will be addressed are:
- Hands-on learning for youth
- Improving youth life skills
- Changing unhealthy youth lifestyles
- Maintaining healthy farm communities
- Small family farm survival
- Family financial planning
- Healthy family activities
- Buying local foods

Alexander County Cooperative Extension is committed to developing programs to provide educational programs to help solve problems facing the people of the county within the scope of its mission and resources. Long range planning has enabled Extension, over its 100 year history, to meet the changing needs of its clientele, and to design and implement programs addressing identified needs.

II. Objectives to Address the Cooperative Extension Long Range Plan

North Carolina's plant production systems will become more profitable and sustainable.
North Carolina's agricultural crops industry makes major contributions to local communities and the state’s economy. In 2014, the estimated farm gate value of crops was $4.72 billion, placing NC as the 17th largest in the nation. North Carolina is one of the most diversified agriculture states in the nation. The state's 50,200 farmers grow over 80 different commodities, utilizing 8.4 million of the state's 31 million acres to furnish consumers a dependable and affordable supply of food and fiber. Tobacco remains one of the state's most predominant farm commodities. North Carolina produces more tobacco and sweet potatoes than any other state and ranks second in Christmas tree cash receipts. The state also produces a significant amount of cucumbers for pickles, lima beans, turnip greens, collard greens, mustard greens, strawberries, bell peppers, blueberries, chili peppers, fresh market cucumbers, snap beans, cabbage, eggplant, watermelons, pecans, peaches, squash, apples, sweet corn, tomatoes, and grapes. There is continual technological change and the relative profitability of individual farm enterprises changes over time; therefore, farmers must respond by modifying their farming operations. Changes in consumer demand create new opportunities for producers. Growth in alternative forms of agriculture will include, among others, organic and niche market production. Educational and training programs for producers of plant agricultural products and services will enhance their ability to achieve financial and lifestyle goals and to enhance economic development locally, regionally and statewide.
North Carolina's animal production systems will become more profitable and sustainable.
North Carolina's livestock industry makes major contributions to local communities and the state’s economy. In 2014, the estimated farm gate value of livestock, dairy, and poultry was $8.85 billion, placing NC as the 7th largest in the nation. Hogs & pigs have historically been an important part of North Carolina agriculture. The industry has changed dramatically since the 1980s from the small farm raising a few hogs to large confinement type operations. North Carolina's number of cattle & calves on farms has remained relatively stable throughout time. Milk cow inventory and milk production have continued to decline in the state. Unlike other commodities, broiler production in North Carolina is increasing throughout the state. There is continual technological change and the relative profitability of individual farm enterprises changes over time; therefore, farmers must respond by modifying their farming operations. Changes in consumer demand create new opportunities for producers. Growth in alternative forms of agriculture will include, among others, organic, niche market production, and pasture-raised livestock. Educational and training programs for producers of animal agricultural products and services will enhance their ability to achieve financial and lifestyle goals and to enhance economic development locally, regionally and statewide.
Producers will increase sales of food locally to more agriculturally aware consumers through market development, producer and consumer education, and new farmer and infrastructure support.
Farmers will increase their capacity to supply product for local food sales through market planning efforts, producer and consumer education, beginning farmer training programs and local market infrastructure development. The fastest growing area of consumer demand in agriculture continues to be organic. Farmers' markets continue to expand as do multiple efforts in local sustainable agriculture. Nationally, "Buy Local, Buy Fresh" movements have emerged in the face of concerns about the risks involved in long distance transportation of industrialized food production. Increasingly, public officials and business leaders see promotion of local farm products as good public policy and local economic development. Additionally, individuals will learn to supplement their current diet by growing their own fruits and vegetables as individuals or as community groups.
Adults and youth will apply financial management practices to increase their economic security, which include to: meet basic necessities, increase savings, reduce debt, and build long-term assets.
North Carolina families are experiencing financial distress. A slowing state economy with depressed incomes, rising interest rates, housing and medical costs and increased living expenses for gasoline and food have strained household budgets. NC households (21%) lack access to enough food for an active healthy life for all household members. Families forced into home insecurity in the state reached 47% because of the inability to pay their rent or increased mortgage payments. Foreclosure starts increased 154% between the third quarter of 2006 and first quarter 2010 with projections of increases in foreclosures through 2012. The loss of housing as a primary asset hurts the family emotionally, psychologically and economically and impacts property values and tax revenue in communities. To avoid negative financial outcomes families need skills to develop and execute spending plans to better manage income to cover monthly living expenses, to evaluate, select and manage financial products, and to increase and protect family assets. Eighteen percent (18%) or 1 out of 5 households are asset poor and lack sufficient net worth to subsist at the poverty level for three months without a job or source of support. Due to inadequate savings 1 out of 3 households reported using credit cards to cover basic living expenses, including rent, mortgage payments, groceries, utilities and insurance. Credit card debt and changes in interest rate policies have forced many families to become delinquent on credit repayment. Families nationwide also report feeling that they have inadequate savings for emergencies, educating their children and retirement. Skills that help families develop and implement debt repayment strategies, make sound consumer decisions to avoid scams and frauds, like predatory lending and identity theft, and create and implement plans to achieve short-term and long-term financial goals like acquiring a home, saving for retirement and education and emergency funds can help families recover from poor financial management practices and become more financially secure. In the context of “the Great Recession” and high unemployment (10.4% North Carolina; 9% National (October 2011)) families need knowledge and skills to access information and programs that support family economic security during periods of unemployment, under-employment and/or retirement.
