2019 Polk County Program Impact Report

Approved: February 13, 2020

I. Executive Summary

The Polk County Center of North Carolina Cooperative Extension is proud to serve the small but dynamic Polk County. We are a rapidly changing county with the introduction of the Tryon International Equestrian Center and a large influx of people choosing to make Polk County their home. As a small staff we work very hard to provide solutions and empower the people of this county.

The Cooperative Extension staff serves the citizens of Polk County by providing unbiased, research-based information through educational programming and personal consultation. In 2019, nearly 700 volunteers contributed 3,260 hours extending the reach of the Polk Extension office through Master Gardener, ECA and 4-H. These volunteer hours are valued at nearly $83,000. The Polk County Center directly reached over 5,000 people and reached nearly 7000 additional people through phone/email.

During the past year, 21 adult women were actively involved in ECA, over 600 youth in the county participated in 4-H activities and there were 61 registered Master Gardener and horticulture volunteers.

Below are some program highlights:

-30 pesticide applicators received continuing education credits in order to maintain their pesticide licenses. As a result, these applicators preserved their ability to apply pesticides on their farms and for income generation.

-An Ag Options grant was applied for and awarded to a local legacy orchard to install a new high density cider apple orchard to serve the hard cider industry. This orchard will allow the next generation of this farm to move back and create a new profitable orchard.

-Polk County extension continued work on its a 1/4 acre research/demonstration vegetable garden to better "vet" vegetable varieties for our growers here in Polk County. This garden produced over $8,000 worth of produce that was utilized by our county meals on wheels program and through our senior center kitchen. The data collected from this garden was shared with our local farmers and as a result several utilized our tested varieties in their fall production and will do so again this spring.

-Polk Extension partnered with a local Girl Scout troop to develop a landscape at Tryon Elementary. This included both in class education for the girls and on site design and planting instruction.

-Polk Extension partnered with the farmers market to conduct farm inspections as a requirement to become a vendor at our local farmers market. These inspections looked for proper pesticide use, potential product contamination and safe handling practices. Along with the inspection process Extension took time to educate farmers about safe production and handling practices. All of the farms inspected reported a boost in sales due to their certification flag being displayed.

-Polk County Extension conducted a fence building course at the Extension office. This course lasted two weeks where we instructed 14 people on the proper way to build a fence for small ruminates. This class included both in class instruction and many days of hands on construction work.

-The Polk County Cooperative Extension Conducted a "Men's cooking class" which typically serves recently widowed men with little to no cooking ability. Through this course the participants learned cooking basics. If these men cooked 2 meals a day instead of eating out they could save a total of nearly $55,000 per year as a group.

The Polk County Cooperative Extension conducted several Mediterranean Cooking classes. This type of cooking is considered very healthy and is in great demand. Each class filled within days of its offering. As a result 77% of participants increase their knowledge of preparing and eating the Mediterranean Way, 93% of participants plan to prepare healthier style meals and 93% of participants are committed to using food labels in planning healthy meals. These changes will help participants improve their overall health and hopefully reduce medical bills.

-NC Safe plates is a required program to ensure restaurants are utilizing healthy practices in their kitchens. The Polk County FCS agent offered this program in Polk County and reported that all participants passed the national exam and received their Certified Food Protection Manager certificate. Without this they can not operate their food business thereby protecting thousands of dollars in income.

-Through youth leadership training, hands on workshops and experience in multifaceted project areas over 500 youth have increased their STEM knowledge and gained employable skills which is a top need in our community as determined by our environmental scan.

-“Local foods” is extremely popular and needed. Extension offered many classes this issue such as vegetable gardening, soils, pesticides, IPM, small fruits, etc. As result of Polk County Extension programing 2,500 residents reported producing food at their home with a value of approximately $1600 per garden for a total county production value $4,000,000.

-Polk County Extension's 4-H program introduced a new goat program in 2019. This program saw full rosters of participants and a thriving herd of Nigerian dwarf goats.

-In addition to these programs highlights, Polk County Extension also worked with thousands of local citizens to solve programs in the homes, farms and businesses.

-These are just a few examples of how the Polk County Center of North Carolina Cooperative Extension improves the quality of citizens’ lives every day by providing unbiased, research-based information. Thank you for the opportunity to serve Polk County.

