2018 Watauga County Plan of Work

Approved: January 9, 2018

I. County Background

Watauga County is located on the Tennessee border in northwestern North Carolina. Watauga County is extremely mountainous, and all of the county's terrain is located within the Blue Ridge area of the Appalachian Mountain range. The nearest metropolitan area is Winston-Salem, NC, located 85 miles to the east. There are 15 townships in Watauga County and four towns including Beech Mountain, Blowing Rock, Boone, and Seven Devils. Boone is the county seat. The physical area of Watauga County is approximately 313 square miles. Approximately 45% of Watauga County residents live within 10 miles of a full-time four-lane highway. The climate in Watauga County is relatively mild, with an annual mean temperature of around 52.9 degrees. The average annual precipitation is around 44 inches. Watauga County’s population is steadily increasing. According to AccessNC demographic data, the county's population is 53,800 (not including Appalachian State University’s 17,000 students). Watauga County experienced a 20% increase in population from 2000-2010 and continues to grow at around 1% per year currently. 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 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

Appalachian State University (located in Boone) and tourism are the county's largest economic drivers. The Boone area is a year-round vacation destination and a popular spot for business meetings and conventions. Watauga County consistently ranks in the top 20 counties in the state for economic impact of tourism. Economic impact impact of tourism was estimated at $231 million in 2015. The value of this huge sector has increased more than 6 percent annually since 1989. Watauga County has a dynamic and diverse economy that is driven by a major state university (Appalachian State), thriving year-round tourism, a regional medical center and a robust financial and service sector. Other major contributors are a broad-based retail market, agriculture and forest products, and transportation-related businesses. Watauga County maintains a low unemployment rate (currently 3.4%, compared to a 4.1% statewide rate as of Oct. 2017). Watauga County is home to some 50 manufacturing firms (as classified by NAICS), employing from five to more than 100 employees per firm. Principally, these are highly successful "home grown" companies, which manufacture and distribute items such as leather products, wood furniture components, indoor metal furniture, candies and mints, wire-bound resistors, log homes and specialty paint systems. Education is the largest reported industry in Watauga County, accounting for around 20% of the labor force. Retail trade is the second largest reported industry in Watauga County, employing around 15% of the labor force; Accommodations/Food Service at 15%; and Health Care/Social Assistance at around 10%. The top three major employers in Watauga County are: Appalachian State University; Appalachian Regional Healthcare Systems and the Watauga County Board of Education. Other top employers include Samaritans Purse; Watauga County Government; WalMart; and Mast General Store.

Agriculture continues to be an important component of the local economy. There is increasing consumer interest in locally produced food and agriculture in the county is strong. The 2013 Census of Agriculture indicates there are 587 farms (average size 78 acres) in Watauga County. The total land in farms is 45,782 acres and the harvested cropland is 8,535. Most of the farmers in Watauga County are classified as limited resource or small farms. The estimated 2015 cash receipts for agriculture in Watauga County was approximately $15.8 million dollars, with hay, cattle, and horticulture (Christmas trees) ranking highest. The major cash crop is Fraser fir Christmas trees. The “Choose and Cut” Christmas tree industry sells over 15,000 Fraser fir trees annually for over $750,000 (plus wreaths and garlands around $50,000). Associated tourism spending in restaurants, hotels, gasoline, and retailers accounts for approximately $14 million of economic effect related to the annual Christmas tree season. Marketing is a major concern of ornamental and Christmas tree growers. Cost of farmland is estimated at $12,000 and higher per acre. Local Food production and interest from consumers continues to be a major push in the county. Small-scale vegetable producers support local farmers markets and direct sales to restaurants and residents via Community Supported Agriculture projects and the Watauga County Food Hub which opened in 2016. A number of local organizations and growers cooperatives are working closely with Extension to expand markets and production. Three agents provide agriculture production services to producers in the county while the FCS and Horticulture agents complement county agricultural, home horticultural, local food promotion, and youth nutrition.

Woodlands cover almost 70% of Watauga County (approximately 137,000 acres out of a total 200,038 acres). Wildlife concerns, environmental issues, recreational areas and timber stand improvements are all areas of concern to many citizens of Watauga County. With the diverse groups of people in the county, it is critical to implement programs that address the diverse concerns of its landowners. Producing quality timber and non-timber forest products (such as ginseng) with sustainable methods is an important objective.

