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June 30, 2008

'Cecil and Leonard' CD will benefit 4-H

WRAL-TV in Raleigh recently issued a compilation CD, "Best of Cecil and Leonard," by Ray Wilkinson, beloved former WRAL farm reporter and master storyteller. All proceeds from the audio CD will benefit the North Carolina 4-H Youth Development Program. Wilkinson's "hayseed duo of

Cecil and Leonard became almost as famous as the farm reporter himself, according to a story on www.wral.com. Wilkinson's homespun stories were just one element of an accomplished broadcast career that included induction into the North Carolina Broadcaster's Hall of Fame.

"We're so grateful to Capitol Broadcasting Company and WRAL-TV for creating a fund-raising opportunity that will support 4-H youth across North Carolina," said Dr. Marshall Stewart, state program leader and head of the Department of 4-H Youth Development and Family and Consumer Sciences at North Carolina State University.

To order a copy of the CD ($9.99 plus shipping), visit www.cafepress.com/wral.267242610.

The 4-H program is conducted by North Carolina Cooperative Extension at North Carolina State and North Carolina A&T State universities. More than 208,000 young people between the ages of 5 and 19 participate in North Carolina 4-H activities each year with the help of 21,000 adult and youth volunteers. To learn more, visit www.nc4h.org.

Posted by Natalie at 03:23 PM

June 26, 2008

E-Conservation efforts timely as energy costs rise

Leigh Guth
Leigh Guth, Lincoln County Extension agent, left, helps insulate pipes during an energy audit.

As energy costs continue to rise, consumers are looking for ways to reduce energy consumption and save money. Through a program known as E-Conservation, North Carolina Cooperative Extension is helping consumers understand what they can do at home to conserve energy.

Through E-Conservation – on the Web at www.e-conservation.net -- Extension has partnered with the State Energy Office on an educational program that helps homeowners reduce their energy consumption and save money on their utility bills. This program is offered in 78 of the state’s 101 Cooperative Extension county centers across the state. The interdisciplinary program, which started in 2005, involves family and consumer sciences agents, as well as natural resources, agriculture and 4-H agents.

Energy conservation has become an important issue for consumers and communities for a number of reasons, according to Dr. Sarah Kirby, associate professor and Extension housing specialist in charge of E-Conservation.

“Most of the energy sources we use are nonrenewable, and therefore limited,” Kirby said. “And the cost of these energy sources is on the rise.” In addition, energy conservation is directly tied to water conservation because energy is required to treat, heat and pump water. This was especially critical last spring in parts of North Carolina that were still conserving water in the spring under the worst drought in the state’s history.

Energy resources are becoming scarce and more challenging for family budgets, she said. Finally, consumers are beginning to see the connection between energy use, fossil fuel expenditures and the environmental impacts that contribute to air and water pollution, as well as global warming. To help reduce these environmental impacts, consumers need to be more thoughtful and efficient in their energy usage, Kirby said.

Power companies also are interested in conservation because many face the need to expand their power production by building new plants. Since the cost of new power plants will be staggering, energy conservation is one way to reduce or delay that need and save the monetary impact on consumers.

“There’s an issue, and it’s time to address that issue,” Kirby said.
Extension agents conduct E-Conservation workshops, designed to train homeowners on ways to use energy efficiently and conserve energy in their homes. Those who participate in the workshops receive a home energy conservation kit, complete with a light-emitting diode (LED) night light, thermometers for the refrigerator and for checking home water temperature, foam wall gaskets for blocking air leakage behind electrical outlets, a compact fluorescent (CFL) light bulb and a faucet aerator.

Fifteen counties have offered homeowners an opportunity to sign up for a home energy audit by a certified Home Energy Rating System (HERS) rater, offered at a discounted price. In the pilot phase of the program, audits were offered at no cost. Now, homeowners pay a fee of $100 for an audit, a bargain compared with the $500 market value for the service. The audit program focuses on existing homes that are up to 2,000 square feet, five years old and have one heating and cooling system.

“Homeowners have to work with what they have – they can’t walk away from their largest investment,” Kirby said.

The City of Rocky Mount used Housing and Urban Development funds to pay the cost of about 12-15 audits aimed at helping low-income residents to conserve their energy dollars.

Jim Burke
Gaston County Agent Jim Burke, left, listens as a rater explains energy-saving measures during an audit.

