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June 29, 2007

Client praises Amy Thomas for service

Amy Thomas
Amy Thomas

Consumers are quick to complain to others about an organization that has disappointed them, but not so quick to compliment those who go above and beyond the call of duty to serve clients. But Mary Joe Hanes, a cattle operator at the Hawk Farm in Stokes County, is an exception.

Hanes was so impressed with the service she received and the relationship she has developed with North Carolina Cooperative Extension livestock agent Amy Thomas that she wrote a three-page letter praising Thomas last fall to Dr. Jon Ort, director of North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. In her letter, Hanes described the many ways that Thomas has helped Hanes’s operation and contributed to a revived cattle industry in Stokes and Forsyth counties where Thomas has served for two years.

“In all my years of producing livestock in Stokes County, I have never utilized Cooperative Extension as I am now,” Hanes wrote to Ort.

Hanes is exuberant in describing her relationship with Thomas. When Thomas first came to Stokes County, Hanes received a letter from her about cow-keeping forms she had to share. When Hanes responded that she was interested, she expected to receive more information by mail.

One day while working on the farm, Hanes looked up to see Amy Thomas’s truck coming up the drive. “I had no idea she would come out. She just dropped by and introduced herself,” Hanes said.

Right away, Thomas began helping the Haneses with their operation. She taught them to take pregnancy test samples from cows, helped them get into a class on artificial insemination and helped them make decisions about animals to cull from their herd.

“Anything we came up with, Amy had an answer for – any direction we wanted to go,” Hanes said.

Thomas said she was surprised to learn of Hanes’s complimentary letter to the head of the Cooperative Extension Service. She acknowledges that she has a good relationship with and respect for Hanes.

She describes her job responsibilities as most livestock agents would – working with goat and cattle operators, helping with artificial insemination, breeding, selection and pregnancy, and working with local youth who show livestock.

Thomas helped introduce the Haneses to youth livestock showing. Last summer, she helped organize a show calf clinic at Hanes’s farm to train youth through a mock livestock show. “The youth were able to experience what the show ring might be like and receive a gentle critique from Amy as to their showmanship skills and cattle-handling abilities,” Hanes wrote to Ort.

Hanes was most touched at the way Thomas interacted with Mike, who Hanes described as a mentally and physically handicapped adult who competed in a special class in the livestock show. “For the cattle show, Amy’s husband Charlie brought one of their most gentle heifers for Mike to show. I wish you could have seen him in the ring with this beautiful heifer and the giant smile on his face when Amy awarded him his blue ribbon,” Hanes wrote.

Hanes said that the attention that Thomas gave to Mike illustrates her commitment to people. “Amy is here for everybody, and she treats everyone well,” Hanes said. “It doesn’t matter how trivial your need is, she’s ready to help.”

For Thomas, it’s all in a day’s work. “I try to do as much as I can. With two counties, it’s hard to do hands-on,” she admits.
Hanes also credits Thomas with reviving the local cattleman’s association. And the clinics Thomas offers to livestock producers have been well received. That level of service, Hanes says, is very important to farmers.

“I want state administrators to understand how important it is to those of us trying to stay in this business,” Hanes said.

Thomas grew up on a farm and is now married to a farmer, so she appreciates how important a livestock agent’s help can be. “I don’t see how anyone can be a good agent and stay in the office,” she said. “It’s not feasible in all cases, but it’s a disservice to livestock producers if Extension agents can’t get out to the farms.”

-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 01:50 PM

Ducharme hosts farmer mentoring program

Diane Ducharme, an Extension agriculture agent working in Henderson, Haywood and Buncombe counties, has A&T Extension’s Farmer-to-Farmer Mentoring Program in high gear this summer. Three farms near Asheville — Thatchmore, Full Sun and Flying Cloud — have been lined up to host a series of programs on Mondays, from 4 to 6 p.m., through Aug. 30.

Workshop topics will cover farm management from site selection to post-harvest handling. Well-experienced farmers as well as those completely new to the profession are welcome. Each workshop is a stand-alone, so participants can pick dates and topics that match personal schedules and interests. The registration fee is $5 per class.

