2019 Graham County Program Impact Report

Approved: January 9, 2020

I. Executive Summary

Graham County Cooperative Extension focused on three major program areas in 2019: Community Development, 4-H Youth Development and Consumer Horticulture. These program areas were identified as important by ALS committees as well as other county stakeholders. Some of the year's successes in these program areas include: a series of Graham County Friends of Agriculture breakfasts, a series of five new 4-H spin clubs, two native azalea seeding workshops, pesticide training's, a vegetable workshop, school enrichment classes, a successful shooting sports team, a livestock management workshop, a Coggins Clinic, a poultry processing workshop, a county-wide poultry show, resource protection and conservation, an azalea festival, Summer Fun Adventures for youth, and making healthy decisions with youth.

Meeting the needs of citizens is, and has always been our top priority. Graham County Extension staff members made over 3,400 face to face contacts in 2019, with a total of 51,127 contacts in all, including non-direct contacts. In addition, staff offered a total of 343 hours of programming in 2019, which reached over 2,500 participants. These numbers were slightly smaller when compared to 2018, partly due to lack of staffing within the county. A large portion of these programs focused on providing educational programs and research-based information to promote agricultural education, leadership, nutrition and youth development. Extension staff members have worked collaboratively to help build the leadership infrastructure of the county. Graham County Cooperative Extension also partnered with the town of Robbinsville and South Western RC&D to provide two community-wide programs: trunk-or-treat for Graham County youth and Graham County Friends of Agriculture breakfast programs.

Cooperative Extension offered many note worthy programs in 2019, but the highlights of the year was the tremendous success of the 4-H Shooting Sports Team, the 4-H Street of Flags, the new livestock club, the poultry processing day and the poultry show. The shooting sports team received in excess of $3,500 in monies and equipment from the National Rifle Association. Other programs that made a difference in 2019 included: strong 4-H after school clubs, a county science night at the high school, an azalea festival, a new 4-H Hiking Club and several 4-H Summer Fun trips and activities.

Extension staff members also recruited volunteers from multiple state agencies, local citizens, county agencies, and local businesses to conduct a variety of programs. These included horse clinics, horticulture workshops, 4-H workshops and community leadership projects. Overall, 138 volunteers were utilized over a period of 185 hours, which resulted in a net value of over $4,700.

Also in 2019, Advisory Leadership Committee members participated in multiple public meetings. These included: county commissioner’s meetings and the Graham Revitalization & Economic Action Team (GREAT). This community involvement has helped highlight the importance of agriculture and 4-H to local families and the needs of Graham County Cooperative Extension as well.

Extension agents have successfully promoted leadership, agriculture and nutrition in the county through programs that encourage citizens to become active participants in the community through advocacy, service and volunteerism. As a result of these and many other endeavors, Graham County citizens have learned skills that can improve their quality of life, earning potential, and health and wellness.

II. 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 positive qualities as well as many challenges. An new statewide needs assessment was conducted in 2018 and completed in Fall of the same year. Input for the needs assessment was gathered through individual surveys, as well as community meetings. Based on much of the information gathered, Cooperative Extension will focus on community development, 4-H youth development, and consumer horticulture as the primary focus of programming in 2019.

Community Development & Consumer Horticulture

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. Illegal drug use is also approaching epidemic proportions, which negatively impacts the county as well.

The Extension needs assessment, 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, youth development, 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 needs assessment suggest that emphasis be given to farmer's market stability, agricultural careers for youth, developing new agriculture and value-added markets, insect and disease control, soil/plant nutritional improvement and promoting agriculture to youth and families. Furthermore, the addition of about forty high tunnel greenhouses has set the stage for the development of horticultural markets 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 continues to prove challenging, but staff have continually proven that they can absorb the workload.

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. In addition, the needs assessment of 2018 clearly identified careers in agriculture for youth as one of the top needs with the greatest impacts. Cooperative Extension in Graham County is planning the addition of several "spin clubs" during 2019 that hopefully will spur the interest of youth in agriculture. These include: a poultry club, a gardening club, and a livestock club among others.

