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August 30, 2007

Down at the chicken wash

photo of chicken being washed
Wayne Justice, Western North Carolina Poultry Club president, helps 4-H’ers Hannah Worrell, left, and Gideon Worrell bathe a Dominque hen. 4-H’ers gathered Aug. 21 at North Carolina Cooperative Extension’s Henderson County Center to bathe and otherwise prepare chickens they plan to show at the Mountain State Fair, Sept. 7-16. (Photo by Art Latham)

Even in killer humidity, a group of 4-H club youngsters sit raptly in the mountain summer dusk, hanging on the words of soft-spoken Wayne Justice as he dips a couple of handfuls of fluff known as a "silky" - a bantam chicken - into a plastic tub of water.

Though you might expect this scene in the picnic shelter Aug. 21 next to North Carolina Cooperative Extension's Henderson County Center to devolve rapidly into a flurry of wing-flapping fury and surprised squawking, the bird submits contentedly to the bath.

But this is not a random bird cleansing. This is business. The kids are learning the basics of chicken care so they can enter their fowl in the upcoming Mountain State Fair, which this year runs Sept. 7-16.

"The whole point of showing chickens is to get the best breed possible," says Justice, Western North Carolina Poultry Club president. "And we want to increase participation in the poultry show at the Mountain Fair."

After degreasing the silky's hairlike feathers with a mild detergent, Justice, who hails from Sandy Mush community northwest of Asheville, uses a cotton swab to clean the areas between the bird's claws and head.

"What's that called?" a kid wonders, as Justice moves the swab to an area under the bird's beak.

"Wattles," Justice answers patiently, continuing the grooming, while helpers ready electric hair dryers to fluff up the bird's feather. Once again, contrary to expectations, the bird seems to enjoy the warm air from the dryer, closing its eyes, seemingly hypnotized.

The birds - the silky, a Dominique, a Cornish and others - belong to the kids, who are members of several area 4-H clubs. Gideon Worrell, a Young Naturalists 4-H Club member and Justice's daughter Hannah of Sandy Mush 4-H Club, will show chickens at the fair, and others in the class are preparing their fair booths. The Justice family, which owns many chickens, travels daily during the fair to care for all the show poultry.

Two years ago, the WNC Poultry Club gave baby chicks to many Western North Carolina children, says Denise Sherrill, Cooperative Extension’s 4-H agent for Henderson County.

"When they talked about giving out chicks, I asked them to teach classes also," she says.

Club members obliged, especially Justice, who is teaching classes for the third time this year. Previous classes included "Getting Started Raising Chickens" and "Care of Chickens."

"We do this to give kids a chance to experience a pet animal," Justice says. "We all know family farms are dwindling away and some of them live in apartments or in places where they can't have large pets in town, but you can have a chicken on a small lot; they don't take up much space.

"Also," he says, "to take care of them teaches a whole lot of responsibility.

"But most important, he adds, "showing animals in the fair is all about learning to be a good sport."

In other words, says Sherrill, in any contest, there are winners and losers, so learning to be a good sport is taught in all 4-H competitions.

Somebody must have even told that to the chickens.

In addition to their young owners, who may garner medals at the fair, the overall winners seemed to be the hens. After the washing event, they sit around clucking contentedly, perhaps anticipating their next appointment at 4-H’s chicken beauty parlor.

Written by:
Art Latham, 919.515.3117 or art_latham@ncsu.edu

Posted by Dave at 11:14 AM

August 16, 2007

Two Extension programs receive Star Awards

Leigh Guth
Leigh Guth, right, talks with a symposium participant about Foothills Fresh, which received an award from the N.C. Fruits and Veggies Nutrition (Photo courtesy of Leah Chester-Davis)

The North Carolina Fruits and Veggies Nutrition (formerly 5 A Day) Coalition recognized two North Carolina Cooperative Extension programs for their outstanding efforts in promoting better health for all North Carolinians by increasing their fruit and vegetable consumption.

At its annual symposium on Aug. 8 at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, the coalition presented a Gold Star Award to Foothills Fresh, a local food initiative that helps farmers in a four-county area market their fresh produce, farm products and agricultural tourism.

