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April 24, 2007

Wayne County parenting class targets inmates

Sandra Head
Sandra Head of Wayne County teaches a parenting class to prison inmates.

The men come in quietly, signing the class register at the front of the room before finding a seat in one of the plastic chairs. Though they nod at one another, there’s not much conversation between them as they wait for class to start.

These men have some things in common: Each of them have made mistakes in life which have brought them to this place, the Neuse Correctional Facility in Wayne County.

And each of them is a parent.

It is this latter tie that brings them to this small room on a blustery cold winter night in late February, during their few hours of free time allotted them per day. Instead of watching television, shooting basketball hoops, hanging out with other inmates, or relaxing from their day job – many are in a work release program- these men have chosen to attend a parenting class.

The men come wanting to learn how to connect or re-connect with their children. "I haven’t seen my daughter since she was six months old," one man says sorrowfully. "And she’s 13 now."

For 11 years, Sandra Head, Family and Consumer Science agent with the Wayne County Cooperative Extension Department has offered this unique parenting education opportunity to male inmates at Neuse Correctional Center.

During this time, 372 inmates have participated in a parenting series consisting of six one-hour sessions.

"I conducted a parenting class in 1996, and someone at Neuse Correctional saw something about the class in the newspaper," she said. "They called me and asked me to come teach a parenting class. I had never been in a correctional facility before"

Slightly apprehensive, Head nonetheless agreed to teach one class here. "It wasn’t like what I thought it would be at all," she said. "I had the most appreciative and gracious audience."

Not only did she agree to teach classes on a continual basis, Head also used her misconceptions regarding the facility to develop a teaching lesson for the men.

"One of the things we work on during this class is writing a letter to their kids," she said. "The only impression they may have about what life is like in a correctional facility is based on what they’ve seen on television or in the movies. When these men write letters to their children about their life, it eases their (the children's) fear of the unknown."

Tonight, during this first class, the class is working on brainstorming a mission statement. A mission statement, Head explains, is a guiding tool, like a map, and can help parents stay on track.

"What do you value – what’s important as a father?" she asks.

The men list a variety of values including being successful, being a role model, a provider, healthy and sober.

"Spending time with them is real important," says one man. "I know that means a lot to my son."

By the end of the first class, the men have come up with the following mission statement: "My family will be safe and well provided for. I will be understanding, supportive and a positive role model for my children. Honesty, hard work, and education will be valued. Children will be taught correct behavior and to show respect for others. My home will be a place of love and happiness."

Over the years, Head has received encouraging feedbacks from the men that have gone through the class, including the following comment: "There is a desperate need for me to be in my children’s life. This class really presented the reality of that."

--This article, written by Wayne County Communications Director Barbara Arntsen, is reprinted with permission from the "Wayne County News."

Posted by Natalie at 11:31 AM

eXtension launches imported fire ants Web site

Fire ants

One of America’s most important exotic insect pests has a new enemy — an online resource dedicated to providing information on the control and eradication of the imported fire ant.

eXtension’s Imported Fire Ants Web site puts a wealth of research-based information directly on consumers’ computer screens. It’s an excellent resource for anyone needing information about imported fire ants and how to control them. To take full advantage of the site, register at www.extension.org and choose Imported Fire Ants.

This new tool is being launched April 24-26 at the Annual Imported Fire Ant Conference in Gainesville, Fla. Entomologists from throughout the world will gather to discuss the latest research and management advances to help combat this pest ant.

Two species of imported fire ants, the red imported fire ant and the black imported fire ant, and their sexually reproductive hybrids infest southern states from Florida to California.

"Fire ants arrived in Mobile, Ala., between 1910 and 1940, and have since spread over 320 million acres in 14 states and territories. They cause an estimated $6 billion in annual losses," said Kathy Flanders, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System entomologist and associate professor of entomology and plant pathology at Auburn University.

People and animals are also susceptible to fire ant bites and stings. Those who are sensitive to their venom may have severe medical problems or may even die. Healthy individuals can be seriously affected because the ants can sting many times when defending their colonies.

