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February 27, 2007

CEFS team presents at Mexico symposium

Four North Carolina State University Center for Environmental Farming Systems research agriculturalists and The Rodale Institute’s research director, Dr. Paul Hepperly, presented exceptionally well-received lectures at a recent international symposium at Mexico’s leading undergraduate agricultural university.

CEFS develops environmentally, economically and socially sustainable farming systems through long-term interdisciplinary research.

The Fourth International Agroecology Seminar at the Autonomous University of Chapingo, Texcoco, Mexico, provided a forum for CEFS researchers and those from agricultural universities in Mexico, Brazil, Germany and Cuba to discuss interdisciplinary agroecological and sustainable agriculture research design and strategies. More than 200 Mexican students and educators participated in the mid-October week of marathon information exchange sessions at UACh.

Agroecology is the interdisciplinary study of ecological interactions within agricultural ecosystems.

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences presenters included CALS Sustainable Agriculture Coordinator Dr. Paul Mueller and agroecology course development pioneer and ecologist Dr. Michelle Schroeder, both of the Department of Crop Science; Dr. Jean-Marie Luginbuhl, animal science and crop science departments member and Bryan Green, CEFS small farm unit manager. All delivered their talks in Spanish, as did Rodale’s Hepperly.

Mueller, who led the group, is the College’s sustainable agriculture and CEFS Farming Systems Research Unit coordinator. Schroeder directs the agroecology minor program; Lughinbuhl develops sustainable meat goat forage/ browse-based feeding and management systems. Luginbuhl and Green’s post-seminar workshops were so popular they presented twice.

Mueller and Dr. Mike Linker developed the College’s initial agroecology course, first offered in 1999. In 2004-5, the Crop Science Department hired Dr. Michelle Schroeder and added several courses as part of a newly established agroecology concentration within the crop science major, as well as a new agroecology minor.

Schroeder notes that while few agroecology programs exist at U.S. universities, the University of Chapingo’s program houses more than 300 students. “We were privileged to interact with the dedicated faculty and students and help them celebrate their 15th anniversary as an agroecology program,” she says.

In fact, says Hepperly, UACh is a birthplace of agroecology and is increasing its research, education and outreach to communities in need.

“Mexico,” he says, “has assumed world leadership in organic, free trade and shade-grown coffee, and has more organic farmers than any other country. Increasingly, re-invigorating traditional mixed farming as practiced in Mexico is seen as the remedy to declining rural revenue and the flight of rural Mexicans to the north.”

The CEFS-UACh partnership is growing its own history.

“During the last few years,” says Green, “we have hosted five interns from Chapingo’s agroecology department, with Mexican students living, working and studying with U.S. students from all over the country. All students deepened their understanding of sustainable agriculture from a more profound international perspective, learning about its political, economic and social aspects.”

Chapingo students, who work with community-based development programs throughout Mexico and at two on-campus field research sites – in agroecology and organic production -- also experienced such activities as the management of organic production of vegetables and small fruits and small animal husbandry, and outreach programs into immigrant communities and nearby Goldsboro, Green says.

“As a result,” says Mueller, “these students impressed our faculty with their knowledge of sustainable agriculture principles and practices, their strong work ethic and their interest and commitment to working with local communities.”

“Mexico and the United States are intrinsically linked,” Hepperly adds, “and we discussed the need for formalizing a collaborative relationship between our research, educational and outreach programs to permit a strong mutually beneficial development between us. We are two wings from the same dove.”

Mueller agrees. “We look forward,” he says, “to strengthening our relationship with scientists and students from the University of Chapingo's Agroecology Department.”

N.C. State’s forum participation was funded through a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resources Management Collaborative Research Support Program (SANREM CRSP), managed by Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. CRSPs focus U.S. land grant universities’ capabilities to carry out the U.S. government’s international food and agricultural research mandate, according to a U.S. AID Web site.

Posted by Art at 07:35 AM

Publications update from Communication Services

The following FCS publications are now out of stock and will be reprinted. Cusotmer Services is in the process of soliciting pre-orders.
· FCS-384-1, How Heart Healthy Are You?
· FCS-384-2, Become More Healthy in the Foods You Eat...Sodium
· FCS-384-3, Become More Healthy in the Foods You Eat...Fat
· FCS-384-4, Become More Healthy in the Foods You Eat...Saturated Fat
· FCS-384-5, Become More Healthy in the Foods You Eat...Cholesterol
· FCS-384-6, Become More Healthy in the Foods You Eat...Fiber
· FCS-384-7, Become More Healthy in the Foods You Eat...Be at Your Best Weight
· FCS-384-8, Become More Healthy in the Foods You Eat...Exercise

Posted by Natalie at 07:30 AM

February 15, 2007

Ventured and gained

Madison Farms value-added processing center
Gathered at the Madison Farms value-added processing center are (from left) Aubrey Raper, David Kendall, Ross Young and Dewain Mackey. (Photos by Suzanne Stanard)

It all started with a bowl of lettuce.

