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June 29, 2009

Camp helps children acheive a healthy weight

The Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University and North Carolina State University are working together to provide a healthy lifestyle camp for overweight youth to be held at the Eastern 4-H Center in Columbia.

Read more from The Daily Reflector.

Posted by Suzanne at 10:26 AM | Comments (0)

June 26, 2009

Eat Smart, Move More North Carolina releases Road Map to Health

image of outdoor map

North Carolinians who want to improve their health by enjoying outdoor activity will benefit from a new resource developed by Eat Smart, Move More North Carolina. The group has just released Eat Smart, Move More NC: Your Road Map to Health, a foldable state map illustrated with North Carolina sites and opportunities for physical activity and outdoor recreation.

The Road Map, which doubles as a progress report on obesity in North Carolina, folds and fits in a car glove box like a regular street map. The map’s appeal to outdoor enthusiasts is that it highlights walking, hiking, biking and paddling trails throughout the state. The document also engages readers with the personal success stories of individuals who have been agents of change in their own communities -- making healthy improvements to work sites, schools and neighborhoods.

N.C. Cooperative Extension is one of 60 organizations that lead the Eat Smart, Move More NC (ESMM) movement. The shared vision among these partner organizations is a North Carolina where healthful eating and active living are the norm, rather than the exception.

Two years ago, ESMM released its five-year plan, North Carolina’s Plan to Prevent Overweight, Obesity and Related Chronic Diseases 2007-2012, which aims to establish state, local and organizational policies and to improve community environments. The Road Map is an innovative tool that updates the public on the progress of this plan and tells the stories of people whose lives were changed by it.

“Many people assume obesity is a problem that starts and stops with individuals and the lifestyle choices they make,” explains Dr. Carolyn Dunn, nutrition specialist with N.C. Cooperative Extension and ESMM chair. “The point of the Road Map is to show how we are influenced by the world around us – the rules, traditions and expectations of where we live and work or go to school. Oftentimes, the healthy choice is not the easy choice. Eat Smart, Move More North Carolina is trying to change that.”

Health experts have long maintained that many American neighborhoods lack safe places to walk or bike and that fast food and unhealthy snacks are the cheapest and most common items to eat. The Road Map to Health shares success stories of North Carolinians joining forces to make their communities healthier places to live.

“The Road Map could have been another report that sits on a shelf somewhere collecting dust,” says Maggie Sauer of the N.C. Medical Society Foundation and ESMM vice chair. “But we wanted to create something dynamic, educational and useful that people could keep with them for ideas on how to make healthy changes in their communities.”

In addition to success stories and the physical activity map, the Road Map offers information on parks and recreation facilities, state parks and state farmers’ markets in North Carolina. These resources are supplemented by statistics on physical activity, healthy eating and obesity in North Carolina and an introduction to Eat Smart, Move More NC. To request a free copy of the Road Map, visit www.MyEatSmartMoveMore.com.

Eat Smart, Move More NC is a statewide program that promotes increased opportunities for healthy eating and physical activity wherever people live, learn, earn, play and pray. More information about the program and its partner organizations can be found at www.EatSmartMoveMoreNC.com.

Posted by Natalie at 09:02 AM

4-H Centennial Homecoming registration extended to July 1

100 Years! Wow. What an achievement. And, what a birthday!

Few organizations or companies ever reach their centennial year. But, as you know, in 2009 the North Carolina 4-H Program will celebrate 100 years. From humble beginnings in northeastern North Carolina as corn and tomato clubs, North Carolina 4-H has grown into the largest youth development program in the state. Today's 4-H is a mirror image demographically of the youth living in North Carolina between the ages of 5 and 19. Today, 4-H serves more than 204,000 young people across the state.

To celebrate this momentous milestone in our history, an exciting event has been planned. Please reserve the evening of Tuesday, July 21, 2009 for the NC 4-H Centennial Homecoming. Please register today using the on-line registration site www.nc4H.org

Special Note: Agents and 4-H Congress delegates do not need to register for this event - they will automatically be registered to attend through the 4-H Congress Registration process.

