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February 19, 2010

Franklin County Extension partners on farmer scholarships

Martha Mobley talks with an employee at Raleigh's Whole Foods. (Natalie Hampton photo)

Beginning, small or part-time farmers in Franklin County will be able to apply for grant funds to implement small projects on their operations, thanks to a partnership between N.C. Cooperative Extension and Whole Foods of Raleigh. During the month of February, the store on Wade Avenue has posted donation boxes at cash registers, inviting customers to contribute to the scholarship fund. The money collected will be turned over to Franklin County’s agriculture board.

Martha Mobley, Franklin County agriculture Extension agent who helped arrange the program with Whole Foods, said the agriculture board will award grants to local farmers, based on an application process. On Feb. 18, Mobley and several Franklin County farmers were on hand at Whole Foods to share information about Franklin County farms and the scholarship project. Store customers stopped by with questions and to drop donations in the scholarship box.

Mobley says small operations in her county are growing, thanks in part to the promotion of local foods in the county. In May, Cooperative Extension partners with the Franklin County Arts Council and other sponsors to host a two-day Farm, Foods and Crafts Tour, along with a local foods dinner. This year’s events will take place May 15-16.
-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 09:16 AM

February 16, 2010

Webinar series on agritourism begins March 2

N.C. State University’s Tourism Extension, based in the College of Natural Resources, has teamed with colleagues from Rutgers University to offer a free webinar series on agritourism. The East Coast Agritourism Webinar Series will include five different sessions designed to provide an overview of important information related to agritourism.

Topics include:
Introduction to Agritourism: March 2
Is Agritourism Right for You? March 9
Marketing Basics: March 16
Creating the Customer Experience: March 30
Social Media 101: April 6

This webinar series will be offered twice each Tuesday, March 2 through April 6, at noon-1 p.m. and 7-8 p.m. This webinar series is free, open to anyone, and does not require pre-registration or a microphone.

View the flyer by visiting http://www.ncsu.edu/tourismextension/WebinarSeries.html for
additional information and for instructions on how to participate. Also, contact Dr. Samantha Rich (samantha_rich@ncsu.edu) or Dr. Stacy Tomas (stacy_tomas@ncsu.edu) for additional information or with any questions.

Posted by Natalie at 11:32 AM

February 10, 2010

Community garden plants seeds of better nutrition, physical activity

Students in the Beaufort community garden
As part of a nutrition and physical activity program, elementary school students took part in a garden day at the Beaufort County Community Garden. (Photos courtesy of Tanya Weyrauch)

When Horticulture Agent Tanya Weyhrauch talks about Beaufort County's community garden, she refers to a quote by writer Linus Mundy: "Think small. Planting tiny seeds in the small space given you can change the world or, at the very least, your view of it."

With the city of Washington's lease of a one-acre space near the local airport, Weyhrauch and the county's Extension Master Gardener volunteers created a space where 140 people had the chance to plant plenty of tiny seeds as they learned more about gardening, got some exercise, spent time outside, improved their nutrition with fresh fruits and vegetables and saved on grocery bills.

The garden was also the site of the "Kids in the Garden Day," the culmination of a nine-session "Steps to Health" program designed to help 85 local third-graders increase their physical activity and their overall nutrition.

At the June garden day, the students took part in a garden tour and learned about food safety, vermiculture, composting and water conservation as well as planting vegetables and growing and using herbs. It was a hands-on experience designed to boost the students' self-confidence in growing their own food.

The county Extension staff -- including Weyhrauch, County Extension Director Ann Darkow, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent Susan Chase and 4-H agents Kimberly Corey and Louise Hinsley -- worked to integrate the three programs for stronger impact. They called the overall effort "Teaching Healthy Lifestyles: One Garden at Time," and they won a state award from Epsilon Sigma Phi.

The idea for the garden originated with Master Gardener Jim Keen, who served as the garden's chairman. His philosophy: Everyone needs a garden.

"Growing fresh vegetables is good for you and your family through better nutrition, physical activity and exposure to the sun," Keen said. "Digging in the earth is a family activity worth cultivating, yet many families don't have land for a garden."