The eXtension Imported Fire Ants Web site features the following:

· Frequently Asked Questions allows users to submit queries about imported fire ants. If an answer is not already available in the FAQ section, the question is directed to Ask the Expert where local contacts provide requested information.
· Learning Sessions titled "Managing Imported Fire Ants in Urban Areas" and "Managing Imported Fire Ants in Cattle Production Systems" target unique situations facing homeowners and livestock producers.
· News & Upcoming Events keeps the news and calendar of events current at the local, state and national levels.
· Imported Fire Ant Management Decision Module, to be added soon, asks users a series of questions and then offers suggestions to help them decide what to do about fire ants in their urban landscapes or cattle operations.

The eXtension Imported Fire Ants Web site has been developed through the collaboration of experts in entomology and pest management at land grant universities, federal, state, county, and municipal employees, and communications and information technology specialists, who formed a Community of Practice to develop a nationwide, Web-based site on imported fire ant management.

"This site will be regularly maintained and kept current with new features and dates of events. For homeowners and producers needing fire ant information, this site will be a valuable resource," said Bart Drees, Extension entomologist and professor with Texas Cooperative Extension.

eXtension is an educational partnership of more than 70 land-grant universities helping Americans improve their lives with access to timely, objective, research-based information and educational opportunities. eXtension's interactive Web site, at www.extension.org is customized with links to local Cooperative Extension Web sites. Land-grant universities were founded on the ideals that higher education should be accessible to all, that the university should teach liberal and practical subjects and share the university's knowledge with people throughout their states.

Posted by Natalie at 11:07 AM

April 16, 2007

Leadership lessons learned through program

Group in San Fransisco
Ag Leaders with a San Fransisco cable car. Pictured from left are Tom Porter, John Bizic, Art Bradley and Sue Leggett. (Natalie Hampton photos)

What do Brazil and California have in common with North Carolina agriculture? This winner, a group of 32 agricultural professionals recently visited both places to learn lessons they will need to lead North Carolina agribusiness into the future. The group members are part of a two-year leadership training program offered by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

The young growers and agricultural professionals, who represent the full spectrum of North Carolina agriculture, began the Agriculture Leadership Development Program in fall 2005. In January and February, group members participated in two educational tours to learn leadership lessons from Brazilian agriculture and, closer to home, California agriculture.

The program is a newer version of the College’s former Philip Morris Agricultural Leadership Development Program, which was open to tobacco growers. The new leadership program, sponsored in part by Tobacco Trust Fund, Golden LEAF, North Carolina Farm Bureau and a number of North Carolina commodity organizations, is open to all types of agricultural professionals.

Leadership for the program included veterans Dr. Bill Collins of N.C. Agricultural Research Service and Dr. Billy Caldwell, associate director emeritus of North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. Dr. Lanny Hass and Eleanor Stell of North Carolina Cooperative Extension’s Personal and Organizational Development group also served as organizers and trainers for the program.

The program strives to build leaders by teaching them to manage and lead issues and giving them the skills they need to compete, Hass said. The training focuses on the mastery of self, relationships and finally, social action.

"This program has provided effective leaders in a number of areas who have been successful in relating agricultural interests in the policy-making process," said Collins, who has worked with the program since 1986.

"We’ve seen growth in personal identity capabilities of participants to deal with issues more effectively and become leaders on behalf of agriculture,” Caldwell said.

The trip to Brazil gave the leaders a close-up look at Brazilian agriculture and the country’s potential as a global competitor, Stell said.

Of the two experiences, many said the California trip provided lessons more relevant to North Carolina. And while the learning experiences focused on agriculture, the lessons were related to leadership. In Marin County, a rural county outside of San Francisco, the group learned about farmland preservation efforts, marketing rural products to an urban audience and working across philosophical boundaries toward the common goal of water quality.

Prior to the trips, the ag leaders – many of whom hold N.C. State degrees -- participated in a variety of training programs and identified five focus areas they wanted to explore further. This spring and summer, they will work in groups to complete practicums in the focus areas.

The five areas include: increasing the use of biodiesel; educating the public about North Carolina agriculture; using agriculture to enhance green space; ensuring an adequate supply of farmworkers; and using the 2007 Farm Bill to ensure a safe and secure food supply.