Dewain Mackey, a Madison County farmer trying to diversify his operation, had just harvested his first crop of the leafy vegetable when an idea struck: take it to the schools. So he tossed a few heads of his hydroponic lettuce into a bowl and hit the road. After stops at the offices of the superintendent and school board chair, who both supported his idea, Mackey drove to a local high school. The nutritionist evaluated his lettuce, chopped it and put it on the lunch line. It was a hit. And, it was the start of something much bigger.

Mackey’s ingenuity forged the first of a number of new partnerships that would help establish Madison Farms, a nonprofit organization that helps local growers bring their produce to market and builds bridges between farmer and community.

Led by the Madison County office of North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Madison Farms gives new meaning to "sustainable agriculture" in a formerly tobacco-dependent community. At the same time, the venture supplies area schools with fresh, healthy foods.

"Our goal is to keep the farmers in business," says Ross Young, director of Cooperative Extension in Madison County.

After the tobacco buyout, Madison County’s annual burley production plummeted from a $10 million business to $3 million, leaving a hole in the local economy and a number of growers in need of new crops.

"Our county once had close to 3,000 burley growers. Now, there are about 350," Young says. "We’re helping farmers focus on other markets that have value here and will be profitable for them."

Madison Farms’ value-added processing center provides growers with the equipment and supplies to clean and package their produce, from potatoes to summer berries. The facility boasts produce washing equipment, walk-in coolers and freezers, produce slicers and an industrial kitchen.

On this particular August day, local farmer Owen Ball backs his truck up to the Madison Farms loading dock and, with the help of Mackey and Madison Farms volunteer Aubrey Raper, he gets to work washing and packaging his potatoes.

Photo of produce washer
Raper runs potatoes through the processing center's washer.

Madison Farms takes care of the rest, marketing and selling the produce to a growing local customer base.

"We’re trying to fill a gap between farmers and consumers by taking out the middle man," Young says. "A lot of these farmers will make more money selling clean, packaged produce."

Case in point: Ball netted $13 a bushel that day, instead of the usual $8.

Thanks to Mackey’s persistence, the Madison Farms customer base now includes Madison County Schools, Asheville City Schools, UNC-Asheville and Mars Hill College. Mackey himself provides about 1,000 heads of lettuce each week to area schools, while also serving as operating manager of Madison Farms.

Based partly on the model of the national "Farm-to-School" program, Madison Farms aims to restore the connection between farms and communities. "It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved," Young says. "Farmers benefit from the continuous customer base, and students benefit from receiving nutritious food."

Right now, the processing center is available to any farmer, and about 20 local growers regularly take advantage of the services of Madison Farms. Mackey and his team are still ironing out details about how best to manage a membership system. David Kendall, Extension agricultural agent in Madison County, says they’re considering charging membership fees, or perhaps "per bushel" fees. "We’re also exploring the possibility of other groups operating under the auspices of Madison Farms."

Major funding for the project comes from Madison County government, the Golden LEAF Foundation, the North Carolina Rural Center, a local farm organization, and the Appalachian Regional Commission. Other partners include local farmers, Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, Duke Endowment, Handmade in America, the Madison County Partnership and e-NC, an initiative to link all North Carolinians to the Internet.

Madison Farms also operates a Web site that provides information to consumers and tourists about Madison County and its farms. The site features "Buy Local" and "Farm Finder" sections that highlight opportunities to visit the county’s family farms.

Gift baskets are another of Madison Farms’ enterprises. Stocked with locally grown or hand-crafted products like jams, soaps and pottery, the baskets cost about $40 each and can be shipped anywhere in the country.

Still settling into their new digs at the Madison County Multiple Use Agricultural Complex, Ross, Mackey and the Madison Farms team recently acquired a small commercial flour mill, as well as two dehydration machines and a vacuum sealer to enable production of dried fruits, vegetables and shiitake mushrooms.

"It was kind of a no-brainer," Mackey says. "Getting fresh North Carolina produce into the schools is such an obvious winning situation. And, supporting local farmers is key to the livelihood of our county."

-S. Stanard

Posted by Suzanne at 03:09 PM | Comments (0)

Charlotte extension agent wins statewide turf award

The Turfgrass Council of North Carolina has presented Extension Agent Jim Monroe with its Outstanding Service Award for 2007. The award honors Monroe for his impact statewide on the growth and professionalism of the turf grass industry.

