2020 Watauga County Plan of Work

Approved: January 24, 2020

I. County Background

With a population of just over 55,000, Watauga County is located in the northwest corner of the state and is home to Appalachian State University, the incorporated towns of Boone and Blowing Rock, and is a destination for skiing in the winter, adventure sports in the summer, and fall leaf-season. While tourism, the university, and healthcare are the primary industries in the county, the county still maintains a strong small-scale agricultural base with livestock, Christmas trees, and many small acreage diversified farms. Watauga County Cooperative Extension focuses on issues and develops programming priorities based on current trends and issues facing the county per feedback from the County Extension Advisory Committee, regular meetings with county leaders, and clientele needs. Watauga County has a wide variety of community-serving agencies and a strong collaborative atmosphere. Extension maintains contact and works directly with many of these agencies, often serving on boards or as liaisons. In 2018, Watauga participated in the statewide Extension needs assessment and solicited input from its Extension Advisory Leadership Committee and other clientele groups. Each year, Watauga County meets with its Advisory Leadership Committee to stay current with issues facing the county. Additionally, Watauga Cooperative Extension's programming priorities align with the County's Comprehensive plan (the Citizens Plan for Watauga) http://www.wataugacounty.org/App_Pages/Dept/Planning/Forms/WataugaPlan.pdf

Some of the major focus areas for 2020 continue to be:
*local food production and marketing, nutrition and consumer education for adults and youth,
*small farm diversification and specialty crop production,
*marketing and production issues for the county's Christmas tree industry,
*horticulture, including home horticulture consultation and problem identification and landscape industry issues
*added value and beef quality assurance programming for the county's cattle industry and small-scale livestock producers (estimated county beef cattle herd at 7,000 head),
*pesticide safety and outreach with farmers and farmworkers, and
*grant-writing to support programming with other area agencies and organizations
*providing production options for new/diverse farming operations and forest-farming in underutilized forestlands in the county

Watauga County's Extension staff includes 5 agents (including the County Extension Director) and one administrative assistant. Agents have programming experience and expertise in agriculture & specialty crops, livestock, horticulture, natural resources, and local food & nutrition. The county's 4-H position has been vacant since 2015 due to Extension's Strategic Plan realignment and resulting county funding priorities. Additional conversations with county leadership & Extension administration will take place in 2020 to address this gap in Extension programming. In the meantime, our agents continue to partner with other county agencies & groups on youth-focused activities.

Watauga County has a large clientele base of non-resident landowners (summer & vacation homes). Our Horticulture Agent focuses programming primarily on home-horticulture and landscaping while providing technical support to our Christmas tree growers and landscaping industry professionals. Our Livestock Agent offers programming to members of the Watauga County Cattlemen’s Association and to many of the county’s small-scale livestock, poultry, and other meat animal producers. With a high percentage of the population below the poverty line (around 30%) Our FCS/Local Food Agent works within the rural school systems in Watauga and Caldwell counties to provide nutrition education via Snap-Ed. She also works with several non-profits and local food council for promotion of our “High Country Grown” marketing initiative connecting producers and restaurants. With a high clientele interest in small-fruits and other specialty crops, our Area Specialized agent provides support to our regional (Watauga, Ashe, and surrounding counties) specialty crops growers who support the burgeoning local food movement. The County Extension Director administers operations at the county office and also provides support and programming to the Christmas tree industry, forest landowners, and a growing number of medicinal herb producers and landowners interested in diversifying production in their underutilized woodlands.

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 4-H youth development programs grow the skills young people need to succeed in life and career.

Our natural resource and environmental programs conserve our precious natural resources and maintain a clean and healthy environment.