The audits included a thorough examination of the home and a blower door test to identify air leakage. Raters inspect mechanical, heating and ventilation systems, insulation, and conduct a walk-through inspection of current home appliances. Following the audit, each homeowner receives a standardized report that lists specific no cost/low cost improvements and higher cost improvements that could made to the home in order to make it more energy efficient according to Amy Chilcote, Extension associate with E-Conservation.

Bigger changes, or retrofits include installing programmable thermostats or purchasing high-efficiency Energy Star appliances to replace older, less efficient appliances. A lower-cost energy conservation measure would include switching incandescent light bulbs to CFLs, Chilcote said. In addition to techonology changes, auditors also discuss behavioral changes that can impact energy efficiency and use.

Once a home audit is conducted, Extension agents work with the homeowner participants for one year, gathering follow-up data at six-month and one-year intervals to find out how homeowners responded to the summary information that was provided to them. During the year, the homeowners’ utility usage is also captured. Thus far, data show that participants:
· Performed a number of no-cost, low-cost and high-cost retrofits;
· Reduced their kilowatt usage;
· Reduced their carbon footprint;
· Increased their families comfort level; and
· Saved money.

In Buncombe County, FCS Agent Nancy Ostergaard conducts E-Conservation workshops each month during winter and incorporates conservation principles in the home maintenance course she offers five times a year. She also provides energy-related news articles to various publications monthly. Following Hurricane Katrina, when energy costs soared, clients became more motivated to conserve, and they began to see conservation as more than just a winter issue, she said.

Ostergaard says that this year 15 clients have had energy audits conducted. The response has been favorable, and last spring, some clients were waiting to use their tax refunds to make recommended retrofits. By fall, she hopes to have more information on energy cost savings for clients.

In Orange County, FCS Agent Deborah Taylor has been conducting energy programming since E-Conservation began. Her efforts even inspired her county government to form an Energy Conservation Team.

“What has helped is that I’m in a county where people are very concerned about energy and the environment, so it wasn’t a hard sell for me,” she said.

Nineteen of those participating in Orange County energy workshops have also commissioned energy audits. Though data collection is still underway, Taylor reports that clients are responding to the audit recommendations. “It’s rewarding to hear what people have to say,” she said. “A lot of people report energy savings and cost savings.”

Among the major retrofits her clients have undertaken are installing new energy-efficient windows, buying Energy Star appliances to replace older appliances and installing CFLs where possible.

Taylor also developed a Web-based program on lighting choices. The site gives consumers information about different types of light sources, including LEDs and CFLS as well as the applications for which each is intended.

An E-Conservation video on “10 Low-Cost, No-Cost Ways to Save Energy” is running in the local lobby of Piedmont Electric Membership Corp., giving consumers who drop in tips on saving energy. Taylor also has developed a brochure on “Energy Myth Busters” that she wants to provide for consumers.

With no end in sight to the rising energy costs, consumers will only become more interested in finding ways to save, making Extension and E-Conservation an increasingly valuable resource.

-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 09:11 AM

June 17, 2008

ECA collar coolers help beat Middle East heat

women sewing
ECA President Georgine Armstrong and member Faye Meades assemble neckband coolers. (Photo courtesy of Yvonne Mullen)

U.S. soldiers serving in the Middle East may soon thank Pasquotank County for cooler collars. Pasquotank County’s Extension and Community Association teamed up to hand-sew 100 reusable neckbands that hold moisture-retaining crystals. When soaked in cool water and worn around the neck, the neckbands cool the wearer. Service members receive theirs for free, but similar models retail for up to $13.

In addition to the 100 bound for the Middle East, an additional 30 neckbands are destined for those fighting wildfires in Tyrrell County.

For more than 80 years, the N.C. Extension and Community Association has worked to strengthen families and improve the quality of life within our communities. Pasquotank ECA members range in age from 14 to 90 years.

Posted by Natalie at 11:40 AM

June 16, 2008

Baker named Yancey County Extension director

Denise M. Baker, Henderson County Extension director since September 2006, has been named Yancey County Extension director.

Her appointment, effective July 1, was approved and announced by Yancey County Manager Michele Lawhern and Dr. Jon Ort, director, North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. Baker succeeds Joyce Watts, who will retire from Cooperative Extension on June 30.

Baker is no stranger to Cooperative Extension in Yancey County. Prior to becoming Henderson County extension director, she was an area family and consumer sciences agent, serving Mitchell and Yancey counties. For 27 years, she worked as an Extension agent in Mitchell County.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in home economics from Appalachian State University and a master’s degree in adult and community college education from N.C. State University.

