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February 26, 2008

Extension agents learn much from Uruguay trip

Tiffanee Conrad-Acuña
Tiffanee Conrad-Acuña, right, of Richmond County listens as an organic grower in Uruguay describes his operation. (Photos by Natalie Hampton)

In December, a group of 23 students, faculty and Cooperative Extension agents traveled to Uruguay for a “Short Course on Organic Agriculture in Uruguay.” The trip was sponsored by the Center for Environmental Farming Systems, a research, teaching and extension program dedicated to sustainable agriculture.

The trip was a partnership between CEFS, the Universidad de la Empresa in Montevideo, Uruguay, and BIO-Uruguay International, a non-profit sustainable agriculture research and extension center in Tacuarembo, Uruguay.

The group visited a number of organic farms, as well as research centers of INIA, Uruguay’s agricultural research service.
Extension agents on the trip were Martha Mobley, Franklin County livestock agent; Tiffanee Conrad-Acuña, Richmond County livestock agent; Mary Helen Ferguson, Randolph County horticulture agent; and Kevin Starr, Lincoln County Extension director, with horticulture responsibilities.

All four said that through the study tour they had learned much about sustainable agriculture, made new connections with N.C. State faculty and other Cooperative Extension agents and renewed their interest in international extension work.

“The trip for me was very life changing,” Conrad-Acuña said. “I’ve never been exposed to organic agriculture before. After coming back from the trip, I have answered two questions about farms possibly turning organic and have taught one Hispanic farmer about composting horse manure for his pasture.”

Martha Mobley agreed that she learned more about sustainable agriculture and the resources available at N.C. State to support small farmers.

“I had the opportunity to speak with and interact with faculty members involved with various programming on campus that I had no idea existed, such as the wonderful sustainable agriculture program for the small farmer,” Mobley said. “The relationships that developed will be long lasting.”

Conrad-Acuña also connected with campus specialists who could provide information in the areas of meat processing and sustainable agriculture.

Kevin Starr commented on the similarities of sustainable production between Uruguay and the United States. “We witnessed a variety of partnerships among universities, INIA, BIO-Uruguay and farmers that are reminiscent of what is happening here in North Carolina,” Starr said. “Our big advantage (in the United States) is having Extension agents in the field.”

Mobley agreed. “Farmers and others in North Carolina are at a real advantage in having N.C. Cooperative Extension to provide information for a better way of life,” she said.

Mary Helen Ferguson
Mary Helen Ferguson, left, of Randolph County and student Suzanne O'Connell visit a plaza in Tacuarembo.

Mary Helen Ferguson was struck by how much growers in Uruguay have in common with growers in her own county. “It was interesting that growers there face many of the same issues as our growers do – erratic weather, labor shortages and disposal of plastic mulch for example,” Ferguson said.

During their trip, group members learned that – like North Carolina – much of Uruguay was experiencing a drought. While staying at BIO-Uruguay, they learned that the center was struggling with drought and was concerned with a shortage of water for crops.

“I was sort of hit in the face at BIO-Uruguay because we learned that if we didn’t conserve water while there, they would have to abandon their crops and several months of hard work,” Conrad-Acuña said. The experience made her realize how dire the consequences of drought could be in her own state.

Starr is looking into a squash variety – Zapallito de Tronco – that the group saw at a small organic farmers’ market and supermarkets in Uruguay. He believes that the variety could be grown in Lincoln County.

Prior to the trip, Ferguson had worked diligently on learning Spanish to help her serve the 9 percent of our county’s population that are Hispanic. After traveling in Uruguay, she felt her Spanish comprehension had improved. And the trip left her eager for more international experiences. “It did re-spark my interest in rural, international ag work,” she said.

Participants posted their insights and photos from the Uruguay trip in a Web log. To read more, visit: blogs.lib.ncsu.edu/page/uruguay.

This is project was supported by a USDA International Science and Education grant. For information about the program, visit www.csrees.usda.gov/fo/educationinternationalscience.cfm.

-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 11:43 AM

4-H camp gets makeover on Camp Challenge workday

4-H camp workday
Participants in the Camp Challenge work day line up for a cookout following hours of hard work completing many projects. (Photo courtesy of N.C. Bankers Association)

From the trimming of trees to the staining of structures to the building of bridges -- from demolition of the old to installation of the new -- the Sertoma 4-H Educational Center got an extreme makeover in late October. That’s when members, affiliates, and friends of the North Carolina Bankers Association gathered at the camp for the eighth annual Camp Challenge workday. More than 200 participants from across the state – along with two volunteers who traveled from Kentucky and one from California -- donated their time and skills to help make many improvements to the camp.

