2020 Gaston County Plan of Work

Approved: February 3, 2020

I. County Background

The mission of Cooperative Extension is to work with communities to deliver education and technology that enrich the lives, land, and economy of North Carolinians. Based on local needs, Gaston County Cooperative Extension tailors its programs to support agriculture and the local foods economy, engage youth in hands-on learning, and enhance residents' skills related to gardening, landscaping, nutrition, parenting, and finances.

Gaston County is the eighth most populated county in North Carolina with 210,086 people. There are a total of 14 municipalities in the county including Mt. Holly, Belmont, Dallas, Bessemer City, and Cherryville. Gastonia, the largest city and county seat, has a population of 71,741. Official census data places the county’s Black population at 15.3%. While the official Hispanic population is estimated at 5.9%., a larger percentage of students entering the school system speak Spanish as a first language.

Gaston County’s economy benefits from being located just west of Charlotte and has recently gained momentum from the "Gaston Outside" image campaign. In addition, the county’s proximity to an international airport and interstate highway system are economic advantages. Despite these advantages, Gaston County’s poverty rate of 16.6% is higher than the State average and the county’s graduation rate from high school and its number of citizens with bachelor degrees are below the State averages. While traditional employees of the textile and manufacturing sectors still struggle to find replacement jobs, eastern parts of the county are becoming bedroom communities for commuters to Charlotte.

In terms of agriculture, enterprises such as beef cattle, poultry, nurseries and greenhouses, and locally marketed fresh vegetables have increased as the number of farmers markets have increased too in recent years. Extension focuses on expanding agricultural production to meet the growing demand for healthy local foods in Gaston County and the Charlotte region.

County leaders are focused on job creation and workforce development through improved education. The region is forecasted to gain a great deal of residential development and commercial growth over the next ten years. There will be growing demands to build and maintain schools and infrastructure throughout the county. Lower tax revenues make it challenging to address these issues as well as the loss of open space, high rates of overweight children, an aging population, and lack of walkable communities.

As one of the 100 county offices of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, Gaston County’s Cooperative Extension Service focuses its programs on each of the State Extension Objectives listed in this plan of work. Our Extension office tailors its programs to the specific needs of Gaston County by receiving input from County Government, local citizen commissions, and a citizen advisory board.

Gaston County’s Cooperative Extension programs are based on local needs assessments, including the Community Health Survey and the 2015 Quality of Life Community survey. Programs center around the following 4 key issues impacting our communities:

1. Agriculture Enterprises
2. Food and Nutrition
3. Building Youth and Adult Leaders
4. Strengthening Families

Gaston County’s problems require innovative solutions. Cooperative Extension brings the research and knowledge of NC State University, NC A&T University, and all of America’s land-grant institutions to Gaston County. Together with over 350 local volunteers, we apply this knowledge to create real-life solutions.

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

In addition to being part of the state-wide North Carolina Extension Service, The Gaston County Cooperative Extension Office works as a unit of County government and reports to the County Manager and the County Board of Commissioners in terms of how it is meeting the needs of Gaston County citizens. The Gaston County's Board of Commissioner's mission statement incorporates three main objectives relating to improved economic development, education, and quality of life. All of Extension's programs in Gaston County address these three objectives.

Gaston County’s Cooperative Extension Office also works as an integral part of the County’s Emergency Operations Plan for Multi-Hazards. Specifically, Cooperative Extension has the following assigned roles:

1. Operate the County Emergency Operations Center during a nuclear power incident to serve as a technical advisor on agriculture and liaison to the agricultural community.
2. Assist State sampling teams operating in the county as requested during fixed nuclear facility incidents.
3. Maintain communication with the NC State University Cooperative Extension Service representative at the State Emergency Operations Center.
4. Coordinate distribution of information related to disaster preparedness, consumer issues, and food preparation with the health department, and County Public Information Officer.
5. Assist the Emergency Operations Center in identifying and coordinating assistance for agricultural needs within the county.
6. Coordinate agricultural damage assessment teams with the County Damage Assessment Officer.
7. Provide assistance to the health department with water sampling.
8. Assist with activities for youth and adult financial counseling during emergency operations.

IV. Diversity Plan

The Gaston County Cooperative Extension center makes continual efforts to provide educational opportunities to every citizen. Strategies include marketing Extension in targeted news media including television and print, providing accommodations for citizens with disabilities, and emphasizing on program dissemination to under-served audiences.

The Extension office creates annual diversity plans and reviews its civil rights efforts through the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Reporting System. Healthy Harvest, Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, and Eat Smart, Move More programs have targeted Title I schools and low-income audiences that reflect a diversity of audiences. We have developed a key partnership with the Highland Neighborhood Association to deliver more programming to Gaston County's African American community. With a bilingual EFENP PA, we plan to connect our nutrition programming to more Latino audiences.