A Silver Star Award was presented to Ann Simmons, Iredell County, for her community outreach events to encourage participants to eat more fruits and vegetables.

Accepting the award for Catawba, Cleveland, Gaston and Lincoln counties, were Leigh Guth, family and consumer sciences agent, Lincoln; Melinda Houser, family and consumer sciences agent, Lincoln; and Linda Minges, family and consumer sciences agent, Gaston. Guth is the coordinator of Foothills Fresh.

The effort is an example of integrated programming, with team contributions from agriculture, horticulture, 4-H and family and consumer sciences and communication services Extension personnel. In addition, farmers, agricultural tourism providers and county public information and chamber of commerce representatives provide input as part of the Foothills Fresh Advisory Committee.

In her presentation of the awards, Zoe McKay-Tucker of the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, cited Foothills Fresh for its campaign to encourage people to increase their daily intake of fruits and vegetables, to buy from local farmers and to visit local farms. The leadership team in the four-county region educates people about what is grown locally, where to find it and why it’s best to buy locally. The leadership team also promotes farm tours and keeps the public informed about offerings at the local farmers’ market.

Foothills Fresh has garnered attention in the Charlotte Observer, Charlotte Parent Magazine, Lake Norman Magazine and numerous other dailies and weeklies in the greater Charlotte region. Participation in Foothills Fresh grew by 35 percent in a 12-month period, from 30 to 46 farms.

Guth, who was one of the featured speakers at the day-long symposium, sings the praises of local foods. “Local fruits and vegetables are picked ripe. The food in the grocery store has been picked at least 14 days before it arrives in a store and it has traveled 1,400 miles. Which do you think tastes better?” asks Guth.

When news media reports feature food safety scares and concerns regarding food shipped from China and elsewhere, the uncertainty of where the food comes from is removed when you buy locally, she said. Guth mentioned many other benefits of local foods, including health, environmental, genetic diversity, economic and community.

She provided examples for each such as the work Foothills Fresh is doing by connecting local farmers with local schools to provide produce; farm tours and markets that encourage people to get to know local farmers; and farms that provide produce that is reminiscent of what our grandparents might have grown, with delicious flavors that simply aren’t available in produce that is bred to survive early picking times and travel for two weeks.

Guth cited a University of Maine study that said that for every 1 percent of your food dollar spent locally, you increase a farmer’s income by 5 percent, which often goes into the local economy. “That’s tasty economic development,” she said.

The Cooperative Extension leadership team that coordinates Foothills Fresh has developed numerous promotional items including brochures and a Web site. Visit www.foothillsfresh.com. The team is currently working with its membership to gear up for fall festivals and other events that will draw people from the Charlotte region.

Ann Simmons
Ann Simmons, right, shares tips with Diane Ronan on how to select tomatoes for canning. (Photo courtesy of Ann Simmons)

Simmons, family and consumer sciences agent, was recognized for events she holds throughout Iredell County where she demonstrates creative and delicious ways to prepare fruits and vegetables. She says that “simple, quick recipes that taste good make the difference.”

Simmons’s work is also an example of integrated programming. She partners with her Extension colleagues in Iredell and with a number of local organizations to reach community college employees, children in summer programs, childcare providers, parents, diabetic patients, senior citizens and others.

Simmons works with Nelson McCaskill, 4-H youth development agent, to offer classes throughout the year. Through Families Eating Smart, Moving More, Dining with Diabetes and the Curious Cooks 4-H Club, Ann incorporates lessons on how to prepare fruits and vegetables. She also works with one of the local farmers’ markets to demonstrate how to use what’s available at the market.

Simmons teams with Don Breedlove, horticulture agent, by using the Iredell Center’s demonstration garden for her classes. Participants tour the garden to learn about vegetable varieties and how they can grow them in a small space. She uses produce and herbs from the garden for some of her cooking classes.

Simmons says that many people simply don’t know how to prepare produce. Class attendees often say they don’t like vegetables but end up enjoying ones that Simmons prepares. She says parents are always surprised when their children attend cooking classes and then eat the dishes they have helped prepare.

