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November 27, 2006

Youth show off insect collections

Bob Blinn judges collections
Bob Blinn of N.C. State judges youth insect collections at the State Fair. (Photos by Daniel Kim)

While many youth enter their large, four-legged animals in State Fair competitions, another group is more focused on small creatures with six legs. The youth insect collection competition gives youth an opportunity to see how their collections stack up against their peers’.

Bob Blinn, entomology collection manager in N.C. State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, has been judging the collections for a number of years. The youth collections are judged the day before the fair starts and remain on display through the run of the fair in the 4-H education building.

Youth compete in two insect collection categories: special and general. The general collection is judged on how complete the collection is: Are insects mounted correctly? Are they identified correctly by order and family? Are the specimens preserved and labeled properly?

Insect Collections

Butterflies and moths, for instance, should be mounted with their wings spread. Other insects should be mounted with legs down and dorsal sides facing up. Collections are displayed in specially built wood and glass cases.

Extension entomologist Steve Bambara from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences works with the 4-H youth entomology program and gives advice to youth throughout the year.

“The value is in doing a collection more than the competition, putting the collection together in a scientific, accurate way, learning to curate animals properly” Bambara said.

Though entries in the competition have dropped in recent years, the collections on display in the education building still remain popular with State Fair goers, Bambara said.

The insects found in the youth collections are not unusual, Blinn says. They collect the kinds of insects you would find in backyard or circling the porch light at night.
Blinn would like to see more entries in the youth insect collections.

“This competition helps to fosters kids’ interest in the natural sciences,” he says. “At least they’re getting outside, learning about nature.”

-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 07:54 AM

'Financial Security for All' is eXtension's newest site

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Read more from eXtension

Posted by Natalie at 07:51 AM

Ashe 4-H program receives Afterschool Grant

The Ashe County 4-H School Age Care Program has received a national JC Penney Afterschool Fund Grant for the 4-H Westwood Afterschool Program that will serve 25 families who now receive full scholarships for the program. Read more from The Mountain Times

Posted by Dave at 07:48 AM

November 16, 2006

'WAGES Gets Fit'

'WAGES Gets Fit' kickoff
Wayne County's Christine Smith, right, dances with employees at the kickoff of 'WAGES Gets Fit.' (Photos by Daniel Kim)

Wayne employees set health goals
On a warm September afternoon in Wayne County, employees of WAGES –- Wayne Action Group for Economic Solvency -- celebrated a day away from the office by walking the track of a nearby school, playing volleyball or basketball and participating in an aerobics class. This was the kickoff of WAGES Gets Fit, a workplace wellness program developed with the help of Christine Smith, family and consumer sciences agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Wayne County.

Employees who registered to participate in the first quarterly wellness program set their own goals for lifestyle changes. They were asked to choose at least one goal for improving physical activity, healthy eating or work/life balance, though some chose more than one goal.

At the kickoff, WAGES employee Jackie Baldwin told the story of her wakeup call last summer. Baldwin was on the agency’s Royall West playground with a group of children when she got stuck while trying to crawl through a tunnel with her young charges.

Baldwin told her story, giggling at the memory, but said the experience made her realize she needed to make lifestyle changes to lose weight. The following week, she planned to attend her first WAGES wellness meeting. “My goal,” she said, “is to get through the tunnel at Royall West.”

WAGES is a private, non-profit organization in Wayne County that administers community programs such as Head Start for children and Meals on Wheels for senior adults. Last fall, the group turned to Smith to help develop a wellness program for employees.

Brownie Doss, leader of WAGES’s Older Adult Services Division, said the organization has been concerned for several years about obesity among staff members. But with recent publicity about the epidemic of overweight youth, employees decided it was time to get their own house in order.

They called on Smith, with whom they had partnered on other projects because of her community involvement and passion for helping citizens improve their health. WAGES asked Smith to help develop a workplace wellness program. She told employees that in order to be successful, the program had to have buy-in from administration and staff. A planning group made up of representatives from every WAGES program area helped plan the program.

At the WAGES Gets Fit kickoff, Smith invited the employees to “get on board with us today, to go on a journey for better health.” Yet Smith cautioned them to take small steps and choose an achievable goal. “The journey of a lifetime begins with just one step,” she said. “We will help you to live your best life.”

