2017 Watauga County Program Impact Report

Approved: January 9, 2018

I. Executive Summary

In 2017 Watauga County Cooperative Extension continued to provide comprehensive service to our county and its citizens. Our staff continued to address several of the goals of the Citizens Plan for Watauga County (enacted in 2010), which is to “provide a balance between managing change, preserving community traditions, protecting the natural environment, and enhancing quality of life.” Agents developed innovative and highly-attended programs to address these local and state objectives in the areas of Profitable and Sustainable Plant and Animal Systems, Urban and Consumer Agriculture, Healthy Eating & Chronic Disease Reduction, Local Food Systems, and Natural Resource Conservation and Environmental sustainability. Watauga County's staff includes 5 agents who have programming experience and expertise in agriculture, horticulture, natural resources, specialty crops, 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 to explore the possibilities of filling this position in the future.

A summary of Extension programs and successes in 2017 are highlighted below.

* Watauga Extension Agents held over 150 meetings, workshops, demonstrations, and programs in 2017 providing over 400 hours of formal training to over 3,400 participants on ag production, gardening, marketing, nutrition, natural resources, livestock, and other applied science topics.

* To provide our community and clientele better access to information, our online presence and social media presence has increased. Watauga's Extension website received almost 18,000 page views and agents posted regularly to our Facebook page which now has over 1,300 "friends" who are updated regularly on meetings, events, and other information on county-relevant topics. Watauga Extension connects with the public twice a day on WATA AM & 106.1 "the Highway" radio stations through one minute pre-recorded public service announcements on issues impacting the agricultural community in 2017 (with an estimated 20,000 listeners). Our annual Report to the People luncheon and Farm City Banquet also communicated our impacts to over 250 community members and leaders.

* Our focus on growing our county's local food economy continued to increase in 2017. Watauga Cooperative Extension worked with PHARMN's (a local heritage agriculture non-profit org) "Boone Winter Market" which hosted 15 local food & craft vendors every other Saturday from January through April of 2017. Additionally, we partnered with Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture for marketing and helping secure additional funding opportunities for the High Country Food Hub which opened last year to provide freezer space and online purchasing for local produce and meats. http://foodhub.brwia.org/ Margie Mansure, our local food agent and registered dietitian served on the state local food advisory committee and is leading our county's local food promotion efforts.

* The county’s Master Gardener program has 25 active members who received advanced training in 2017 and contributed over 900 hours in the community. They raised over $6,000 through their annual plant sale, expanded the edible garden surrounding the Watauga County Ag Center, and sponsored a local high school student to attend horticulture camp at NC State.

* Watauga Agents, Paige Patterson & Eddy Labus, provided formal continuing ed training to over 150 certified landscape contractors & pesticide applicators.

* Marketing and production efforts continued to support the county's Christmas tree industry which provides a substantial economic impact to the county through employment, direct tree sales, and collateral economic impact to the local tourism industry. Extension secured $8,000 in funding from the county's Tourism & Development Authority for marketing efforts. Tree growers reported an overall increase of over 30% in 2017 sales (many reported over 50%).

* Watauga Cooperative Extension completed its two-year NCDA Specialty Crop Block Grant funding for promotion of wild-simulated ginseng production. A total of 5 workshops & field demonstrations were offered during summer/fall of 2017. Over 60 private landowners planted over 800 lbs of ginseng seed on their properties in 2017. Jim Hamilton, County Extension Director, received the 2017 Outstanding North Carolina Cooperative Extension Educator based on ginseng promotion and production work.

* The 62nd Annual Farm City Banquet drew over 200 participants and recognized 12 local farmers and citizens for their contributions to the community and our local agricultural economy.

* Eddy Labus's livestock programming continues to attract members to the Watauga Cattlemens Association's monthly meetings. 65 members support a total herd size of around 5,000 cattle on average in the county. Forage selection & grazing, pasture improvement, breeding/genetics, and other programs offered by our livestock agent have consistently led to higher prices &/or sell weights on cattle for cattle producers.

