2018 Graham County Plan of Work

Approved: February 14, 2018

I. County Background

Graham County, located in the rugged mountains of southwestern North Carolina, is small, isolated and rural. Citizens have identified the local people and the vast natural beauty of the area as the county's two greatest assets. The county possesses many assets and many challenges. An Extension environmental scan was conducted in 2010 and completed in January 2011. An extensive agricultural survey was conducted in 2014. Resident input was also collected from community assistance initiative public meetings and from a high school student survey completed in 2011. Based on much of the information gathered, Cooperative Extension will focus on local foods, agriculture and youth as the primary focus of programming in 2017. A new program needs assessment will be conducted late winter/early spring in 2018.

Profitable and Sustainable Plant & Animal Production Systems; Local Foods

The median household income for Graham County residents is lower than state or national averages. Fifty percent of school-age youth qualify for the free/reduced lunch program. The county consistently has double-digit unemployment and frequently has the highest unemployment rate in North Carolina. As a result of these and other factors, the county has been classified by the Department of Commerce as a Tier 1 – Economically Disadvantaged County. Although national and state economies have improved somewhat, financial insecurity continues to cause concern at the local level. These challenges have negatively impacted local businesses, farm producers, the budgets of local governments and led to the loss of businesses. Added to these economic hurdles, growth in industry and development will be limited by the steep terrain and by the amount of land available for construction.

The Extension environmental scan, tourism surveys, community surveys, community forums, interviews, school surveys, and recent focus group conversations reflected these concerns. Respondents consistently rank improving the local economy through agriculture, creating and keeping jobs, workforce development, and expanding agriculture businesses as high priorities for Extension programming. In addition, teaching workforce skills, increasing family income through agriculture, increasing local food sales, and support of the local farmer's market were seen as ways to improve the local economy. Extension advisory leaders support efforts to provide educational programs in entrepreneurship, workforce development, farm economics, energy conservation, family finances, and promoting the buy local campaign to address these issues.

Graham County farm families are looking for new and innovative ways to supplement family income. With a decent tourism base, a large number of summer residents, and a new focus on locally grown foods, the local farmers market has improved to meet the demands of this new clientele. Results from the environmental scan suggest that emphasis be given to producing alternative crops, further developing the current farmer’s market, developing new agriculture and value-added markets, and promoting agriculture to youth and families. Furthermore, the addition of about thirty high tunnel greenhouses has set the stage for the development of the local food market here in Graham County.


In addition to working to strengthen agriculture, Extension must also address the need to build community leaders and skilled workers for the future. Current and future leaders must be equipped to make tough decisions in a fast paced environment. Workers must be able to learn and adapt quickly to changes in the workplace. Communicating effectively and working effectively on a team will be important skills. Extension will focus on building adult and youth leaders through volunteerism, community service, citizenship, serving on local committees, and teaching others. Strong community leadership and a skilled workforce will improve the local economy and improve the quality of life for citizens. Finally, the addition of a new Extension facility in 2012 equipped with a teaching kitchen and meeting room has enabled Extension staff to increase their number of programs by about 50%. The loss of an FCS agent in Graham County has proved challenging, but the remaining employees are effectively taking up the slack.

School to Career

While the dropout rate in Graham County has reduced over the years, youth can rarely stay in Graham County due to a severe lack of employment opportunities. Residents have been, and continue to be, discouraged over this fact. In many cases, this leaves youth feeling that obtaining a good career is too big of a challenge, or in some cases, not worth the effort at all. Cooperative Extension feels that it can play a pivotal role in helping youth identify and make good career choices that could keep them closer to home. Through working with local schools and using one-on-one efforts Extension can help youth in Graham County realize the value of a good education and the realization of a rewarding career.


HEALTH, Physical Activity & Chronic Disease Reduction

Focus groups, surveys, and environmental scan results, along with recommendations from school personnel, the sheriff’s department and other county departments, revealed that a majority of citizens are concerned with improving individual health and wellness, especially among the county's youth. The need to address obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other chronic diseases ranked high as a community need. Recent studies completed by the school system and health department reported that a majority of citizens are overweight or at risk of becoming overweight. Other demographic data revealed high rates of diabetes and heart disease within the population. Proper diet and following recommendations for physical activity can improve citizens’ quality of life and reduce risk factors for obesity, diabetes and heart disease. In 2018, Cooperative Extension will focus on educating clients, both adult and youth, concerning healthy eating, as well as food selection, preparation, and preservation in order to try and provide solutions to some of these problems. These identified health factors are having negative impacts on the stability of local families. Extension must focus on providing educational programs that support and strengthen families in Graham County. In addition, Cooperative Extension will continue to offer a diabetes support group on a monthly basis as funds allow. The goal will be to teach county citizens living with diabetes how to better manage the disease and live a healthy life.

