2019 Gaston County Program Impact Report

Approved: February 3, 2020

I. Executive Summary

In 2019, the Gaston County Center of NC Cooperative Extension delivered educational programming in the areas of local agriculture, enhanced home landscapes and gardens, improved residents’ health and nutrition, parenting education and preparing youth for success.

Local food production is an area of programming emphasis. Consultations and grower certifications to 52 agricultural enterprises helped achieve earnings of $367,000 through sales at three Gaston County farmers markets. Also, Cooperative Extension coordinated the Gaston Community Garden Network to support five community gardens in the County. These gardens provide local food production, education, and help to supply local food banks.

We continue to work with 20 graduates of our NC Farm School to develop production and marketing skills of new farm enterprises. Extension supported landowners throughout the County by providing certification training for 62 private and 211 commercial pesticide license holders working in Gaston County’s $10 million dollar landscaping and nursery businesses. We also responded to over 1000 garden and landscaping calls and 350 wildlife and environmental calls with accurate research-based information, assisting both consumers and retail outlets.


Our 4-H Youth and Family and Consumer Sciences programming efforts support gardening and nutrition education through clubs, camps, and school enrichment. With support from Extension Master Gardener Volunteers, we provided 8 elementary schools and 44 classrooms with our Healthy Harvest school gardening and EFNEP nutrition program. The multi-week hands-on program reached over 1000 third and fourth graders of which 83 percent increased consumption of fruits and vegetables and 61 percent aspired to garden at home. Over 800-second graders also learned STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) skills and life cycles through our 4-H embryology programs. In addition, 219 Gaston County youth participated in a multi-day farm, science, and cooking camps. Gaston County 4-H Club members won top honors at Statewide horsebowl and presentations competitions.

In 2019, we expanded our relationship with the Highland Neighborhood Association to initiate the 4-H Cultivators Club. With this partnership, we established a garden at a primarily African American church and a teen community garden in the Highland Community. 7 low-income 4-H youth in the community were provided scholarships to attend 4-H camps.

Meanwhile, Extension’s food preservation classes and nutrition programs like adult EFNEP (Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program), Living Healthy, and Eat Smart, Move More provided over 200 Gaston residents with healthy eating skills resulting in an estimated $80,000 in health cost savings. In 2019, Cooperative Extension partnered with the Gaston County Healthcare Commission and extended the Healthy Gaston Program to support over 30 churches, schools, and businesses in establishing wellness programs. We also partnered with the Gaston County DHHS to conduct a community food assessment in Gaston County.

Gaston County Cooperative Extension leverages our Extension Volunteer base of over 350 Master Gardeners, Extension and Community Association members, beekeepers, 4-H leaders, SHIIP volunteers, Cattlemen’s Association members, and QNRC members, to increase customer support and programming. Grant funds also supported our Triple P parenting classes for over 100 mandated Gaston County clients which saved tax dollars associated with foster care ($4,500/year/child) or institutional care ($36,500/year/child). Cooperative Extension secured donations to partner with the Gaston County Extension Master Gardeners to complete the construction of a greenhouse to be located at the Extension office for educational purposes and the production of plants for the Healthy Harvest program.

II. 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 300 local volunteers, we apply this knowledge to create real-life solutions.

III. 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.

Value* Outcome Description
13Number of producers who gain skills or knowledge to increase production for local markets.
131Number of animal producers who increased knowledge of farm business management, business planning, financial management, marketing, or estate planning.
20Number of animal producers who learned how to develop a management plan (i.e. grazing plan, feeding plan, drought plan, business plan, disaster plan, etc.)
25Number of producers who increased knowledge of pasture/forage management practices (field improvement, herbicide management, grazing season extension, weed control, forage quality, haylage production, nitrate testing, etc.)
35Number of producers who increased knowledge of nutrition, ration balancing, mineral supplements, breeding, and reproduction
10Number of producers who increased knowledge of the strategies to promote animal health and welfare and reduce the potential for infectious diseases through proper use of vaccines, biosecurity, detection and identification of common diseases, appropriate use of animal medications, and mitigation of antimicrobial resistance transmission
* Note: Values may include numbers from multi-county efforts.
Value* Impact Description
5Number of producers who adopted Extension-recommended best management practices and production changes related to quality assurance (vaccinations, castration, culling techniques, etc.)
5Number of producers who adopted Extension-recommended best management practices and production changes related to genetic improvement (AI, heifer/bull selection)
20Number of producers who adopted Extension-recommended best management practices and production changes related to internal parasite management (fecals, deworming)
10Number of producers who adopted Extension-recommended best management practices related to pasture management
* Note: Values may include numbers from multi-county efforts.

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.

Value* Outcome Description
91Number of individuals who gain knowledge or acquire skills related to vegetable/fruit gardening
* Note: Values may include numbers from multi-county efforts.
Value* Impact Description
152Number of individuals who grow food in community gardens.
27Number of individuals who begin home food production by starting a vegetable and/or fruit garden
118Number of participants who use extension-recommended best management practices in landscapes, turf, and gardens, including pest (insect, weed, disease, wildlife) and soil management
105Number of participants selecting appropriate landscape plants (adapted, drought tolerant, appropriate size, etc.)
53Number of participants growing food for home consumption
51Number of participants adopting composting
* Note: Values may include numbers from multi-county efforts.

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.

Value* Outcome Description
169Number of participants who increase their knowledge of safe home food handling, preservation, or preparation practices
128Number of food handlers who increase their knowledge and skills in safe food handling practices
348Number of individuals who learn how to prepare local foods, including through use of home food preservation techniques.
* Note: Values may include numbers from multi-county efforts.
Value* Impact Description
110Number of adults increasing their fruit and vegetables consumption
14Number of participants increasing their physical activity
* Note: Values may include numbers from multi-county efforts.

IV. Number of Contacts Made by Extension

Type of ContactNumber
Face-to-face* 13,761
Non face-to-face** 15,906
Total by Extension staff in 2019 29,667
* Face-to-face contacts include contacts that Extension personnel make directly with individuals through one-on-one visits, meetings, and other activities where staff members work directly with individuals.
** Non face-to-face contacts include contacts that Extension personnel make indirectly with individuals by telephone, email, newsletters, news articles, radio, television, and other means.

V. Designated Grants Received by Extension

Type of GrantAmount
Contracts/Grants $10,265.00
Gifts/Donations $5,264.00
In-Kind Grants/Donations $0.00
United Way/Foundations $0.00
User Fees $0.00
Total $15,529.00

VI. Volunteer Involvement in Extension Programs

Number of Volunteers* Number of Volunteer Hours Known client contacts by volunteers Dollar Value at 25.43
EFNEP 12 46 12 $ 1,170.00
Extension Community Association 169 10332 3176 $ 262,743.00
Total: 181 10378 3188 $ 263,913.00
* The number of volunteers reflects the overall number of volunteers for multiple events.

VII. Membership of Advisory Leadership System

Beekeepers Association Board
Allen Thompson
Burton Beasley
Debi Wheeler
Dan Turner
Tamela Bell
Debi Wheeler – Newsletter Editor
Master Gardeners
Steve Britton
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
Lewis Friday
Officer Chad Owens
Tammy Mims
Sarah Miller
LeeAnn Dodd
BJ Waelz


County Extension Advisory Committee
Allen Thompson
Dana Harper
Joe Baier
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

VIII. 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

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.

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.

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) 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

IX. 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