* Richard Boylan's specialty crop programs on organic & permaculture crops and practices such as seed saving, garden design, blueberries, asparagus, orchard management, cane berries, shiitake mushrooms, and organic pest control were well-marketed and attended by over 400 producers.

* Nutrition and food preparation & preservation programming offered by Margie Mansure in Watauga & Caldwell County reached over 1,500 adults and children and led to increased awareness and behavior changes.

II. County Background

Watauga County is located in northwestern North Carolina in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Watauga County is extremely mountainous, and all of the county's terrain is located within 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. The majority of Watauga County residents (95.3%) are white, with minorities making up less than 5% of the population in 2013, 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: http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/37/37189.html

Tourism is very important to the county economy. 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 in the economic impact of tourism. Economic impact of tourism was estimated at 216 million in 2013. 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 (in January, 2015, 4.9% compared to a 7.2% statewide rate). Watauga County has a handful of manufacturing firms, employing from five to more than 300 employees per firm. Principally, these are highly successful “home grown” companies that 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 18% 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 14%. 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. With beef cattle prices at all-time highs and Christmas tree prices steadily increasing after 6 years of decline as well as increased consumer interest in locally produced food, 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 2008 cash receipts for agriculture in Watauga County was approximately $11.5 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 approximately 15,000 Fraser fir trees annually for over $675,000 (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 selling to cooperatives like New River Organic Growers. 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, and youth programming and support growing demand for locally grown food.

Watauga County has approximately 137,500 acres of woodland out of a total 200,038 acres in the county (http://www.dfr.state.nc.us/contacts/watauga.htm). 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. As timber markets continue to tighten, 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 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 17,000 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 2016 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').

III. Objectives to Address the Cooperative Extension Long Range Plan

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

Value* Outcome Description
427Number of crop (all plant systems) producers increasing/improving knowledge, attitudes, and/or skills as related to: 1. Best management production practices (cultural, nutrient, and genetics) 2. Pest/insect, disease, weed, wildlife management 3. Financial/Farm management tools and practices (business, marketing, government policy, human resources) 4. Alternative agriculture, bioenergy, and value-added enterprises
* Note: Values may include numbers from multi-county efforts.
Value* Impact Description
198Number of crop (all plant systems) producers adopting best management practices, including those practices related to nutrient management, conservation, production, cultivars, pest management (weeds, diseases, insects), business management, and marketing
129800Net income gains realized by the adoption of best management practices, including those practices related to nutrient management, conservation, production, cultivars, pest management (weeds, diseases, insects), business management, and marketing
101Number of producers reporting increased dollar returns per acre or reduced costs per acre
67Number of producers reporting reduction in fertilizer used per acre
210Number of acres in conservation tillage or other Best Management Practice
* Note: Values may include numbers from multi-county efforts.

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

Value* Outcome Description
102Number of animal producers increasing/improving knowledge, attitudes, and/or skills as related to: 1. Best management production practices (cultural, nutrient, and genetics) 2. Pest/insect, disease, weed, wildlife management 3. Financial/Farm management tools and practices (business, marketing, government policy, human resources) 4. Alternative agriculture, bioenergy, and value-added enterprises
* Note: Values may include numbers from multi-county efforts.
Value* Impact Description
21Number of animal producers adopting Extension-recommended best management practices, including those practices related to husbandry, improved planning, marketing, and financial practices
11200Net income gains by producers adopting Extension-recommended best management practices, including those practices related to husbandry, improved planning, marketing, and financial practices
3Number of animal producers implementing Extension-recommended best management practices for animal waste management
8Tons of livestock organic by-products utilized (nutrients from waste, compost, etc)
2000Net income gain by using livestock organic by-products instead of synthetic fertilizers
* Note: Values may include numbers from multi-county efforts.

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.

Value* Outcome Description
27Number of producers who gain skills or knowledge to increase production for local markets.
38Number of adults (including producers, food business owners, etc.) who improved knowledge of local food and agricultural systems.
137Number of children/youth who improved knowledge of local food and agricultural systems.
22Number of producers who improve local food marketing skills or knowledge.
99Number 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
31Number of producers selling their agricultural products to local markets (direct, intermediated/food service, institutional) for consumption in NC.
6Number of producers who diversified their marketing strategies into local markets (direct, intermediated/food service, institutional).
130000Gross sales of local foods by producers. (Increase in gross sales to be calculated at the state level.)
15Number of producers (and other members of the local food supply chain) who have increased revenue.
4Number of new farms (beginning farmers) selling into local markets for local consumption (in this reporting period).
* Note: Values may include numbers from multi-county efforts.

