2018 Polk County Plan of Work

Approved: January 23, 2018

I. County Background

Polk County's population was 20,510 according to the 2010 US Census. In 2014 the population estimate increased to 20,740 and is projected in increase to nearly 22,000 by 2019 which represents an increase of over 9%. Development in Polk County was at an all time high beginning in 2002 and continuing to 2007. The average number of building permits from 2003 to 2007 was 170 per year (189 in 2006). The economic downturn of the country has effected the local construction situation. The annual number of permits for single family dwellings dropped way below the 2006 high down to 43 units in 2012 and 47 permits in 2013. In 2014, that number came back up to 68 permits and has increased though 2017. An Economic boom is on the way for Polk County due to the Tryon International Equestrian Center's hosting of the 2018 World Equestrian Games. Polk County will be on the world stage and will host a half a million people over a two week period during the games. This has already lead to increased interest in local land for homes and farms. I expect to see building permits rise dramatically over the next 10 years as well as prices.

There has been continued strong interest in preserving farms and forest land. Polk County Government enacted a Voluntary Agricultural District in 2002 and became the first in the state to adopt the Enhanced Voluntary Agricultural Districts in 2006. Polk County was also one of the first of two counties to prepare and adopt a farmland protection plan. In 2016 the county had 290 farms and 24,101 acres in the overall farmland with 5,829 acres harvested with a total value of nearly 11 million dollars.

Several factors changed in 2009 and continued through 2017. All four elementary schools in the county have over 50 percent of its students with free or reduced lunch. One positive of the local economy is the Polk County unemployment rate. In 2017 the county had a low unemployment rate of 3.7 percent. Unfortunately many of these jobs are low paying, part time jobs. This requires many residents to either work multiple jobs or to commute out of the county for work. On the bright side, the Tryon International Equestrian Center has brought Polk County to the forefront of equestrian activities in North Carolina. This center has brought many new faces to the county and adds a significant increase to the tax base though property taxes and tourism. Many of our local residents are finding work within the development. Another bright area has been the adoption of local foods. We now have several farmers markets throughout the county and our farmers are marketing their produce and meats locally and regionally. This success is enabling many young farmers to make a living from small acreage and build the local economy.

When Cooperative Extension conducted its 2012/13 Environmental Scan several issues were identified that do not fit Cooperative Extension's mission. Among them were College Affordability, Changing Job Market, Continuation of After School Programs, Low Wage Employment, Poverty in Polk County, Too Many Government Regulations, Farm Prices Not Increasing Enough and Supply of Fresh Water.

Fortunately there were several identified issues or needs that fit into the Extension programming to include, exposing young people to career options, healthy eating for all citizens, alternative leisure activities unrelated to sports, health issues related to poor nutrition, growing and preserving food, access to fresh local produce, aging farmers helping young farmers, GAP certification for farms, encourage "buy local" efforts, new ideas to improve tourism opportunities and protecting our farmland from development.

The Polk County Extension Center completed its environmental scan from 2013 to gauge the concerns and issues people have in the community. The most recent scan identified the following state major objectives for our local programming in 2016; 1)Local Food Systems, 2)Healthy Eating, Physical Activity and Chronic Disease Risk Reduction, 3)School to Career(youth & adults), and 4)Profitable and Sustainable Agriculture Systems.

A significant effort that started in 2010 and will continue into 2018 is the 10 percent buy local campaign. This effort will be promoted by the entire staff with the primary focus on the purchase and preparation of food grown on Polk County farms. This year the county FCS program will continue "Flavor of Polk" project, promoting a locally grown commodity while informing folks how to cook and preserve local produce. FCS is also planning teach "Safe Plate" in order to assist our restaurants to prevent food born illness. FCS will continue its' efforts in the SNAP Ed curriculum with two primary audiences, the seniors(60yrs & up) in the community and with all of the 2nd graders in the county's public schools.

In the 2013 WNC Healthy Impact Report, 24.3 percent of Polk County is 65 years old or older. This is the higher than the state average(12.9%) and the region(19%). The leading causes of death in Polk County are cancer, heart disease and respiratory disease. The 2013 Community Health Improvement Plan indicated that Diabetes health issue was an important priority. The Polk County rate is increasing. In order to address this FCS is teaching a diabetes support class which meets over several weeks to teach participants how to best manage their condition. This class was a complete success in 2016 and 2017 and will be continued in 2018 a no cost to the participant.

At the top of our environmental scan's issues for youth was our children's ability to compete in the 21st Century for the varying job skills market. 4-H plans to help educate young people on the various career options through stem and soft skills programming. Providing opportunities to practice critical thinking skills was also high on the list issues. Respondents also identified healthy eating and obesity as important issues. Others stated that families needed more opportunity to spend time outdoors and with more non-traditional activities available to them.

4-H Enrichment activities will include programs in the Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM). Statistics show that there is currently a shortage of people to fill science and technology related careers. Polk County 4-H programming will be provided to encourage young people to explore careers in science related fields plus encourage young people to consider higher educational opportunities such as college.

Research indicates that youth who have participated in career exploration in a quality learning situation have greater confidence in their career search. Polk County 4-H plans to incorporate varied career options in the subject matter being taught. Among some of the special programs to be offered 4-H has financial literacy for middle and high school students, livestock judging for agricultural production, farm visitation for local foods and cooking or culinary classes to explore some life skills. 4-H is also exploring the options of starting a 4-H shooting sports program.

