2020 Avery County Plan of Work

Approved: January 17, 2020

I. County Background


Avery County is the 100th and last county formed in North Carolina. The county was formed in 1911 from parts of Caldwell, Mitchell, and Watauga Counties. Avery County was named after Waightstill Avery, a colonel in the American Revolutionary War and the first Attorney General of North Carolina (1777-1779). The county seat is Newland which is located at elevation of 3500 feet and has the distinction as being the highest county seat east of the Mississippi.

Our greatest assets in Avery County are our mountains, streams and other natural resources. It is both beautiful and rugged. Avery County attracts tourists, outdoor enthusiasts, skiers, fishermen, and others on vacation seeking escape from the high temperatures off of the mountains.
Our local people are of Scottish descent and settled here during the revolutionary war. This county has deep agrarian roots, and a fierce independence that has been forged over many years of subsistent farming.

It is from this backdrop that the Avery County Cooperative Extension Center serves the citizens of Avery County.


Avery County has a total area of 247 square miles (158,080 acres) and is extremely rural and mountainous with all of the county's terrain located within the Appalachian Mountains range. The highest point in the county is Grassy Ridge Bald, which rises to 6,165 feet (1,879 m) above sea level. Most of Grandfather Mountain (whose highest point is Calloway Peak 5,964 feet), shared with Watauga and Caldwell counties, is within Avery County.

At an elevation of 5,506 feet (1,678 m) above sea level, Beech Mountain (also shared with Watauga County) is the highest incorporated community east of the Mississippi River. At an elevation of 3,621 feet (1,099 m) Newland is the highest county seat in the Eastern United States.

There are many wild trout streams and ski resorts (such as: Beech Mountain and Sugar Mountain) located within its boundaries. There are outdoor attractions year round and many of our visitors travel to Avery to enjoy its natural agrarian beauty.


Avery County has no major industries. Tourism is the leading industry in Avery County, generating $51 million in sales each year. The South's highest ski slopes, nine major golf resorts, and scenic Grandfather Mountain attract visitors year round to support a wonderful variety of outdoor activities, quality restaurants, and lodging facilities. Agri-Tourism has become an important segment of both our agriculture and tourism industries.

The second largest industry is second home construction. The third greatest source of income, by far, comes from agricultural production.

Avery County has been known in the past as the "Christmas Tree Capital of the World" and agriculture is the third largest employer and represents approximately $34 million dollars income annually. This industry is in constant flux and ebbs and flows depending upon the rest of the non-agricultural economy.


As of the census of 2010, there were 17,797 people, 7194 households, and 4,422 families residing in the county. The population density was 70 people per square mile (27/km²). There were 13,890 housing units at an average density of 48 per square mile (19/km²).

The racial makeup of the county was 91.9% White, 4.0% African American, 0.4% Native American, 0.3% Asian, and 4.5% of the population was Latino of any race.

There were 7194 households out of which 23.30% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53% were married couples living together, 8.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.6% were non-families. 28% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.00% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.31 and the average family size was 2.81.

The median income for a household in the county was $34,918. Males had a median income of $25,983 versus $21,652 for females. The per capita income for the county was $23,465. Private non-farm employment change was down 23.7%.

There are 13,890 housing units in the county, of which 6004 are considered seasonal. There were 7226 vacant units and 1567 rental units. Avery County has over 4.3 billion dollars in property value. However, 70% of the homes are owned by seasonal residents, or absentee owners who rent their housing as either vacation units of full time residences.

Environmental Scan

The Avery County Cooperative Extension Staff, volunteers, advisory groups, governmental partners, and citizens determine our program areas through environmental scans. It is Cooperative Extension’s way of determining the critical issues in the county. From the last scan we have determine the following content areas, and their subsidiaries are areas of concern for our specific county in 2019. However, even though each issue or area of concern listed below is important, due to fiduciary and personnel limitations, our agents and agency will be addressing specific issues that are deemed critical by the specific programming committees. By focusing on a few of these areas, it is our hope that greater impacts can be made.

1. Agriculture
a. Ornamental and Christmas Tree production
i. Farm Demonstration
ii. Pesticide Education
iii. Propagation/Seedling production
iv. Value Added Production
b. Landscape development and Maintenance
i. Contractor License Education
ii. Landscape Issues
iii. Turfgrass Issues
c. Local Foods, small fruit, and Tree fruit production
i. New Production Education
ii. Market Expansion
iii. Small Farm Development
iv. Value Added Production
d. Livestock
i. Pasture Management
ii. Market Development
iii. Value Added Product
iv. Animal Health education
2. Youth
a. Volunteer Development
b. Youth K-12 School Enrichment
c. Club Development
d. Healthy Eating, Physical Activity, and Chronic Disease Risk Reduction
e. School To Career
3. Community Development
a. Volunteer Development
b. Leadership Development
c. Resource Development


There are over 135 farmers in Avery County who receive 25% of their disposable income from the production and sale of livestock. Estimated gross sales of livestock (beef, sheep, goats, and horses) were over $2.8 million in 2007. Over 90% of livestock producers in Avery are small, part-time, limited resource farmers. The livestock industry is changing into a value-added industry where the producers are utilizing on farm sales instead of just taking the animals to the “sale”. Because of this there is a need for education in these particular areas of production.