This event is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to catch up with old friends, make new ones, and celebrate our past as we position 4-H for the future.

Centennial Events (all held at the N.C. State Fairgrounds)

4 - 5:45 pm, Centennial Reunion / Exhibit Hall Opens, Kerr Scott Building

6 - 9 pm, Centennial Celebration Dinner, Exposition Center

9:30 - 11:30 pm, Rockin’ Clover Bash, Kerr Scott Building

Posted by Natalie at 08:37 AM

June 24, 2009

Chatham Extension center, beekeepers celebrate pollinators

bees in a hive

Come join the Chatham County Center of North Carolina Cooperative Extension and the Chatham County Beekeepers’ Association for the third annual celebration of National Pollinator Week on Saturday, June 27, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on The Lawn at Chatham Mills in Pittsboro.

The purpose of National Pollinator Week is to teach pollinator-friendly practices and raise public awareness of the importance of the bees, beetles, butterflies, moths, flies, birds and bats that are needed to produce 80 percent of our flowering plants and one third of our human food crops. The National Academy of Sciences has reported that there is direct evidence of the decline of some pollinator species in North America. And recently, Colony Collapse Disorder of honey bees has alarmed the agricultural industry.

Activities for folks of all ages are planned for this event in Pittsboro:

* Hear presentations about beekeeping – how to get started, equipment needs, management tips – from local beekeepers.

* Tour Cooperative Extension’s new Pollinator Garden at Chatham Mills and learn how to attract and protect pollinators.

* Watch expert beekeepers work an actual hive inside a bee cage (bees inside, participants outside!), see honey bees up close and personal, and get your burning beekeeping questions answered.

* Participate in a pollinator-themed Scavenger Hunt for kids!

* Watch “Bee TV” - park yourself in front of an observation hive and watch the worker bees attending the queen. It’s mesmerizing!

* Meet Chatham County beekeepers and learn all about what it takes to produce the nutritious and delicious local honey available at Chatham Marketplace. We will have beekeeping equipment and products from the hive to show and tell.

* Visit Chatham Marketplace to learn which products depend on bees for pollination (hint: look for the bee signs).

* Pick up some educational literature to further your knowledge about honey bees, beekeeping, pollinators, and pollinator conservation.

* Learn about the Chatham County Beekeepers’ Association and how you can get involved with this fabulously friendly group through monthly meetings and field days and even an email listserv. We welcome members of all skill levels -- from never-tried-it (but always wanted to) to beginner to experienced!

* Enjoy a pollinator-friendly local lunch at Chatham Marketplace during the program! Did you know that worldwide, approximately 1,000 plants grown for food, beverages, spices, fiber and medicine require pollination by animals?

All Pollinator Week Events are free and open to the public. This event will be held rain or shine. For directions, go to chathammarketplace.coop/location.

This event is sponsored by Chatham Mills Development Corporation, www.chathammills.com, and hosted by Chatham Marketplace, www.chathammarketplace.coop.

For more information about pollinator conservation, visit Cooperative Extension’s Web site at www.protectpollinators.org.

Visit the Chatham Beekeepers’ Association Web site at www.chathambeekeepers.org.

For more information about this event, contact Debbie Roos at 919.542.8202 or debbie_roos@ncsu.edu.

Posted by Natalie at 10:15 AM

Cooperative Extension provides new online tools for growing farmers’ businesses

KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – A new resource from N.C. State University is designed to help farmers be more successful. The “Business Development Files,” for small- to mid-size farmers, are distributed through N.C. Cooperative Extension centers statewide. They offer step-by-step advice for those interested in building or expanding an agricultural business. The new information consists of seven files, or steps, each providing guidance on various aspects of developing an agricultural business, from estimating market potential to calculating costs. Farmers should contact an N.C. Cooperative Extension agent in their county to review these files.

The Business Development Files include:
1. Evaluating a New Business Idea
2. Estimating Income and Cost: Calculating a Price
3. Researching Your Market: Identifying Your Customers
4. Researching Your Market: Evaluating the Competition
5. Estimating Market Potential: Is There a Market?
6. Legal, Regulatory and Insurance: Checklist for North Carolina
7. Product, Price, Place and Promotion

Gary Bullen, an Extension associate in the N.C. State Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics and the Program for Value-Added & Alternative Agriculture, spearheaded the effort to create the Business Development Files after realizing a gap in the flow of information between business experts and farmers.