Read more from ag e-dispatch

Posted by Natalie at 08:29 AM

June 27, 2007

Cheese school pays off for Gibsonville dairy

Jackie Gerringer
Jackie Gerringer, second from right, and employees remove curds for cheesemaking. (Photos by Becky Kirkland)

In a gleaming workroom of a Gibsonville dairy farm, Jackie Gerringer and four employees work six days a week, making three types of farmstead cheeses. Each week, the Calico Farmstead Cheese Co. turns 3,000 gallons of milk into traditional Mexican cheeses marketed in North Carolina and neighboring states.

Like many small cheesemakers, Gerringer and her family are new to the business. But their marketing savvy and a growing consumer demand for fresh cheese has provided the Gerringer dairy with a new source of income.

Jackie Gerringer was among the first cheesemakers to participate in a Hands-On Farmstead Cheesemaking Short Course, developed by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Food Science Department.

The workshop helped her understand the food safety issues, labeling and regulatory requirements involved in cheesemaking, as well as how to get started in the business.

“It was just really a good experience,” Gerringer said.

In the Food Science Department, Gary Cartwright, food science pilot plant coordinator, and Dr. MaryAnne Drake, food science assistant professor, are among those who have put on the Farmstead Cheesemaking Short Course in December of each year since 2004.

The course started in spring 2004 as a processing short course and in December of that year, the hands-on workshops began. Cartwright credits Dean Johnny Wynne with having the vision to offer the training through the College.

“Dean Wynne saw that there was a need to empower farmers who were interested in doing this and doing it the proper way, the legal way, and helping them stay on the family farm. He asked Dr. Drake and I to support this kind of the program, so we garnered funds from Golden LEAF, Southeast Dairy Foods Research Center and North Carolina Agriculture Foundation. Their generous support -- and the dairy processing plant located here in the Food Science Department -- made the program possible,” Cartwright said.

Tia Anna's Cheeses
The Gerringers make three types of Mexican-style cheeses.

Since the workshops began, Cartwright says that 83 individuals from 34 North Carolina counties – and from several other states – have participated in the training. The workshop is offered in late November or December to accommodate goat dairy operators because the dairy goats do not produce milk that time of year.

The workshops deal with many aspects of cheesemaking, including a roundtable discussion with successful local cheesemakers, Cartwright says. “This is not just to educate farmstead-interested people on how to do it. It’s to educate them on whether they want to or not,” he said. “So they get a good taste of the technology involved, the labor involved, and then we also hit the economics and regulatory parts involved.”

Safety is emphasized in the cheesemaking workshops. “What makes a good cheese is sanitation, sanitation and sanitation,” Drake said. “What makes it your cheese could be the type of cheese you make, it could be how you position your product, could be your label. It could be any one of a number of things.”

“What makes a good cheese for someone trying to stay on the farm is making it economically successful. You can make the best cheese in the world, but if you don’t have a market for it, you’re not going to make it for long,” Cartwright said.

The workshops emphasize the importance of cheesemakers having a plan to market their cheese. In a survey of workshop participants who go into cheesemaking, Cartwright says that all of them underestimate how much time it takes to market and sell cheese.

Jackie Gerringer says she had no illusions about her sales abilities when it came to cheese. “I am not a sales person,” she says. “We knew we couldn’t sell because we didn’t have time. I could give you give you cheese all day long, but I couldn’t sell it.”

Fortunately, the Gerringers have had good partners in developing their cheese business. Several Mexican employees in the dairy first suggested that the make Mexican-style cheeses. Employee Juana Beltran taught Jackie Gerringer to make quesa fresca, a cheese Beltran learned to make from her mother.

Juana’s husband Manuel was eager to take on the role of marketing the cheese. Each day he fills his coolers and sells cheese to tiendas that cater to Mexcians living in North Carolina and sells direct to consumers at the Buckhorn Flea Market in Mebane. Two other distributors sell their cheese in Virginia and the Charlotte area.

Though it took time for the Gerringers to perfect the cheesemaking process and develop a processing facility, they now make three cheeses – quesa fresca, panela and requeson (ricotta) – under the name Tia Anna’s Cheese.