Read more in The Charlotte Observer

Posted by Dave at 08:15 AM | Comments (0)

February 14, 2007

Extension's Successful Gardener Learning Center Provides Gardening Answers

Whether it's a question about how to make your lawn the envy of the neighborhood, drought-tolerant plants or how to deal with insect pests, North Carolina Cooperative Extension experts will have the answers during the Southern Spring Home and Garden Show at the Charlotte Merchandise Mart Feb. 28 – March 4.

Whether it's a question about how to make your lawn the envy of the neighborhood, drought-tolerant plants or how to deal with insect pests, North Carolina Cooperative Extension experts will have the answers during the Southern Spring Home and Garden Show at the Charlotte Merchandise Mart Feb. 28 – March 4.

Extension horticulture experts will be available throughout the show at Extension's Successful Gardener Learning Center. The Learning Center, which is hosted by extension horticulture agents and master gardeners, is an annual feature of the home and garden show.

Soil sample boxes and the March issue of the award-winning Extension's Successful Gardener newsletter will also be available, and Learning Center visitors can register for a drawing for a free, one-year subscription to the newsletter. Visitors may also add their names to a list to receive monthly e-mail gardening tips from North Carolina Cooperative Extension. And information on poisonous plants will be available along with free samples of Cortaid Poison Ivy Care Toxin Removal Cloths. Cortaid is the sponsor of the March Extension’s Successful Gardener newsletter.

On Friday, March 2, Extension's Successful Gardener team will present seminars on the Great Garden Stage. March 2 has been designated Extension's Successful Gardener and Master Gardener Day and will be filled with informative presentations. Anyone interested in proven gardening techniques based on university research will want to attend these workshops. The day will kick off with presentations, followed by a container gardening contest for extension master gardeners and a search for excellence awards program showcasing outstanding master gardener projects.

Following is the schedule for Extension's Successful Gardener and Master Gardener Day.

10:45 a.m. Creative Container Gardening seminar – Bryce Lane, host of "In the Garden with Bryce Lane," which airs on UNC-TV, will share tips and ideas for container gardening, one of the most popular American garden trends. Container gardening is both an art and science, and Lane will focus on the principles involved in selecting, placing and growing all kinds of plants in containers. Lane is one of North Carolina State University's most popular teachers.

11:30 a.m. – Extension Master Gardener Container Planting Competition – Ten master gardeners will put their knowledge and creativity to work in an action-packed contest. Judges from Cooperative Extension and Fine Gardening magazine will select the winner, and Todd Meier, Fine Gardening magazine publisher, will provide helpful insight on the features of the winning container.

1:30 p.m. – Extension Master Gardener Search for Excellence Awards – Mike Gray, long-time host of Almanac Gardener, which also airs on UNC-TV, will serve as the emcee for this showcase of extension master gardeners and their winning volunteer efforts around the state.

2:30 p.m. – Gardening for Butterflies seminar – Linda Blue, N.C. Cooperative Extension horticulture agent in Buncombe County and one of the featured horticulturists on the Almanac Gardener TV show, will talk about the types of flowers butterflies prefer and how to plant for season-long color. Anyone who enjoys these fluttering jewels in a sea of color in your own backyard won't want to miss this session.

3:30 p.m. – Learn the Secrets to Successfully Combining Plants – Todd Meier, Fine Gardening magazine publisher, says pairing the right plants can be a challenge, even for the most experienced gardener. Meier will talk about how paying attention to a plant's color, shape and texture will make the endeavor easier. He will share a number of inspirational photos of successfully paired plants.

4:30 p.m. – The Almost Perfect Lawn seminar– Jim Monroe, Cooperative Extension agent in Mecklenburg County, will provide the information homeowners need to make their lawns the envy of the neighborhood. Monroe will share tips on planting and maintaining a Carolina lawn, providing information on fertilizers, weeds, grass seed varieties and common insects and diseases and what to do about them.

Show tickets are $7.50 in advance and $9.00 at the door. Show hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, contact Southern Shows at (704) 376-6594 or 1-800-849-0248, or visit www.southernshows.com. Learn more about Extension's Successful Gardener at www.successfulgardener.org.

Posted by Dave at 02:53 PM | Comments (0)

February 13, 2007

Workshop to focus on retail sales of produce

A workshop designed to help farmers sell produce to restaurants, schools and grocery stores will be held Feb. 28 at the Charlie Rose Agri-Expo Center in Fayetteville.

A workshop designed to help farmers sell produce to restaurants, schools and grocery stores will be held Feb. 28 at the Charlie Rose Agri-Expo Center in Fayetteville.