“There are a lot of materials telling farmers what they should do to be successful, but they don’t explain how to do it,” says Bullen. “These files will walk farmers step-by-step through the business development process and evaluate issues before farmers invest their time and money.”

Cooperative Extension agents will work with farmers to complete worksheets for each of the seven files, thus evaluating the feasibility of a business endeavor in advance.

Growing an agricultural business
N.C. Cooperative Extension agents are integrating the Business Development Files into public workshops and training seminars for farmers across North Carolina. The events are presented by Extension personnel like Amy-Lynn Albertson, Extension associate horticulture agent in Davidson County, and are often localized to meet the needs of the region’s farmers.

“As Extension agents, we have to help farmers in our regions market effectively,” says Albertson. “They know how to grow it; not necessarily how best to sell it.”

Albertson uses the Business Development Files in her workshops to touch on many aspects of agricultural business development, including market and competitor analysis, legal and insurance considerations, and product promotion and marketing. Individuals from five farms have completed Albertson’s Business Development Files-inspired trainings, including Brenda Garner from SandyCreek Farm.

SandyCreek Farm has especially benefited from the Business Development Files provided through Cooperative Extension. Having recently expanded to include new products, a greenhouse and a Web site complete with an online shopping cart, Garner cites the benefits.

“It’s paying off big time,” she says.

The recent grand opening of the SandyCreek Farm store brought upwards of 70 people to the property in Lexington, N.C. “I would’ve considered 20 to 30 people a success,” Garner notes.

Subscriptions to SandyCreek’s e-newsletter have more than tripled over the past year, attendance is up at the farm’s workshops and demand from local restaurants for fresh produce is exceeding supply. “Right now we have waiting lists,” says Garner.

“We had no idea this resource was available. If other farmers will use it, I can’t imagine how they wouldn’t benefit. It’s a tremendous service.”

“We couldn’t operate without Amy-Lynn and the Extension Service.”

The Business Development Files were funded by a grant from the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission and the Southern Region Risk Management Education Center.

About the N.C. State University Program for Value-Added & Alternative Agriculture
Located at the N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis, the multi-disciplinary team builds partnerships and educational resources to help North Carolina agriculture be more profitable. Learn more at www.ncvalueadded.org.

-J. Moore

Posted by Natalie at 09:38 AM

June 16, 2009

Web site offers advice for coping with economic downturn

Take Control graphic

The country's economic downturn has left many families scrambling to deal with personal and financial crises. To help, North Carolina Cooperative Extension has developed a Web site, "Take Control," that provides peer-reviewed fact sheets offering a number of suggestions on how to cope with economic hardship.

The fact sheets, available on the Web site www.nctakecontrol.com, were developed by N.C. Cooperative Extension family and consumer sciences specialists in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at N.C. State University. The fact sheets include tips on saving money, talking to children about the economy, shopping for healthy foods on a tight budget, avoiding home foreclosure and many other timely topics.

"The state and national economic situation affects all aspects of our lives. Stressed finances often create stress for families, and job loss or decreased wages cause families to shift priorities," said Dr. Carolyn Dunn, nutrition specialist with family and consumer sciences. "The economy affects more than bank accounts. It also affects our health and well-being as well as educational opportunities."

"We are certain that this series will have a positive impact on the lives of thousands of North Carolinians," said Dr. Marshall Stewart, head of the Department of 4-H Youth Development and Family and Consumer Sciences.

News media are invited to link to the Web site or refer audiences to these resources. For more information on these fact sheets, contact Dr. Carolyn Dunn, professor and nutrition specialist, family and consumer sciences, 919.515.9142 or carolyn_dunn@ncsu.edu.