Food scientist Drake says that the Southeast dairies are in decline because of competition from other areas of the country. “The way dairy production occurs, we cannot compete with the Southwest and the West Coast. That’s reality – we just cannot compete production-wise,” Drake said. “But we do have niche markets here and throughout the Southeast for artisan and farm-raised and organic and small-scale, specialty value-added dairy products.”

Anna Gerringer
Herd manager Anna Amoriello gives her herd tender loving care, including this cow that likes to be scratched.

The Gerringers got into the cheese business after the tobacco buyout. Tobacco income had supported their dairy, but after the buyout, they needed to find a way to make the dairy profitable.

And cheese has been just the ticket, Jackie Gerringer says. “The cheese has more than made up for the tobacco income. Sometimes we think, ‘well, why didn’t we do it earlier?’” she said. But the family realizes that the knowledge they needed, the help and the market for the cheese might not have been there before now.

For the Gerringers, the dairy – started in 1949 by Larry Gerringer’s parents -- is really a family affair. Larry, Jackie’s husband, is up by 4 a.m. each day to sanitize equipment for the morning milking. Workers milk the Gerringers’ herd of 200 Holsteins and Jerseys twice each day. Milk that is not used for cheese goes into milk production.

Their daughter Anna Amoriello (CALS ’89, animal science and agricultural education) manages the herd health, breeding and calving.

Six days a week, Juana Beltran comes in about 9 a.m. to place labels on cartons that will hold that day’s cheese. Jackie Gerringer, Beltran and three other workers make cheese from around noon to about 5 p.m.

They’ve come a long way from their early cheesemaking days when production went on from about 3 p.m. until after midnight. “My first efforts at making cheese would have made a good bouncy ball for my grandchildren,” Jackie said.

The Gerringers are thrilled with their success, and Jackie says she would like to learn to make other types of cheeses. “But right now, I’m busy,” she said.

This year’s Hands-On Farmstead Cheesemaking Short Course will be held Nov. 28-30. For more information, contact Gary Cartwright at gcart@ncsu.edu or 919.513.2488.

-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 09:54 AM

June 26, 2007

New Durham Extension director named

Delphine Sellars, community outreach coordinator with North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Durham County, has been named to direct the Durham Extension program.

Sellars' appointment as Durham Extension director was announced by Dr. Jon Ort, director of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service at North Carolina State University, and Mike Ruffin, Durham County manager.

Sellars has served as community outreach coordinator since 1998, when she joined Cooperative Extension. She holds a bachelor's degree in social studies from North Carolina Central University and a master's degree in organizational management from Pfeiffer University. Sellars came to Extension from the Durham County Department of Social Services, where she was a social worker.

As community outreach coordinator, Sellars led an effort to create the Stengthening Families Coalition and to develop an English and Spanish parent and family advocacy curriculum. She also provided leadership and training to diverse populations in addressing community and civic issues. She succeeds Cheryl Lloyd, who has taken a position as Cooperative Extension state leader for urban programs.

"Delphine brings a wealth of experience as an administrator, facilitator and trainer to the county Extension director position in Durham County," said Dr. Donald Cobb, Extension North Central District Director. "She has worked with individuals and groups across Durham County and is known as a people person. Her skills will enable her to be a successful county director in one of our more urban counties." Durham is in Extension's North Central District.

North Carolina Cooperative Extension is an educational agency supported by county governments, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, N.C. State University and North Carolina A&T State University. A staff of agents in each county and on the Cherokee Reservation, backed by specialists at the two land-grant universities, conducts educational programs related to agriculture and forestry, family and consumer sciences, 4-H, community and rural development, and other issues of concern to North Carolina citizens. The Extension service is headquartered in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at N.C. State University.

Posted by Dave at 09:04 AM

June 18, 2007

New venue for pest control training

It looks at first glance as though the construction crew just left. Wood studs form walls but stand unadorned of siding or insulation. Foundation walls are half finished. Yet the construction crew is long gone and won't be coming back.

Welcome to one of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences' newest "structures," the Structural Pest Control Training and Research Center at the College's Lake Wheeler Road Field Laboratory.

Read more in Perspectives magazine.

Posted by Dave at 10:51 AM

June 15, 2007

Marshall Stewart to be interviewed on NCNN

Join Marshall Stewart and North Carolina News Network's Bruce Ferrell as they discuss 4-H clubs, camps and after school program Sunday, June 17, on NCNN’s North Carolina Report. The interview will be broadcast statewide on these affiliates and the show will also be streamed for one week on the same Web page.