“My goal has been to make it easy for people to eat more fruits and veggies by showing them how to use fresh, frozen, or canned items and taking advantage of what is in season,” she said. During the last year, she has provided valuable cooking lessons and demonstrations to more than 1,000 participants.
-L. Chester-Davis

Posted by Natalie at 01:03 PM

Union County hosts women's conference

Robin Landsman
Extension's Robin Landsman (left), along with "Dorothy" and members of the Women's Leadership Coalition, leads workshop participants down the yellow brick road to accountability and competence. (Photo Courtesy Robin Landsman)

Last spring, Monroe became the Emerald City, as the yellow brick road led to Union County’s Agricultural Services and Conference Center, site of the 2007 Union County Women’s Leadership Conference and Luncheon.

Hosted by the Women’s Leadership Coalition, the annual conference is an initiative of North Carolina Cooperative Extension. Robin Landsman, Extension Family and Consumer Sciences agent in Union County, worked with the Coalition in organizing the event. Dr. Deborah Crandall, director of Extension’s Southwest District, delivered opening remarks, and Monroe Police Chief Debra C. Duncan was keynote speaker, following a workshop called “Leadership According to Oz: Accountability Competence.”

Approximately 170 women participated in the workshop to gain skills in networking and diplomacy, relationship building and professional development, and leadership skills and mentoring.

Workshop participants represented “the diversity that is Union County,” Landsman said. “Our demographics include diversity in age, race and professions. We reached an audience of women in business; women employed in local government and public service; entrepreneurs, students and community volunteers. There were also a few at-home mothers considering their options for returning to the workplace.”

This year’s workshop theme was based on The Oz Principle, a business book about getting results through individual organizational accountability. Co-authored by a business writer and the cofounders of a management-consulting company, The Oz Principle uses L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz stories as metaphors for a journey toward greater accountability in business, with the destination of “home” as analogous to a focus upon results.

The luncheon was likewise an over-the-rainbow experience: On a stage full of Munchkinland blooms (scenery created by the Union County Master Gardeners), singers from area high schools performed songs from the 1939 “Wizard of Oz” film.

Dr. Wanda Sykes, Southeast District Extension director, suggested the Oz Principle approach during last year’s state FCS training, “and upon reading it, I agreed,” said Landsman, who provided copies of the book to the Coalition members. They unanimously decided to theme the conference around the book’s messages -- including the use of Wizard of Oz characters to illustrate the courage to See it, the heart to Own it, the wisdom to Solve it and the means to Do it in exercising accountability.

The event organizers included Coalition members Doris Belk, Kathie Easton, Holly McEachin, Julia Mitchell, Joyce Rentschler, Carol Tyson and Anne Velasco, as well as Landsman and Chris Austin, FCS secretary in Union County. Landsman also notes the support of Crandall and Jerry Simpson, Union County Extension director.

The workshop was led by Belk, McEachin, Mitchell and Tyson, along with Landsman, who said, “They were all volunteers who took the risk to learn about how to develop and present a workshop to their peers. It was extremely important to us to model what it means not only to be accountable but to set a goal, take risks and stretch ourselves to meet those expectations.”

The result? The audience gave the workshop leaders a standing ovation.

“Each year we get better by listening to the feedback of our participants,” said Landsman. In this year’s evaluations, participants indicated that it was time well spent, with 90.82 percent of them rating the workshop as excellent.

A similar high percentage – 94.74 – gave an excellent rating to the remarks of keynote speaker Duncan, who shared her experiences of being a woman in a leadership role. “As long as the job is done right, gender doesn’t matter,” Duncan told the group in her speech, “Holding Yourself Accountable and Succeeding in a Man’s World.”

Her message dovetailed neatly with the conference’s goals to inspire area women to accomplish change, empower one another and make a positive difference in the community.

The event was underwritten by the Real Estate Link of the Carolinas and sponsored by numerous local businesses, groups and individuals.

“Our sponsors include organizations that employ large numbers of women and have a high percentage of women in management and leadership positions,” Landsman said. “These businesses continue to support us financially, as well as by sending large numbers of their employees to our event.”

