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July 16, 2009

Richmond County Cooperative Extension works to enhance quality of life

On a mission to get research-based knowledge out into the local community, Richmond County Cooperative extension offers a variety of services designed to enhance economic prosperity, environmental stewardship and quality of life.

"The local staff brings the university to the people by offering local educational programming in the areas of agriculture, community development, family and consumer sciences and 4-H and youth development," said local Extension employee LeAnn Crump.

Read more from the Richmond County Daily Journal.

Posted by Suzanne at 09:34 AM | Comments (0)

July 07, 2009

Zucchini 500 draws crowd to Kannapolis market

zucchini cars
A participant in the Zucchini 500 points out her car among the field of zucchini creations.

Fifty zucchini cars, outfitted to compete in four categories, packed the judges tables prior to the Zucchini 500 at the N.C. Research Campus Farmers Market in Kannapolis. The race itself was the big draw, with children of all ages enjoying the fun. Planned and hosted by N.C. State University and N.C. Cooperative Extension, the event was packed with imagination, creativity, local foods and loads of fun. The organizers planned the fun event to help raise awareness of the N.C. Research Campus Farmers Market and to encourage people to support their local farmers.

Bobby Waltrip, of the legendary Waltrip racing family, called the races. Jay White, Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners; Dr. Mary Grace, senior researcher with N.C. State's Plants for Human Health Institute; and Renee Goodnight, community outreach coordinator for the city of Kannapolis, were the judges. In addition to the races, zucchini cars were judged in the categories of Most Nutritious, Best School Spirit, Best NASCAR Theme and Most Creative.

zucchini race
Gentlemen, start your squash! Two contestants shake hands before the Zucchini 500 race in Kannapolis. (Photos courtesy of Leah Chester-Davis)

Every child who participated received a certificate, a coupon for a free ice cream sundae from Bruster’s Real Ice Cream and a fruit-themed stuffed animal from the Dole Food Co. Winners of the prize categories received Summer Shootout Series tickets from Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Other prizes included a free three-month family membership to the Cannon YMCA for one lucky family and an ice cream cake from Bruster’s.

Both Tara Vogelien, with the Plants for Human Health Institute, and Leah Chester-Davis, Program for Value-Added & Alternative Agriculture at the N.C. Research Campus, work closely with the campus farmers market. The two headed up the N.C. State University team that hosted the event.

Posted by Natalie at 09:35 AM

July 06, 2009

Chatham celebrates pollinators for third year

child visits pollinator garden

Hannah Cowell is a frequent visitor to the pollinator garden at Chatham Marketplace. The bed, which features herbs as well as native perennials and vines, was center piece of the pollinator celebration held last month in Chatham County. For the third year, Chatham County Cooperative Extension and the Chatham County Beekeepers Association partnered for a pollinators' celebration in Pittsboro. Agent Debbie Roos says the event has grown every year, and she expects to repeat it next year. The purpose of National Pollinator Week is to teach pollinator-friendly practices and raise public awareness of the importance of the bees, beetles, butterflies, moths, flies, birds and bats that are needed to produce 80 percent of our flowering plants and one third of our human food crops.

To see more photos from the event, visit Debbie Roos' Growing Small Farms Web site.

Posted by Natalie at 02:36 PM

July 02, 2009

Extension responds to interest in home food preservation

canning workshop
Susan Condlin, right, Lee County Extension director, teaches participants how to can tomatoes at a recent workshop. (Marc Hall photo)

With a renewed interest in home gardening and purchasing local food across North Carolina comes renewed consumer interest in preserving food at home, through canning, freezing or drying North Carolina Cooperative Extension centers are responding to this interest by offering canning classes across the state.

Once a hallmark of extension programming through Tomato Clubs for girls, canning and other home food preservation techniques had largely fallen out of favor with consumers in recent years. But this year, Cooperative Extension centers are reporting enrollment in canning workshops is up, and many extension agents are adding classes to accommodate demand.

Cabarrus County has scheduled nine workshops, up from the usual four, and all filled quickly. Several television news groups taped the Cabarrus workshops to use as on-air instructional pieces. Five workshops will be offered in Lee County, including one focusing on canning green beans and two on canning tomatoes. In Buncombe County, workshops are scheduled throughout the summer produce season on canning strawberry jam, dill pickles and relish and tomatoes, along with several lectures on home canning.

On a recent Tuesday afternoon, 14 participants crowded the kitchen of Lee County's Cooperative Extension center for a lesson on canning tomatoes. All participants went home with their own quart jars of fresh-packed tomatoes canned during the class.

Dr. Ben Chapman, food safety Extension specialist based in N.C. State University’s Department of 4-H Youth Development and Family and Consumer Sciences, reports that about 20 percent of inquiries he receives have been about home food preservation. Chapman came to N.C. State from Canada in January.

removing jars
Two participants in the Lee County workshop remove processed jars of tomatoes from a pressure canner. (Marc Hall photo)

Earlier this year, he led a home food preservation workshop for Extension agents some of whom had never taught canning before. He believes that nearly every agent who has participated is offering community food preservation workshops this summer.

Chapman attributes this renewed interest in home food preservation to three factors: The rise in home gardeners, who want to preserve what they grow – home vegetable seed purchases are reportedly up by 40 percent around the country; the local foods movement, which has encouraged consumers to purchase and eat more local produce; and the economy, which is bringing out new tendencies toward thrift in many consumers.

“The resurgence of local foods and home food preservation is good news for both the health of North Carolinians, and the economic health of the state,” Chapman said. “However, there are areas of potential concern related to food safety.”

For Web-based canning information, consumers can visit www.homefoodpreservation.ncsu.edu, a site developed by Cooperative Extension agents and specialists. The site includes information on how to evaluate a pressure canning gauge, how to can various products and how to prevent illnesses caused by improper canning practices.

jars of canned tomatoes
The finished product. (Photo courtesy of Susan Condlin)

In addition to offering canning workshops, many Extension centers will check the gauge on pressure canners to determine if they are calibrated properly. An accurate gauge will assure a safe product if correct canning procedures are followed. A pressure canner is required for safely canning low-acid foods, and Condlin says the gauge should be checked each year prior to the canning season.

To locate your county Extension center, visit the Web site: www.ces.ncsu.edu/index.php?page=countycenters or look in the government section of your phone book under “North Carolina Cooperative Extension.”

-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 11:00 AM

Small Farm Field Day is July 16

N.C. A&T State University will host the Small Farm Field Day July 16, 8:30 a.m. to noon at the University Farm in Greensboro. Demonstrations will include pastured chickens, pastured hogs, mushrooms, specialty vegetables on mulch, no-till raised beds with pumpkins, Asian eggplant, Scotch bonnet and amaranth. The University Farm is located at 3136 McConnell Road, Greensboro, approximately three miles north
of I-40, exit 43 (old exit 130).

Posted by Natalie at 10:23 AM