Be sure to tell friends to tune in as well!

Posted by Natalie at 10:19 AM

June 14, 2007

DeBord spreads parenting education via airways

Karen DeBord
Karen DeBord talks by phone with WPTF. (Photo by Suzanne Stanard)

How should parents handle a whining child? What can they do to make a smooth transition to home after picking a child up from day care? What safety advice should parents share with teens before the high school prom?

Dr. Karen DeBord, parenting specialist with North Carolina Cooperative Extension at North Carolina State University, helps answer these and other questions in eight-minute segments that air Mondays at 8:08 a.m. on WPTF radio in Raleigh.

Jack Boston, host of “North Carolina’s Morning News,” and DeBord discuss relevant issues on parenting children, from babies to teens. She has discussed topics ranging from when teens should get paid jobs to Internet use and children.

Staff at WPTF radio have mostly school-age children or teens, DeBord says. So it makes sense that they tend to focus on issues related to children of those ages.

In early April, DeBord did a segment on teens and grief, following the deaths of several teens from a local high school in a car accident. Later that Monday, the tragic shootings of 33 students at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University occurred, and DeBord felt she needed to address the issue again the following week.

It was a hard discussion for DeBord, who grew up in Blacksburg, Va., where Virginia Tech is located, earned her bachelor’s degree and doctorate at Virginia Tech and saw her parents retire from there. She talked about how students who commit such crimes are typically disengaged from their school communities and often from their families. But while keeping students engaged is important, it is not always possible to predict such tragedies, she said.

She and host Boston also have addressed multiple choice questions from an on-line quiz, “What’s the Risk?” The quiz helps parents become “emotion coaches” for their children by recognize their display of emotions, then helping them identify and name their problem, brainstorm solutions, then choose an appropriate action.

Other show topics have included understanding the stages of parenthood and parenting types, limiting television and media use, keeping lines of communication open, and understanding children’s sleep patterns.

DeBord is professor of child development in the College’s Department of 4-H Youth Development and Family & Consumer Sciences, with more than 28 years experience with Cooperative Extension. She is also the NC State director of a master’s degree program, in Family Life & Parenting Education jointly administered with the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She also hosts the program, “One-Minute Parent” on “Army Wife Talk Radio,” an on-line radio source.

-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 08:48 AM

June 11, 2007

Guilford County 4-H'ers expand horizons in PetPALS

4-H'er Logan Brown
Guilford County 4-H'er Logan Brown shows Thumper to a Bell House resident.

On a warm early spring afternoon, a group of Guilford County 4-H'ers, parents and Cooperative Extension staff paid a special visit to Bell House, an assisted living community in Greensboro for people who have cerebral palsy. Also along for the gathering was Thumper, a one-year-old caramel colored rabbit.

He was the life of the party, nestled in a cardboard box and soaking up attention from Bell House residents.

The visit was one of many that the 4-H'ers will make to Bell House this year as part of 4-H PetPALS, an intergenerational program that links young people and their pets with residents of healthcare and assisted living facilities.

Logan Brown, 16, enjoys being part of the PetPALS program. "It’s cool to meet different people and make new friends," she said. She's grown up with animals in her life, from chickens to dogs, and she's eager to share that experience with other people.

Along with Logan, Nichole Batchelor, 21, and Andre Harris, 13, round out the membership of the 4-H PetPALS TRY ("Teens Reaching Youth") team in Guilford County.

"I wanted a new leadership opportunity and to learn new things," Nichole said. She's also an animal lover, with chickens, cats, rabbits and a dog at home.

The program in Guilford County started in late 2005, when Extension 4-H agent Peggie Lewis received a grant from the College's Animal Science Department. The funding enabled the Guilford County 4-H TRY team to conduct a series of workshops throughout the next year called "Walk a Mile in My Shoes."

Designed to train youth and adults in the different aspects of the PetPALS curriculum, the workshops focused on the physical and medical conditions of people as they age.

For instance, a simulation with yellow cellophane revealed what it might be like to have cataracts. Participants also stuffed cotton in their ears to imagine the experience of a person who is hard of hearing.

