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May 28, 2010

New pool and bath house dedicated at Betsy-Jeff Penn 4-H Center

Campers at the Besty-Jeff Penn 4-H Education Center this summer will enjoy a new swimming pool, complete with a bathhouse they've not had before. The new pool, which replaces an old pool built when the camp opened in 1964, was dedicated at the camp on May 20.

The pool's construction was funded through special state legislative appropriations in 2007 and 2008 to upgrade the state's 4-H centers and camps. Most of the camp renovation projects are complete or nearing completion this summer.

"The new pool is a 'zero-entry pool,' meaning that you can walk or roll into it on the shallow end. This makes it completely accessible to those with disabilities and meets all requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)," said Larry Hancock, N.C. Cooperative Extension 4-H specialist for camps and centers.

The new pool and bathhouse are on a hill overlooking the camp's Lake Hazel. There is a connecting walkway, which is also ADA compliant, from the main camp area to the pool. The project provides campers with showers and bathrooms on site, Hancock said.

The facility dedication was sponsored by the Betsy-Jeff Penn 4-H Center Advisory Council and three area chambers of commerce: Reidsville Chamber of Commerce, Eden Chamber of Commerce and Western Rockingham Chamber of Commerce.

4-H is N.C. Cooperative Extension's youth development program, serving more than 240,000 youth across the state with the help of 21,000 4-H volunteer leaders. The 4-H program oversees five camping centers across the state.

-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 11:51 AM

May 25, 2010

'Scientists in the Classroom' bring learning to elementary school

Amie Newsome
Amie Newsome, center, in full bee costume, teaches third graders at West Smithfield Elementary School about insects as part of a school science activity. (Photo by Marc Hall, N.C. State University Communication Services)

Third graders at West Smithfield Elementary School were all abuzz recently over the opportunity to take their classroom outdoors to study plants, insects and soils. And N.C. Cooperative Extension agent Amie Newsome dressed in a bee costume was the center of attention, as she shared information about insects with the eager students.

Newsome and four other local extension and conservation professionals were on hand for some serious science lessons, all conducted outdoors, using hands-on learning activities. The Scientists in the Classroom program is like an on-campus field trip to help students learn, according to school parent and program coordinator Paula Woodall.

Read more from CALS News

Posted by Natalie at 11:47 AM

May 24, 2010

She cultivates organic farming and healthy eating

Dr. Nancy Creamer directs the Center for Environmental Farming Systems.

For years, the state has watched textile mills close and tobacco farms turn to seed. More recently, technology jobs have been lost, and the state has 10 percent unemployment.

But at N.C. State University, there's a woman quietly bringing together farmers, businesses, politicians and individuals to nurture a new economic sector in North Carolina: locally grown organic food.

Nancy Creamer, director of N.C. State University's Center for Environmental Farming Systems, is cultivating sustainable, organic farms and the infrastructure they need to get their food to market across the state. It's a plan that she hopes will create small businesses and jobs, as well as boost local economies that have lost jobs to overseas competitors.

Read more in The (Raleigh) News and Observer

Posted by Dave at 02:32 PM

Miller named Friend of Conservation

Matthew "Matt" Miller, retiring in July after working 33 years as the Wilkes Cooperative Extension Service agent for livestock producers, received the Wilkes Soil and Water Conservation District's Friend of Conservation Award.

Read more in the Wilkes Journal-Patriot

Posted by Dave at 02:25 PM

May 13, 2010

Program prepares county agents for local leadership

The latest leadership program graduates pose in Raleigh after graduation.
The latest leadership program graduates pose in Raleigh after graduation.(Photo by Becky Kirkland)

In late April, 17 Extension agents added their names to the growing roster of graduates of North Carolina Cooperative Extension's New and Aspiring County Extension Director Leadership Development Program. The program is designed to help position employees for success as they become county directors or as they consider next steps in their careers.

The leadership program was the brainchild of Extension's County Operations Team, and it was developed and carried out by Personal and Organizational Development, or POD. Now-retired District Extension Director Dr. Wanda Sykes had offered a training program for Southeast District county Extension directors before the statewide program began about four years ago.

Interim POD Director Lanny Hass said the program fills a need for local Extension leadership at a time when many county directors have retired. Extension has recently had as many as 30 CED vacancies at the same time.

Clearly, a succession planning strategy was needed, said Interim State Extension Director Joe Zublena.

"We realized the Baby Boomers were getting closer to retirement and the organization hasn't had a consistent training related to leadership development," he said. "The County Operations Team began much of the conversation, then worked with POD to develop the program's outline and the corresponding teaching modules.

"One of the key outcomes has been that most candidates for vacant CED positions have participated in the training, and thus have a better understanding of the role and responsibilities and have training in several of these," he added.

Since the program began about four years ago, about 60 agents have completed the training. Offered as a graduate-level Agricultural and Extension Education (AEE) course through N.C. State University, the program is organized into four training modules held over about five months.

The modules focus on understanding self and others, understanding the role of managing, moving from manager to leader and leading through others. Topics include policies and procedures, conflict management, performance appraisal, staffing, recruiting, hiring, customer service and more.

Marshall Stewart participates in fireside chat
State Program Leader Marshall Stewart was among administrators who took questions from the institute participants following their graduation. (Photo by Becky Kirkland)

Participants not only take part in the one- to three-day sessions, they also complete reading and writing assignments and make presentations related to management or leadership topics during the final session.

POD Organizational Development Leader Eleanor Stell runs the program with the help of administrative assistant Jo Yarley. Instructors include the district Extension directors; Sheri Schwab, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences' interim assistant dean for personnel; Dr. Jim Flowers, AEE department head; and Joy Staton, Mary Lou Addor and Hass from POD.

The program has been successful not only in teaching participants new skills but also in building what Hass calls a learning community -– a group of people who come "to count on each other, bounce ideas off each other and grow together," he said. "We have seen the loss of the old guard, and now we are in a time of newness a change. This presents the challenge of rebuilding the community and a new culture in Extension."

Participants seem to agree.

While Union County Extension Director Richard Melton said he's already put to use many of the strategies he's learned in the class –- strategies ranging from financial management to listening to staff members, county government officials and advisory leadership volunteers – "the most important thing I've gained has been relationships. I've gotten to know people who are on the same path I'm on and to share ideas and experiences with them," he said. "That's definitely been a big help."

Barbara Dunn Swanson, one of the April graduates, concurs. The program gave her a greater understanding of what's involved in being a county director as well as skills she can use in her current position as Randolph County 4-H agent, she said. But the best thing about the program was getting to know others in the class.

"They brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to the class," she said. "It was great to get to see things through different eyes."

-D. Shore

Posted by deeshore at 08:19 AM

May 03, 2010

Extension Master Gardeners launch blog

Extension Master Gardener volunteers have a new communication tool to encourage interaction and sharing at the national, state and local level. Cooperative Extension Master Gardener (EMG) program coordinators are gearing up to launch the first national blog for EMG volunteers beginning today, May 3.

Blog posts can be found directly at blogs.extension.org/mastergardener or through the new national Extension Master Gardener Web site at extension.org/mastergardener. With over 94,000 volunteers contributing more than $100 million in service nationwide, the EMG program is hoping to take its volunteer program to a new level by increasing the social interaction of its participants.

Read more from the eXtension blog

Posted by Natalie at 02:13 PM