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March 30, 2007

Wayne County employee inspires others

Jonathan Greeson
PowerHockey player Jonathan Greeson works for Cooperative Extension in Wayne County.

Jonathan Greeson of Pikeville in Wayne County dreamed of playing hockey from the time he was 12 years old. But life in a wheelchair limited his ability to play sports.

Greeson, 25, has struggled with spinal muscular atrophy all his life. A 2004 graduate of N.C. State University’s business management program, Greeson works for Wayne County’s office of North Carolina Cooperative Extension, where he serves as a budget assistant for the 4-H Afterschool Program. Last year, he was recognized by the Goldsboro Mayor’s Committee for Disabilities as Disabled Employee of the Year.

As he approached many challenges in his life, Greeson decided not to let his disability prevent him from pursuing his goal of playing hockey. In 2002, he founded the Carolina Fury, North Carolina’s only wheelchair hockey team, under the umbrella of N.C. Electric Hockey Wheelchair Association.

At the time, three players from Jacksonville, Burlington and Raleigh – where Greeson lived as a student – practiced in Cary. Today, the Carolina Fury has eight regular players from across the state. The sport is competitive, Greeson says, with rules that are similar to regulation hockey.

The team does not play on ice. Their home court is the gymnasium of Charles B. Aycock High School in Pikeville, Greeson’s high school alma mater, and their main opponents are able-bodied players who take on the Fury from wheelchairs. Though the opposing teams always put up a fight, it is usually the Fury that comes out on top.

The Fury has set a goal of competing in the PowerHockey World Championships every two years. In 2004, the team competed in Minneapolis, and in 2006, they competed in the PowerHockey Cup in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Greeson said the team drove to the competition – about five days on the road.

Greeson acknowledges that participating in PowerHockey requires support. “You have to have a really good family,” he said.

Throughout his life, Greeson’s family has been supportive of letting him do what he wants to do. His father Vance Greeson is one of the Carolina Fury’s coaches, and his mother Connie Greeson is director of Wayne County’s 4-H Afterschool Program.

“Vance and Connie have given him opportunities,” said Howard Scott, director of Wayne County’s Cooperative Extension center. Scott has known Greeson since he was a Wayne County 4-H’er, and he is not surprised by anything Greeson has achieved.

“Jonathan is incredible, genuine and driven in a positive way,” Scott said. “He is making a difference in people’s lives.”

As a 4-H’er, Greeson attended retreats and participated in presentation contests. He also remembers showing lambs and participating in livestock shows and sales. He says Scott “is like a second father to me.”

Scott recalls Greeson’s high school graduation, when the entire senior class applauded for him. “Jonathan was friends with everyone,” Scott said. “He could cross the socio-economic divide.”

After graduation, Greeson became a business major at N.C. State. Though the state’s largest university posed challenges to someone with limited mobility, Greeson said, “it’s N.C. State, or nothing.”

Greeson faced challenges of getting around campus. He had to carefully plan his day and arrange for help getting to class. Family members lived with him at times to help him get around. Yet he still graduated in four years.

Greeson’s student experience included an internship with the Carolina Hurricanes, a relationship that continues today. The Hurricanes have provided some support for the Fury, and the Fury held a Hurricanes appreciation event at one of their games this year.

Greeson now oversees nearly $1 million in grants for the Wayne County 4-H program, which serves about 6,000 youth. “We got so big we had to have some help,” Scott said.

“Everybody on staff cares about him,” Scott added. “At staff meetings, when he speaks people listen because he had put some thought into what he says. He can point out things without offending people.”

Christine Smith, Wayne County family and consumer sciences agent, described Greeson as a hero in her column for the local newspaper. “It’s funny how you will find heroes in the unlikeliest of places,” Smith wrote. “I work with a man who’s only in his mid-20s, and he is one of the most heroic men I’ve ever met.”

Greeson is not sure about the hero label, but in spite of the challenges that his disability have brought him, he believes that it has made him who he is today. “If I wasn’t in a wheelchair, I might not have been as involved in sports as I have,” he said. “It has taken me more to the level where I wanted to be.”
-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 03:22 PM

Author Anna Lappe to speak April 4

Best-selling author Anna Lappe will present a public lecture at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 4, at the JC Raulston Arboretum at North Carolina State University. Lappe, who is also a co-founder of the Small Planet Institute in Cambridge, Mass., is a frequent speaker on food politics, agriculture, globalization and social change.

Lappe is co-author of the 2006 book, Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen, which she wrote with Bryant Terry. In 2002, she co-authored the book, Hope’s Edge: The Next Diet for a Small Planet with her mother, Frances Moore Lappe, author of the original Diet for a Small Planet, published in the 1970s.

The event is free and open to the public. The JC Raulston Arboretum is located at 4415 Beryl Road, Raleigh. Following Lappe’s lecture, dessert will be provided by Irregardless Café. For additional information, contact cefs_info@ncsu.edu or 919.513.0954.