"Our 4-H TRY team had a great experience teaching these workshops because the participants really enjoyed the exercises and learned a lot," Lewis said. "After a year of teaching, our team was ready to go into assisted living facilities to implement the second phase of the curriculum."

In January, the 4-H'ers – and Thumper – made their first visit to Bell House and interacted with residents of all ages. They'll continue these visits throughout the year.

"We're always trying to find different things for our 4-H'ers to do," Lewis said. "PetPALS is a great opportunity for them to gain confidence and interact with new people."


Posted by Suzanne at 04:42 PM

New Surry Extension director named

Bryan Cave, a long-time North Carolina Cooperative Extension agent in Surry County, has been named to direct the Surry Extension program.

Cave’s appointment as Surry Extension director was announced by Dr. Jon Ort, director of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service at North Carolina State University, and the Surry County Board of Commissioners.

Cave joined Cooperative Extension as an assistant agricultural agent in Surry County in 1988. He holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, both from North Carolina State University and both in Animal Science. He also holds an associate of arts degree from Surry Community College.

Throughout his Cooperative Extension career, Cave, who grew up on a small, diversified Surry County farm, has worked primarily with livestock and forage producers. He succeeds Brenda Rose, who retired after a 31-year career with Cooperative Extension, including 19 years as Surry County director.

Cave has won a number of awards during his Extension career, including the Outstanding Young Agent Achievement Award and the George and Virginia Hyatt Scholarship. He was also a finalist in the National Association of County Agricultural Agents 4-H and Youth Recognition Program.

“Bryan’s leadership experience and training have prepared him well for this position. He is familiar with the people and the Extension program in Surry County,” said Bob Edwards, Extension Northwest District Director. Surry County is in Extension’s Northwest District.

Edwards added, “Bryan is highly respected by all who have been associated with him. I’m confident he will be an excellent addition to the great team of county Extension directors in the Northwest District.”

Posted by Dave at 08:41 AM

June 06, 2007

Homemaker group provides scholarship

The Wilson County Extension and Community Association has established the Lois Rainwater Scholarship Endowment in memory of former Wilson County Home Demonstration Agent Lois Rainwater.

Rainwater was employed by the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service in Wilson County from 1934 to 1946.

Read more in the Wilson Daily Times.

Posted by Dave at 08:09 AM

June 01, 2007

Agriculture secretary names 47 N.C. counties for disaster aid

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns has designated 47 North Carolina counties as disaster areas, following an April freeze that devastated a number of the state's early crops. The counties received the designation of "primary natural disaster area" following crop damage assessments by the Farm Service Agency.

Counties receiving the disaster designation are:
Alexander, Alleghany, Anson, Ashe, Avery, Bladen, Burke, Cabarrus, Chatham, Chowan, Cleveland, Cumberland, Davidson, Duplin, Gaston, Gates, Greene, Halifax, Haywood, Henderson, Hoke, Hyde, Iredell, Jackson, Lenoir, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Mitchell, Montgomery, Moore, Nash, Northampton, Onslow, Orange, Pender, Perquimans, Polk, Richmond, Rockingham, Rutherford, Sampson, Stanly, Union, Watauga, Wayne, Wilkes and Yadkin.

Additional counties received the designation "contiguous disaster counties." They are:
Alamance, Beaufort, Bertie, Brunswick, Buncombe, Caldwell, Camden, Carteret, Caswell, Catawba, Columbus, Craven, Dare, Davie, Durham, Edgecombe, Forsyth, Franklin, Guilford, Harnett, Hertford, Johnston, Jones, Lee, Macon, Madison, Martin, McDowell, New Hanover, Pasquotank, Person, Pitt, Randolph, Robeson, Rowan, Scotland, Stokes, Surry, Swain, Transylvania, Tyrrell, Wake, Warren, Washington, Wilson, Yancey.

Farm operators in both primary and contiguous counties eligible to be considered for low-interest emergency loans from FSA, provided eligibility requirements are met. FSA will consider each application on its own merit by taking into account the extent of losses, security available, and repayment ability. Local FSA offices can provide affected farmers with further information.

Posted by Natalie at 02:53 PM