WAGES Gets Fit was patterned after Cooperative Extension’s “Moving Towards a Healthier You” curriculum. Wellness sessions have been offered twice on Wednesdays every other week. The 27 planned sessions cover topics like “What Should I Eat?” “Fill Up, Not Out” and “Cooking with the Light Touch.”

“Moving Towards a Healthier You” is a statewide initiative implemented by Smith and Geissler Baker, Guilford County family and consumer sciences agent. The program was designed to challenge, motivate and inspire fellow agents, support staff, nutrition program associates and specialists to start practicing what they preach.

Smith said the rationale behind the effort was to help agents become more effective educators by modeling appropriate behaviors that help consumers move toward a healthier lifestyle. This statewide effort has been supported by Dr. Sandy Zaslow, Cooperative Extension’s retired associate director for youth and family programs, and Dr. Carolyn Dunn, associate state program leader and nutrition specialist.

Dunn provided technical expertise in the design of the project and support materials. There are 158 agents and nutrition assistants across the state participating in the challenge to “get fit,” inspired by Smith and Baker.

Employee gets blood pressure checked
After enrolling in WAGES Gets Fit, this employee has her blood pressure checked.

Among the first WAGES group to register, 38 people set physical activity goals; 36, both physical activity and healthy eating goals; one person set a healthy eating goal; two people set both physical activity and work/life balance goals; and 25 people set goals for physical activity, healthy eating and work/life balance. Physical activity was by far the most popular, with 101 employees choosing that as their goal.

Smith will lead most of the sessions, in conjunction with a select group of WAGES employees. Four train-the-trainer sessions will be conducted for WAGES staff to provide them with the subject expertise, support materials and tools to enhance participants’ experience of the program.

WAGES Director Bryan Sutton has agreed to provide incentives for employees who make changes: 30 minutes per workday for physical activity, drawings for cash prizes for those who met their wellness goals and days off for wellness success.

In addition to attending wellness programs, participants are asked to keep a journal documenting their efforts to meet their goal. Each quarter, those who meet their goals will be entered into a drawing for $100 prizes.

Smith is committed to helping other Wayne County businesses and organizations implement wellness programs for their employees. Since the WAGES Gets Fit kickoff, two other local agencies have asked for her help in developing similar programs.

“As healthcare costs continue to rise, more and more employers are realizing that a short-term investment in their employees’ health will yield long-term savings,” Smith said.

And with education, support and personal determination, by spring Jackie Baldwin may be able to crawl through that tunnel at the Royall West playground.

-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 02:23 PM

Watauga Farm-City Banquet features zero-waste, local foods meal

Approximately 250 people were on hand Thursday evening to honor the Farm-City concept in Watauga County. This year’s 51st annual Farm City Banquet was a “zero-waste” event, with the food purchased at “fair market value” from local farmers – including chicken, potatoes and collard greens. It was all prepared by Jackie Brown of Accidental Bakery in Ashe County.

Sue Counts, director of Watauga County Cooperative Extension said, “We used real china, silverware and glasses, our programs and napkins went into the recycle bins, the table cloths were saved and will be used again and again, and the left-over food was turned into compost. We are very proud of the efforts of our committee in planning this environmentally-friendly event.”

Read more from The Watauga Democrat

Posted by Natalie at 02:15 PM

November 13, 2006

Later, Alligator

Extension team members tackle alligatorweed from a canoe
Extension team members tackle alligatorweed in Eastern North Carolina waterways. (Photos courtesy Diana Rashash)

It clogs waterways and backs up irrigation ponds. Wildlife get tangled in it, and it does a number on boat propellers. Worst of all, it grows out of control – like, well, a weed. It is a menace, and true to its name, alligatorweed takes a real bite out of eastern North Carolina’s waterways.

“We’ve declared war!” says Diana Rashash, Cooperative Extension area specialized agent in Onslow County.

Rashash has teamed with Wayne Batten, Extension director in Pender County, who launched the first attack on alligatorweed last year. Also on board are the North Carolina Division of Water Resources, the city of Jacksonville, Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base and New River Air Station.

A perennial, mat-forming aquatic plant, alligatorweed causes debris build-up, which further impedes water flow and invites mosquitoes. According to Batten, large stretches of streams in Pender County have become impassable to paddleboats and fishermen, and water quality issues such as oxygen content are serious concerns.

