Commissioners offered update on Cooperative Extension

Wil Petty

February 20, 2014

The Ashe County N.C. Cooperative Extension Service provided its 2013 Program Impact Report and 2014 Plan of Work to the Ashe County Board of Commissioners at its bi-weekly meeting on Monday, Feb. 17.

Carolyn Shepherd, executive director of the Ashe Cooperative Extension, praised the hard work of employees of the extension, as well as the volunteers.

“We are so fortunate here in Ashe County that people are hard working,” she said. “They will come and do anything for you.”

Over 40 volunteers involved with the extension, contributed hours that were valued at $38,000, according to the report.

Some key successes of the Agriculture Extension, according to the report, include:

• 242 participants in the organization’s pesticide education program.

• Of the Ashe Cattlemen’s Association’s 40 members, 80 percent of the members practiced knowledge gained in monthly education meetings, as have 80 percent of the High Country Cattle Conference participants.

• Christmas tree growers continued to adopt Integrated Pest Management practices to reduce production costs and increased profits to an $85 million industry for the county. Ashe County provides over 50 percent of the Christmas trees in the state.

• The Children’s Trust Endowment, coordinated by 4-H and the Ashe County Partnership for Children (ACPC), raised $9,779 through local dance events. Of that money, $7,500 was earmarked for 4-H Programs and programs for ACPC to provide services to area youth and families.

In addition, the report identified and prioritized the five main issues for Extension using needs assessments, a countywide environmental scan and additional surveys.

Those are: agricultural preservation, profitability and sustainability, health, wellness and nutrition of youth and families, economic opportunity and business development, safety education for families and strengthening the communities through volunteerism.

Shepherd said Cooperative Extension also has worked with the Ashe Board of Education to provide after-school opportunities relating to agriculture for students.

According to the release, 694 youth are enrolled in after-school programs throughout the county.

Shepherd said much of the future of agriculture in the county relies on the youth and that encourages programs such as After School Farm Day and the Summer Agriculture Program.

“We have parents that attend our parent night programs,” Shepherd said. “They come and listen to children play instruments they have learned to play in the after school programs.”

Shepherd said the cooperative extension had 27,736 face-to-face contacts in 2013, as well as 18,568 non face-to-face contacts with people in Ashe County. The population of Ashe County as of 2010 was 27,281.

“That tells us that people keep coming back to us,” she said. “They trust us with this information because it is research based.”

In other business:

• The Board was updated on changes to baseball and softball by Ashe County Parks and Recreation Director Scott Turnmyre.

• The Board approved budget changes proposed by Finance Officer Sandra Long.

• The Board listened to a property dispute regarding fencing along the New River.

• In attendance were: Commissioners William Sands and Gerald Price, Vice Chair Judy Porter Poe and Chair Gary Roark. Commissioner Larry Rhodes was not in attendance due to illness. The next meeting will take place at 1 p.m. Monday, March 3.

Wil Petty can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @WilPetty