Futures that Work: School to Career Pathways
We are living in a new economy powered by technology, fueled by information and driven by knowledge. Extension programs provide opportunities for youth and adults to improve their level of education and increase their skills that enable them to be competitive in our global society and workforce.
North Carolinians will make decisions and adopt practices that implement effective resource protection and conservation.
The natural resources in North Carolina are an important asset that benefit all citizens, but many citizens are unaware of the consequences of actions and practices they implement. The continued population growth of North Carolina is putting pressure on natural resources in terms of quantity and quality. To have a healthy and productive natural environment, professionals and citizens must be knowledgeable of environmental issues and conservation and management opportunities.
Consumers and communities will enhance the value of plants, animals, and landscapes while conserving valuable natural resources and protecting the environment.
Residential, commercial and public entities will make decisions regarding plant selection, placement and management that will decrease water consumption, preserve and improve water quality, mitigate storm water contaminants, reduce erosion, energy consumption, and greenwaste, expand wildlife habitat, improve real estate value, and improve diet and nutrition of consumers. The horse and "farmer lifestyle" industry will continue to grow and have an increasing impact on North Carolina's economy, while protecting the environment. The NCDA&CS reports that 65,000 horse producers own over 225,000 horses which annually generates over $704 million of gross revenue from training, showing, boarding and breeding establishments in addition to agri-business sales of horse-related products. The total economic impact of the NC green industry is $8.6 billion, involving 151,982 employees, and 120,741 acres of production (Green Industry Council, 2006). North Carolina residential consumers spend $5.9 billion dollars per year on garden and landscape related expenses (Green Industry Council, 2006). For 2007, North Carolina's population is estimated to be 8,968,800 (LINC). The population grew by 1,323,288 (15%), between 1997 and 2007 and it is projected to grow by another 1,330,055 (13%), over the next ten years (LINC). Over 50% of the population now lives in urban areas. Despite evidence of the ecological and financial benefits, environmentally responsible landscaping strategies are not being implemented widely. Renovating a landscape to incorporate water conserving strategies may result in using 36% less water. Urban water run-off accounts for the majority of water pollution, mostly pesticides and fertilizers, that does not come from a specific industrial source. Selection of well-adapted plants, effective pest management, and appropriate care and feeding of plants will greatly reduce dependence on fertilizers and pesticides. Rain water that is not absorbed by the soil becomes erosive storm water runoff, which transports pollutants such as fertilizer, pesticides, sediment, motor oil, litter, and animal waste to local streams and rivers. Landscape designs will include rain gardens and other runoff catchment facilities (underground cisterns, etc.) that are attractive and easy to maintain in residential areas. Homeowners will learn that proper plant selection and placement can reduce winter heating bills by as much as 15% and summer cooling bills by as much as 50 percent, while reducing the need to prune over-sized plants. Wild habitat areas are rapidly being converted into housing and commercial properties, displacing native plants and animals. Choosing native or adapted plants that provide food and shelter creates a haven for butterflies, birds, lizards, and other animals. Edible landscaping can increase the amount and expand the variety of fresh fruits and vegetables consumed.
Youth and adult program participants will make healthy food choices, achieve the recommended amount of physical activity and reduce risk factors for chronic diseases.
Many North Carolinians are affected by chronic disease and conditions that compromise their quality of life and well-being. Heart disease, stroke and cancer continue to be leading causes of death in our state. In addition, obesity and obesity related chronic diseases such as diabetes continue to rise at alarming rates. Healthy eating and physical activity are critical to achieve optimal health. Many North Carolinians have diets that are too high in calories and too low in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Portion sizes, foods eaten away-from-home and consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages continue to rise. In addition, most North Carolinians do not engage in regular physical activity. The prevalence of overweight and obesity has nearly doubled in the past 10 years. If the trend of overweight is not slowed, it will eliminate the progress we have made in reducing the burden of weigh-related chronic disease. One in every three US children born after 2000 will become diabetic unless many more people start eating less and exercising more. The cost of obesity in North Carolina in health care costs alone is over 2 billion dollars. There are many proposed reasons for the obesity epidemic, however unhealthy eating and physical inactivity are widely recognizes as primary contributors to the problem. Those who make healthy food choices and are physically active are more likely to achieve and maintain a healthy weight as well reduce chronic diseases. Ultimately, this will lead to reduction in health care costs, increased longevity, greater productivity and improved quality of life.

