2018 Wilkes County Plan of Work

Approved: February 5, 2018

I. County Background

Wilkes County is the largest county in western North Carolina with a diverse business and agricultural climate. Wilkes County North Carolina is located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. According to 2013 census data for North Carolina, the population of the county is 69,023, with the racial background as follows: 88.5% white, 4.4% African American, 5.7% is Hispanic, and 1.45% other. In 2015, the Wilkes County unemployment rate dropped slightly to 5.4% with approximately 23% of its residents living below the poverty line. The poverty rate is one of the highest in the area. In a 2011 USDA census, Wilkes County had two tracts that were considered food deserts, which are areas that residents have limited access to healthy, nutritious foods.

Agriculture is still the driving force in Wilkes. Of the 483,420 acres in Wilkes County, nearly 111,000 acres (23%) are in farming. According to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, Wilkes County agriculture accounted for over $246 million in cash receipts in 2016. Wilkes County ranks seventh in the state in farm cash receipts and 3rd in broiler and cattle production. Agriculture agribusiness industries provide employment for 30% of the county workforce. On the negative side, the number of Wilkes farms has declined from 1,273 to 972 since 2002; a 24% reduction in that time period.

Wilkes County Extension uses county and program area advisory councils to determine programming needs. Extension works with key county stakeholders to identify priority areas in educational programs. Some of these stakeholders include: Wilkes County government, Wilkes County schools, Wilkes Community College, Wilkes Economic Development Commission, Wilkes Health Department, Soil Conservation, and Wilkes Partnership for Children. Wilkes Extension staff also works with these agencies to carry out programming efforts that address issues in the county.

The programming areas that were identified for Wilkes Extension programming include:
- Encouraging youth to explore opportunities in science related fields, which is the fastest growing job market in North Carolina.
- Educate residents on the availability of locally grown food and where to access these foods.
- Educate residents on how to grow their own food.
- Help improve agricultural production by working with growers to adopt best management practices and educating them on how to adapt new technology to their operation.
- Educate and assist residents interested in getting into an agricultural enterprises.

Many of the program areas identified as priorities will be addressed in conjunction with other agencies and institutions. It is the hope of Wilkes Extension that there will be a significant, positive impact on the residents of Wilkes County in 2018 and beyond.

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.

Futures that Work: School to Career Pathways

III. Relationship to County Government Objectives

Wilkes County government is an equal partner with North Carolina State University in support Wilkes County Extension Center. This partnership is through their direct funding of the local center and a shared vision and mission for the Caldwell County Extension Center.

For many years, Wilkes County commissioners have known how important agriculture is the Wilkes economy and decided to put all agricultural agencies under one roof. In 2014, Wilkes County spent $2.3 million dollars to purchase and renovate a building to make an agriculture center. In 2015, the county finished renovating the Wilkes Agricultural Center and moved in agriculture related agencies that included: Wilkes Extension Service, Soil Conservation, Natural Resource Conservation Service, and Farm Service Agency. Also in 2015, Wilkes County commissioners were given the Extension Partnership award, which recognizes strong relationships between county government and NC State Extension. Wilkes County Extension works with other county agencies to address county health issues or to identify producers that have been affected by natural disasters. Wilkes Extension is working with local town managers to establish and improve local farmers' markets and community gardens.

IV. Diversity Plan

Wilkes County Extension seeks to offer programming to all underserved audiences in our county. We do programming in community settings such as public housing and family resource centers to try and reach out to all economic sectors of our community. We attempt to serve a diverse cultural/ethnic population in programming efforts. We make all reasonable efforts to accommodate the needs of anyone who wishes to attend our programs and events. We, also, make efforts to inform key leaders in underserved areas about our program opportunities.

V. Primary Delivery and Evaluation Methods

Delivering timely, relevant educational programs that meet critical local needs is the cornerstone of Extension’s mission. Extension educational methods are the specific ways by which research-based information is shared with targeted learners. Extension educators in our county employ a wide variety of hands-on, experiential educational methods, such as interactive workshops and classes, demonstrations, field days and tours, that allow learners to fully engage in the learning process, test new knowledge and/or practice new skills. Equally important, this plan will also include educational methods such as seminars, client visits, fact sheets, newsletters, emails and home study kits that serve to support and reinforce learning. Another key feature of Extension program delivery is our commitment to being customer driven and customer focus. As such, in addition to the County Extension Center, Extension educational programs are delivered online, in schools, on farms, and other locations in order for our programs to be available and accessible to citizens of Wilkes County. Extension information can also be accessed on the county web site at http://wilkes.ces.ncsu.edu/ and our Facebook page at Wilkes County Extension.

