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November 29, 2007

New guide brings snacking health to consumers

student at vending machines
(Photo courtesy WNCT.com)

Many of us make poor food choices when we turn to vending machines or snack bars in search of a quick bite to eat. Now there's a free guide to help busy consumers make better decisions when facing rows of colorful snacks and drinks.

The N.C. Division of Public Health and N.C. Cooperative Extension has announced the release of Eat Smart North Carolina: Snacks and Drinks, available online on the Eat Smart, Move More…NC consumer website at www.MyEatSmartMoveMore.com.

"Calories from snacking can wreck someone’s best intentions," said Carolyn Dunn, a nutrition specialist with Cooperative Extension and one of the co-authors. "We are trying to raise people's awareness that something as simple as the beverage you choose at a coffee shop can make a big difference in total calories eaten for a day."

Read more from WNCT - Eyewitness News.

Posted by Suzanne at 02:49 PM | Comments (0)

November 28, 2007

'Putting Small Acreage to Work Conference' will be Dec. 8

As a result of increased interest in small-scale farming, Gaston County Cooperative Extension is sponsoring a "Putting Small Acreage to Work Conference." This conference will provide information for people interested in starting or expanding small-scale farm enterprises. Whether for profit or personal enjoyment, a new project should be carefully thought out.

The Dec. 8 conference presentations kick off at the Gaston County Police Department at 9 a.m., following registration at 8:30 a.m. The keynote speaker will feature Tim Will of Foothills Connect, speaking on creating a unique Internet-based produce market, aptly named Farmers Fresh Market, that links growers of locally grown fresh food products with Charlotte based restaurants and chefs.

Participants will explore alternative enterprises, learning from successful producers and university personnel who are already growing, producing and researching specialty crops and livestock. These experts will provide the practical, no-nonsense, hands-on advice growers will need when considering crop production, market development and other important business options.

Topics to be discussed include small fruit production, organic vegetable production, direct marketing freezer meats; beef and pork, meat goat production; bee keeping, agritourism, CSA and subscription sales, medicinal herbs, and pasture systems.

Class sessions will start promptly after registration. The program will include one general opening session and three breakout sessions. Three topics will be discussed concurrently during each of these breakout sessions. Participants will receive lunch and resource materials for all sessions. Fees for the conference are $20 per person or $30 per couple before Dec. 3.

Registration information for the conference is available at: http://gaston.ces.ncsu.edu/ or by contacting Lara_Worden@ncsu.edu or 704.922.2118.

Posted by Natalie at 03:55 PM

November 27, 2007

Jordan, Brandenburg work with peanut growers in Ghana

Rick Brandenburg
Rick Brandenburg shows peanuts to a group of children from rural Ghana. (Photos courtesy of Rick Brandenburg and David Jordan)

At a typical agricultural field day in North Carolina, the crowd would be largely men wearing John Deere caps. But in Ghana, West Africa, the farmers you’ll find at a field day are mostly women, some with young children.

Such field days scenes are not unusual to Dr. Rick Brandenburg, William Neal Reynolds Professor of Entomology, and Dr. David Jordan, peanut specialist in crop science, both in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Brandenburg and Jordan have been involved for more than 10 years with the Peanut Collaborative Research Support Program in Ghana, a program of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

In that time, they have seen increases in peanut yields, which are significant for the country’s subsistence growers who rely on peanuts as a primary source of dietary protein. And the knowledge they’ve gained working with growers in Ghana has direct benefits for growers back in North Carolina.

“Since it is subsistence agriculture in Ghana, we’re trying to bump them out of that. In one of the villages where we work, they’ve really made big strides. They’ve doubled and tripled their yields; they’ve increased their acreage,” Brandenburg said. “But Africa’s a place of extremes, and life is not easy there.”

The USAID Peanut CRSP is managed by the University of Georgia, with partner universities working in locations around the world. The College’s involvement in the program goes back to the early 1980s and has included leaders such as Dr. Johnny Wynne, peanut breeder and now dean of the College; Dr. Tom Stalker, former head of the Crop Science Department; and the late Dr. Jack Bailey, professor and Extension plant pathologist.