-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 09:22 AM

June 12, 2009

Wake Master Gardeners celebrate 30 years

wake_mgs.jpg
Wake Master Gardeners recently celebrated 30 years. Panelists who discussed the program's history are, from left, Sherrill Register, Carl Matyac, Pam Beck, Arabelle Plonk (front), Victor Lynn and Erv Evans. (Photo courtesy of Angela Hertzberg)

Master Gardeners who support N.C. Cooperative Extension in Wake County recently celebrated 30 years of service with a birthday party, cake and all. One highlight was a panel discussion with former horticulture agents and MG volunteers reflecting on the program's history. Wake's MG program began in 1979 when agent Victor Lynn learned of a program called "Garden Leaders" while attending a national agricultural agents meeting. Lynn returned to Raleigh to begin a similar program in Wake County. Today, Wake County Master Gardeners have 129 members and three emeritus members. In addition to answering home horticulture phone calls five days a week, the group is responsible for five demonstration gardens, three WaterWise gardens, horticultural therapy, Successful Gardener clinics, youth horticulture and a speaker’s bureau.

-A. Hertzberg

Posted by Natalie at 08:09 AM

June 10, 2009

4-H Citizenship North Carolina Focus attracts 150 youth to Raleigh

150 youth and adults from across the state will be in Raleigh June 15-17 for 4-H Citizenship North Carolina Focus at the Sheraton Raleigh Downtown. Delegates learn about citizenship, the legislative process and community engagement.

During the conference, the delegates will have the opportunity to hear from a number of key state leaders and experience workshops on a variety of topics from “Whatz Up On Capitol Hill?” to “Nuts and Bolts of the North Carolina General Assembly.” On Wednesday morning, delegates will visit their legislative representatives in their offices, following a legislative breakfast.

"Citizenship has been at the core of the 4-H mission throughout its history. The importance of 4-H youth engagement in community and state issues is critical for the development of future leaders for our society,” said Dr. Marshall Stewart, associate director, department head and state program leader for the Department of 4-H Youth Development and Family & Consumer Sciences.

“This conference provides 4-H youth leaders with skills that will enable them to make a positive difference in clubs, community, country and world."
News media are invited to cover these events at the Sheraton Raleigh Hotel in downtown Raleigh.

Some highlights of the conference are:

Monday, June 15
Luncheon, 12:00 - 1:45 p.m., with U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge

Tuesday, June 16
Luncheon, 12:45 - 1:45 p.m., with state Sen. David Rouzer
NC SPIN, 2 p.m., session on youth issues

Wednesday, June 17
Breakfast , 7:30-8:15 a.m., with state Sen. Tony Rand
Lunch, Noon - 1:00 p.m., Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton

Posted by Natalie at 02:25 PM

June 02, 2009

Researcher helps second graders learn about strawberries

Gina Fernandez with students
Dr. Gina Fernandez, right, and students examine parasitized thrips on leaves from the strawberry patch at Swift Creek Elementary School. (Becky Kirkland photos)

While North Carolina strawberry growers looked forward to a bumper crop of berries in May, second graders at Swift Creek Elementary School in Raleigh also were watching their small crop come in. Though the school’s berries arrived a few weeks later than those of commercial growers, the students and their teachers have gained a wealth of knowledge from their year-long study of strawberries and how they grow.

The project started last fall as a collaboration between Dr. Gina Fernandez, small fruits specialist and associate professor of horticultural science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Swift Creek second grade teacher Megan Sedaghat. Fernandez’s daughter, Anya Yencho, was a student in Sedaghat’s class this year. When Sedaghat learned of Fernandez’s expertise with strawberries, she asked if Fernandez would help students grow and study strawberries.

The North Carolina Strawberry Association also got involved, providing Strawberry Time coloring books for the students and some funds to help develop a school curriculum on strawberries that other schools could implement.

As a crop, strawberries fit nicely into a traditional calendar school year, Fernandez said. The strawberry plants are planted in the fall, cared for throughout the winter and harvested in May, just before the school year ends. School gardens planted in the spring won’t yield their harvest of tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers until mid-summer after students have left school.