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

Value* Outcome Description
213Number of participants increasing their knowledge about best management practices
* Note: Values may include numbers from multi-county efforts.
Value* Impact Description
66Number of participants that adopted recommended climate adaption strategies for production agriculture or natural resource management, including for invasive species, pest management, pollutant loads, and wetlands.
30Number of acres under recommended climate adaption strategies for production agriculture or natural resource management, including for invasive species, pest management, pollutant loads, and wetlands.
* Note: Values may include numbers from multi-county efforts.

Consumers and communities will enhance the value of plants, animals, and landscapes while conserving valuable natural resources and protecting the environment.

Value* Outcome Description
324Number of participants improving knowledge, attitude, skills and aspirations regarding gardening and landscape practices including plant selection and placement, turfgrass management, soil management, growing food, water conservation and water quality preservation, storm water and erosion management, green waste management, pest and wildlife management
* Note: Values may include numbers from multi-county efforts.
Value* Impact Description
133Number of participants who use extension-recommended best management practices in landscapes, turf, and gardens, including pest (insect, weed, disease) management, fertility management, water conservation, water quality preservation and pruning techniques
89000Total cost savings from the use of extension-recommended best management practices in landscapes, turf, and gardens, including pest (insect, weed, disease) management, fertility management, water conservation, water quality preservation and pruning techniques
214Number of participants who use extension-recommended pest management practices in homes, public facilities, businesses or in community pest management programs
192Number of participants selecting appropriate landscape plants (adapted, drought tolerant, appropriate size, etc.)
* Note: Values may include numbers from multi-county efforts.

Youth and adult program participants will make healthy food choices, achieve the recommended amount of physical activity and reduce risk factors for chronic diseases.

Value* Impact Description
47Number of adults increasing their fruit and vegetables consumption
46Number of youth increasing their fruit and vegetable consumption
73Number of participants increasing their physical activity
* Note: Values may include numbers from multi-county efforts.

IV. Number of Contacts Made by Extension

Type of ContactNumber
Face-to-face* 9,995
Non face-to-face** 17,901
Total by Extension staff in 2017 27,896
* 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 $9,000.00
Gifts/Donations $4,950.00
In-Kind Grants/Donations $0.00
United Way/Foundations $0.00
User Fees $7,124.00
Total $21,074.00

VI. Volunteer Involvement in Extension Programs

Number of Volunteers* Number of Volunteer Hours Known client contacts by volunteers Dollar Value at 24.69
4-H: 0 0 0 $ 0.00
Advisory Leadership System: 0 0 0 $ 0.00
Extension Community Association: 0 0 0 $ 0.00
Extension Master Gardener: 138 1,098 867 $ 27,110.00
Other: 7 390 1,236 $ 9,629.00
Total: 145 1488 2103 $ 36,739.00
* The number of volunteers reflects the overall number of volunteers for multiple events.

VII. Membership of Advisory Leadership System

Watauga County Advisory Leadership Council
Alayon, Marcia
Alford, La Rue
Bryan, Jim
Coulter, Carol
Danner, Lillian
Hearn, Richard
Hearn, Joan
Hodges, Tim
Jones, Doug
Moretz, Mary
Sengal, David
Yates, Perry
Local Food Council
Carol Coulter
Matt Cooper
Lanae Ball
Bill Moretz
Amy Galloway
Sandra Diaz
Lynne Mason
Laura Graham


Livestock & Field Crops Committee
Rusty Henson
Doug Jones
BW Miller
Jeff Winkler
Lee Rankin
Eugene Walker
Denny Norris
Christmas Tree Advisory Committee
Scott Taylor
Gary Brown
Joey Miller
David Tucker
Joey Clawson
Steve Stanley
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

VIII. 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.

IX. 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