“Alligatorweed is like Mickey Mouse’s broom in ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,’” Rashash describes. Like the multiplying broom that wreaked havoc in the Disney classic, alligatorweed reproduces from fragmentation, so any attempt to cut it back is futile, Rashash explains. It just keeps growing.

Chemical control isn’t a good option either, because most of it harms other plants, Batten says. In early 2005, Batten worked with Mike Linker, CALS professor of crop science and Extension specialist, to write a proposal for an Integrated Pest Management grant for biological control of alligatorweed. His method of choice: the alligatorweed flea beetle.

alligatorweed flea beetle
Alligatorweed flea beetle.

Native to Africa, the beetle is alligatorweed’s natural predator. It also has proven to work well in Florida, and Batten’s hope is for similar results in North Carolina.

Batten won the $6,861 grant from N.C. State, and in May 2005, released about 6,000 beetles in select Pender County waters. The beetles were donated by the Army Corps of Engineers in Florida, who were conducting similar experiments there and planned to use North Carolina data to supplement their work. It’s a nice partnership, Batten says, “a win-win.”

Batten’s team used GPS to monitor the locations of the beetles and track their “attack” on the weed. The results were mixed. In a few sites, nothing happened, and Batten figures the beetles fell victim to hungry birds, or were killed by chemicals sprayed to control mosquitoes.

But, in many other cases, the beetles conquered the weed.

“One of our local nurseries had a big problem with alligatorweed, and 40 to 50 percent of their irrigation pond was covered with it,” Batten says. “Now, after the beetle release last year, there’s not a single sprig.”

These results inspired Batten to apply for a second year of grant funding, and to take a regional approach to combat the weed.

This year, the Cooperative Extension offices of Onlsow and Pender counties received a $9,730 Integrated Pest Management grant from N.C. State. And, Florida kicked in another supply of free beetles.

“This is the first time we’ve coordinated our efforts to take on alligatorweed – county, city, state, military bases and volunteers,” Rashash says. “We’re all dealing with the same problem, and it’s been a great partnership.”

Rashash’s group alone covered a 20-square-mile area in Onslow County at the same time that the others were releasing beetles throughout Pender County and Camp Lejeune. In all, they released 11,000 beetles over 50 acres in May.

So far, the results are promising. In many spots, the beetles have made the weeds “look like swiss cheese,” Rashash says. In others, the teams are supplementing the beetles’ work with environmentally-friendly herbicides.

“We’re looking now at the possibility of expanding into other counties,” Batten says. “They’re having similar problems with alligatorweed in northeastern North Carolina, and we’d like to continue this collaborative approach for grant funding. Our ultimate goal is to get rid of alligatorweed in all these places.”

Rashash agrees, adding, “The weed is an issue from Brunswick County right on up the coast. Coordinating the efforts of Extension and our various partners will give everyone a bigger bang for their buck.”

- S. Stanard

Posted by Suzanne at 03:04 PM

Blalock inducted into National 4-H Hall of Fame

Blalock award presentation
Dr. Carlton Blalock holds the plaque, announcing his induction into the 4-H Hall of Fame. With him are, from left, Donald T. Floyd Jr., National 4-H Council; Dr. Cathann Kress, National Director of 4-H Youth Development; and Clyde Jackson, National Association of Extension 4-H Agents (NAE4-HA).

More luster was added to Dr. T. Carlton Blalock’s illustrious career of agricultural leadership recently, when he was inducted as a 2006 National 4-H Hall of Fame laureate. Blalock was honored Oct. 6 – coincidentally, his 82nd birthday -- in ceremonies at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center in Chevy Chase, Md., during National 4-H Week. He was nominated by the 4-H program in North Carolina.

Blalock, who retired as director of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Cooperative Extension Service after serving from 1978 to 1981, was North Carolina’s State 4-H Leader from 1964 to 1970. He has also served as president of the 4-H Development Fund and the Cooperative Extension Service Fund, and as executive vice president of the Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina.

A Wilson County native, Blalock grew up in a Master Farm Family in Lucama. There he participated in 4-H as a youth, serving as president on the local and county levels. A World War II veteran, he holds N.C. State University bachelor’s (1948) and master’s (1952) degrees in animal husbandry, as well as a doctorate (1963) in extension administration from the University of Wisconsin. He began working as an Extension dairy specialist in 1951.