Among the projects completed were:
Cabin staining
Painting of Cheshire Hall bedrooms and inside the cafeteria
Demolition of sheds behind hotel and horse barn
Burial of computer wire from hotel to chapel, then dirt replacement and reseeding
Preliminary floor removal for eventual replacement in some cabins
Installation of new screen doors and replacement screens on youth cabins
Staining and cleaning of spring house and old fire circle
Trimming of trees around cabins, along roads and on trails
Landscaping of hotel, gym, chapel, front signs - trimming and mulch
Re-establishment of lower fire circle and new benches
Restoration of trail to springhouse/lower fire circle
Building of new bridge near the Spring House
Installation of car barrier between cabin circles
Stump removal
Tearing down of outhouses by high ropes
New guttering off rec hall
Connecting of computers in computer lab
Installation of fence toward new classroom
Replacement of side doors in rec hall
Installation of new basketball goals in the gym
Addition of mulch to control hill erosion

This workday took place after two days of solid rain. When the sun came out, Sertomans Ray Clarke, John Kelly and Janis Henderson-Hunsucker, along with Paul Stock and Shellie Lempert of the N.C. Bankers Association, dug up mud, made a trench and created a retaining wall out of landscape timbers in front of the Burlington cabin.

Participants had been assigned to teams prior to their arrival at the workday, when they gathered in front of Sertoma’s Cheshire Hall with their team leaders. They then worked diligently for several hours to complete the many improvements that will benefit campers this coming summer.

Posted by Natalie at 11:16 AM

February 21, 2008

2008 Showstopper Plants are must-haves for Carolina gardens


The North Carolina Nursery & Landscape Association and North Carolina Cooperative Extension will kick off the inaugural year of Showstopper Plants at the Southern Spring Home & Garden Show at the Charlotte Merchandise Mart, Feb. 27 through March 2.

The 2008 Showstopper Plants are promising new cultivars or iron-clad plants that thrive across the region. They are great choices for Carolina gardeners. This year’s selections consist of three shrubs: ‘Kaleidoscope’ Abelia, ‘Limelight’ Hydrangea and ‘Chindo’ Viburnum. Lenten Rose is the Showstopper perennial. The tree selection is ‘Oklahoma’ Redbud. Many of these plants will be featured in the show gardens. They also will be showcased as part of Extension’s Successful Gardener Learning Center at this week’s show.

According to John Vining, county Extension director of North Carolina Cooperative Extension's Polk County center, members of the North Carolina Nursery and Landscape Association nominated a group of plants that perform well in Carolina landscapes and are easy to find across the state. Extension horticulture experts reviewed the list to select the top five plants.

“Most of this year’s selections, when established, are quite tolerant of drought,” said Vining. “The selection committee’s goal was to choose plants that should thrive.

The lone exception is the Lenten Rose, which needs moist soil to excel. An established plant is one that has been planted for a minimum of three years. Following that time-frame the roots should be grown into our native soil enough to help resist droughts.”

A new publication on these 2008 Showstopper Plants will be available at Extension’s Successful Gardener Learning Centers at the Southern Spring Home & Garden Show at the Charlotte Merchandise Mart, Feb. 27– March 2; the Southern Ideal Home Show at the Greensboro Coliseum, March 14-16; the Carolina Home & Garden Show at the Cumberland County Crown Center in Fayetteville, March 28–30; the Brunswick Islands Home & Garden Show in Shallotte on March 29-30; and the Southern Ideal Home Show at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh on April 4–6.

Learn more by visiting www.tarheelgardening.com or www.successfulgardener.org.

Posted by Natalie at 11:04 AM

February 12, 2008

Publications update from Communication Services

The following publications are now available:

Weed Management on Organic Farms (AG-659-7W) is now online at http://www.cefs.ncsu.edu/PDFs/WeedMgmtJan808Accessible.pdf
and http://www.cefs.ncsu.edu/PDFs/WeedMgmtJan808.doc.

Organic farmers cite weed management as their number one research priority. This 34-page publication, part of the Organic Production series, describes weed control strategies for organic farms based on weed characteristics and an integrated cropping system approach. A special section on cultivation practices that limit emerged and future weeds is based on research by the Center for Environmental Farming Systems.

Other titles available in the online Organic Production series include:
Composting on Organic Farms (AG-659-01W)
Conservation Tillage on Organic Farms (AG-659-02W)
Cover Crops for Organic Farms (AG-659-03W)
Crop Rotations on Organic Farms (AG-659-05W)
Soil Fertility on Organic Farms(AG-659-06W)
Soil Quality Considerations for Organic Farmers (AG-659-04W)
You will find links to all titles in the series at http://www.cefs.ncsu.edu/resourcesorganicproduction.htm.

Posted by Natalie at 03:20 PM

Keeping the family farm in the family

Steve Smutko, left, polls the audience, while Grace Lawrence tallies their concerns at the "Keeping the Farm" workshop in Wake County. (Art Latham photo)

Landowners seeking financial and technical help to diversify and manage their farms and forests so they can maintain, sustain or keep the farm in the family flocked to North Carolina Cooperative Extension’s Wake County center recently.

More than 170 attendees at the third annual "Keeping the Farm" workshop on Jan. 30 learned about the state of working lands and development in Wake County, forestry, taxes, tax credits and estate planning.

