2020 Cherokee County Plan of Work

Approved: January 7, 2020

I. County Background

Cherokee County is located in Southwestern most portion of Western North Carolina. With abundant natural resources, the area has become a retirement destination in recent years. The current population is 27,444. Agriculture provides receipts of $31,294,066 of which the majority of the receipts are in livestock, dairy, and poultry ($21,947,025). Public school enrollment was 3,791 (K-12) while 371 school-age children were enrolled in home schools. According to the most recent census data, the median household income is $35,284. Individuals with substandard income living at the poverty level account for 19.5% of the county population. Census data also indicates that 28.1% of children under age 18 in poverty.

Pediatric obesity has been on the rise in children ages 2 to 18 in North Carolina since 2012, according to The State of Obesity, an annual report sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The latest N.C. data shows 15 percent of 2 to 4 year olds are obese, as well as 30.9 percent of 10 to 17-year-olds and 16.4 percent of high school kids. According to the CDC, nationally, childhood obesity rates started rising in the 1980s. The rate of obesity in children ages 6 to 11 was 7 percent in 1980. And in 2014, it was 17.5 percent. Similarly, the rate of teenage obesity was 5 percent in 1980; by 2014, that rate had quadrupled to 20.5 percent. More recent findings by Duke University researchers paint a worsening picture. They found that 35.1 percent of kids in the U.S. were overweight in 2016, up 4.7 percent from 2014. Additionally, more children are becoming obese at an earlier age. And the problem is only made worse in rural areas of North Carolina due to poverty, demographics and less access to healthy foods and physical activity, said Suzanne Lazorick, associate professor of pediatrics and public health at East Carolina University. It’s commonly known that obesity can contribute to Type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart disease and other health problems in adults. But take that extra weight and apply it to a young, developing person and other issues arise. Additionally, extra weight on a growing frame can cause bone and joint development issues, especially in knees. (Information directly from the North Carolina Health News, Pediatric Obesity Rates Continue to rise). Programs provided through NC Cooperative Extension programs like Steps to Health can address these issues among school-age children and help them and their families understand how they can eat healthier.
According to the 2018 NC Cooperative Extension needs assessment in Cherokee County, youth need more hands-on programs about work ethic, communication, eating healthy, personal responsibility, the importance of agriculture and understanding of agriculture, and programs that will help them gain employable skills(like STEM programs). Schools need resources like the hands-on activities that 4-H provides in STEM including environmental education activities like Soil Solutions. 4‑H programs empower young people to be leaders. Young people involved in 4-H become leaders who have confidence; know how to work well with others; can endure through challenges; and will stick with a job until it gets done. 4-H participants are 4 times more likely to give back to their community; 2 times more likely to make healthier choices; and 2 times more likely to participate in STEM activities. A recent study found that North Carolina employers listed the following skills as critical: basic mathematics, reading comprehension, and the ability to integrate information and communication technology. Because of the new global, knowledge-based economy, there is greater competition for jobs outside of North Carolina and the nation’s borders. With the rise in job competition and the dropout rate in North Carolina being high, youth need a program like 4-H that bridges the school-based career coursework with experiential learning programs and life skill development.

There is also a movement to preserve family farms through profitability. With the assistance of Ag Options and local groups, new and innovative crops and methods are being introduced to assist landowners in making their land generate profits. Also, the local food initiative has provided opportunities for producers to market products through local markets. Livestock still remains the top income producer for county agriculture. Beef cattle are still at the top, but small ruminants are increasing in acreage. Specialty animals including alpacas and llamas are adding acreage. Area farmers have constructed high tunnel greenhouses through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) cost-share assistance for farmers. Many of these growers do not have hands-on experience growing produce and/or growing in a high tunnel.

II. Objectives to Address the Cooperative Extension Long Range Plan

Our family and consumer sciences programs improve the well-being of individuals, families, and communities.