Other College leaders have included Dr. Tom Isleib, crop science professor; Dr. Robert Moxley, sociology and anthropology professor, Bill Campbell, emeritus professor of entomology; and Marvin Buete, emeritus professor of plant pathology.

Brandenburg began work with the program in Southeast Asia in 1989, and in 1996, he was asked to work with the project in Ghana. Jordan joined the project in 2002, following Bailey’s death.

The N.C. State researchers work with two research centers in Ghana, the Crop Research Institute in Kumasi to the south, and the Savanna Agricultural Research Institute in the north. Despite some initial ambivalence about the assignment, Brandenburg says the experience has been wonderful.

“One of the biggest challenges (for the scientist at these institutes) is that they have such limited resources with which to fund their research. That’s what the Peanut CRSP is all about. We team up with them, and we find good scientists. We’re fortunate in Ghana, the scientists have really been good at doing quality research,” Brandenburg said.

davidjordan.jpg
David Jordan, left, poses with farmers at a field day in Ghana.

Through the Peanut CRSP, USAID provides funding and experts like Brandenburg and Jordan to support Ghana’s research and extension efforts. The two institutes team up with rural villages to conduct field demonstrations and involve local farmers in deciding which production strategies are most useful for them.

“They’ve really taken it upon themselves, once they test a strategy at the research station, to get it out to the farmers,” Brandenburg said. “They get the village chief to donate them a field, and they travel every two weeks to the site. And the farmers see what they’re doing; the farmers are intimately involved.”

Farmers are eager to come to the field days, and for their participation, they receive a day’s wage – about one U.S. dollar – as compensation for giving up a day’s work. After three years of regularly attending the field days, farmers are awarded a certificate from the Peanut CRSP, a valued achievement in rural Ghana.

Growers in Africa face so many challenges and have so few resources to fight back. So finding cost-effective production and pest management strategies is the challenge of the researchers. Leafspot, for instance, is one problem that Ghana’s peanut farmers face, but unlike U.S. farmers, they don’t have chemicals to combat the disease.

“Their big step forward is that they can actually take homemade soap and spray the peanuts with it, and it will suppress the disease; not a lot, but it helps,” Brandenburg said. “Well if they could just insert one application of fungicide early in the season, it would make a huge difference. But the farmers don’t have the money to go out and purchase it. If they did, their yields would increase, and they could put money aside for next year to purchase fungicide. But they face the challenge of getting out of that cycle of just getting by.”

Weed management is another important issue to these farmers, who do all their weeding by hand. “They spend like half of their life weeding fields. So weed management and practices that minimize weed production is just a huge thing. If you could cut their weeding time in half, you’d free up 25 percent of their time,” Brandenburg said.

Jordan said that there is a big difference between developed countries and developing countries in terms of farmers’ ability to try new technologies or production strategies. In the U.S., growers trust that new technologies have been thoroughly studied, and there are safety nets available for those willing to take a risk on something new.

Women at field day
Women farmers examine peanut plants during a field day.

“In developing countries, their lives are shaped by the predictability of what they’ve been growing for a long time,” Jordan said. “If we make a mistake there, the consequences are much greater.”

An important challenge for Africa growers is trying to achieve consistent levels of production, rather than highs and lows. “You have to really search for a plan that flattens those peaks and valleys out,” Brandenburg said. “A record year one year, and a record low yield the next, is the worst situation they can be in. If there’s a disaster, the impact is huge.”

Research on peanut-related problems has also benefited growers in North Carolina. In fact, about half of the funds received from the Peanut CRSP stay in North Carolina and are used to support graduate students or to supply resources needed to address peanut issues in the state. One example of a direct benefit occurred when tomato spotted wilt virus threatened peanuts, and the Peanut CRSP was able to quickly fund a graduate student to work on research related to the problem.

Both Jordan and Brandenburg are passionate about their work in Ghana, a passion that has extended to their families. Brandenburg took his 15-year-old daughter Ashley on a recent trip to the country. And researchers visiting from Ghana enjoyed a traditional North Carolina dinner at David Jordan’s family home near Edenton.