The lecture is sponsored by the Center for Environmental Farming Systems, promoting research, teaching and extension activities related to sustainable agriculture. CEFS is a partnership of N.C. State University, N.C. A&T State University and the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Posted by Natalie at 01:54 PM

March 29, 2007

Gardening information available at Learning Center

Whether it's a question about how to make your lawn the envy of the neighborhood, drought-tolerant plants, dealing with insect pests or any other gardening question, Extension's Successful Gardener Learning Center is the place to get gardening information during the Southern Ideal Home Show April 13-15 at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh.

The Learning Center is an annual feature of the Southern Ideal Home Show and is hosted by North Carolina Cooperative Extension horticulture agents and master gardeners. Extension agents and master gardeners will be available to talk gardening throughout the show, which begins at noon, Friday, April 13, and runs through 5 p.m., Sunday, April 15.

The Learning Center will be located in Dorton Arena. Center visitors can pick up a plant list that includes more than 20 evergreen shrubs, groundcovers and perennials to consider in Carolina landscapes. Also available will be the award-winning Extension's Successful Gardener newsletter, sponsored in March and April by CORTAID. Learn how to avoid poisonous plants and pick up coupons for CORTAID, an itch-relief product. Visitors may also pick up free soil sample boxes and register in a drawing for a free, one-year subscription to the newsletter. Visitors who register for the drawing will be added to a list to receive monthly e-mail gardening tips.

A new feature in this year's Learning Center will be a Container Planting Competition on Saturday, April 14, at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Register at the Learning Center 30 minutes prior to a preferred time slot for a chance to be selected to compete. All participants will receive a prize, and there will be one grand prize winner. DeWayne's Home and Garden Showplace in Selma will provide containers and plants for the competition and the prizes for participants. In addition, each participant will receive a one-year subscription to Extension’s Successful Gardener newsletter. Completed containers will be donated to the Durham Rescue Mission.

The Learning Center will feature the stonework of Brazeal Stone of Raleigh, a Successful Gardener sponsor. Another sponsor is the N.C. Green Industry Council, which will provide the plants featured in the Discovery Garden at the Learning Center. Other sponsors are Outdoor Lighting Perspectives and SuperSod.

Southern Ideal Home Show tickets are $8. For details, call 1-800-849-0248 or visit www.southernshow.com, where you'll also find a $1 off coupon.

Extension's Successful Gardener is a nationally recognized educational program that features an award-winning newsletter, gardening seminars and Learning Centers. Learn more at www.successfulgardener.org. This program is one of many offered by North Carolina Cooperative Extension, an educational partnership of North Carolina State University, North Carolina A&T State University, county governments and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Cooperative Extension's mission is to help people put research-based knowledge to work for economic prosperity, environmental stewardship and an improved quality of life. Learn more at www.ces.ncsu.edu.

Posted by Dave at 11:45 AM | Comments (0)

March 27, 2007

Almanac Gardener begins season April 7

Almanac Gardener graphic

Almanac Gardener begins its 24th season on UNC-TV Saturday, April 7 at noon. The show re-airs on Sunday at 11:30 a.m. The season runs 20 weeks through August 18. The show is a co-production of UNC-TV and the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at N.C. State University.

In addition to answering questions from home gardeners, the show will include features on the following: "Using Native Stone in Your Landscape," "Starting a Spring Vegetable Garden," "Growing Mushrooms at Home," "Growing Vegetables in Containers," "Save Water...Mulch!!," "Attracting Beneficial Insects," "Pruning Trees," "Building a Dry Stack Stone Wall," "Starting Shrubs from Cuttings," "The New Hanover Ability Garden," "Gardening with Your Kids this Summer," "Three Most Popular North Carolina Strawberry Varieties," and much more.

The panel will include host Mike Gray; Karen Neill, horticultural agent, Guilford County; Bill Lord, environmental agent, Franklin County; Stephen Greer, horticultural agent Forsyth County; Linda Blue, horticultural agent, Buncombe County; Susan Ruiz-Evans, horticultural agent, Dare County; Diane Turner, horticultural agent, Henderson County; and Lucy Bradley, urban horticulture Extension specialist.

Posted by Natalie at 02:49 PM

March 21, 2007

A burgeoning industry

Jack Loudermilk, Sara Spayd and Trevor Phister at Buck Shoals Vineyard
Viticulturist Dr. Sara Spayd (center), enology specialist Dr. Trevor Phister (right) and Yadkin County Extension director Jack Loudermilk (left) sample the grapes at Buck Shoals Vineyard and Winery in Hamptonville. (Photos by Suzanne Stanard)

When Dr. Sara Spayd makes presentations about growing wine grapes, she always shows a photograph of a Riesling vine that has pushed through dry desert ground, wrapped itself around a gnarly cluster of tumbleweed and is bearing fruit.

It’s a demonstration of how little water wine grapes need in order to grow. The image is also an eye-opening statement on the challenges of growing wine grapes in North Carolina, in a climate known for humidity, rain, and a long hurricane season that happens to coincide with harvest time.