His many career honors and accolades include 1990 Man of the Year in Service to North Carolina and Virginia Agriculture, the 1981 Epsilon Sigma Phi Distinguished Service Award and the 1979 USDA Superior Service Award. The latter award recognized his early-1970s pioneering activities in North Carolina’s insect pest management education programs.

“This year’s National 4-H Hall of Fame laureates have impacted millions of 4-H youth, leading by example with their passion, dedication and creativity and helping to build strong leaders and citizens,” said National Association of Extension 4-H Agents (NAE4-HA) President Lisa Lauxman. “We are proud to celebrate their contributions by welcoming these inspirational people into the 4-H Hall of Fame.”

American Income Life Insurance Company partnered with National 4-H Council to support the ceremony. The National 4-H Hall of Fame is sponsored online by NAE4-HA at www.nae4ha.org/hof.

4-H is the youth development program of Cooperative Extension. Youth develop personal life skills and acquire knowledge by participating in a variety of 4-H projects that are grounded in the research base of the program’s land-grant university partners. Each year, more than 6.5 million 4-H members and more than 500,000 youth and adult volunteers celebrate National 4-H Week during the first full week in October.

–T. Leith

Posted by Natalie at 02:06 PM

November 06, 2006

Sweet success: Bogue Sound watermelons

Bogue Sound watermelons
Bogue Sound watermelon. (Photos by Suzanne Stanard)

Billy Guthrie’s family has been growing watermelons in Bogue, North Carolina, for more than a century. They’re sweet as pure cane, juicy and ruby red.

So, what’s the secret to growing such tasty watermelons?

“I’m not going to tell you, or I’d have to kill you,” Guthrie says, smiling broadly.

Perhaps it’s the sandy soil, the sun-kissed coastal climate or maybe a little extra TLC. Whatever the secret to growing the melons, there are few things finer than sinking your teeth into a juicy wedge on a hot summer day.

Soon, Guthrie hopes, people across North Carolina, and throughout the country for that matter, will be able to experience Bogue Sound watermelons.

With support from North Carolina Cooperative Extension, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Economic Development Council of Carteret County, Guthrie has launched the Bogue Sound Watermelon Growers Association and serves as its current president. The cooperative is designed to promote Bogue Sound watermelons, just as Vidalia, Ga., did with its famous onion.

“My great-grandfather grew watermelons, and a lot of these growers’ great-grandfathers grew watermelons,” Guthrie says. “With the tobacco buyout, a lot of folks are looking for new things to grow. If we could capitalize on these melons, it’d be a great opportunity for all of us.”

Billie Guthrie and Ray Harris
Bogue Sound watermelon grower Billie Guthrie talks in the field with Ray Harris, Extension director in Carteret County.

Bogue Sound watermelons have been popular along the east coast for more than 100 years, he says, shipped aboard steamers to states like New York and New Jersey.

Ray Harris, Cooperative Extension director in Carteret County, says he still fields calls from northern states asking for Bogue Sound watermelon seeds. Bogue Sound watermelons aren’t actually a variety, Harris explains. While the melons are common varieties like Royal Sweet or Crimson Sweet, he says, they emerge from Bogue Sound soils with an extra-sweet taste that makes them distinctive.

Harris and the Cooperative Extension office in Carteret County have played a key role in getting this effort off the ground, especially in marketing the melons. They’ll also assist the farmers with production and disease control.

To qualify to join the co-op, growers must use land that drains directly or indirectly into the Bogue Sound, Harris says. This includes areas from Swansboro to Morehead City. Right now, there are 20 growers in the co-op. Harris and Guthrie hope for more.

“We’re trying to help save the family farm,” Harris says. “We’ve been looking for an alternative, value-added, product to replace tobacco. As this progresses, I see more growers coming into the co-op.”

The state granted a trademark for the Bogue Sound watermelon in early 2006. Thanks to a $30,000 Golden LEAF value-added grant, the association has produced stickers, flyers, hats, t-shirts and other marketing materials that bear the new Bogue Sound watermelon logo.

“I think it’s going great,” Guthrie says. “There’s just so much to do. But, if they can do it with the Vidalia onion, we can do it here.”