There are approximately 45 local food producers of varying size and skill. This portion of the agricultural segment has multiple challenges including pre-and post-harvest quality issues, GAP certification, pest information, management strategies, and business planning.

Production of native ornamentals is the second largest agricultural commodity in Avery County, generating close to $7-9 million annually. Growers must constantly improve quality and consistency of shape, color, grade, and root ball of their product. Collected and cutback material is considered suspect by many buyers because of poor survivability. Availability of quality nursery-grown plant materials is vital to maintaining or increasing existing markets. Presently, this segment of the market is undergoing a major change, and the new growers need production, business, and marketing education. New invasive diseases, insects, and weeds are becoming issues within our counties. Educational efforts will focus on addressing these areas/

Production of Fraser fir Christmas trees accounts for $22-25 million annual income, the largest agricultural commodity in Avery County. Avery County growers are rapidly approaching a major transition, from one generation to the next. With this transition, comes inherent challenges, primarily, will this land stay in agricultural production, or will it be divided and sold to development. The heirs to the majority of this land are not farmers, but rather professionals who have moved either physically away from the farm or ideologically moved away.

Avery County growers need to improve their business management skills as a means of maintaining their profit margin. Decision making needs to be based on cost-benefit analysis, enterprise budgets, and farm record keeping. Growers must develop new marketing techniques, identify new product niches, and seek markets for new regions of the country. Growers need to evaluate and adopt new chemicals, equipment, and techniques on the basis of cost-effectiveness, utility and environmental impact. Growers need to coordinate cultural practices, fertility, and harvest practices to insure that a quality product reaches the consumer. Presently, the oversupply of Fraser fir is over, and one casualty of this over supply is that we have reduced the number of growers from 950 to just 450. However, the acreage will likely remain very similar to the early 2000’s. Education based upon these changing times will help grower’s transition into and out of markets. With such issues as Elongate Hemlock Scale and how other states are viewing these problems, as well as possible resistance of Balsam Twig Aphid to commonly used pesticides. Not to mention the multiple new invasive species of insects, diseases, and weeds that are creating challenges for our growers.

Community and Youth Development

Youth and adult volunteers in North Carolina contribute thousands of hours each year to strengthen communities and create strong foundations for the future. As these individuals engage in service, they are gaining new skills, generating new programs to serve their communities, building successful organizations, and fostering an ethic of service. Cooperative Extension is poised to support the development of interpersonal skills, leadership experiences, and content knowledge to ensure that citizens are prepared to engage in meaningful service and lifelong learning. Current research suggests that youth and adult participation positively impacts civic engagement and contributes to the development of leadership capacities. In Avery County with the budget cuts that have been experienced and with the major changes of how Extension is planning on accomplishing its mission, have necessitated Avery County to greater focus on the recruitment, training, and retention of quality volunteers. These core volunteers will learn about service, civic engagement, and leadership, and will become a cornerstone on how we can effectively and efficiently reach our target audience. As we continue to train and utilize new volunteers, our outreach and circle of influence will increase thereby allowing Avery County Cooperative Extension Center to positively change the lives of Avery County citizens.

School to Career

Avery County has approximately 2,300 youth ages 5-19 years old. Changes in family structure, work force, and lack of parental involvement are only a few of the major issues facing Avery's youth. The county offers very few opportunities for youth of any age to cultivate leadership and communication skills. Our youth need greater opportunities to explore our world safely to ascertain the direction their lives should take. In order for this program to be successful though, it takes adult volunteers to help guide the youth. Research has illustrated the most successful youth programs involve the partnering of caring adult volunteers with the youth served. The development of a pool of trained volunteers is a major concern to the Avery County 4-H program. Volunteers need training and guidance to meet the challenges in the 4-H leadership development part, such as communication, club management, and decision-making skills.

Healthy Eating, Physical Activity and Chronic Disease Risk Reduction

Incidence of obesity in both youth and adults are high in Avery County. 62% of adults and 25% of children are obese, with 35% of children aged 5-11 classified as overweight. High poverty levels puts families at risk of eating poorly due to financial stresses, and the lack of knowledge of how to eat healthily puts them further at risk. Nor do many residents make healthy lifestyle choices and informed food decisions following the recommended MyPlate guidelines.

Avery County Cooperative Extension Center welcomes the opportunity to serve our citizens with solutions to their critical issues. As these issues are not within a vacuum an integrated approach is necessary and important in reaching our potential of change with our clients. As a team we will work diligently to inform, educate, and move our clients towards the knowledge to make an informed decision with respect to their specific issue, thus allowing our citizens to be able overcome their challenges and making Avery County a better place to live, work, and play.