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 efforts in Watauga County continue to link strongly to a number of objectives listed in the "Citizens Plan for Watauga" (http://www.wataugacounty.org/main/App_Pages/Dept/Planning/Forms/WataugaPlan.pdf). This plan was adopted in 2010 by Watauga County Government, with heavy input from the community and county citizens in the form of an Environmental Scan/survey. The following TOP TEN ISSUES are the focus for the Citizens Plan for Watauga. Extension's Plan of Work includes objectives related the following elements of the Citizens Plan for Watauga (indicated by *):

1) Traffic Congestion
2) Water Availability
3) Protection of Natural Resources*
4) Farmland/Large Tract Preservation*
5) Clear Land Use Divisions
6) Preservation of Unique Community Identities and Mountain Heritage*
7) Economic Development* / Employment / Affordable Housing
8) Emergency Services Keeping Pace with Growth
9) Educational Opportunities*
10) Widespread Recreational Opportunities

Extension programming addresses recreation opportunities and issues related to economic development in the agricultural sector as they pertain to recreation and tourism--specifically agritourism with small-scale producers and choose-and-cut Christmas tree growers. Sustainability and profitability of agriculture is a county government objective that also aligns with statewide Cooperative Extension objectives. Each of our agents is engaged in some capacity with this county objective with their individual commodity and clientele groups and with integrated cross-programming efforts.

Cooperative Extension also addresses many of the agricultural issues specified in the Watauga County Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Plan which was ratified in 2013. This document provides baseline information and serves as a guide for our programming towards agricultural sustainability in the County. Watauga Cooperative Extension shares a close relationship with the county soil and water conservation board as well as the federal Farm Service Agency. Agents work with these agencies on various cost-share and farm disaster related issues.

The Watauga County Agricultural Conference Center is a designated emergency/disaster staging location in the county. We serve as a resource to county government in providing them information related to disaster impacts to farmers, producers, and the ag economy in general.

IV. Diversity Plan

Watauga County Extension commits itself to positive action to secure equal opportunity and follows the NC Cooperative Extension’s Cooperating Statement: North Carolina Cooperative Extension (NCCE) is committed to the value of diversity in our organization and to the provision of equal opportunity and non-discrimination in all employment for our staff and to all citizens seeking to participate in our programs. Under Title VI and Title XII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, as amended, and various federal and state laws and University policies, as well as personal and organizational beliefs and values, we are committed to the elimination of discrimination on the basis of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, political beliefs, family and marital status, sex, age, veteran status, sexual orientation, genetic information, or disability.

The majority of Watauga County residents (95%) are white, with minorities (primarily Latino) making up less than 5% of the population.Other census information for Watauga County can be found here: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/wataugacountynorthcarolina/PST045216

Watauga County Extension has worked with the growing Hispanic population in the county since 1996. The Watauga County Advisory Leadership Council has had a Hispanic member since 2001. Pesticide and farm safety issues with Latino farmworkers is addressed on a farm by farm basis, predominantly with the Christmas tree industry. The County Director, Jim Hamilton, is bilingual and is the primary point of contact with Latino clientele.

The Watauga County Extension staff works with a diverse demographic of small-scale farmers in the county. All but very few of the farms in Watauga County are considered "small-scale" operations. In addition, the staff works with limited resource families and individuals in many capacities--in agriculture, farmworker education, as well as with nutrition and educational programs at small rural schools. With an almost 30% poverty rate, many school children in the county need access to fresh, healthy food. Nutrition and school gardening programs will be carried out by Extension with low-income schools in the county to build awareness in youth and families on the benefits of locally grown food. Watauga County Extension will continue to partner on many efforts with Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture--a local non-profit group dedicated to increasing opportunities for female farmers.

V. Primary Delivery and Evaluation Methods

Our County Agricultural Conference Center is the 'hub' for county Extension programming and provides valuable meeting space that can comfortably house 100 participants. In addition to the County Extension Center, Extension educational programs are delivered in community centers, on farms, and other locations for our programs to be available and accessible to, and fully utilized by, the citizens of Watauga County. Our commitment is being customer driven and customer focused. We will utilize traditional and online media to continue to market and assist in the delivery of our research-based information. Our Facebook page has regular interaction with over 1,700 community members and our radio PSA programming reaches over 5,000 regional listeners during twice-daily broadcasts on 106.1 "The Highway." Our county website, http://watauga.ces.ncsu.edu is regularly updated regarding program offerings and community events. Agents will also present at various conferences and meetings that we organize and that we are invited to participate in.

