NC Cooperative Extension celebrates 100 years
by Allison Haver
The Watauga County Center of the N.C. Cooperative Extension held its annual "Report to the People" luncheon on Wednesday to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the state's Cooperative Extension and to review the county center's highlights and accomplishments of the past year.
"This year, we decided to have the 'Report to the People' in May, rather than in March, and couple that with the centennial celebration of our organization," Watauga Cooperative Extension Executive Director Jim Hamilton said.
"Nationally, the extension began in 1914, and I believe the state cooperative extension began in 1914, as well, so we are 100 years old," he said.
Hamilton said that the extension is currently undergoing a visioning strategy based on about a decade of budget issues, and that administration was in the middle of coming up with ways to make the extension more efficient.
"I think that is administration code for cutting in certain areas; I think we will be fine here in Watauga County," Hamilton said. "As you all know, we have very strong support from the county and town."
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 2013, the extension office held 145 meetings, workshops, demonstrations and programs that hosted more than 4,600 participants.
In addition, extension staff members recorded the center's blog has had almost 50,000 views since the page's inception in 2011.
The local foods programming in 2013 continued to increase due to the growing demand and interest from consumers, producers and retailers, according to extension officials.
More than 600 visitors participated in the High County Farm Tour last year, visiting 29 area farms.
In addition, more than 250 participants attended programs on topics such as organic vegetable production, season extension, small fruit production and ginseng.
Extension programming continued to be involved with Watauga County Schools in 2013. Watauga County extension agents and nonprofit partners planted fall gardens with 90 first- through third-grade students in efforts to encourage vegetable consumption. The gardens also served as a way for low-income rural schools to have access to healthy food, officials said.
The 4-H Energy Transformation curriculum was also implemented in two sixth-grade classes, educating more than 40 students on the effects of energy use in the world.
The extension also continued to help promote the county's "choose and cut" Christmas tree marketing effort by securing a $10,000 grant for the county's Tourism and Development Authority to increase marketing efforts promoting choose-and-cut producers.
More than 200 farmworkers received safety training provided by the extension last year, which reduced on-farm injuries, officials said.
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.