HEALTH, Physical Activity & Chronic Disease Reduction

Focus groups, surveys, and needs assessment 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, along with extremely high rates of Hepatitis C and HIV 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. Increased education concerning the dangers of drug usage can address the critical issue of blood-borne diseases. In 2019, Cooperative Extension will focus on educating 4-Her's, concerning healthy eating, as well as food selection, preparation, and preservation in order to try and provide solutions to some of these problems. Healthy lifestyles will also be addressed. 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.


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 community development, 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 2019.

III. Objectives to Address the Cooperative Extension Long Range Plan

Our community development programs build strong and thriving communities.

Value* Outcome Description
9Number of participants who improved knowledge of local food and agricultural systems
5Number of participants who developed new jobs skills
14Number of adult participants acquiring the skills needed to serve as a volunteer
5Number of participants that increase their knowledge of disaster preparedness planning, mitigation and recovery
9Number of participants acquiring knowledge and skills to convene and lead inclusive groups
* Note: Values may include numbers from multi-county efforts.
Value* Impact Description
5Number of (eg., community and economic development, land use, disaster, etc.) new, revised or adopted plans that have begun to be implemented in communities, organizations, local governments, or businesses
* Note: Values may include numbers from multi-county efforts.

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

Value* Outcome Description
5Number of teachers trained in 4-H STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) curriculum
620Number of youth (students) increasing knowledge in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)
412Total number of female participants in STEM program
23Number of high school age youth (students) participating as members of 4-H clubs
322Number of youth increasing knowledge of life skills
279Number of children/youth who improved knowledge of local food and agricultural systems.
116Number of youth increasing/improving knowledge, attitudes, skills, and/or aspirations regarding leadership
370Number of youth demonstrating increased knowledge of natural resources and environmental issues
* Note: Values may include numbers from multi-county efforts.
Value* Impact Description
12Number of teachers using 4-H STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) curriculum in their classrooms
70Number of youth (students) gaining career / employability skills
12Number of youth (students) gaining entrepreneurship skills
343Number of youth using effective life skills
5Number of youth willing to participate in conservation actions
84Number of youth increasing their physical activity
34Number of youth volunteers serving in new or expanded roles within Extension
4Number of youth volunteers serving in new or expanded roles beyond Extension, including community boards and task forces
5Number of youth assuming new/expanded leadership roles in the community
93Number of youth increasing their fruit and vegetable consumption
* Note: Values may include numbers from multi-county efforts.

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

Value* Outcome Description
120Number 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
20Number of individuals who begin home food production by starting a vegetable and/or fruit garden
10Number of individuals who begin home food production by starting to raise backyard livestock.
45Number of participants who use extension-recommended best management practices in landscapes, turf, and gardens, including pest (insect, weed, disease, wildlife) and soil management
15Number of participants selecting appropriate landscape plants (adapted, drought tolerant, appropriate size, etc.)
105Number of participants growing food for home consumption
1Number of participants adopting composting
* Note: Values may include numbers from multi-county efforts.

IV. Number of Contacts Made by Extension

Type of ContactNumber
Face-to-face* 3,412
Non face-to-face** 51,127
Total by Extension staff in 2019 54,539
* 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 $7,943.40
Gifts/Donations $1,100.00
In-Kind Grants/Donations $0.00
United Way/Foundations $0.00
User Fees $0.00
Total $9,043.40

VI. Volunteer Involvement in Extension Programs

Number of Volunteers* Number of Volunteer Hours Known client contacts by volunteers Dollar Value at 25.43
4-H 66 95 385 $ 2,416.00
Other: Agriculture 50 71 242 $ 1,806.00
Other: Community, Family & Individual Development 22 19 109 $ 483.00
Total: 138 185 736 $ 4,705.00
* The number of volunteers reflects the overall number of volunteers for multiple events.

VII. Membership of Advisory Leadership System

4-H and Youth Development
Debra Brittain
Angie Jenkins
Bay Snyder
Karen Taylor
Brian Stevens
Clancy Stevens
Ransom Cornette
Candy Carver

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

VIII. Staff Membership

Randy Collins
Title: County Extension Director and 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

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.

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

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.

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.

IX. 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