III. Relationship to County Government Objectives

The Cooperative Extension Service works well with Alexander County Government. Assisting the huge county agriculture base, promoting volunteerism; assisting with county-wide events, scheduling and holding hazardous household waste days; weekly programs at county schools; putting in community gardens on various town and county sites; assisting with larger community events such as festivals and parades; etc.; are all examples of our partnership with county government. We have spearheaded many educational programs in these areas and continue to do so. Our continued relationship with our local government is a must for the continued progress of our Alexander County citizens.

IV. Diversity Plan

The Alexander County Cooperative Extension Center is an informal educational outreach of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University. As an educational partnership, it's mission is to help all people put research-based knowledge to work for economic prosperity, environmental stewardship and an improved quality of life. The Alexander Extension Center is committed to practices which promote equal opportunities for members of target groups identified by legislation as having experienced disadvantages. Employment and informal educational programming opportunities are offered to all people regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability or sexual orientation. The Alexander County Extension Center's staff will make all reasonable efforts to identify and recruit underserved audiences. The groups will be contacted by use of constant contact, newspapers, newsletters, radio, posters, flyers, TV, facebook, websites and one-on-one contacts.

V. Primary Delivery and Evaluation Methods

Delivering timely, relevant educational programs that meet critical local needs is the cornerstone of Extension’s mission. Extension educational programs are designed to equip the citizens of Alexander County with the knowledge, skills and tools to improve their economic prosperity, environmental stewardship and quality of life. An Extension program delivery system is a planned and organized eclectic mix of educational methods used during an educational program. Extension educational methods are the specific ways by which research-based information is shared with targeted learners. Extension educators in our county employ a wide variety of hands-on, experiential educational methods, such as interactive workshops and classes, demonstrations, field days and tours, that allow learners to fully engage in the learning process, test new knowledge and/or practice new skills during the educational session. Equally important, this plan will also include educational methods such as seminars, client visits, fact sheets, newsletters, and home study kits that serve to support and reinforce learning as well as provide motivation for continued learning. Armed with the most current literature on effective teaching and learning, Extension educators also skillfully select educational methods based on the learning style preferences and special needs of the targeted learners. These client-focused methods afford learners the opportunity to gain the necessary knowledge and skills to change their lives in meaningful ways. Another key feature of Extension program delivery that is evident in this plan is our commitment to being customer driven and customer focus. As such, in addition to the County Extension Center, Extension educational programs are delivered online, in community centers, on farms, and other locations in order for our programs to be available and accessible to, and fully utilized by, the citizens of Alexander County.

In Extension, success is defined as the extent to which our educational programs have made a difference in the lives of the citizens of Alexander County. Evaluation methods are the way we make those observations about first and foremost whether any changes occurred as a result our educational programs, and subsequently the significance of those changes. As an educational organization, the changes we seek focus on key outcomes such as the knowledge and skills participants gain from our programs. More specifically, in this plan, we are using quantitative research methods such as retrospective testing, pre and post tests and/or surveys to measure change in knowledge gained, the application of that knowledge, number of new skills developed, and types of new skills developed. Extension, as a results-oriented organization, is committed to also assessing the social, economic and/or environmental impact that our programs have on the individuals who participate, their families and communities and ultimately the county as a whole (i.e. true significance of the changes stemming from our programs). We plan to measure these impacts in both the long and short-term. In this annual plan (short-term), we have outlined financial impact and cost benefit analysis as our primary evaluation methods. Another value held in Extension is actively listening to and dialoguing with targeted learners. Therefore, this plan also includes qualitative evaluation methods such as testimonials from program participants, and interviews and focus groups with participants.

VI. Membership of Advisory Leadership System

Advisory Council
Trudy Perry-Chair
Gary Herman
Carry Cash
Sandra Miller
Chris Dugan
Corey Parker
Traci Fox
Amy Childers
Milton Campbell
Wayne Wooten
Matt Cooksey
Poultry
Shawn Brown
Martha Smith
Kathy Gilreath
Darryl Moore
Carl Bentley
Louise Hatton
Lee Herman
Master Gardener
Phill Bowman
Venus Bowman
Ronnie Robinette
Chad Ritchie
Wayne Wooten
Beef
David Herman
Daniel Chapman
Eugene White
Rodney Herman
Trevor Chatham
Charles Johnson
Dustin Queen
Brad Gilreath
Brandon Brown
Horse
Denise Vick
Amanda Jagniszak
Dr Tiffany Bradford
FCS Volunteer Leadership
Wanda Stafford
Ella Mae Nichols
Kay Bowman
Micki Earp
Family & Consumer Science
Macy Jones
Laura Crooks
Kristen Jolly
Micki Earp
Bria Marlowe
April Eckard
4-H & Youth
Merlyn Davis
Stewart Akers
Amy Chapman
Robin Cowan
Heather Houston
Brooke Wike
Crystal Hoke