In the fall, Fernandez helped the second-grade classes prepare a bed for strawberries, covered in plastic like most commercial strawberry beds in North Carolina. Each of five classes planted six strawberry plants to raise during the school year. Through the winter, students monitored night-time temperatures and covered their plants when a freeze was expected. They also had to cover their plants with netting when birds and squirrels threatened their berries.

“This has been so cool,” Sedaghat said of the project. “Why in the world anyone studying plants in school wouldn’t grow strawberries, I don’t know.”

Sedaghat said the students had enjoyed the lessons that Fernandez brought to the classroom. “She’s an expert, a role model. We couldn’t have done it without her,” Sedaghat said.

Second-grade students don’t study plants as part of the state’s curriculum, but they do study measurement, so Fernandez helped the class set up a system for measuring plant growth each month throughout the growing season. The classes planted “control” plants – one for each month of the growing year. Fernandez visited the school each month to measure and weigh different plant parts. Students in Sedaghat’s class kept “scientific journals” to record the progress of their strawberry crop during the year.

Students shared what they had learned about strawberries – that they grow from flowers, that the new plants are called “tips” and that you have to cut off the plants’ runners.

Measuring strawberry growth
Teacher Megan Sedaghat and a student examine strawberry leaves from fall and from May to see how much the plants grew.

In early May, they measured their final plant of the growing season. First, Fernandez removed the plant from its pot, and then students rinsed dirt off the plant’s roots so they could measure their length. Sedaghat, a self-proclaimed pack rat, still had the dried roots sample from the first plant the students measured in the fall. The students were able to compare how the plants’ roots had grown since September. Cries of “wwwwooooooo” arose as students compared the two root samples.

The students also removed, counted and weighed the plant’s leaves, then weighed the remaining crown of the plant. Fernandez told the students that the scientific measurements they took were the same research practices used by her graduate students at N.C. State. With a year’s worth of plant measurements recorded in their journals, students were able to create graphs showing the strawberry plants’ growth over time.

In addition to Fernandez’s visits, the students heard from Apex strawberry grower Karma Lee of Buckwheat Farm, who explained how she raises strawberries on her farm. When she told them she has 56,000 strawberry plants at her pick-your-own operation, they were stunned.

The day the students measured their last strawberry plant was significant in another way: the school cafeteria served strawberries at lunch that day. North Carolina strawberries will be served in 47 school districts across the state this season through the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Farm to School program. Students received another unexpected treat for their efforts – a quart of berries for each second grader from Piedmont Research Station in Salisbury.

The second grade strawberry patch didn’t get quite enough sun to produce lots of berries, but Sedaghat already has plans to move the whole operation to a sunnier site next season. The project was such a success, that Liz Driscoll, youth horticulture Extension associate in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, is developing a strawberry curriculum with help from the N.C. Strawberry Association that could be used in schools throughout the state. Cooperative Extension agents could get involved in the project in their own communities.

"Kids love strawberries. Helping kids become lifetime strawberries eaters is good for their health and for our farmers,” said Debby Wechsler of the N.C. Strawberry Association. “This project is great because it also encourages budding scientists and builds understanding of how plants grow.”

-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 09:13 AM

June 01, 2009

Farm to Fork Summit focuses on local food systems

perdue-at-F2F.jpg
Gov. Beverly Perdue offers support for local food systems at the Farm to Fork Summit. (Becky Kirkland photos)

How would you build local food economies for North Carolina communities? About 400 farmers, food service buyers, health professionals, county government officials, chefs and university representatives came together at the Farm to Fork Summit held in N.C. State’s McKimmon Center in May to ask that question as they develop a State Action Plan. The conference included remarks and pledges of support by Gov. Beverly Perdue, U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge, former U.S. Rep. Eva Clayton and other dignitaries.

The Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS), directed by Dr. Nancy Creamer, hosted the summit, which took place after more than a year of planning and conversations. Last fall, CEFS hosted six regional summits to learn what was happening regionally to build local food economies and to identify opportunities and obstacles. Other dignitaries offering support were Dr. Jon Ort, director of N.C. Cooperative Extension Service at N.C. State University, Dr. M. Ray McKinnie, administrator of N.C. Cooperative Extension Program at N.C. A&T State University, and Maurice Totty of the Compass Group, the world’s largest food distributor.