“Denise recently served in Yancey County and is very familiar with the needs of the citizens and the Extension staff and county government,” said Harvey Fouts, district Extension director for the West District, which includes Yancey County. “Her experience and leadership gained in Henderson County have been very positive for that Extension center. I am very pleased that Denise wants to continue her career in Yancey County and look forward to her leadership in providing continued excellence in managing the Cooperative Extension center there.”

-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 10:47 AM

June 12, 2008

Guidebook to enhance artisan, agritourism trails

woman painting
Janet Francoeur of Carolina Creations Fine Art and Contemporary Craft Gallery in New Bern paints porcelain at the launch event for the Homegrown Handmade guidebook in Greene County. (Photo by Natalie Hampton)

Ever dreamed of paddling down Greene County’s Contentnea Creek, shopping through the artwork of a chainsaw sculptor, visiting the humble Wayne County birthplace of Gov. Charles B. Aycock or attending the fall Muscadine Festival in Kenansville?

If you’re the type of tourist who longs to wander the back roads of North Carolina, seeking historic sites, artisans, farms and produce stands, and of course, the state’s finest barbecue, the new guidebook, Homegrown Handmade: Art Roads and Farm Trails, is not to be missed.

The guidebook was launched in June at an event in Greene County, which boasts a number of sites in the book. The book was created through a partnership of North Carolina Cooperative Extension and the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources.

Five years ago, both groups asked the Golden LEAF Foundation for funds to develop a guide to both cultural arts trails and agritourism sites across Piedmont and eastern North Carolina. Golden LEAF asked the two groups to partner in their efforts, and Homegrown Handmade was born.

Cooperative Extension’s Southeast AgriCultural Toursim Task Force worked with the N.C. Arts Council to identify sites across 76 Piedmont and eastern North Carolina counties. Their efforts had resulted in the development of 16 driving trails across some of the state’s most scenic and rural counties. Until now, the trails were available only through the Homegrown Handmade Web site --
http://www.homegrownhandmade.com/ -- which required tourists to do some serious planning before embarking on a trail tour.

The book is available for $19.95 in retail book stories, through Web-based book sellers and Cooperative Extension county centers. It gives driving tourists the flexibility of leaving the Internet behind as they meander down country roads.

At the launch, several business owners described their experiences with Homegrown Handmade. Natalie Relyea, co-owner of Relyea’s Produce Patch and Crazy Claw Prawns, described how she and her husband had decided 18 years ago to diversify their tobacco operation into a produce operation. Recently, the couple received a grant to open the first prawn processing facility in the United States to support the growing region’s prawn industry. She expressed confidence that the guidebook would be a dream for both tourists and business owners.

“There’s nothing like riding in the country and seeing a green field with grazing cows,” she said.

Mary Betty Kearney of the Benjamin W. Best Country Inn and Carriage House and her husband have converted an historic home and carriage house into their business, the site of the guidebook launch. Visitors at the event also enjoyed another of Kearney’s products, hamburgers made from her family’s natural Nooherooka Angus beef.

She also described her term as a Greene County commissioner, working to convince fellow policymakers that the economic future of the county – once the state’s most tobacco-dependent – was tied to prospects for attracting and supporting new business enterprises. Today, a number of Greene County’s successful small businesses are featured in the Homegrown Handmade guide.

A podcast from the event is available on the N.C. Division of Cultural Resources Web site.

-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 08:46 AM

June 02, 2008

Three receive award for river video

New River graphic.jpg

Diana Rashash of North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Onslow County, Ken Ellzey of Communication Services, and Ed Jones, associate director and state program leader for ANR/CRD, have been recognized for the creation of a video about the New River in Onslow County. The three received an award from the Association of Natural Resource Extension Professionals at its meeting in Madison, Wis., in May. Rashash was executive producer, while Ellzey shot and edited the video. Ed Jones provided funding for this project.

The video, titled “Caring for a River . . . Onslow County's New River,” is a 32-minute program that explores ways a variety of groups -- government and volunteer -- work to take care of the New River in Onslow County. This is the largest river in the state that starts and ends in the same county.

The ANREP Awards Program fosters high standards among its members and helps expand the use of high-quality, innovative materials and programs by honoring the outstanding members and partners as well as the educational materials and programs they have developed. For more information, visit: http://anrep.org/awards

Posted by Natalie at 03:27 PM