“One of my biggest goals is to find varieties that are well-suited to the North Carolina climate and will produce a good finished product,” says Spayd, the College’s new viticulturist and professor of horticultural science.

A native North Carolinian whose father once grew muscadine grapes for wine down East, Spayd has just returned to the state from 26 years as a professor at Washington State University. Her work helped Washington’s wine industry become the second largest in the country.
North Carolina’s industry, she says, is growing legs.

The number of wineries in North Carolina has more than doubled since 2002, from 25 to 57, according to Margo Knight, director of the North Carolina Wine and Grape Council. The state has more than 350 commercial vineyards covering more than 1,500 acres.

In 2005, state-produced grapes were valued at nearly $3.7 million, and the value of state-produced wine was estimated at $54 million, according to Knight. A new winery opens every month on average, Knight says, and North Carolina ranks 12th for wine production and 10th for grape production in the U.S.

“North Carolina has the ability to grow a wide variety of grapes, which sets us apart from most,” Knight says. “In addition to traditional European wine grapes like Chardonnay and Merlot, we also grow native varieties like muscadine and scuppernong.”

But, the challenges to the industry in North Carolina are significant.

wine grapes

“Right now, the number-one challenge is consistent quality of grapes and wine,” Knight says. “There are still a lot of folks working out the kinks, so to speak. As a fairly new kid on the block, our state is judged by both its good and bad wines.”

Also, Pierce’s disease, an insect-borne scourge, is an issue for wine grape growers.

Spayd is one of three new faculty in the College whose work will support the wine and grape industry. Connie Fisk is a new muscadine Extension associate, and Dr. Trevor Phister, a new assistant professor in the Department of Food Science, specializes in enology (the science of wine and wine making).

“Industry members are excited about this new leadership and are optimistic that N.C. State will play a major role in assisting our grape growers and winemakers,” Knight says.

Spayd is responsible for bunch grape research and Extension in the Department of Horticultural Science. She’ll wear two hats: as a researcher, she’ll work to find new grape varieties that will grow well in North Carolina; and through Extension, she’ll help educate agents and growers on vineyard and winery management practices that will improve the quality of grapes and their products.

Since arriving last spring, Spayd has hosted a number of different workshops and packed thousands of miles on her truck visiting Extension agents and wineries throughout the state. She and Dr. Barclay Poling, professor of horticultural science, also launched a new distance-education viticulture course in January.

Fisk, who received a master’s degree at Oregon State University in 2006, will support Extension agents in counties where muscadines are commercially grown. Muscadine grapes are grown in nearly 50 counties as far west as Surry, but mostly in the east.

Naturally disease- and pest-resistant, muscadine grapes grow well in North Carolina, she says. The sweet grapes are valued not only for their juice, but also for their hulls and seeds. Packed with antioxidants, these byproducts of the winemaking industry are now being manufactured into nutritional supplements. Fresh market sales of muscadine grapes are also strong.

“With the growing demand for muscadines comes exciting opportunities for farmers in North Carolina to diversify,” Fisk says. “A lot of growers affected by the tobacco buyout are looking to keep their land and grow new crops.”

Based at the Duplin County Cooperative Extension Service Office, Fisk has focused her first year on learning the landscape. She’s been busy traveling to the muscadine-growing counties to learn first-hand the needs and concerns of growers, agents, wineries and vineyards.

She’ll help with site selection, vineyard management practices and fruit quality control, among many other things. She also finds time to help teach a viticulture and enology course at nearby James Sprunt Community College.

“With the market growing, agents are receiving more and more questions,” Fisk says. “Knowing the risks ahead of time will help them, and help growers, produce a quality product.”

Phister joins the College from Drexel University, where he served as assistant professor of bioscience and biotechnology. He’ll focus his research on fermentation and the science behind what makes wine taste good or bad. He also carries an Extension appointment and already has in mind a slate of ideas.

“I’m going to help support the viticulture work,” he says. “The ultimate end point of the grapes they’re growing is to make wine. And, once I pick up on what some of the industry’s concerns and problems are, then I’ll set up research in those areas. I think it’s exciting how the industry is growing in North Carolina.”

Among Phister’s goals is to establish a program through which wineries can submit samples for sensory, microbial and chemical analysis – a blind taste-test, so to say – that will help them determine strengths and weaknesses of particular wines.

He’ll also team with Appalachian State University and Surry Community College on research studies, and he hopes to set up a winemakers’ roundtable that would create new networking opportunities for the state’s wineries.

At the College’s annual “Celebrate N.C. Wines” event in October, 12 of the state’s wineries offered tastings. Designed as much to educate as to celebrate, the event also featured research demonstrations, wine and food pairings workshops, a silent auction and live music.

“Celebrate N.C. Wines” raised $22,000 to support viticulture and enology research in the College, as well as the JC Raulston Arboretum.

At the event’s closing ceremony, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean Johnny Wynne said, “We in the College are proud to serve as partners in developing an industry with the potential to have significant impact on the economy and renown of our state.”

-S. Stanard

Posted by Suzanne at 09:58 AM