According to Harris, the area had about 19 tobacco growers before the buyout in October 2004. Now, there are two.

Among those who have made the switch from tobacco to other crops are David and Sarah Winberry in Cedar Point, N.C. Just down the road from Guthrie’s farm, the Winberry family grows Bogue Sound watermelons, as well as other fruit and vegetable crops.

As members of the Bogue Sound Watermelon Growers Association, they’re working with Guthrie and other neighboring farmers to increase production – and awareness – of the melons. It certainly helps that the area’s average population spikes from 62,000 to about 375,000 during the summer months.

“People assume that I’ll dread summer and crowds, but I love it,” says Sarah Winberry amidst the throng of July 4 travelers who’ve pulled off the road to buy Bogue Sound watermelons, tomatoes and other summer delicacies offered at the family’s produce stand. “It’s my passion!”

For Guthrie, the success of the Bogue Sound Watermelon Growers Association comes down to one thing: strong partnerships.

“I’ve known Ray for a long, long time, and he’s helped us tremendously,” Guthrie says. “Without him, we’d be groping in the dark. It’s critical that we all work together.”

-S. Stanard

Posted by Suzanne at 03:58 PM

November 01, 2006

4-H hay bales adorn 2006 State Fair

4-H hay bale worm
This "book worm" is really a hay bale decorated for a State Fair competition by 4-H'ers. (Terri Leith photo)

A pirate ship, a giant green worm and even a jumbo jar of dill pickles were among the entries displayed by 4-H’ers in the hay-bale decoration competition at the 2006 North Carolina State Fair. Those exhibits featured the slogans “4-H – It’s a Treasure,” “Wiggle Your Way Into 4-H” and “Don’t Get in a Pickle -- Join 4-H,” respectively. Near the worm and the pirates, an autumn-leaf motif sign reminded visitors that 4-H offers a “Harvest of Discovery.” Decorated by participants from 13 counties, the bales welcomed fairgoers at two entry gates and the Educational Building. 4-H is Cooperative Extension’s youth development program.
-T. Leith

Posted by Natalie at 09:17 AM

First Cooperative Extension photo contest announced

The Department of Communications Services is pleased to announce the first Cooperative Extension Photo Contest. Over the past year, Communication Services photographers have been taking photos of Extension activities around the state. But with only two staff photographers, we can’t cover everything. This is your opportunity to contribute to that effort and be recognized for your creativity and photographic talents. Winning entries will be displayed at the 2007 Extension Conference and added to the Communication Services On-Line Image Gallery.

If this initial effort is successful, we hope to make this an annual or biannual event. This year’s overall theme is People Helping People Put Knowledge to Work.

Read more from the contest Web site

Posted by Natalie at 08:58 AM

Publications update from Communication Services

Four new publications have been delivered and are available from Communication Services. Click on a publication title or go through http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/xrdb to reach Cooperative Extension’s online catalog and order copies.

If you’d rather, you can still fax orders to Jeanne Marie Wallace at 919.515.6938. Please note that these publications are free to county centers. The price shown in the online catalog is for public orders.

Grafting for Disease Resistance in Heirloom Tomatoes (AG-675)
This eight-page publication by Frank Louws and Cary Rivard describes grafting techniques that growers can use to unite the disease resistance and enhanced vigor of hybrid tomato cultivars with the high fruit quality of heirloom varieties. It describes the benefits of grafting and provides a step-by-step guide to grafting tomato transplants, healing and acclimating them to growing conditions and planting them in the field.

Godfrey Nalyanya has added three Spanish brochures to the titles in his Campana MIP en las Escuelas (School IPM Campaign):
· Combata las Plagas en las Escuelas (Get Tough on Pests in Schools) (AG-631-02S) tells how to use IPM in schools to prevent and solve pest problems by using safe, effective strategies.
· Como deshacerse de las Plagas en las instalaciones escolares (Get Tough on Pests in School Facilities) (AG-631-03S) tells how to use IPM to prevent and solve pest problems in school facilities from cafeterias to boiler rooms by using safe, effective strategies.
· Elimine las plagas en las areas de servicios alimenticios (Get Tough on Pests in Food Service Areas) (AG-631-05S) tells how to use IPM in school food service areas to prevent and solve pest problems by using safe, effective strategies.

Posted by Natalie at 08:45 AM