In Extension, success is defined as the extent to which our educational programs have made a difference in the lives of the citizens of Wilkes County. Evaluation methods, both formal and informal, are the way we make those observations about whether any changes occurred as a result 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, in this plan, we are using evaluation methods that measure change in knowledge gained, the application of that knowledge, number of new skills developed, and types of new skills developed. Extension, as a results-oriented organization, is committed to also assessing 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. We plan to measure these impacts in both the long and short-term. Another value held in Extension is actively listening to and dialoguing with targeted learners. Therefore, this plan also includes qualitative evaluation methods such as testimonials from program participants, and interviews and focus groups with participants.

VI. Membership of Advisory Leadership System

Wilkes County Extension Advisory Council
Beth Graf
Bob Hege
Nila Johnston
Betty Knight
Gwen Minton
Sharon Underwood
Martha Townes
Ray Rich
Julie Colglazier
Rodney Shepherd
Henry Church
Nelda Church
Wilkes County 4-H Advisory Board
Arbie Allison
Martha Townes
Brenda Dobbins
Barbara VanMeter
Teana Compeau
Jenn Wages
Greta Ferguson
Leshe Barnes
Julia Turpin
Sharon Underwood
Scott Graham
Wilkes Area Feeder Cattle Sales Committee
Shelmer Blackburn Jr.
Jimmy Church
Phillip LaPrad
Seth Church
Matt Eller
Eric Bumgarner
Glenn Weston
Don Parker
Neil Eller
Wilkes County Row Crop Advisory Board
Talmadge Mathis
John Mathis
Garrett Mathis
Josh Brown
David Hanks
Wilkes Voluntary Agricultural District Advisory Board
Benny Alexander
Dan Bumgarner
Dennis McGrady
Kirk Mathis
Toby Speaks
Claude Shew Jr.
Wilkes Master Gardeners
Fay Kennedy
Gloria Watson
Ray Rich
Diane Stephens
Wilkes Farmers Market
Roger Owens
Don Owens
Debbie Lowe
Garrett Griffin
Wilkes Livestock Advisory Board
Shelmer Blackburn Jr.
Seth Church
Terry Church
John Dyer
Brian Parker
Clayton Yanks
ECA Executive Board
Ruth Greer
Nila Johnston
Patsy Phillips
Sharon Burkenbine
Freda Perry
Nancy Eller

VII. Staff Membership

John Cothren
Title: County Extension Director and Ext Agent, Agriculture - Livestock and Field Crops
Phone: (336) 651-7348
Email: john_cothren@ncsu.edu

MaryMorgan Arrington
Title: Extension Agent, Agriculture - Horticulture
Phone: (336) 651-7333
Email: marymorgan_arrington@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.

Lauren Greene
Title: Area Specialized Agent, Agriculture - Poultry
Phone: (336) 651-7347
Email: lauren_greene@ncsu.edu

Whitney Greene
Title: Extension Agent, 4-H Youth Development
Phone: (336) 651-7336
Email: whitney_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.

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

Sam Lusk
Title: County Extension Administrative Assistant
Phone: (336) 651-7335
Email: salusk@ncsu.edu

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.

Rachel McDowell
Title: Area Specialized Agent, Consumer and Retail Food Safety
Phone: (919) 515-9155
Email: romcdowe@ncsu.edu
Brief Job Description: Support FCS Agents in delivering timely and evidence-based food safety education and information to stakeholders in NC.

Currey Nobles
Title: Area Specialized Agent, Food Safety
Phone: (919) 515-9520
Email: canobles@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.

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.

Courtney Tevepaugh
Title: Extension Agent, Family and Consumer Sciences
Phone: (336) 651-7331
Email: csparke3@ncsu.edu
Brief Job Description: Nutrition and Foods Education - Local Foods Coordinator

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

Wilkes County Center
416 Executive Dr
Wilkesboro, NC 28697

Phone: (336) 651-7330
Fax: (336) 651-7516
URL: http://wilkes.ces.ncsu.edu