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 Gaston 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 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 Gaston 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 Gaston 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

Beekeepers Association Board
Allen Thompson
Burton Beasley
Debi Wheeler
Dan Turner
Tamela Bell
Debi Wheeler – Newsletter Editor
Master Gardeners
Sara Fromburg
Sharon Lanier
Kay Cherry
Gayla Woody
Peggy Murphy
Dana Harper
Family and Consumer Sciences
Joe Baier
Lucy Baier
Linda Tino
Audrey Hunt
Beth Deaton
Pam Myers
Audrey Hunt

Quality of Natural Resources Committee
Michelle Cook
Charles Heafner
Mike McLeod
Ray Maxwell
Ross Hetherington
Jerry Hatton
Farm Management
Gavin Bell
Cathy Lewis
Art Duckworth
Mike Fulbright
Tim Stowe
Lis Marie
Cindy Dye

4-H Youth
Janet Bowen
Cheryl Vagnozzi
Officer Chad Owens
Tammy Mims
Sarah Miller
LeeAnn Dodd
BJ Waelz

County Extension Advisory Committee
Allen Thompson
Dana Harper
Cheryl Vagnozzi
Betsy Steketee
Michelle Cook
Mike McLeod
Tim Stowe
Art Duckworth
Cathy Lewis
David Thornburg
Lewis Friday
Kyle Lineburger
Barry Dellinger
Stan Beam
Patti Plaksin
Dwayne Burks
Bill Gross
Donna Lockett
Charles Odom
Donyel Barber

VII. Staff Membership

David Fogarty
Title: County Extension Director
Phone: (704) 922-2130
Email: dwfogart@ncsu.edu
Brief Job Description: Gaston County Extension Director for a team of 10 professional educators applying researched based knowledge to the needs of local residents and their communities.

Belinda Bogle
Title: Triple P Parent Practitioner
Phone: (704) 922-2122
Email: belinda_bogle@ncsu.edu

Pam Bryson
Title: Program Coordinator
Phone: (704) 865-3291
Email: pam_bryson@ncsu.edu
Brief Job Description: Liaison to Gaston County Extension and Community Association

Jenny Carleo
Title: Area Specialized Agent, Agriculture - Grain Crops
Phone: (704) 873-0507
Email: jscarleo@ncsu.edu

Candice Christian
Title: Area Specialized Agent, Consumer and Retail Food Safety
Phone: (919) 515-9148
Email: cadescha@ncsu.edu
Brief Job Description: The overall goal of the Area Specialized Agents (ASAs) in Consumer & Retail Food Safety is to provide North Carolinians with technical food safety information and to support Family and Consumer Sciences agents in delivering timely and evidence-based food safety education and information to stakeholders.

Rich Chuvala
Title: Extension Agent, 4-H Youth Development
Phone: (704) 922-2126
Email: richard_chuvala@ncsu.edu

Marcus Cyprian
Title: Program Assistant - Agriculture, Horticulture
Phone: (704) 922-0301
Email: mjcypria@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

Julie Flowers
Title: Area Agent, Agriculture - Consumer Horticulture
Phone: (704) 922-2104
Email: julie_flowers@ncsu.edu
Brief Job Description: Julie Flowers is the Consumer Horticulture Agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Gaston and Cleveland County. She coordinates the Extension Master Gardener Volunteer program, helps homeowners resolve horticultural issues, and leads public workshops/speaking engagements on a variety of horticultural topics. Julie possesses an Associates Degree in Horticulture and Bachelor of Science Degree in Agriculture Education. She is currently pursuing a Master's Degree in Horticulture.

Payton Flowers
Title: Extension Agent, Agriculture - Commercial Horticulture
Phone: (704) 922-2119
Email: cpflower@ncsu.edu
Brief Job Description: My job is to work alongside of crop growers, nursery growers, green house operators, landscapers, and municipalities in finding well researched management practices to implement in their various operations. I also am the pesticide coordinator for Gaston County, I answer questions regarding re-certification, teach re-certification credit courses, and handle pesticide container disposal.

Judith Garcia
Title: EFNEP Educator
Phone: (704) 922-2121
Email: jcgarcia@ncsu.edu
Brief Job Description: I am the Expanded Food and Nutrition Program (EFNEP) Educator of Gaston County. I work with limited-resource youth and families with children to teach healthy eating habits, how to stretch their food dollars, food safety skills, and how to be more physically active. EFNEP’s mission is to improve the health of limited resource youth and families with young children through practical lessons on: basic nutrition and healthy lifestyles, resource management and food safety.

Richard Goforth
Title: Area Specialized Agent, Agriculture - Poultry
Phone: (910) 893-7530
Email: richard_goforth@ncsu.edu

Cyndy Gustashaw
Title: County Extension Administrative Assistant
Phone: (704) 922-2111
Email: cynthia_gustashaw@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.)

Linda Minges
Title: Extension Agent, Family and Consumer Sciences
Phone: (704) 922-2127
Email: linda_minges@ncsu.edu
Brief Job Description: Linda Minges, MPH, RD, LDN, provides a variety of nutrition, wellness, and food safety programs throughout Gaston County.

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.

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) 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.

Lara Worden
Title: Area Agent, Agriculture
Phone: (704) 922-2118
Email: lara_worden@ncsu.edu

VIII. Contact Information

Gaston County Center
1303 Dallas-Cherryville Hwy
Citizens Resource Center
Dallas, NC 28034

Phone: (704) 922-0301
Fax: (704) 922-2140
URL: http://gaston.ces.ncsu.edu