Cooperative Extension to hold public listening session in Boone
by Staff Reports
As the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service nears its centennial, the organization is holding a series of 12 listening sessions across the state in November and December 2013. Watauga County will host a listening session at the Agricultural Conference Center at 252 Poplar Grove Road (behind the extension office) at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 19.
The Cooperative Extension, which provides educational programs in 4-H, agriculture, family and consumer sciences and community development to citizens in all 100 counties and the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation, is seeking public input as the organization launches a strategic planning initiative for the future.
Joe Zublena, N.C. Cooperative Extension Service director, will be in attendance to update participants on progress and to engage in discussion about the organization's future.
"I cannot state enough the importance of this endeavor and the need for participation and feedback from the public. At Cooperative Extension's core are people and communities, and it's their input we need to ensure another century of educational services for the people of North Carolina," Zublena said.
Cooperative Extension in North Carolina has seen recurring federal and state budget cuts of around $20 million since 2000, leaving about 90 positions unfilled -- mostly at the county level -- during the past four years. The listening sessions and strategic planning process were implemented to help the organization adapt accordingly to the economic environment and resulting impacts going forward.
Participant feedback gathered during the listening sessions will be reviewed and analyzed starting in January and will assist in the development of a recommended action plan to meet the needs of Cooperative Extension and its partners for the future.
"The listening sessions will allow the public, our clientele and the different commodities and partners we work with to express what they think about the services we provide," said Watauga County Extension Director Jim Hamilton.
Hamilton related that budget cuts are forcing extension leaders to consider potentially restructuring the organization or re-prioritizing programming areas.
"We enjoy strong support from our county government and local partners because of the services we provide our county's agricultural economy and other service niches," Hamilton said. "Folks may not realize that our agents have brought in several hundreds of thousands of dollars just in the last five years through grants to support environmental, agricultural, youth and nutrition-based programs. I hope we pack the session with clients who have benefitted from our services over the years to reinforce why Cooperative Extension matters locally."
To register to attend the listening session, visit http://go.ncsu.edu/2013_ncces_listening_sessions.