Perhaps not surprisingly, three of the top five concerns attendees expressed related to taxation issues, while the other two regarded rules for qualifying for a small farm and how to find a successor to work the land.

“With the rapid growth Wake County is experiencing,,” said Grace Lawrence, Wake County Cooperative Extension agent for the environment, “there are many changes that can be exciting and, sometimes, overwhelming for landowners.

“Many people don’t realize there are 800 farmers in Wake County alone,” she said. “Working lands don’t just produce crops, they benefit everyone by preserving wildlife habitat, enhancing air and water quality and providing open space.”

Harold H. Webb, Wake County commissioner, introduced the session and Emmett Curl, Wake County revenue director and tax assessor, provided details on county taxation efforts and procedures.

North Carolina Cooperative Extension specialists and others, listed below, led breakout sessions that provided more details and addressed concerns voiced by attendees.

The sessions, listed with their coordinators’ specialties and affiliations:

Tax and regulatory issues for land: Dr. Steve Smutko, Natural Resources Leadership Institute director and Guido van der Hoeven, farm management and taxation specialist, both of the Agricultural and Resources Economics Department, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), North Carolina State University; and Mark Megalos, N.C. State Forestry Extension.

Frameworks for property decision-making and goal-setting: Carolyn Bird, CALS 4-H Youth Development and Family and Consumer Sciences Department; and Robin Landsman, Wake County assistant Extension agent for family and consumer sciences.

Working with resource professionals: Morris Dunn, Cooperative Extension horticulture agent, Wake County; Matthew Kinane, Natural Resource Conservation Service; Keith Miller, Wake County Farm Service Agency; Alton Perry, N.C. Forestry Service; and Mark Edmonson, Wake County Parks, Recreation and Open Space.

Updating estate plans: Dr. Ted Feitshans, CALS Agricultural and Resources Economics Department environmental and agricultural law specialist; and Andrew Branan, executive director, N.C. Farm Transition Network.

-A. Latham

Posted by Art at 01:26 PM

N.C. to host national technology conference in April

North Carolina Cooperative Extension is hosting the 2008 National Extension Technology Conference (NETC) on April 27 - May 1 at the Raleigh-Durham/Research Triangle Embassy Suites in Cary.

For over 20 years, decision makers and information technology professionals from the nation's land-grant university system have held a national conference for the directors, managers, staff and users of rIT within the Cooperative Extension system. NETC is an opportunity for sharing and learning about innovative types and uses of information technology. NETC welcomes anyone with an interest in information technology and its use in extension programming, higher and continuing education and organization management.

We'll be meeting "In the Pines" just minutes from two very different kinds of parks. One is the famous Research Triangle Park (RTP), the largest research park in the world and home to over 130 research and development-related organizations and companies. The other, Umstead State Park, is nestled between the conference site, RTP, Raleigh and Durham. This peaceful haven offers more than 20 miles of hiking trails and other activities.

Past attendees will tell you that learning and networking with their land-grant peers is the highlight of any NETC. We're going the extra mile at NETC08 to enhance that experience. Our schedule and proposal descriptions are posted on the eXtension Collaborate Wiki to promote interaction between presenters and attendees before, during and after the conference. Open space sessions, last-minute "lightening talks" for those topics that didn't exist when proposals were due, and corporate exhibitors will provide additional opportunities for onsite interaction. We've also engaged compelling keynote speakers and we have a line up of exciting technology tours planned.

Visit the conference Web site, http://netc08.ces.ncsu.edu, for registration, schedule, program and hotel details. If you're planning to attend, we want to encourage you to book your hotel room promptly, as the hotel typically sells out.

Posted by Natalie at 09:25 AM

February 04, 2008

Aguilar named to 4-H Latino post

Cintia Aguilar

Cintia Aguilar, the College’s first Latino interests facilitator, is determined to serve new audiences, forge new partnerships and promote multicultural 4-H clubs.

For more, visit:

Posted by Art at 10:19 AM

February 01, 2008

JC Raulston Arboretum announces Gala in the Garden


On May 4, 2008, from 4 to 7 p.m., the JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State University will once again hold its annual Gala in the Garden.

"Many will come in festive hats, others in their finest garden party attire; while others will be too focused to care as they bee-line to the botanicals to see what was donated for this year's event," said Dr. Dennis Werner, Arboretum director. "The Gala in the Garden at the JC Raulston Arboretum draws the diverse gardening community that surrounds the arboretum and beyond."

Enjoy music by the Southern String Band, gourmet hors d'oeuvres including a special dessert reception and bid on a variety of unique plants and other special items in the silent auction.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the JC Raulston Arboretum, a working research and teaching garden of NC State University.

Tickets are $60. To become a corporate sponsor or to purchase tickets, contact Barbara Kennedy at 919-513-7004 or barbara_kennedy@ncsu.edu. For more information about the JC Raulston Arboretum please visit http://www.ncsu.edu/jcraulstonarboretum/

Posted by Suzanne at 02:21 PM | Comments (0)