Keen, his fellow Master Gardeners and the Extension staff raised more than $13,000 in gifts and in-kind donations for fencing, irrigation, a water well and signs. Donors included Crop Production Services, Taylor Well Systems, Lowe's Home Improvement and local farmer Andrew Arnold. Volunteers also contributed, putting in more than 1,000 hours of work at the garden and the school.

The garden opened in April with 49 plots ranging from 32 to 400 square feet. Gardeners paid $20 to $40 rent for the season.

And by the end of the growing season, garden organizers said they saw significant changes among the students and gardeners: A survey of teachers involved in "Steps to Health" found that 71 percent of the students increased their fruit and vegetable consumption.

Also, all the community gardeners reported being physically active for at least 30 minutes a day, five times a week, and 85 percent said they consumed the recommended 2.5 cups of vegetables each day.

In addition, 85 percent said they identified insects before using chemical control methods, 90 percent applied mulch to the soil, 100 percent followed pesticide label instructions and 67 percent watered deeply and infrequently, depending on plan needs.

The project also brought recognition to Extension: The Washington Daily News ran several articles on the garden, and it was highlighted at a regional and state county commissioners association meetings as well as the N.C. State Fair.

Weyhrauch called the results positive and rewarding.

"The community garden is so much more than a place to grow vegetables," she said. "It provided a sense of accomplishment to those who plant, and a sense of community -– not to mention a reduced food bill."

Posted by deeshore at 08:32 AM

Small Farms Week registration begins

Online registration is now under way for the Small Farms Week, March 21-27 kickoff, educational forums and the annual Small Farmers Appreciation Luncheon. The kickoff program will be in Hoke County on Monday, March 22. The four programs in the education forum the afternoon of Tuesday, March 23, will cover transplant management, grafting tomatoes, winter vegetable crops and production technologies for getting a jumpstart on the spring growing season.

The educational forum the morning of Wednesday, March 24, will include sessions covering the nutritional and health advantages of locally grown crops, recipe ideas for fresh produce, and food safety concerns and regulations now facing small-scale producers selling their wares directly to consumers. The featured speaker at the Small Farmers Appreciation Luncheon on Wednesday, March 24 will be Pearlie Reed, USDA’s top management official, and the first African American chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Read more from ag e-dispatch

Posted by Natalie at 08:10 AM

February 08, 2010

Gary Bullen conducts market research in Malawi

Gary Bullen in Malawi
Gary Bullen, left, of N.C. State University, talks with a farm store manager in Malawi. The farm stores would also buy peanuts to resell as seed peanuts. (Photos courtesy of Gary Bullen)

Gary Bullen, Extension associate in Agricultural and Resource Economics at N.C. State University, recently returned from a volunteer assignment in Malawi where he conducted a market assessment of peanuts. His assignment was part of a project with CNFA, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering people and enterprises in the developing world.

Bullen jokingly claims that residents of rural areas around the world share certain commonalities, “having grown up on a vegetable and livestock farm in a Berea, Kentucky, I’ve always felt comfortable approaching rural people in villages across Africa." In fact, he has gone on volunteer trips to Africa every year for the past ten years so that he now finds himself at ease with the culture, “I know how to word my questions the right way to get the real answers."

Bullen pursued undergraduate studies in agribusiness at Eastern Kentucky University, and earned graduate degrees in agricultural economics and extension education from the University of Tennessee. On his recent trip, he shared his knowledge and practical expertise with CNFA’s local staff in Malawi to help them identify bottlenecks for future volunteer projects in the groundnut sector. They went from interviewing farmers in rural areas to visiting processors and market outlets to meeting with government officials.

Bullen noted that most groundnut farmers were living "just at the edge, some were eating the crops before they mature," an indication of poor food security. He suggested several projects that would increase low yields, such as improving soil fertility and introducing certified seeds and basic disease control practices. While some farmers had heard of these techniques, they complained that they lacked funding to initiate them. Yet, Bullen believes that peanuts are good agricultural crops because they can feed farmers' families and the surplus can be sold in various forms.

Indeed, poverty could be the reason why the farmers Bullen met seemed to expect him to bring them something. “Everyone was gracious, but the question of 'what are you going to give us,' rather than 'what can we learn from you,' has been brought into the culture." He emphasized to CNFA’s staff that the results of his studies should be relayed to the government officials who received him and took time to provide him with vital information.

woman selling in market
A woman sells peanuts, rice and dried beans in open air market in Lilongwe, capital of Malawi.