VII. Staff Membership

Lenny Rogers
Title: County Extension Director
Phone: (828) 632-4451
Email: lenny_rogers@ncsu.edu

Allison Brown
Title: Extension Agent, Agriculture - Agronomy and Livestock
Phone: (828) 632-4451
Email: allison_brown@ncsu.edu

Brent Buchanan
Title: Area Specialized Agent, Agriculture - Dairy
Phone: (315) 212-1277
Email: brent_buchanan@ncsu.edu
Brief Job Description: Dairy Extension Programming in Western North Carolina Counties of Haywood, Madison, Buncombe, Transylvania, Henderson, Yancey, McDowell, Polk, Rutherford, Mitchell, Avery, Burke, Cleveland, Watauga, Caldwell, Catawba, Lincoln, Gaston, Ashe, Wilkes, Alexander, Iredell, Alleghany, Surry, Yadkin, and Davie.

Julie Campbell
Title: County Extension Administrative Assistant
Phone: (828) 632-4451
Email: julie_campbell@ncsu.edu

Christy Crouse
Title: Extension Agent, 4-H Youth Development
Phone: (828) 632-3125
Email: cwcrouse@ncsu.edu

Lauren Greene
Title: Area Specialized Agent, Agribusiness - Poultry
Phone: (336) 651-7347
Email: lauren_greene@ncsu.edu

Marissa Herchler
Title: Area Specialized Agent, Agriculture - Animal Food Safety (FSMA Programs)
Phone: (919) 515-5396
Email: marissa_herchler@ncsu.edu
Brief Job Description: Marissa is an Area Specialized Agent for animal food safety, with emphasis on the new Food Safety Modernization Act rules, as they apply to feed mills in North Carolina. Please contact Marissa with any FSMA related questions, or PCQI training inquiries.

Der Holcomb
Title: Extension Agent, Family & Consumer Sciences
Phone: (828) 632-3125
Email: der_xiong@ncsu.edu

Bill Lord
Title: Area Specialized Agent, Water Resources
Phone: (919) 496-3344
Email: william_lord@ncsu.edu
Brief Job Description: Water quality education and technical assistance

Craig Mauney
Title: Extension Area Specialized Agent, Agriculture - Commercial Vegetables & Fruits
Phone: (828) 684-3562
Email: craig_mauney@ncsu.edu
Brief Job Description: Provides educational opportunities, training and technical support to commercial fruit and vegetable growers, agents, and industry in Western NC.

Rachel McDowell
Title: Area Specialized Agent, Consumer & Retail Food Safety
Phone: (919) 515-9155
Email: romcdowe@ncsu.edu
Brief Job Description: Support FCS Agents in delivering timely and evidence-based food safety education and information to stakeholders in NC.

Currey Nobles
Title: Area Specialized Agent, Food Safety
Phone: (919) 515-9520
Email: canobles@ncsu.edu

Elena Rogers
Title: Area Specialized Agent, Agriculture - Food Safety - Fresh Produce Western NC
Phone: (828) 352-2519
Email: elena_rogers@ncsu.edu
Brief Job Description: Provide educational programs, training and technical support focusing on fresh produce safety to Agents and growers in Western NC.

Amanda Taylor
Title: Area Specialized Agent, Nursery and Greenhouse, Western Region
Phone: (828) 475-2915
Email: amanda_jo_taylor@ncsu.edu
Brief Job Description: Provides programming to commercial nursery and greenhouse producers in Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, Cherokee, Clay, Cleveland, Gaston, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Lincoln, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga, Wilkes, and Yancey Counties.

Mitch Woodward
Title: Area Specialized Agent, Watersheds and Water Quality
Phone: (919) 250-1112
Email: mdwoodwa@ncsu.edu
Brief Job Description: NC Cooperative Extension's Goals include: - NC's natural resources and environmental quality will be protected, conserved and enhanced. - NC will have profitable, environmentally sustainable plant, animal and food systems. Protecting our environmental resources, particularly drinking water quality, is a top priority in NC. NC Cooperative Extension is a leader in teaching, researching, and accelerating the adoption of effective water quality protection practices.

VIII. Contact Information

Alexander County Center
376 1st Ave SW
Taylorsville, NC 28681

Phone: (828) 632-4451
Fax: (828) 632-7533
URL: http://alexander.ces.ncsu.edu