2020 Polk County Plan of Work

Approved: February 13, 2020

I. County Background

Polk County's population estimate was nearly 21,000 for 2019. The population is projected in increase to nearly 22,000 by 2021 which represents an increase of over 4%. 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 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 2020. An Economic boom is underway in Polk County due to the construction of the Tryon International Equestrian Center along with the general increase in surrounding job opportunities in both NC and the Upstate of SC. No one can predict the future but Polk County is well situated for growth over the next decade.

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. Polk county currently has 290 farms and 24,101 acres in farmland with 5,829 acres harvested with a total value of nearly 11 million dollars with hay being the largest crop followed by cattle.

Several factors changed in 2009 and continued through 2020. 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 2019 the county had a low unemployment rate of 3.2 percent. Fortunately many of these jobs are high paying, full time jobs due to an influx of new businesses that require skilled labor and management. There are many other high paying jobs available within a 30 min. commute. 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, sales taxes and occupancy taxes. Many of our local residents are finding work within the development or with business related to it. 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. Polk County Extension is supporting this trend through the development of it's research farm which consists of vegetable trial and will soon expand to include small ruminates and pasture trials.

When Cooperative Extension conducted its 2018 Environmental Scan one major issue was identified. Career awareness, readiness and employable skills was clearly the most felt need in the county. This area is broad but is a perfect fit for Extension 4h programing as well as AG and FCS. Many programs were taught in 2019 to address this need and will continue in 2020.

With career/job issues at the top of the environmental scan 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, employable skills spin clubs and provide opportunities for members to travel to local and regional companies of all sizes to see first hand what is required for certain careers. 4-H will also partner with the Horticulture agent to offer a spin club that will develop agricultural knowledge and skills This along with traditional program offerings will give the 4-H participant many options for growth as a person and development into a productive, responsible and employable adult.

Landscaper and citizen education will be emphasized in 2020 with pesticide 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 2020 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 classes to focus our farmers on profitable vegetable crops and environmental stewardship. In addition, Extension will focus on pasture management for both our ruminate and horse owners through consultations and partnered workshops with other Extension offices and organizations.

II. Objectives to Address the Cooperative Extension Long Range Plan

Our family and consumer sciences programs improve the well-being of individuals, families, and communities.

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 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

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. Extension is thought of as an expert in agriculture for the county.

IV. Diversity Plan

Cooperative Extension needs to address some under served population groups in the county. Currently there is 88% White, 4% Black, 6% Hispanic and the remaining 2% is made up primarily of more than one race. At present the poverty rate in Polk County is 12.5%.

While he have a very small minority population we aim to meet their needs. These individuals tend to be elderly and our FCS program has done great job in recruiting and including them in the program. In fact we have one majority minority FCS club. We do a great deal of program promotion through the two local newspapers, social media and website. We also have representation from our largest minority group on our Advisory board who provides great insite on the needs of the community and how we can better serve them.

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
* 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 2020 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
Terry Lynch
Jane Lynch
Joleen Eizember
Rafael Bravo
Polk County 4-H Foundation
Terry Lynch
Ann Arledge
Wally Hughes
Peggy Padgett
Bob Chromer
Jackie Weedon
Darlene Mcfarland
Terry Lynch
David Lecourt
Darlene McFarlane
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

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

Marissa Herchler
Title: Area Specialized Agent, Agriculture - Animal Food Safety
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, pet food and ingredient facilities in North Carolina. Please contact Marissa with any animal food safety-related questions, or Preventive Controls for Animal Food (PCAF/PCQI) training inquiries.

Kerry Jones
Title: County Extension Administrative Assistant
Phone: (828) 894-8218
Email: kjones24@ncsu.edu
Brief Job Description: With a long background in marketing and administration, including helping farmers and agri-business owners improve their marketing efforts, Kerry has joined the Polk County office with the expectation of increasing awareness of the N.C. Cooperative Extension's offerings and events to county farmers, gardeners, homeowners, and residents.

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.

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

Polk County Center
79 Carmel Lane
Columbus, NC 28722

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