CONCLUSION

NC Cooperative Extension has an important role to play in the future of Graham County. Through Extension efforts to impact county agricultural enterprises, support and improve local foods, and address health and youth issues, agents can help citizens find solutions to community problems and empower people in the decision-making process. As a result, people can become stronger, healthier, more resilient, more productive, and more involved citizens. In conclusion, empowering people to be good citizens, workers and leaders; helping build strong, healthy and resilient families; and strengthening the local economy through workforce development and agriculture will be the goals of Graham County Cooperative Extension in 2018.

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.
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.
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

At the current time, Graham County does not have a written strategic plan. Extension staff members work with county government by serving on a variety of committees, participating in county-wide disaster preparedness efforts, providing research-based information, keeping officials and department heads informed about Extension programs, and working on various projects as requested by the county manager and/or county commissioners.

IV. Diversity Plan

The 2010 Census indicated that there were slightly over eight thousand eight hundred year-round residents in Graham County. Of these, over 90% classified themselves as "White." The rest classified themselves as "American Indian" (the vast majority of these being Cherokee), followed by Hispanic, Black, Asian, and Pacific Islander. The greatest change was in the Hispanic population. The Hispanic population increased by 223%, but the actual number remains small.

The Snowbird Indian Reservation is located in Graham County, but is considered part of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI). The Snowbird Reservation is home to the majority of Cherokee living in Graham County and citizens there are served by staff from EBCI Cooperative Extension. The actual number of Cherokee living outside the reservation is small. Graham County and EBCI Cooperative Extension work together to provide quality educational programs to youth, adults and seniors living in the Snowbird Community.

In addition to collaborating with the EBCI, Extension staff members work with all school-age youth in grades K-5. On a larger scale, Graham County Cooperative Extension programs are advertised in the local newspaper. Furthermore, the Extension monthly newsletter is sent to over 500 households. Educational programs and Extension events are marketed and open to all residents in the county and in surrounding communities.

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 Graham County with the knowledge, skills and tools needed 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, on-line applications, 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 is the staff commitment to being customer driven and customer focused. As such, in addition to the County Extension Center, Extension educational programs are delivered in community centers, on farms, and other locations in order that programs to be available, accessible to, and fully utilized by, the citizens of Graham 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 Graham County. Evaluation strategies are employed to make observations about whether any changes occurred as a result of 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, agents 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 acquired, 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). Agents plan to measure these impacts in both the long- and short-term. In this annual plan (short-term), agents have outlined financial impact and cost benefit analysis as 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, interview data, and focus group results.

VI. Membership of Advisory Leadership System

4-H and Youth Development
Debra Brittain
Ellie Brittian (youth member)
Haley Brooks
Angie Jenkins
Bay Snyder
Karen Taylor
Brian Stevens
Clancy Stevens
Ransom Cornette
Brian (Taco) Johnson

Local Food Systems
Laura Mathis
Wanda Collins
Elsie Hyatt
Carol Lawson
Jessica Wehr
Marshal McClung
Hoot Gibbs
Karla Jones
Agriculture and Natural Resources
Billy Cable
Tommy Collins
Terry Rattler
Crystal Rattler
Mike Kelly
John Lovin
Jean Taylor
Karen Anderson
Billy Corbin

VII. Staff Membership

Randy Collins
Title: County Extension Director & Extension Agent, Agriculture
Phone: (828) 479-7979
Email: randy_collins@ncsu.edu

Pam Adams
Title: 4-H Program Assistant
Phone: (828) 479-7979
Email: pam_adams@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.

Amy Holder
Title: County Extension Administrative Assistant
Phone: (828) 479-7979
Email: amy_holder@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.

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.

Debbie Stroud
Title: Area Specialized Agent, Consumer and Retail Food Safety
Phone: (910) 814-6033
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 - 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 38 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.

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

Graham County Center
39 S Main St
Smith Howell Building
Robbinsville, NC 28771

Phone: (828) 479-7979
Fax: (828) 479-2000
URL: http://graham.ces.ncsu.edu