2020 Mitchell County Plan of Work

Approved: February 4, 2020

I. County Background

Mitchell County is a rural county located in the northern mountains of Western North Carolina on the Tennessee state line. It has an estimated population of 15,155 and is situated on 140 thousand acres, which is composed of 108,000 acres of woodland, 5,000 acres of cropland, 22,000 acres in pastures and hay land, and approximately 5,000 acres in streams and towns. Nationally, the county is known for its gems and minerals, and for the working artists who call Mitchell County home. Traditionally, the county has been a manufacturing county with agriculture providing secondary income to many. Many of the furniture and textile industries have closed but the mining industry remains as the largest industrial employer. Service sector jobs are increasing as tourism increases in the county. The natural beauty provided by the mountains and valleys that make up the county continue to draw many visitors to the area.

The North Carolina Cooperative Extension's Mitchell County Center staff and Advisory Leadership System members have conducted an environmental scan to determine the key educational issues of the county's citizens that should be given high priority by our staff. The environmental scan was conducted by surveying citizens, gathering input from various focus groups, advisory leadership council input, census information and direct observation. There were three key issues and trends identified from the environmental scan process. These issues include: Health and Nutrition, Sustainable, Profitable and Safe Plant, Animal and Food Systems, and Youth Achieving School to Career Success.

Since 1914, the North Carolina Cooperative Extension has been an outreach of North Carolina State University to provide the citizens of North Carolina current educational information, activities, and programs. The Mitchell County Center continues to be the gateway to educational information that meets the specific needs of the citizens in Mitchell County. Mitchell County Cooperative Extension staff are committed to helping people put researched-based information to work to improve their own lives.

4-H Youth Development - School to Career Success:
There is an on going concern that the United States is not preparing a sufficient number of students in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). When compared to other nations the U.S. is ranked 27th in math literacy. Providing STEM enrichment opportunities will inspire youth excitement and appreciation for STEM programs, especially among female students. Of the 15,155 Mitchell County residents, approximately 13.9% are children between the ages of 5-18. The median household income for the area shows that 16.7% of residents are in poverty. As a result, 55.4% of school-aged children participate in the subsidized lunch program receiving either free or reduced lunch during the 2018/19 school year. Our youth need opportunities for STEM education and education on healthy living.

Plant and Animal Production Systems:
Christmas tree production has become Mitchell County's most important economical crop with sales exceeding 3.5 million dollars in 2017. Fraser fir continues to be the most prevalent species with 38 growers raising 350+ acres on farms from as small as 1 acre to farms with 300 acres in production. For Christmas tree producers to remain competitive, they still must address issues of pest management, fertilization and plant development, and the genetic improvement of their planting stock. Integrated pest management has become a useful tool for pest control. Many of the growers have adopted certain IPM practices, but there is still room for more whole farm integration of this system. Adopting IPM practices will increase the judicious use of pesticides, improve quality, lessen the potential for pesticide resistance and reduce potential harmful impacts on the environment. Other Best Management Practices (BMP's) such as fertility management, groundcover management and financial management will be important for growers to remain profitable.

There are approximately 600 acres of horticultural crops being produced in Mitchell County. These include greenhouse and nursery crops, ornamentals, apples, vegetables and small fruits being grown by more that 150+ producers. During the past 10 years many small part-time and limited resource farmers have begun producing these as alternative crops. However, these crops have complex production and marketing practices which increase the economic hazards for new and present growers. With increased concerns for the environment, agricultural producers must incorporate environmentally safe practices into their operations in regard to soil, nutrient, water, and handling practices. Continued declines in the tobacco program will lead to increased interest in production practices and local marketing options for many of these horticultural crops.

Livestock production has seen a growth spurt over the past few years. With our small land base and herd sizes, it is important that our producers keep their cost reduced to insure that they are running profitable operations. Our 150 producers will need to focus on pasture, nutrition, breeding and health management of their livestock to remain profitable.

Food Safety and Nutrition:
Obesity rates continue to be an increasing concern for the youth and adults in Mitchell County. According to Western NC regional data 61% of adults are overweight or obese; 56% do not meet national recommendations for physical activity; 71% consume less than 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily; and 22% of adults currently smoke, a rate higher than the state. These issues are also affecting the county’s children. According to the NC Nutrition and Physical Activity Surveillance System, rates of childhood overweight/obesity for children ages 2 to 4 are significantly high (27.4% vs. 29.4% for the state). Many of our programs address nutrition and the importance of food safety as well as the importance of local foods.