Ort and McKinnie pledged support for local food economies in North Carolina during the Farm to Fork Summit. When Extension interviewed 22,000 citizens last summer about what they needed, local food was a key issue identified as needing support from Extension, Ort told the group. He pledged support for a Web site that would help producers and consumers with production, marketing and access to local foods.
In addition, training will help Extension agents increase their skills for building local food economies.

"Extension is working on all sides of this issue," Ort said. "A number of counties are already working on this, but there’s a lot more work to be done."

McKinnie said the local foods movement takes Extension back to its roots – teaching people how to grow food. By working across program areas, he said, Extension can help support local foods initiatives.
Brenda Sutton, who serves as The Produce Lady for Extension’s Value-Added and Alternative Agriculture Program and Rockingham County Extension director, was among the Extension professionals attending the conference.

"I'm just so excited to see such support from a diverse audience for a more common sense approach to food distribution,” Sutton said. “The summit provided an opportunity for so many conversations to help us all move forward with the local foods movement in our own communities."

"The most exciting part for me was meeting all the different people who have a similar interest in local foods," said Amy-Lynn Albertson, agricultural agent in Davidson County. "I am
excited about all of the potential partnerships and the energy these people bring to the table."

Gov. Beverly Perdue told the crowd enthusiastic crowd that the Governor’s Mansion – which she called "the people’s house" – had an organic vegetable garden that contributed food to local food banks. She pledged her full support for building sustainable, local food economies for North Carolina.

"I’m on your team. Tell me what you need to grow this whole new industry," she said to the large summit gathering. "If you need a Sustainable Agriculture Council, you tell me. I understand. I will join with you."


F2F-session.jpg
Farm to Fork participants discuss issues in breakout sessions.

The first day of the summit, 11 working issues teams presented Game Changer ideas that could be implemented to move their causes forward. The ideas ranged from establishing a marketing campaign aimed at getting North Carolina consumers to eat 10 percent local foods to developing a community garden in each county to creating a state Food Safety and Security Commission to help small producers deal with regulatory complexity.

Before the conference even got underway, one of the working issue teams came close to achieving a major goal – legislative action on establishing a sustainable local food policy council for North Carolina. As a direct result of action by the Foundations and Baselines WIT, Sen. Charles Albertson introduced S.B. 1067, which passed the state senate on May 12, the second day of the summit.
Summit participants also met in six regional groups to discuss how to implement a plan for their regions. Listserv groups will be established for the regional areas to stay in contact with one another.

CEFS Director Nancy Creamer told the participants of next steps for the project. CEFS is developing the State Action Plan for Building a Sustainable Local Food Economy in North Carolina that will be presented to decision makers, policy makers, business leaders, government agencies and funders over the next few months. Many of the other Game Changer ideas are being developed.

Grant funds from Golden LEAF Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation will establish a position to help move many aspects of the Farm to Fork initiative forward. U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program funds will support training for county teams that want to develop local food economies. W.K. Kellogg Foundation funding to CEFS will provide mini-grants for small projects.

-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 11:25 AM

The Produce Lady offers helpful hints for consumers, farmers

Brenda Sutton

As farmers’ markets attract more and more consumers in search of nutritious, high-quality foods, many of those same consumers are looking for ways to prepare and preserve what they buy at markets. A new resource from the N.C. State University Program for Value-Added & Alternative Agriculture at the new N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis offers help.

The Produce Lady video series tells farmers and consumers the wonders of locally grown fruits and vegetables – the nutrition they provide, the delicious meals or snacks families can enjoy with each vegetable or fruit and how to prepare them as tasty meals and snacks or freeze them to use throughout the year. The Produce Lady is Brenda Bryan Sutton, the new N.C. Cooperative Extension director in Rockingham County, who served as family and consumer sciences Extension agent until recently. The Produce Lady’s recipes and videos are available in two sites: www.theproducelady.org and www.youtube.com/user/TheProduceLady.

Posted by Natalie at 09:47 AM