The group that focused on the Farm Bill conducted legislative visits in Washington, D.C. One group member told Stell that without the experience from the leadership program, he would not have had the knowledge or confidence to conduct such a visit.

Ag leaders in field
Group members look over a field of calla lilies damaged by California's January freeze.

On the California trip, the group began in San Francisco with a tour of the downtown Ferry Market, a successful farmers’ market that brings rural growers and urban customers together two days a week. But more than a sales arena, the market is sponsored by the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture as a means of teaching the public the lessons of sustainable agriculture and local food systems.

The next four days, the group traveled north and then south of the city to visit key California agricultural areas. Each day, the program was hosted by county Cooperative Extension directors who introduced the group to issue leaders in their counties.

In Marin County, the group explored the rural side of the rural/urban relationship. They visited the Hog Island Oyster Company –a Ferry Market vendor – to see how oysters are produced and harvested in the waters of Tomales Bay, part of the Pt. Reyes National Seashore. The group learned how Marin farmers add value to their operations and manage urban growth, issues that North Carolina growers also are facing.

Even the lunchtime meal in Marin provided a lesson on local food systems. The group enjoyed a feast created from all-local products, including pasture-fed beef, eggs, produce and even heavy cream for the (not local) coffee.

In Monterey County, the group learned lessons of crisis management, talking with Dale Huss of Ocean Mist Co. Huss and other Salinas Valley lettuce and spinach growers were caught in the crossfire last year when bagged spinach grown in the area became contaminated with E. coli bacteria. Huss advised growers to be prepared for such a crisis.

The group also learned how Salinas growers were coping with the loss of aquifer water because of saline infusion. Waste water from Monterey County communities is recycled through a three-step treatment process that makes the water suitable for food crops. Treated water is pumped to local fields for irrigation.

The group ended its tour in Fresno and Tulare counties, the first and second largest agricultural counties in the U.S., still reeling from a January freeze that destroyed the citrus crop. Frost-damaged oranges still hung from trees, while at the Kearney Research and Extension Center, faculty members looked for ways to determine the extent of damage to naval oranges.

Lessons learned? Be prepared for natural disasters. Jim Sullins, Tulare County Extension director, told the group the January disaster marked the third 100-year freeze to hit central California since 1993. Even with that experience, growers ran short of propane to heat orchards, some watering systems failed and other freeze protections were not enough to save the crop. In early February, half the local orange packing sheds were at 50 percent capacity, and 50-70 percent of the oranges were believed lost.

Perhaps the biggest concern for Tulare and Fresno growers was that 6,000-7,000 agricultural workers were out of work due to the freeze. Growers, who feared the workers would leave the state, organized relief efforts to help keep the workers in California.

Group photo
Members of the Ag Leaders group at Hilarides Dairy.

The participants have a great deal to say about their leadership program. Many point to relationship skills they have gained that have improved not only their professional relationships but those with friends and family as well.

"The real value to me is what I’ve learned about myself and how I interact with other people. I wish I had known this 20 years ago," said Richard Melton, Anson County agricultural Extension agent. "It has changed the way I look at developing Extension programming."

Billy Slade of Beaufort County, an agribusiness sales manager, said that learning to discuss high-stakes/high-stress issues had saved the jobs of three fellow employees. Being able to sit down to discuss a difficult personal matter had prevented two employees from resigning and a third from possible firing.

Keith Waller, a Wayne County grower who farms with his family, said the leadership training had made him a better manager and a better person. He is now more willing to call on other farmers for help or to discuss practices. When a corn bin at his operation burst, he turned to fellow leader Brandon Warren to ask for assistance.

Warren said the program had given him "friendships for a lifetime," as well as a group of peers who could work together to address challenges for agriculture. "I am more willing to serve in a leadership position now," he said. "It’s been a privilege to be able to participate in this."

Sue Leggett of Nash County, who farms with her husband, said the program has taught her better interpersonal skills and given her confidence to work with and inform other groups about agricultural issues. "This program has introduced me to methods and ideas for improving the interface between the agricultural industry and the general public," she said.

