2019 Watauga County Plan of Work

Approved: January 16, 2019

I. County Background

Watauga County, with a population of just over 55,000 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, adventure sports, and fall leaf-season tourists. 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 (often serving on boards or as liaisons) with many of these agencies. In 2018, Watauga participated in the statewide Extension needs assessment and solicited input from its Extension Advisory Leadership Committee and other clientele groups. 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 2019 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.

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. A 4-H program exploratory committee met in 2017 & 2018 to explore the possibilities of filling this position in the future. Additional conversations with county leadership will take place in 2019 to address this gap in Extension programming.

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 Family & Consumer Science and 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 with 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 cadre of ginseng producers.

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 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 making up less than 5% of the population, including a growing population of Hispanics, currently at around 3.5%, up from 1.4% in 2000. 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. Members of the Watauga County extension staff will work with this population in their educational programs on farms and within schools. 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 commitment is being customer driven and customer focused. 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. 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 1,550 community members and our radio PSA programming reaches 50,000 regional community members during twice-daily broadcasts. 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
Alford, La Rue
Bryan, Jim
Cimino, Laurie
Coulter, Carol
Hodges, Tim
Henson, Rusty
Moretz, Mary
Moretz, Bill
Taylor, Thad
Yates, Perry
Eugene Walker
Livestock & Field Crops Committee
Rusty Henson
Doug Jones
BW Miller
Jeff Winkler
Lee Rankin
Eugene Walker
Denny Norris
Alternative Ag. Advisory Council
Rose, Ann
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

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 Specialized Agent, Agriculture
Phone: (828) 264-3061
Email: richard_boylan@ncsu.edu

Brent Buchanan
Title: Area Specialized Agent, Agriculture - Dairy
Phone: (315) 212-1277
Email: babuchan@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.

Kirsten Dillman
Title: County Extension Administrative Assistant
Phone: (828) 264-3061
Email: kirsten_dillman@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 (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.

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

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

Margie Mansure
Title: Extension Agent, Family and Consumer Sciences - Nutrition and Foods
Phone: (828) 264-3061
Email: margie_mansure@ncsu.edu
Brief Job Description: Teach children and general public good nutrition and health practices through a variety of methods, including cooking skill development, gardening and food preservation. Promote consumption of locally grown food by working with many community partners.

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

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

Watauga County Center
971 W King St
Boone, NC 28607

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