The county serves as the headwaters to 4 major rivers. Therefore, watershed protection is a major programming focus for agriculture and non-agricultural audiences alike. Non-point water pollution sources include: land development erosion, agricultural fertilizers, pesticides, animal waste, household hazardous waste and lawn/garden fertilizers, septic tank overflows, and storm-water runoff in towns. Stream reclassification and water shed protection regulations is and will be a major issue for citizens living near major streams and rivers. Environmental concerns are increasing and Watauga citizens and part-time residents need unbiased, research-based facts concerning solid waste reduction and water quality. Watauga County Extension partners with the Watauga County Soil and Water and USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service to provide these services and education to farmers and other private landowners.

Watauga County has one high school and eight elementary schools. In addition, there is one charter school in the county and two private schools, enrolling students in grades K-8 and 9. Appalachian State University offers educational opportunities to the over 18,800 students enrolled (http://www.appstate.edu/about/). A recent study conducted by ASU's Center for Economic Research & Policy Analysis underscored the economic impact of the university on Watauga Country, which was estimated at $506 million per year. Also, Caldwell Community College has a branch campus in Watauga County that serves undergraduate students and provides adult and continuing education programs. There are over 4,500 students k-12 in the Watauga County public school system.

There are three low-wattage radio stations, four newspapers (one exclusively online), and one local television station. Extension provides regular educational articles in the newspapers and a weekly radio show. Updated Extension content is posted regularly on the Extension website: http://watauga.ces.ncsu.edu and on the Watauga Extension Facebook page.

Watauga County has a wide variety of community-serving agencies and a strong collaborative atmosphere. Extension maintains contact and work directly (often serving on boards or as liaisons) with many of these agencies. The Watauga County Cooperative Extension Director and Agents focus on issues and develop programming priorities based on current trends and issues facing the county including feedback from the County Extension Advisory Committee and regular meetings with county leaders. Members of each agent's individual advisory groups also provide guidance and assess programming priorities throughout the year so that agents are providing the most relevant services to county commodity groups and citizens. Some of the major programming focus areas for 2017 have been identified as: local food production and marketing, nutrition and consumer education for adults and youth, small farm diversification and production (specifically to meet growing demand for local food), marketing and production issues for the county's thriving Christmas tree industry, home horticulture consultation and problem identification, added value and beef quality assurance programming for the county's cattle industry (estimated county beef cattle at 10,000 head), water resource protection and stream enhancement projects and community education, pesticide safety and outreach with farmers and farmworkers, and grantwriting to support programming with other area agencies and organizations. Additionally, Watauga Cooperative Extension's programming priorities are in line with the County's Comprehensive plan (the 'Citizens Plan for Watauga' http://www.wataugacounty.org/App_Pages/Dept/Planning/Forms/WataugaPlan.pdf).

II. Objectives to Address the Cooperative Extension Long Range Plan

North Carolina's plant production systems will become more profitable and sustainable.

North Carolina's animal production systems will become more profitable and sustainable.

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.

North Carolinians will make decisions and adopt practices that implement effective resource protection and conservation.

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 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.

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 has been a member of the West District Latino Advisory Council with Cooperative Extension.

The Watauga County Extension staff works with a diverse demographic of small-scale farmers in the county. All but one or two 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

A key feature of Extension's program delivery is our commitment to being customer driven and customer focused. As such, in addition to the County Extension Center, Extension educational programs are delivered online, in community centers, on farms, and other locations in order 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 1,300 community members and our radio PSA programming reaches over 20,000 regional community members during twice-daily broadcasts. Our county website, http://watauga.ces.ncsu.edu is regularly updated regarding program offerings and community events that we are involved with.

Our success is gauged by the extent to which our programs impact the lives Watauga County citizens. We use evaluation methods that quantitatively measure whether any 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 participants gain from our programs. More specifically, we use quantitative research methods such as 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
Hearn, Joan
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: 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.

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

Lauren Greene
Title: Area Specialized Agent, Agribusiness - 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, Nutrition and Foods (FCS)
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: Extension 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