Jordan, who first came to N.C. State as an undergraduate, recalls that his interest in international research and extension began while he was a student in Dr. Bob Patterson’s popular class on World Population and Food Prospects.

“After beginning my career at N.C. State, the idea of international agriculture, learning and assisting developing countries was something I was very interested in, but it still seemed a challenge in terms of finding a way to be involved,” Jordan said. “The Peanut CRSP opened that door for me 15 years after I first thought that it would be neat to be involved in that type of work.”

Now, Jordan has opportunities to lecture in Patterson’s class and describe his work to today’s undergraduates. He finds that many of them also are interested in international development. “The hope is that they will not forget what they see in this class, and they may be involved in similar work two, five, 10 or 20 years down the road,” he said.

-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 01:56 PM

November 20, 2007

4-H continues to influence futures

4-H'er Tom Devine feeds goats
4H participant Tom Devine feeds goats at his family's farm in Newton on Sunday. Devine shows livestock competitively and will enter Catawba Valley Community College in the spring to study science. (Photo by Alan Rogers, Hickory Daily Record)

One student has always known he would have a future with horses. The other started in 4-H at an early age and has developed an interest in poultry science. But both have benefited from their participation in the 4-H Club.

"I've always been interested in animals and wanted to become a vet. Four-H provides opportunities ... that I wouldn't get otherwise," said Ethan Hefner, 16, of Newton.

Lisa Baxter, 17, of Sherills Ford, started out young, participating in a small club and working with sheep. A teen retreat to N.C. State University through 4-H grabbed her interest.

"We did a lot of stuff in a lab," Baxter said, quickly listing activities including dissecting chickens to learn about their reproductive and digestive systems. "We would break eggs at different stages of development. And I went to a hatchery to see how commercial products start."

Read more from the Hickory Daily Record.

Posted by Suzanne at 09:28 AM

Cobb named Alamance County Extension director

Roger Cobb, a long-time North Carolina Cooperative Extension agent in Alamance County, has been named to direct the Extension program in the county.

Cobb’s appointment as Alamance County Extension director was announced by Dr. Jon Ort, director of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service at North Carolina State University, and David Smith, Alamance County manager. His appointment was effective Nov. 6.

Cobb has been an Extension agent in Alamance County since 1983. He is responsible for planning, conducting and evaluating educational programs in crop production, pond management, turf management and dairy production. He joined Cooperative Extension in 1980 and spent the first three years of his career as an agent in Pitt County before moving to Alamance.

Cobb holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from North Carolina State University. His bachelor’s degree is in agronomy, while his master’s is in crop science. He succeeds Junius “Rett” Davis Jr., who retired in September after a nearly 34-year career with Cooperative Extension.

“Cooperative Extension has employed Roger for over 27 years. All but three of those years have been in service to the citizens of Alamance County,” said Bob Edwards, director of extension’s Northwest District, which includes Alamance County. “Roger has a wealth of knowledge about the people, the local government and the needs of the county. He has a vision and plan for how Cooperative Extension will continue to be an important player in Alamance County well into the future. I am very pleased to have Roger as part of the great northwest district administrative team.”

-D. Caldwell

Posted by Natalie at 09:15 AM

Roos named CFSA 'Agent of the Year'

Debbie Roos, Chatham County agricultural agent, received the Agent of the Year Award for North Carolina Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Programs from Carolina Farm Stewardship. Roos is recognized nationally for her work promoting small farms and healthy farm ecosystems and for her award-winning Web site, "Growing Small Farms." Carolina Farm Stewardship Association serves both North and South Carolina in its efforts to promote sustainable agriculture practices.

Posted by Natalie at 09:00 AM

November 19, 2007

Extension, state aquariums team up for water quality demos

Roanoke Island Aquarium
To water this cypress forest display, Roanoke Island's North Carolina Aquarium uses an indoor irrigation system fed with storm water harvested and stored in rainwater-collection cisterns. Art Latham photo

Everything old, as the song goes, is new again. Well, maybe not everything, but this is: To help conserve every precious drop of our available water supplies, a team that includes North Carolina Cooperative Extension storm-water specialists and personnel from our state's three aquariums has launched a low-impact development (LID) education and demonstration campaign.