–T. Leith

Posted by Natalie at 11:21 AM

August 13, 2007

Agricultural agents present awards

North Carolina Association of County Agricultural Agents recognized agents who have provided outstanding programs during the association’s annual meeting June 20 in Southern Pines.

The Distinguished Service Award is given to five agricultural agents who have demonstrated outstanding service in their counties or area. Nominees for this award must have at least 10 years of service and be members of the agents’ association. Each winner receives a plaque and financial support to attend our national meeting and professional improvement conference held in Grand Rapids, Mich., in July.

Those receiving the Distinguished Service Award include:
· Marjorie L. Rayburn, area agent for Gates, Chowan, and Perquimans counties, received the Distinguished Service Award. She has served as an agricultural Extension agent since January 1991.
· Linda Blue of Rowan County, who has served as an agricultural Extension agent for 20 years.
· Ralph Blalock Jr. of Edgecombe County, who has been an Extension agent for more than 28 years.
· Dalton Dockery of Columbus County (soon to be Bladen County's Extension director) has led the horticulture, forestry, and pesticide education Extension programming efforts for more than 11 years in North Carolina.
· Allan Thornton of Sampson County has worked for North Carolina Cooperative Extension for 14 years.

The Achievement Award is given to agents from across the state for the purpose of recognizing those Agents who have less than ten years of experience and who are doing an exceptionally good job. Winners are:
· Diane Turner of Henderson County.
· Debbie Roos of Chatham County.
· Kevin Johnson of Wayne County.
· Kelly Groves of Vance and Warren counties.

The association’s Young Agent Scholarship Award was presented to Tiffanee Conrad-Acuna for providing outstanding programs as a member of this Cooperative Extension professional association. This recognition supported her attendance of the national meeting of this professional association in Grand Rapids, Mich., recently.

Conrad-Acuna is a livestock agent in Richmond County, who started work Cooperative Extension in 2003 as an area livestock agent serving Robeson, Scotland and Hoke counties.

Posted by Natalie at 09:13 AM

August 10, 2007

Dockery appointed Bladen Extension director

Dalton Dockery, associate extension agent for horticulture in Columbus County, has been named Bladen County extension director.

His appointment, which was approved by county commissioners Aug. 6, was announced by Dr. Jon Ort, director, North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, and Bladen County Manager Greg Martin. Dockery succeeds Kent Wooten who held the position for four years.

Dockery began work for Cooperative Extension in 1995, as an assistant agricultural agent for Bladen and Sampson counties. He has worked for Cooperative Extension in Columbus County since 1996.

Dockery earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural education and a master’s degree in Extension education, both from N.C. State University.

“Dalton Dockery will provide strong leadership to ensure outstanding Extension programs that effectively address critical issues facing Bladen County,” said Danny Shaw, district extension director for the South Central District, which includes Bladen County. “Dalton has a commitment to service and has modeled that service through innovative program delivery and impacts.”

Posted by Natalie at 10:23 AM

August 09, 2007

Not horsing around: enthusiasts ride out new ideas

Franklin horse tour
The Southerlands, from left to right, Luke, Jocelyn and Rob, take time during the Franklin County Horse Farm Tour Aug. 4 to feed a horse on the first stop of the tour. The Southerlands were joined by about 100 other folks who braved heat to tour three horse farms in Franklin County to get ideas on fencing, bedding and housing. (Franklin Times photo by Carey Johnson)

(Reprinted with permission from The Franklin Times.)

The heat and attendance were as high as the passion for horses this past Saturday as equine enthusiasts gathered for the 13th annual Franklin County Horse Farm Tour.

More than 100 people attended this year’s event, receiving a tour of three horse farms noted for their diversity.

A caravan of about two dozen cars snaked their way through the county, stopping first at Paradox Sport Horse located off U.S. Highway 401 south of Louisburg.

The barn-in-progress is a project by Dr. Barbara Burggraaff. The stop also featured a horse-jumping demonstration.

The second stop showcased Barbara Robison’s handmade farm in Youngsville, some new fencing and no-till seeding of pastures.