Davie County grower Stacy Walker, who kept a journal of his Brazil and California experiences, said the program had given him the confidence to try new things. "I don’t know yet the path this program has started me on, but I know I’m stepping more boldly now," he said.
-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 04:15 PM

Extension Service highlights work

Help for a teen mother, an intergenerational garden, guidance for farmers and a television show on senior nutrition are a few of the outreach programs offered through the Cooperative Extension Service. The Extension Service annually makes a report to the Moore County Board of Commissioners at a luncheon meeting.

Extension Director Craven Hudson tried something new this year. Instead of statistical reports by staff members, the report took the form of what he called "a snapshot of what we do."

Read more from the Southern Pines Pilot.

Posted by Suzanne at 12:27 PM

April 13, 2007

Guilford County program wins statewide award

Summer Salsa Sizzle
A lucky salsa contest winner celebrates at Guilford County's Summer Salsa Sizzle held in August.

An educational initiative to help Guilford’s growing Latino population has earned the county a statewide award from the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners. "Summer Salsa Sizzle" was one of nine county programs from around the state to win a 2006 Outstanding County Program Award from the NCACC.

Latinos make up the fastest-growing segment of the population in Guilford County. More than 5 percent of all county citizens are Latino in origin, and county Cooperative Extension Center officials saw a need to reach out to these citizens to build a base of trust and allow other citizens to learn more diversity about Latino culture.

The result was an event called “Summer Salsa Sizzle,” a one-night event in August 2006. Roughly 250 individuals attended, including 112 Latinos. Activities were offered free of charge, with expenses paid by Cooperative Extension.

Activities included a salsa cooking contest, and a free salsa tasting kicked off the evening. Mini-sessions that boasted topics such as ethnic vegetable gardening and Spanish 101 followed, and volunteers from the 4-H Club and Americorps Youth provided games and activities for children. At the event finale, participants learned to Salsa
Dance while listening to a host of local Latino bands.

Organizers attribute the event’s success to the partnership between Cooperative Extension and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro’s Center for New North Carolinians. The center provided translators for the event, aided in marketing efforts, and secured Latino vendors and entertainment. The center’s staff continues to refer clients to Cooperative Extension and has helped translate several of the service’s publications to Spanish.

"The purpose of this awards program is to highlight some of the outstanding work that is going on in North Carolina counties," said NCACC Executive Director David F. Thompson. "As the demands being placed on county governments become more complex, counties are forced to find new solutions to old problems. This awards program is a way to bring attention to excellent programs that other counties might want to emulate."

For more information, contact County Extension Director Brenda Morris at 336.375.5876 or brenda_morris@ncsu.edu.

Posted by Natalie at 01:35 PM

NC Choices schedules workshops

NC Choices, a program that links consumers with local hog farmers using alternative production practices, is sponsoring a continuing series of workshops April through June. Workshops are held twice, once in Orange County and once in Duplin County at centers of North Carolina Cooperative Extension.

· A workshop on Risk Management and Taxes will be held April 26 in Orange County. (The Duplin County workshop was April 10.)

· The May workshop will focus on Farm Safety and a farm tour and demonstration. It will be May 8 in Duplin County and May 24 in Orange County.

· In June, the workshop will be about General Herd Health and Biosecurity. It will be held June 12 in Duplin County and June 28 in Orange County.

Buying straight from local farmers guarantees fresher, less traveled meat. These farmers provide a healthy alternative to store-bought pork. More and more consumers are looking for meats raised without the use of antibiotics and hormones. Knowing local farmers and their practices gives consumers confidence that the meat they purchase is good for their families.

NC Choices was developed by N.C. State University, N.C. A&T State University, the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and others to help small and mid-sized hog farms find local markets for niche pork products. The program, funded through the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, is administered by the Center for Environmental Farming Systems.

Posted by Natalie at 01:15 PM

April 10, 2007

Alexander County fruit grower is Small Farmer of the Year

Gary Morrell
(James Parker photo)

Visit N.C. A&T State University's ag e-dispatch to learn more about Small Farms Week and the innovations in agriculture that helped Alexander County fruit grower Gary Morrell win the 2007 Dudley Small Farmer of the Year award. The School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences Web page also has links to the Small Farmer of the Year video and slideshow.