Mitchell County Cooperative Extension will be addressing these issues in 2019 through our educational programming opportunities.

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 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

Mitchell County Cooperative Extension works to keep abreast of county activities and future plans so that we may best meet the needs of local government and county citizens. The Mitchell County Cooperative Extension Center has worked closely with county government during past emergencies and natural disasters to assist in carrying out emergency operations. We have provided educational information on dealing with life before and after floods and/or winter ice storms. Cooperative Extension has provided animal care recommendations following a disaster and assisted rescue and recovery of animals during and after a natural disaster.

We are working to assist Mitchell County citizens in economic recovery through agriculture education, life-skills development and entrepreneurship.

IV. Diversity Plan

Mitchell County's 2019 estimated population of 15,155 is made up of a small number of minorities. 2017 census estimates stated that the persons of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 5% of the population. This population has increased from 50 in 1990 to an estimated 879 in 2019. Eighteen percent (18%) of the population is below poverty level. Fourteen percent (14%) of the population over 25 years of age have no high school degree. Of the persons 21 to 64 years of age, 25% have some form of disability.

The Mitchell County Extension Center is committed to embracing the value of diversity and the elimination of discrimination on the basis of irrelevant characteristics such as race, nationality, socio-economic status, religious belief, ethnicity, family and marital status, gender, age, sexual orientation or disability. Our objective is to be inclusive, relevant and responsive in planning, designing, implementing and evaluating programs that target diverse audiences and recognizes and values all people. We plan to meet this objective by assessing the needs of our county clientele and involving all groups of citizens in the assessment process. Target audiences will be identified and programs will be planned to meet the identified needs. All programs are open to every Mitchell County citizen.

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 Mitchell 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 eclectic mix of educational methods used during an educational program. Extension education 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 include educational methods such as seminars, client visits, fact sheets, newsletters, and home study kits that serve to support and reinforce learning as well as provide motivation for continued learning. Armed with the most current literature on effective teaching and learning, Extension educators also skillfully select educational methods based on the learning style preferences and special needs of the targeted learners. These client-focused methods afford learners the opportunity to gain the necessary knowledge and skills to change their lives in meaningful ways. Another key feature of Extension program delivery that is evident in this plan is our commitment to being customer driven and customer focused. 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 Mitchell 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 Mitchell 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

Advisory Leadership Council
Kim Hodshon
Stephanie McClellan
Carolyn McKinney
Joe Miller
Kathy Garland
Doug Harrell
David E. Terrell
Rodney Buchanan
Chuck Vines
Jessica Farley
Brandon Pitman
Amanda Silver

Agriculture Advisory Committee
Doug Harrell
Dennis Johnson
Gerald Whitson
Tommy Phillips
James Miller
Mark Byrd
Jim Saylor
Christmas Tree Advisory Committee
John Wilson
Rodney Buchanan
David Yeater
Charles Turybyfill
4-H Advisory Committee
Amber Greene
Emily Jordan
Jessy-Kate Glenn
Clayton Roberts
Randy Ramsey

N.C. A&T 4-H Specialized Committee
Steve Rowland
Elizabeth Thomas
Roycene Jones
Sally Woody
Stacy Huffman
Misti Silver

VII. Staff Membership

Eve Kindley
Title: County Extension Director and Extension Agent, 4-H Youth Development
Phone: (828) 688-4811
Email: eve_kindley@ncsu.edu

Shane Biddix
Title: Extension Agent, Agriculture
Phone: (828) 688-4811
Email: sabiddix@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

Jennifer Guerrero
Title: Program Coordinator - A.L.I.V.E
Phone: (828) 688-4811
Email: jaguerr2@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.)

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.

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.

Vonda Vaughn
Title: County Extension Administrative Assistant
Phone: (828) 688-4811
Email: vonda_vaughn@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

Mitchell County Center
10 S Mitchell Ave
Bakersville, NC 28705

Phone: (828) 688-4811
Fax: (828) 688-2051
URL: http://mitchell.ces.ncsu.edu