-A. Latham

To read more from Perspectives magazine

Posted by Art at 11:07 AM

Priester Conference issues call for presentations

A “call for presentations” has been issued for the 2008 Priester National Extension Health Conference to be held April 8-10 in Raleigh/Durham. The deadline for presentations submission is November 30. The presentations instructions and forms are attached are available at http://continuingeducation.ncsu.edu/PNEHC/presentations.html

The 2008 Priester National Extension Health Conference theme, “Building Healthy Communities, One Person at a Time,” celebrates Cooperative Extension's long history of promoting health and preventing disease for individuals of every age and background, in families of all types, living in rural, suburban, and urban communities. The conference showcases the successful programs of Extension professionals, their community and organizational partners and their students.

This year's conference tracks are:
* Successful Aging
* Global Health
* Growing Up Healthy IRL (in real life)

The conference focuses on programs that address today's challenges. Our communities, families and youth are facing challenges such as baby boomer retirement, caregiving for aging parents and other sandwich generation issues, new immigrant health, global consumer product safety, green living and growing up healthy in a world of unprecedented affluence and communication technology, yet growing disparities among rich and poor.

Please respond to the call for presentations for the opportunity to share your health-related educational programs and resources, applied research, collaborative strategies and integrated programming ideas with your colleagues. Named in honor of retired CSREES National Program Leader Jeanne Priester, the conference has drawn participants from the Cooperative Extension System state and county offices, CSREES/USDA, Departments of Public Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Housing and Urban Development's Healthy Homes Program, Office of Rural Health, Bureau of Primary Health Care, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, U.S. EPA, National Cancer Institute, National 4-H Council, National Rural Health Association, public school systems, local governments, private non-profits, faith-based organizations and university departments of health-related disciplines.

Thank you! We look forward to hearing from you.
Dr. Sandy Wiggins
Dr. Robert Williamson
Julia Storm
North Carolina Cooperative Extension, N.C. State University and N.C. A&T State University

Posted by Natalie at 10:45 AM

November 16, 2007

Despite drought, NC Christmas trees look good for 2007 holiday season

Christmas tree harvest

Even with the recent drought in North Carolina, this year's Christmas tree crop will be just as good as last year's, according to Jeff Owen, North Carolina State University area extension forestry specialist who works with Christmas tree growers across the N.C. mountains.

Read more in the North Carolina State University news release.

Posted by Dave at 01:40 PM

November 06, 2007

Field days still pull in crowds

Tractors at field day
In 2007, tractors pull wagonloads of interested attendees to research sites at the Fresh Market Tomato and Vegetable Field Day at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research Station, Fletcher. Becky Kirkland photo

Field Days are a North Carolina tradition. This year, the North Carolina Agricultural Research Service in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences set 18 field days at N.C. State locations and research stations from Waynesville to Castle Hayne.

Click here for a listing of all 2007 field days.

Here’s a little field day history and a wrap up of a few activities at this year’s field days.

Read more from Perspectives

-A. Latham

Posted by Art at 03:03 PM

College celebrates feed mill grand opening

More than 300 people celebrated the grand opening of the new Feed Mill Educational Unit in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at North Carolina State University. Representatives of the feed milling, swine and poultry industries, as well as university officials, faculty, staff and students, gathered Wednesday, Oct. 31, for a day-long celebration that included tours of the feed mill and a dedication ceremony.

The Feed Mill Educational Unit, a hands-on learning laboratory of the college's Departments of Poultry Science, Animal Science, and Biological and Agricultural Engineering, will provide opportunities for students to learn the principles and methods of feed manufacturing. The facility is one of only two teaching and research mills in the nation, and the only one on the East Coast.

Read more from the Communication Services news release

-S. Stanard

Posted by Natalie at 02:57 PM