Our plant production programs improve production, profitability, and sustainability of the agriculture sector.

Our animal production programs improve production, profitability, and sustainability of the agriculture sector.

Our community development programs build strong and thriving communities.

Our 4-H youth development programs grow the skills young people need to succeed in life and career.

Our natural resource and environmental programs conserve our precious natural resources and maintain a clean and healthy environment.

Our consumer horticulture programs teach families and communities about environmentally friendly methods for gardening and controlling pests.

Our food safety and nutrition programs create a safer and more sustainable food supply and improve the health and nutrition of individuals, families, and our communities.

III. Relationship to County Government Objectives

North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Cherokee County Center values the strong partnership with county government. The Cherokee County Center aligns programming with county needs by involvement in the environmental scanning process and the involvement of the county manager with the Extension Advisory Council. The programs conducted by the Cherokee County Center receives suggestions from county government as to the issues that face Cherokee County and the region.

Because of the cost-share assistance through the local National Resource and Conservation Service (NRCS), there have been over one hundred high tunnel structures constructed in the county since the program started. These high tunnels extend the growing season and can net more per square foot than field production. Depending on the crops grown, this production system can gross between $1000 and $13,000 on an 1800 square foot bed. Each of the NRCS structures is 2160 square foot. Assuming a median gross of $7000 per 1800 square foot, each NRCS structure has the gross potential of $8400 per year. Sixty tunnels can gross $840,000. This potential increase is an important objective for Cherokee County.

The Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program is designed to help the cattle producer sell a higher quality animal with fewer handling defects and important to Cherokee County Government. Studies have shown a producer can net 5 pounds of extra gain. A recent sale in WNC showed that BQA cattle earned an average of $40 more per head than the North Carolina average for cattle sales at that time. If a producer sells 20 head per year, this could add an extra $800 to their income.

Steps to Health educates and inspires limited resource students in North Carolinians to eat smart and move more through nutrition education programs targeting 2nd-grade students, 3rd-grade students, and 4th-grade students. Residents in Cherokee County benefit from the Steps to Health program when their children participating in the programs bring home healthy living handouts and recipes. Youth in the 4th-grade program also learn about Agriculture and plant a small plot of vegetables with help from the county Master Gardener program. This program is at no cost to the county school system or the local Cooperative Extension office other than the agents time to conduct the programs.

Cherokee County Emergency Management and Cherokee County Government needed assistance with keeping the public informed of information as it relates to emergency situations. NCCE took the lead role as PIO during disasters. Cherokee County Center provided a $48,000.00 savings to county government by performing the PIO during disasters and emergency situations.

IV. Diversity Plan

As North Carolina becomes more diverse, Extension employees need training on cultural issues and curricula to meet the needs of its citizens. North Carolina Cooperative Extension is committed to embracing the value of diversity and the elimination of discrimination on the basis of irrelevant characteristics such as race, nationality, socio-economic status, religious belief, ethnicity, family and marital status, gender, age, sexual orientation, or disability.

North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Cherokee County Center is also committed to affirmative action - that is, the development of programs and practices that promote equal opportunity for members of target groups identified by legislation as having experienced disadvantages in employment.

Our staff seeks to provide programs to underserved audiences by actively marketing our programs to minority communities and their leaders. Cherokee County Center will make all efforts to provide programs to all people of the county. Cherokee County Center programs, when held in the different communities, will be open to all residents of the county, even those that do not live in the host community.

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 Cherokee 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 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 Cherokee County.

