Cooperative Extension served thousands in 2012
by Anna Oakes
Thousands of farmers, gardeners, landowners and children participated in the Watauga County Cooperative Extension Center's programs in 2012, and even more received information and assistance over the phone or by email.
The Watauga County Center of the N.C. Cooperative Extension held its annual "Report to the People" luncheon Tuesday to review the center's highlights and accomplishments of the past year.
The Watauga Cooperative Extension center's focus areas include Christmas trees and horticulture, livestock and field crops, family and consumer science, alternative and organic agriculture, 4-H and youth development, forest soil and water resources, pesticide education and safety and local food infrastructure.
In 2012, the extension office held 182 meetings, workshops, field days, demonstrations, lectures and programs that hosted 5,780 total participants. In addition, extension staff members recorded more than 41,700 contacts with members of the public through phone, email or other methods.
During the past two years, the Watauga center has written or helped write grants to secure more than $538,000 in funding for farmers, producers and partner organizations.
The Cooperative Extension hosted organic gardening workshops, helped with the High Country Farm Tour, facilitated fall gardens and harvest parties at schools and partnered with local organizations as part of efforts to helping to build the local food economy.
"It's building awareness and marketing our local agriculture," said Jim Hamilton, executive director of the Watauga Cooperative Extension. "Even though we're a rural county, there are still kids in the county who don't truly understand where their food comes from."
The extension also helps promote the county's "Choose and Cut" Christmas tree marketing effort. About 15,000 Christmas trees were sold in Watauga County in 2012.
"Each farmer alone doesn't really have the resources that makes this so successful," Hamilton said.
The extension also participated in efforts to protect natural resources, such as water. Household Hazardous Waste Collection Days amassed 1,391 pounds of unwanted and unused pesticides, and Operation Medicine Cabinet surpassed a cumulative total of 1 million pharmaceutical pills collected in its fifth year of existence.
Staff members Susanne Winebarger and Kathy Lee were recognized for outstanding customer service by the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce last year, and Lee also received the Pride of the Wolfpack Award that recognizes N.C. State University employees.
The Cooperative Extension is a program of N.C. State and N.C. A&T universities.
For more information about the Watauga County Cooperative Extension Center, call (828) 264-3061, visit the office at 971 W. King St. or visit the center website at http://watauga.ces.ncsu.edu. Check out the center's blog at http://wataugaces.blogspot.com.