II. Objectives to Address the Cooperative Extension Long Range Plan

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 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

The Avery County Center of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service works closely with the Avery County Government to ensure that our programs will complement the County Government's initiatives. We work with elected officials as well as individual departments to promote the county's and individual department's plans of action for the citizens of Avery County. This is achieved through personal one on one visit with those involved during the course of the year or as is necessitated by current events. Our staff are members, and advisers of many different boards and groups within and without the county government. This affords us the opportunity to respond quickly and effectively to the challenges faced daily by our county partner.

IV. Diversity Plan

North Carolina Cooperative Extension is committed to the provision of equal employment opportunity for all staff, the value of diversity and the elimination of discrimination on the basis of irrelevant characteristics such as race, nationality, religious beliefs, ethnicity, family and marital status, gender, age, sexual orientation, or disability.

Avery County Center of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension reflects that statement by embracing and welcoming diversity as an important quality in Avery County. The Avery County Cooperative Extension programs are open to all people and are advertised to the general population. We advertise all our meetings workshops, lectures, field tours and any other events through all of the local media outlets. We also recruit and encourage diversity with all of our committees and programs. All efforts will be made to ensure that our services are available to all citizens. The goal of the Avery County Cooperative Extension Center is to include all individuals of all walks of life.

Our equal opportunity statement is printed on all educational material:

“North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University
commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity
regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, sex, age,
veteran status, or disability. In addition, the two Universities welcome
all persons without regard to sexual orientation. North Carolina State
University, North Carolina A&T State University, U.S. Department of
Agriculture and local governments cooperating.”

V. Primary Delivery and Evaluation Methods

Delivering timely, relevant educational programs that answers critical local issues is the cornerstone of Extension’s mission. Extension educational programs are designed to equip the citizens of Avery 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 agents 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, home study kits, newsletters, email, Web blogs, Facebook, twitter, and any other electronic and non-electronic means 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 Avery 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 Avery 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. 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

Agriculture Committee
Dewayne Krege
Gretchen Blackburn
Lear Powell
Andy Vaughan
Dee Clark
Jack Wiseman Jr
4-H Advisory Board
Dewayne Krege
John Hicks
Ruth Shirley
Tim Hartley
Amy Greene
Rachel Townsend
Brooke Buchanan
Aaron Ricker
ALS Council
Dewayne Krege
Ken Walters
Jesse Pope
Melynda Peebles
BJ Beuttell
Elaine Ollis
Shawn Hoilman
Shannon Mathis
Brandon Townsend
Bobby Gragg
Lizz Burt
Gretchen Blackburn
James Dean
Rhonda Arnold
Kelly Johnson
Local Foods/Farmers Market
Kyle Kitchen
Amos Niddifer
D C Smith
Waightstill Avery

VII. Staff Membership

Jerry Moody
Title: County Extension Director, and Extension Agent, Horticulture
Phone: (828) 733-8270
Email: jerry_moody@ncsu.edu
Brief Job Description: County Extension Director and Agricultural agent responsible for Christmas Trees, Ornamentals, Turf, landscape, pesticide education, consumer horticulture, greenhouse and administration.

Melanie Cashion
Title: EFNEP Educator, Extension Program Assistant
Phone: (828) 733-8270
Email: melanie_cashion@ncsu.edu
Brief Job Description: Program Assistants help families learn the practical skills necessary to improve the nutritional quality of the meals they serve their families. The hands-on, learn by doing approach of EFNEP allows the participants to make multiple positive behavior changes. These include better managing their food budgets, preparing and eating more meals at home, increasing physical activity, making healthy food and drink choices, limiting TV time, controlling portion sizes and using safe food practices.

Kim Davis
Title: County Extension Support Specialist
Phone: (828) 733-8270
Email: kim_davis@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

Arizona Gragg
Title: County Extension Administrative Assistant
Phone: (828) 733-8270
Email: aggragg@ncsu.edu

Lauren Greene
Title: Area Specialized Agent, Agriculture - 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.

Alicia Hicks
Title: 4-H Program Assistant, 4-H Youth Development
Phone: (828) 733-8270
Email: alhicks2@ncsu.edu

Bill Hoffman
Title: Extension Agent, Agriculture and Natural Resources
Phone: (828) 733-8270
Email: wfhoffman@ncat.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.

Michelle South
Title: Area Agent, Agriculture - Livestock
Phone: (828) 733-8270
Email: michelle_south@ncsu.edu

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.

Bobbie Willard
Title: Extension Agent, 4-H Youth Development
Phone: (828) 733-8275
Email: bobbie_willard@ncsu.edu

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

Avery County Center
661 Vale Rd.
Newland, NC 28657

Phone: (828) 733-8270
Fax: (828) 733-8293
URL: http://avery.ces.ncsu.edu