We use evaluation methods that quantitatively measure whether changes occurred as a result of 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 that participants gain from our programs. More specifically, we use summative and formative assessment to measure change in knowledge gained, the application of that knowledge, number of new skills developed, and types of new skills developed. Extension is committed to assess 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. Financial impacts and cost benefit analyses are primary evaluation methods that we can measure using pre and post programming questionnaires and evaluation. Another value held in Extension is actively listening to and dialoguing with targeted learners. Therefore, we also use qualitative evaluation methods such as testimonials from program participants, and interviews and focus groups with participants.

Delivering timely, relevant educational programs that meet critical local needs is the cornerstone of Extension’s mission. Our educational programs are designed to equip the citizens of Watauga County with the knowledge, skills and tools to improve their economic prosperity, agricultural and environmental stewardship and quality of life. An Extension program delivery system is a planned and organized and innovative mix of educational methods used during an educational program. Our educational methods are tailored to deliver research-based information to our clientele through a wide variety of hands-on, experiential educational methods, such as interactive workshops and classes, demonstrations, and field days and tours. This diverse delivery allows learners to fully engage in the learning process, test new knowledge and/or practice new skills during the educational sessions. Equally important, educational methods such as seminars, client visits, workshops, field demonstrations, and online resources that support and reinforce learning. We deliver 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.

VI. Membership of Advisory Leadership System

Watauga County Advisory Leadership Council
Alayon, Marcia
Hodges, Tim
Jordan, Casey
Moretz, Bill
Rankin, Lee
Yates, Perry
Walker, Eugene
Walker, Dave
Wendelspect, Sandy
Livestock & Field Crops Committee
Rusty Henson
Doug Jones
BW Miller
Jeff Winkler
Lee Rankin
Eugene Walker
Denny Norris
Alternative Ag. Advisory Council
Thomas, Jeff
Thomas, Will
Fiedler, Amy
Joyner, Ron
Wild, Hollis
den Biggelaar, Christof
Sengel, David
Walworth, Scott
Baldridge, Deborah
Shiloh Avery
Deb Fishel
Sanford Fishel
Michael Lewis
Master Gardener Advisory Council
Robin Winn
Robin Greene
Sandy Windelspect
Margaret Trosper
Patti Pleasants

VII. Staff Membership

Jim Hamilton
Title: County Extension Director
Phone: (828) 264-3061
Email: jim_hamilton@ncsu.edu
Brief Job Description: Administration, Forestry & Christmas trees, ginseng production, bilingual pesticide education, safety, & training.

Richard Boylan
Title: Area Agent, Small Farm Management
Phone: (828) 264-3061
Email: richard_boylan@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.

Kirsten Dillman
Title: County Extension Administrative Assistant
Phone: (828) 264-3061
Email: kirsten_dillman@ncsu.edu
Brief Job Description: Administration

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 Cohen
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.

Eddy Labus
Title: Extension Agent, Agriculture - Field Crops and Livestock
Phone: (828) 264-3061
Email: eddy_labus@ncsu.edu

Margie Mansure
Title: Extension Agent, Family and Consumer Sciences - Nutrition and Foods
Phone: (828) 264-3061
Email: margie_mansure@ncsu.edu
Brief Job Description: Margie Mansure is an Extension Agent, Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist, and Culinarian who serves Watauga and Caldwell counties. Diet culture is nothing new, but social media has made it even more prevalent. Anyone with a “fit” appearance has the tools to promote themselves as an expert, along with a diet encouraging strict rules and even elimination of many healthy foods. Through her personal and professional journey, Margie has realized that food choices should not be complicated or stressful, as stress is hazardous to well-being. Food choices are not a moral issue. Food should provide pleasure and nourishment for the body and spirit. That’s why Margie works to: 1. Promote purchasing from local food producers for fresh, flavorful food and beverage choices and development of community. 2. Help people develop cooking skills by offering hands-on cooking classes and instructional videos. Developing any skill-set requires time and perseverance. But being able to prepare your own fresh, fabulous tasting and nourishing food to share is definitely worth the energy investment.

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.)

Paige Patterson
Title: Extension Agent, Agriculture - Consumer and Commercial Horticulture
Phone: (828) 264-3061
Email: paige_patterson@ncsu.edu

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

Watauga County Center
971 W King St
Boone, NC 28607

Phone: (828) 264-3061
Fax: (828) 264-3067
URL: http://watauga.ces.ncsu.edu