Landscaper education will be emphasized in 2018 with multiple pesticide classes/landscape contractor classes and consultations with local landscapers on how we can best help to educate the local green industry. The Extension office will also expand demonstrations of landscape plants, lawn grasses and vegetable crops. Local food production is an annual focus and 2018 will be no different. Polk County Extension will be at the forefront of helping new and and experience farmers increase revenue though high value crops on small acreage. This will include working on demonstrations and research at our Extension office. We will also teach many classes to focus our farmers on profitable crops and environmental stewardship.

II. Objectives to Address the Cooperative Extension Long Range Plan

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.

Futures that Work: School to Career Pathways

Consumers and communities will enhance the value of plants, animals, and landscapes while conserving valuable natural resources and protecting the environment.

Youth and adult program participants will make healthy food choices, achieve the recommended amount of physical activity and reduce risk factors for chronic diseases.

III. Relationship to County Government Objectives

Cooperative Extension in Polk County has a number of roles with County Government during times of emergencies. Its primary function is to assist in disaster planning on both the Hazard Mitigation Committee and the County Animal Response Team (CART). Extension is also a member of the Polk County Economic development team. The purpose of this group is to focus on the strengths of each department in developing the overall economic engine of Polk County. We also advise the appearance commission and will be working with our local cities to acquire flowers for beautification during the WEG games.

IV. Diversity Plan

Cooperative Extension needs to address some under served population groups in the county. Currently there is 88.4% White, 4.5% Black, 5% Hispanic and the remaining 2.1 percent made up of several minorities primarily 1.4% more than one race. At present the poverty rate in Polk County is 14.5% (with a child poverty rate of 28%.

We are attempting to determine how to reach these pockets of diverse populations. We do a great deal of program promotion through the two local newspapers but often our diverse residents do not subscribe to either of these papers.

Polk County is addressing this through a diversity of mediums.
* Utilize social media, email and snail mail
* All programs are open to Polk County citizens without bias
* Collaborate with other organizations and agencies to offer educational programs
* Have awareness of the diverse make-up of the groups we are serving
* Serve on committees that serve a diverse group of citizens
* Participate in events that reach under-served communities
* Seek out opportunities to expand programs to reach a variety of diverse groups
* Develop a marketing plan that creates awareness of services offered by Cooperative Extension - enabling us to reach new diverse audiences

V. Primary Delivery and Evaluation Methods

Delivering timely, relevant educational programs that meet critical local needs is the backbone of Extension’s mission. Extension educational programs are designed to equip the citizens of Polk County with the knowledge, skills and tools to improve their economic prosperity, environmental stewardship and quality of life. The 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 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. Equally important, this plan will also 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. Extension educators also select educational methods based on the learning style preferences and special needs of the intended audience. Another key feature of Extension program delivery that is evident in this plan is our commitment to being customer driven and customer focus. One of the goals in 2017 is to continue to improve the existing website and other on-line media such as YouTube, Facebook and constant contact to promote our local Extension educational programming.

In Extension, success is defined as the extent to which our educational programs have made a difference in the lives of the citizens of Polk County. Evaluation methods are the way we make those observations as to 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. The ultimate goal of these programs is to create a real impact which occurs when the learner applies what is taught. We will know we have reached this goal by establishing measurable objectives prior to delivering any program. If these objectives indicate an insufficiency, programs will be reworked to better meet the needs of the learner.

VI. Membership of Advisory Leadership System

County Advisory Council
Brian Griffin
Marche Pittman
Terry Lynch
Erin Thompson
Jesse Navaro
Cathy Ruth
Polk County 4-H Foundation
Sarah Edwards
Ann Arledge
Wally Hughes
John vining
Dot McClintock
Bob Chromer
Jackie Weedon
Jesse Navaro
Extension Associates County Council
Anita Summey
Aurelia Mayer
Millie Granger
Betty Graham
Camille Alexander
Nancy Johnson
Sue Mathers

VII. Staff Membership

Scott Welborn
Title: County Extension Director
Phone: (828) 894-8218
Email: scott_welborn@ncsu.edu
Brief Job Description: Lead the dynamic Polk County Extension office through Administration and Horticultural programming

Helen Blackwell
Title: Extension Agent, 4-H Youth Development
Phone: (828) 894-8218
Email: helen_clark@ncsu.edu

Brent Buchanan
Title: Area Specialized Agent, Agriculture - Dairy
Phone: (315) 212-1277
Email: brent_buchanan@ncsu.edu
Brief Job Description: Dairy Extension Programming in Western North Carolina Counties of Haywood, Madison, Buncombe, Transylvania, Henderson, Yancey, McDowell, Polk, Rutherford, Mitchell, Avery, Burke, Cleveland, Watauga, Caldwell, Catawba, Lincoln, Gaston, Ashe, Wilkes, Alexander, Iredell, Alleghany, Surry, Yadkin, and Davie.

Jimmi Buell
Title: Extension Agent, Family and Consumer Sciences
Phone: (828) 894-8218
Email: jimmi_buell@ncsu.edu

Richard Goforth
Title: Area Specialized Agent, Agriculture - Poultry
Phone: (704) 283-3801
Email: richard_goforth@ncsu.edu

Sarah Gottfried
Title: County Extension Administrative Assistant
Phone: (828) 894-8218
Email: sarah_gottfried@ncsu.edu

Noah Henson
Title: Area Agent, Agriculture - Livestock, Dairy, Equine, Forages
Phone: (828) 255-5522
Email: nbhenson@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.

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: 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 & 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.

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

Polk County Center
79 Carmel Lane
Columbus, NC 28722

Phone: (828) 894-8218
Fax: (828) 894-5693
URL: http://polk.ces.ncsu.edu