VI. Membership of Advisory Leadership System

NC Cooperative Extension, Cherokee County Center Advisory Council
Don and Patty Reynolds
Randy Wiggins
Sue Rhodes
Agriculture Advisory Committee
Burke West
Tim Davis
Eric Carlson
Shawn Johnson

Youth and 4-H Advisory Committee
Leanne Cook
Angie Hopkins
Jan Griggs
Delores Howell
Brenda Blount
Kiffney Griggs
Michael Hopkins
Reagan Lindsay

VII. Staff Membership

Doug Clement
Title: County Extension Director, Cherokee
Phone: (828) 837-2210
Email: doug_clement@ncsu.edu
Brief Job Description: The CED administers the operations of the county Extension office. In this role, he/she is responsible for budget preparation, supervision of all professional and clerical staff, relations with public officials, and other typical administrative matters.

Cindy Chastain
Title: County Extension Administrative Assistant
Phone: (828) 837-2210
Email: cindy_chastain@ncsu.edu

Shannon Coleman
Title: Extension Agent, 4-H Youth Development
Phone: (828) 837-2210
Email: shannon_coleman@ncsu.edu

Marti Day
Title: Area Specialized Agent, Agriculture - Dairy
Phone: (919) 542-8202
Email: marti_day@ncsu.edu
Brief Job Description: Responsible for educational programs for dairy farmers, youth with an interest in dairy projects and the general public with an interest in dairy foods and the dairy industry.

April Dillon
Title: Area Extension Agent, 4-H Youth Development
Phone: (704) 482-4365
Email: april_dillon@ncsu.edu

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

Adam Griffith
Title: Area Agent, CRD
Phone: (828) 359-6935
Email: adgriff5@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.

Craig Mauney
Title: Area Specialized Agent, Agriculture - Commercial Vegetables and 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. (My office is located at the Mountain Horticulture Crops Research and Extension Center not the Henderson County Extension Center as is noted by IT on this website. Please do not contact the Henderson County Extension Center as I am not located there.)

Ashley Robbins
Title: Area Specialized Agent - Dairy
Phone: (919) 542-8203
Email: ashley_robbins@ncsu.edu
Brief Job Description: Marti Day and I are the Area Specialized Dairy Agents - the county-based arm of the Cooperative Extension Dairy Team. We are out here in the counties to help you set and reach your farm, family and business goals. We have collaborative expertise in the areas of Waste Management, Udder Health, Cow Comfort, Nutrition and Forage Management with specialties in (Ashley)Reproduction, Records Management, Animal Health and (Marti)Alternative Markets, Organic Dairy, Grazing Management, and On-farm Processing. We hope to provide comprehensive educational programs for our farmers, consumers and youth for every county across the state. We are here for you by phone, email or text and look forward to working with you!

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.

Debbie Stroud
Title: Area Specialized Agent, Consumer and Retail Food Safety
Phone: (919) 515-9149
Email: dlstroud@ncsu.edu
Brief Job Description: Area Specialized Agents in Consumer and Retail Food Safety help to ensure that Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) Agents have access to timely, evidence-based food safety information. This is accomplished by (1) working with FCS Agents in their counties, (2) developing food safety materials and (3) planning and implementing a NC Safe Plates Food Safety Info Center.

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.

Skip Thompson
Title: Area Specialized Agent, Agriculture - Aquaculture
Phone: (828) 456-3575
Email: Skip_Thompson@ncsu.edu
Brief Job Description: Provide educational opportunities and technical support to the trout and carp aquaculture industries in 42 counties and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) in western North Carolina. Fish health, production management, and waste management educational programs will assist trout farmers, fee-fishing pond managers, carp ponds and trout fingerling producers with the management and sustainability of their facilities.

Keith Wood
Title: Extension Agent, Agriculture
Phone: (828) 837-2210
Email: keith_wood@ncsu.edu
Brief Job Description: Field crops, commercial horticultural crops, urban horticulture, livestock, alternative energy, Local Food Coordinator

Mitch Woodward
Title: Area Specialized Agent, Watersheds and Water Quality
Phone: (919) 414-3873
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

Cherokee County Center
40 Peachtree St
Murphy, NC 28906

Phone: (828) 837-2210
Fax: (828) 837-2172
URL: http://cherokee.ces.ncsu.edu