Titled "Bridging the Gap: Selling to Food Service and Retail," the workshop is being provided by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at North Carolina State University. The workshop cost is $25 per person ($12 per person for government employees), which includes lunch. The registration deadline is Feb. 20.

The event begins at 8:30 a.m. and concludes at 2:30 p.m. The workshop will feature presentations on how to market produce to restaurants and retail chains, sell fresh produce to schools and legal issues involving direct marketing. Growers also will learn about possible grants and other funding sources they can use to more effectively market their produce.

"The workshop's goal is to give farmers information that could help them make decisions about what they want to do with their land and look at other things that could make money for them," said Annette Dunlap, workshop organizer and North Carolina Cooperative Extension associate, value-added and alternative agriculture.

Among workshop speakers is Craig Watson, vice president of Sysco, a national restaurant and food service supplier, who will talk about the potential market for growers in North Carolina. The company does not have contracts in North Carolina.

More information is available from Dunlap at (919) 515-5969 or annette_dunlap@ncsu.edu or from Kenny Bailey, North Carolina Cooperative Extension agent in Cumberland County at (910) 321-6871 or kenneth_bailey@ncsu.edu. Information is also on line at http://www.cals.ncsu.edu/value-added/Bridging_the_Gap.htm.

-D. Caldwell

Posted by Dave at 02:15 PM

February 12, 2007

Publications update from Communication Services

The following publications were delivered this week, and we are filling county preorders:

· Carolina Lawns, AG-69, by Art Bruneau and others, revised. The publication is also available on the Web at http://www.turffiles.ncsu.edu/PUBS/MANAGEMENT/AG-69.PDF.
· Appropriate Limits for Children, FCS-455, by Karen DeBord, revised. The publication is also available on the Web at http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/fcs/human/pubs/limits1.html.
· Toilet Learning, FCS-472, by Karen DeBord, reprinted. The publication is also available on the Web at http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/fcs/human/pubs/toiletlearn.html
Counties have already placed your orders for these publications. Please do not duplicate that order by placing a new order.

2007 Burley Tobacco Information by Loren Fisher and others has been delivered. To order copies, contact Loren_Fisher@ncsu.edu. The book is also available on the Web at http://ipm.ncsu.edu/Production_Guides/Burley/contents.html. This book is not available through Communication Services.

Posted by Natalie at 02:48 PM

February 09, 2007

N.C. Cooperative Extension declares 'Year of Financial Fitness'

Family and Consumer Sciences agents with North Carolina Cooperative Extension in the seven westernmost counties of North Carolina and the Qualla Boundary are declaring 2007 the "Year of Financial Fitness."
Read more in the Smoky Mountain Sentinel

Posted by Dave at 08:59 AM

February 08, 2007

Extension photo contest deadline is near

Calling all shutterbugs! Don’t miss your chance to enter the first-ever Cooperative Extension photo contest!

With just two photographers on staff in Communication Services (and no time-travel machine), we simply can’t be present to photograph all of the Extension programs and activities taking place across the state. We need you! Now is your opportunity to contribute to this effort and be recognized for your creativity and photographic talents.

This year’s photo contest theme is "People Helping People Put Knowledge to Work." Top prize is $50 in each of the eight categories, and the deadline is March 1. For more details, including categories, rules and entry forms, please visit the contest Web site.

Posted by Suzanne at 04:17 PM

February 02, 2007

Publications update from Communication Services

The following publications are now available:
2007 Burley Tobacco Information, AG-376, has been delivered. Order copies of this free book from Loren Fisher. This book is also available on line at http://ipm.ncsu.edu/Production_Guides/Burley/contents.html

2007 Flue-Cured Tobacco Information, AG-187, has been delivered. Order copies of this free book from Loren Fisher.
The book is also online at http://ipm.ncsu.edu/Production_Guides/Flue-Cured/2007/Contents.html

2007 Peanut Information, AG-331, is online at http://ipm.ncsu.edu/Production_Guides/Peanuts/Peanut%20toc%20agents%20for%20Web.pdf. Order printed copies of this free publication from David Jordan .

2007 Pest Control for Professional Turfgrass Managers, AG-408, is online at http://ipm.ncsu.edu/Production_Guides/Turf/Turfgrass.pdf. Counties have preordered this free book, and a limited number of copies are also available from Communication Services.

While most Extension publications are free, two for-sale publications have been printed recently. For details about ordering a for-sale publication, please contact Rhonda Thrower.

· 2007 Agriculturaul Chemicals Manual, AG-1, is $23 per book. It is also available online at http://ipm.ncsu.edu/Agchem/agchem.html.

· The North Carolina Winegrape Grower’s Guide, AG-535, has been delivered. This 200-page full-color book costs $20.

Posted by Natalie at 04:20 PM