Read more from ag e-dispatch

Posted by Natalie at 11:32 AM

April 04, 2007

Conference brings together churches, farmers, hunger advocates

The Center for Environmental Farming Systems in Goldsboro will be a featured attraction during one of three meetings designed to explore how churches, farmers and hunger relief agencies can work together.

The North Carolina Council of Churches Rural Life Committee will bring together churches, farmers and hunger relief advocates for a conference titled "Come to the Table: A Conference on Food, Faith and Farms," which will explore how North Carolinians can honor the land, relieve hunger and sustain local agriculture.

Three one-day, regional sessions will make up the conference.
The Eastern North Carolina session will be April 10 at St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Goldsboro, N.C.
The Central North Carolina session will be April 11 at Cedar Grove United Methodist Church in Cedar Grove.
The Western North Carolina session will be April 13 at Biltmore United Methodist Church in Asheville.

The Goldsboro session will include a tour of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems, a partnership of North Carolina State University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, North Carolina A&T State University and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The center is one of the nation's largest efforts to study environmentally sustainable farming practices.

At all the sessions, speakers will address the theology of land stewardship and the regional state of agriculture and hunger. Leaders of local projects will discuss their work with faith, farming and hunger relief. Booths and exhibits will give organizations the chance to share their work and meet new partners. Participants will also have a chance to experience local agriculture.

"We hope this conference sparks successful projects and partnerships," said Betty Bailey, a member of the Rural Life Committee and executive director of the Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA.

Speakers include Ellen Davis, a professor at Duke Divinity School; Scott Marlow, Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA farm sustainability program director; N. Yolanda Burwell, senior fellow at the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center; and Christal Andrews, Outreach Coordinator for the Food Bank of Central and Eastern N.C.

Come to the Table is sponsored by the Duke Endowment, the Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA, Hood Theological Seminary and the Heifer International-Southeast Regional Office. Anyone interested in connecting farmers to hunger relief efforts is invited to attend. Registration and other information is available online at http://www.cometothetablenc.org or by calling Claire Hermann at (919) 360-7416.

Posted by Dave at 09:27 AM

April 02, 2007

Workshops focus on development, water quality

Two regional low-impact development (LID) workshops aimed at educating coastal decision-makers, developers, elected officials, planners and the public on how to lessen urban development’s impact on North Carolina's fragile coast and its clean water supply are set for April and May.

The first is on April 11 at Pine Knoll Shores Aquarium; the second, on May 3, is at the Roanoke Island Aquarium in Manteo.

The sites are no coincidence, as one workshop goal is for North Carolina aquariums to help educate the public about low-impact development, says Dr. Bill Hunt, a workshop organizer.

Hunt is an assistant professor in North Carolina State University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences' Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department and a North Carolina Cooperative Extension urban stormwater management specialist

"LID (low-impact development) is a land development approach that uses various planning and design practices and technologies to protect natural resources and minimize the cost associated with infrastructure," says Hunt. "LID does not inhibit growth but encourages a comprehensive, environmentally friendly planning and implementation process."

Hunt adds, "LID tries to mimic a site's predevelopment hydrology by using design techniques to infiltrate, filter, store, evaporate and detain stormwater runoff close to its source. LID can be applied to new development, urban retrofits, redevelopment and revitalization projects."

The workshops will provide an overview of low-impact development design as well as implementation elements, practices and case studies and field tours to sites where low-impact development is being practiced.

Workshop instructors urge engineers, landscape architects, stormwater managers, land surveyors, regulators, students, homeowner association members, municipal officials and anyone else who designs, reviews or constructs low-impact developments to attend. Registration and other information is available online at http://www.bae.ncsu.edu/workshops/LID/. Information is also available from Andrea Olevano in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at North Carolina State University at 919.515.6780 or andrea_olevano@ncsu.edu.

The workshops are funded through a grant from N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources Water Quality Section.

- Art Latham, 919.513.3117 or art_latham@ncsu.edu -

Posted by Dave at 11:48 AM