The third stop highlighted Earl Haga’s Blossom Farm, a new facility for lease on Timberlake Road. It also featured some tips from Dr. David Green, a large-animal veterinarian.

Also, Youngsville businessman E. Carroll Joyner introduced a new horse bedding that is being tested at several Franklin County farms. He plans to develop the product in coming months.

“The farms showcased a variety,” said Cooperative Extension Agent Martha Mobley. “We had the really expensive ones to the ones made from a carport. You see $50,000 horses, and they’re still happy and safe in a converted carport. And we had the handmade barn to the custom pre-fabricated farm.

“It just gives people a bunch of new ideas,” Mobley said. “It’s a chance to showcase new farms and facilities and learn from others.”

It was that opportunity that brought Jamie Colley and his wife, Julie, from their Raleigh home to Franklin County’s horse farm tour.

Julie Colley has been taking riding lessons for about a year and is considering getting her own horse. She said she wanted a better idea of the type of responsibility it takes.

“I’ve been thinking about it a while,” she said. “With this tour, you get to ask questions and find out what’s involved. That’s what is so good about this.”

Mobley figured it was that sort of inquisitiveness that brought the crowd out to tour horse farms in temperatures that approached 100 degrees.

“It was a fabulous turnout,” said Mobley.

The tour concluded with a pig-picking lunch at Joyner Park in Louisburg.

-Carey Johnson, Times Staff Writer

Posted by Natalie at 08:36 AM

August 07, 2007

Publications update from Communication Services

New publications are now available include the following:

· Conservation Tillage on Organic Farms, AGW-659-02, by Nancy Creamer. This 22-page online publication describes how cover crops affect the soil, how to establish cover crops, and how to manage their residue. It includes a review of the winter and summer cover crops recommended for North Carolina. The authors also discuss the economics of planting cover crops and some concerns to consider when planting cover crops. It is available only online at http://www.cefs.ncsu.edu/PDFs/Organic%20Production%20-%20Cover%20Crops.doc.

· Additives for Improving Hog Farm Air Quality, AG-686W, by Sanjay Shaw. North Carolina is the second largest producer of hogs in the United States, with an on-farm inventory of 9.5 million animals in December 2006. As the population grows and homes are built close to hog farms, homeowners complain about the air quality associated with hog production. In addition to smelling bad, high concentrations of some manure gases can also affect the health of the animals and workers. This publication focuses on additives used in shallow pits and lagoons to improve air quality by reducing emissions of ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, and VOCs. These additives include pH modifiers and acidifiers, digestive additives, oxidizing agents, disinfectants, adsorbents, enzyme inhibitors, saponins from yucca, and masking agents and counteractants. The eight-page publication is only available online at http://www.bae.ncsu.edu/programs/extension/publicat/wqwm/AG-686w.pdf.

· Potential Nitrogen Contributions from Septic Systems to North Carolina River Basins, TB-324, by Mike Hoover. This 52-page full-color bulletin describes research that investigated cumulative potential nitrogen loadings from septic systems in North Carolina's river basins based on 1990 census data. The findings include a data table and maps for each river basin indicating septic system density and potential nitrogen loadings by sub-basin. To receive a copy, contact Mike_Hoover@ncsu.edu.

· An Introduction to Forest Certification, WON-42, by Susan Moore. Forest certification is a third-party evaluation of the management of a forest. Certification systems assure the consumer that the product they are purchasing meets certain standards as verified by an independent evaluation. This eight-page publication describes forest certification systems, procedures and potential for landowners. Certification identifies land that is managed with a goal of sustainability. Like all Woodland Owner Notes, it is available through the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources. It is online at http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/forestry/pdf/WON/won42.pdf. To order copies, contact Susan_Moore@ncsu.edu.

· Three of Godfrey Nalyanya’s brochures explaining the benefits of using IPM in schools have been reprinted and are again available through Communication Services. To order Get Tough on Pests in School Facilities, AG-631-3; Get Tough on Pests in Classrooms, AG-631-4; or Get Tough on Pests in Food Service Areas, AG-631-5, go to Extension’s online publications catalog at http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/xrdb.

Posted by Natalie at 02:53 PM