II. County Background

Polk County's population estimate was 20,558 for 2017. The population 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 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 2018. 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. In 2018 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 with hay being the largest crop followed by cattle.

Several factors changed in 2009 and continued through 2018. 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 2018 the county had a low unemployment rate of 3.5 percent. Unfortunately many of these jobs are low paying, part time jobs but this year we have seen an influx of new business with higher paying jobs for skilled labor and management. Hopefully this trend to higher paying jobs will continue but currently many residents work multiple jobs or commute out of the county for work. There are many high paying jobs available within at 30 min. commute. 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, 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.

This year the county FCS program will address this issue by offering "Safe Plate" training in order to assist our restaurants to prevent food born illness and to train workers with the skills necessary to be successful in the restaurant business. 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. FCS will also continue to address the needs of the elderly population with men's cooking classes and healthy eating/living initiatives.

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 2019 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 2019 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.

III. 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.

Value* Outcome Description
30Number of producers who gain skills or knowledge to increase production for local markets.
14Number of producers who improve local food marketing skills or knowledge.
22Number of pesticide applicators receiving continuing education credits
12Number of pesticide credit hours provided
2Number of Extension initiated and controlled county demonstration test sites
* 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
7Number of teachers trained in 4-H STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) curriculum
457Number of youth (students) increasing knowledge in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)
9Number of high school age youth (students) participating as members of 4-H clubs
108Number of children/youth who improved knowledge of local food and agricultural systems.
42Number of youth demonstrating increased knowledge of natural resources and environmental issues
* Note: Values may include numbers from multi-county efforts.
Value* Impact Description
7Number of teachers using 4-H STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) curriculum in their classrooms
2Number of youth volunteers serving in new or expanded roles within Extension
1Number of youth volunteers serving in new or expanded roles beyond Extension, including community boards and task forces
4Number of youth assuming new/expanded leadership roles in the community
* 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
2300Number 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
33Number of individuals who grow food in community gardens.
332Number of individuals who begin home food production by starting a vegetable and/or fruit garden
34Number of individuals who begin home food production by starting to raise backyard livestock.
3238Number of participants who use extension-recommended best management practices in landscapes, turf, and gardens, including pest (insect, weed, disease, wildlife) and soil management
2238Number of participants selecting appropriate landscape plants (adapted, drought tolerant, appropriate size, etc.)
2537Number of participants growing food for home consumption
66Number of participants adopting composting
* Note: Values may include numbers from multi-county efforts.

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.

Value* Outcome Description
30Number of participants who increase their knowledge of safe home food handling, preservation, or preparation practices
45Number of individuals who learn how to prepare local foods, including through use of home food preservation techniques.
* Note: Values may include numbers from multi-county efforts.
Value* Impact Description
80Number of adults increasing their fruit and vegetables consumption
30Number of participants who consume less sodium in their diet
* Note: Values may include numbers from multi-county efforts.

IV. Number of Contacts Made by Extension

Type of ContactNumber
Face-to-face* 5,589
Non face-to-face** 374,303
Total by Extension staff in 2019 379,892
* 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 $0.00
Gifts/Donations $16,750.00
In-Kind Grants/Donations $2,000.00
United Way/Foundations $0.00
User Fees $4,370.00
Total $23,120.00

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 172 878 401 $ 22,328.00
Extension Community Association 19 30 100 $ 763.00
Extension Master Gardener 496 2332 0 $ 59,303.00
Other: Food & Nutrition 1 20 10 $ 509.00
Total: 688 3260 511 $ 82,902.00
* The number of volunteers reflects the overall number of volunteers for multiple events.

VII. Membership of Advisory Leadership System

County Advisory Council
Terry Lynch
Jane Lynch
Joleen Eizember
Rafael Bravo
Polk County 4-H Foundation
Sarah Edwards
Ann Arledge
Wally Hughes
Peggy Padgett
Bob Chromer
Jackie Weedon
Terry Lynch
David Lecourt
Darlene McFarlane
Extension Associates County Council
Anita Summey
Aurelia Mayer
Millie Granger
Betty Graham
Camille Alexander
Nancy Johnson
Sue Mathers

VIII. 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.

IX. 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