This desire stems from the sense of commitment that Bullen developed by completing of this project. He promised to send processors sample peanut products, such as roasted peanuts. He is currently engaged with a group that seeks to start a project to support Malawi’s peanut industry at N.C. State University.

Gary Bullen traveled to Malawi under the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Farmer-to-Farmer Program, which provides voluntary technical assistance to farmers, farm groups and agribusinesses in developing and transitional countries to promote sustainable improvements in food processing, production and marketing.

Founded in 1985, CNFA is dedicated to strengthening agricultural markets and empowering entrepreneurs in the developing world. CNFA is now recruiting for many similar volunteer assignments. Visit www.cnfa.org/farmertofarmer for a list of available opportunities and to learn how you can become a Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer.

Posted by Natalie at 03:25 PM

Welcome to Woodson

Please join the university community in welcoming our Chancellor-elect W. Randolph Woodson and his wife, Susan, to N.C. State University, Wed., Feb. 17, 4:30 p.m. in Reynolds Coliseum. The program will be followed by refreshments and an opportunity to meet NC State's new chancellor.

Posted by Natalie at 02:25 PM

SARE scholarships available to attend workshops

North Carolina Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (N.C. SARE)announces Travel Scholarships for the 2010 Seasons of Sustainable
Agriculture workshops sponsored by the Center for Sustainable Farming

N.C. SARE will cover up to $100 for registration/travel/mileage. All
scholarships are reimbursement only. Please send fill out and send the
attached application to Carol Moore at carolmoore27@gmail.com.

Check out the workshops at www.cefs.ncsu.edu/main-news-and-events/events/2010-seasons-of-sustainable-ag-calendar.html and apply soon!

Other events may also be eligible for travel scholarships. Questions?
Contact Carol Moore at carolmoore27@gmail.com or by phone, 919.273.6322.

Posted by Natalie at 01:05 PM

February 04, 2010

N.C. MarketReady offers Tomato Growers Information Portal


KANNAPOLIS, N.C. - As greenhouse tomato growers in North Carolina are gearing up for the season, N.C. MarketReady, a program of N.C. Cooperative Extension, has launched the Tomato Growers Information Portal. The new Web resource is the third in a series of "growers information portals" developed by the program that provide North Carolina producers with one-stop shopping for their fruit and vegetable production needs. The Tomato Growers Information Portal currently features N.C. State University production resources for both greenhouse and field-grown tomatoes, including materials on economics, energy management and specialized equipment. Growers will find resources on marketing, food safety, integrated pest management, industry events and risk management specific to North Carolina tomato production. The portal can be accessed by visiting N.C. MarketReady online at
www.ncmarketready.org and clicking the Growers Information Portals tab on the left menu bar.

Posted by Natalie at 10:53 AM

EFNEP award nominations sought

Nominations for all Expanded Foods and Nutrition Education Program awards are due by Feb. 15. All criteria and forms are listed on the Extension Intranet wiki at: www.ces.ncsu.edu/admin/wiki/index.php/EFNEP_Awards. Please take a few minutes to nominate a deserving employee for these awards. If you need additional information, contact Linda Cahoon at linda_cahoon@ncsu.edu.

Posted by Natalie at 10:40 AM

Volunteers needed for UNC-TV's Festival

N.C. Cooperative Extension employees are encouraged to volunteer to answer phones for UNC-TV’s annual fundraiser, Festival, on Sat., Feb. 27, from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Extension has committed to providing 20 volunteers on that day. Volunteers will answer incoming calls and accept pledges live in UNC-TV’s studio. UNC-TV is located at 10 T.W. Alexander Drive in Research Triangle Park. Friends and family are also welcome, though volunteers must be at least 16 years of age. If you would like to volunteer, please contact Sonya Williams Harris in Communication Services at 919.513.3170 or by email at sonya_harris@ncsu.edu.

Posted by Natalie at 10:30 AM

February 03, 2010

Travis Burke named district director

Pasquotank County Extension Director Travis Burke has been tapped to head the Northeast District of the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service.
Read more in DailyAdvance.com

Posted by Dave at 08:06 AM