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June 25, 2010

Pesticide safety toolkit developed

Extension has a new Spanish-language training kit for pesticide safety. (Marc Hall photo)

Recognizing that farming is among the nation's most hazardous occupations, North Carolina Cooperative Extension offers educational programs to help farmers, farmworkers and their families lower their risk of injury, illness and death. Its latest tool in this effort is a kit of easy-to-use materials to teach pesticide safety to Spanish-speaking agricultural workers with limited formal education.

Extension tested the kit with workers and trainers to make sure the educational materials were simple yet effective. It also was reviewed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to ensure that it met the federal Worker Protection Standard's training requirements. The WPS calls for agricultural employers, owners, managers and labor contractors to provide training not only to those who handle pesticides but to all the people who are involved in the production of agricultural plants.

Table-top flipcharts are the kit's centerpieces. On the side that faces the trainer, there are lesson plans, while on the side that faces the audience, there are colorful photographs illustrating the trainer’s message.

The kit also comes with one-page illustrated sheets -— available in Spanish and English -— related to some of North Carolina's most important crops. The sheets list common pesticides used at various stages of crop growth; indicate each pesticide's toxicity level; and spell out how long areas treated by each pesticide should be off-limits. There are also realistic drawings that illustrate the symptoms a worker might experience because of unsafe exposure and phone numbers for the worker to call in case of problems.

Right now, materials are available covering tobacco, sweetpotato and tomato crops. Material for other crops -- cucumbers, green peppers, grapes, landscape, Christmas trees, blueberries, strawberries and apples -- will be available for the 2011 growing season.

A website for dissemination of the toolkit for tobacco, sweetpotato and tomato crops will be available later this summer.

The toolkit was funded by a grant from the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' Pesticide Environmental Trust Fund and developed by Dr. Greg Cope, Julia Storm and Catherine LeProvost with the College’s Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology.

The three introduced the materials during a train-the-trainer session in June 2010, when dozens of extension agents, state agriculture and labor officials, community health and migrant education workers, a fertilizer dealer and others came to Raleigh for a one-day train-the-trainer session.

For information, contact Storm at julia_storm@ncsu.edu.

-D. Shore

Posted by deeshore at 02:52 PM

June 18, 2010

Hight is New Hanover County Extension director

Al Hight, Brunswick County extension director since August 2006, has been named New Hanover County extension director.

His appointment, effective April 1, was announced by New Hanover County Manager Bruce Shell and Dr. Joe Zublena, interim director, North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. Hight succeeds his wife, Melissa Hight, who retired from the position Aug. 1, 2009.

Hight has a long career in extension as a consumer and commercial horticulture agent, dating to 1989, when he began work in Pitt County. He also has worked as an extension horticulture agent in New Bern, Burgaw and Bolivia.

Hight earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural education and a master’s degree in horticulture from North Carolina State University. He also holds numerous professional affiliations in the landscape and arboriculture industries.

“In my opinion, Al exemplifies extension's best. He walks the talk and models the way,” said Greg Hoover, director of Cooperative Extension’s Southeast District, which includes New Hanover County.

“I feel Al will lead the New Hanover staff with courage and encouragement. He is true to his values and the philosophy of this organization. He is a team player, and he is always willing to give of himself for the good of the organization.”

Posted by Natalie at 02:10 PM

June 17, 2010

New Greene County Extension director named

Shenile Lamar Rothwell-Ford, long-time family and consumer sciences agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Greene County, has been named to direct the county's Cooperative Extension program.

Rothwell-Ford's appointment as Green Extension director was announced by Dr. Joe Zublena, interim director of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service at North Carolina State University, and Don Davenport, Greene County manager. She succeeds Stan Dixon, who retired last year.

Rothwell-Ford has been an extension family and consumer sciences agent in Greene County since 1993. She has won a number of extension awards, including the Early Career Award given by the North Carolina Association of Family and Consumer Sciences and the association's Continued Excellence Award. Rothwell-Ford holds bachelor's and master's degrees from North Carolina Central University, the bachelor's in home economics and the master's in home economics education.

"Shenile has had an active family and consumer science program for 17 years in Green County, and we are looking forward to her serving the county in her new capacity as county extension director," said Greg Hoover, director of extension's southeast district, which includes Greene County. "Her dedication to extension and the people of the county will serve her well as she works to build on past success and moves extension forward."

D. Caldwell

Posted by Dave at 01:04 PM

June 11, 2010

Chatham County to celebrate National Pollinator Week

A bumble bee enjoys a Baptisia bloom - note the pollen baskets on her hind legs, filled with orange Baptisia pollen. (Debbie Roos photo)

The Chatham County Center of North Carolina Cooperative Extension and the Chatham County Beekeepers' Association will host the 4th annual celebration of National Pollinator Week on Saturday, June 26, from 10am until 2pm on The Lawn at Chatham Mills in Pittsboro.

The purpose of National Pollinator Week is to teach pollinator-friendly practices and raise public awareness of the importance of bees, beetles, butterflies, moths, flies, birds and bats that help to produce 80 percent of flowering plants and one third of human food crops.

Come hear presentations about beekeeping -- how to get started, equipment needs, management tips -- from local beekeepers. Tour Cooperative Extension's Pollinator Garden at Chatham Mills and learn how to attract and protect pollinators.

Visit the display tables and talk with local beekeepers. Watch expert beekeepers work an actual hive inside a bee cage (bees inside, participants outside), see honey bees up close and personal and get your beekeeping questions answered.

Visit the kids' tent with lots of activities including pollinator story time, scavenger hunt, beeswax candle making, Chatham County pollinator coloring books, papermaking and more. Watch "Bee TV" -- park yourself in front of an observation hive and watch the worker bees attending the queen.

Meet the local Chatham County beekeepers and learn all about what it takes to produce the nutritious and delicious local honey available at Chatham Marketplace. We will have beekeeping equipment and products from the hive for "show and tell."

View the complete schedule and get all the details on the Growing Small Farms website at http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/chatham/ag/SustAg/2010pollinatorweek.html.

Posted by Natalie at 02:06 PM

June 08, 2010

Sam Groce named Chatham Extension director

Sam Groce, long-time agriculture and livestock agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Chatham County, has been named to direct the county's Cooperative Extension program.

Groce's appointment as Chatham Extension director was announced by Dr. Joe Zublena, interim director of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service at North Carolina State University, and Charlie Horne, Chatham County Manager. Groce succeeds Glenn Woolard, who retired last year after a 32-year extension career.

Groce, of Siler City, joined extension in 1993 as an associate agent in Chatham County. He has served since 1997 as the county's agricultural agent, providing educational programs related to livestock and forages as well as farm business management, field crops, aquaculture and pesticide education.

As Chatham's agricultural agent, Groce coordinated efforts to organize a county Agricultural Advisory Board, then worked with the board to develop a voluntary agricultural district ordinance for the county. He was also the recipient of the 2010 distinguished service award given by the North Carolina and National Association of County Agricultural Agents.

Groce has a bachelor's and a master's degree, both from North Carolina State University and both in agriculture education. Before joining the Cooperative Extension Service, he taught agriculture at Lee County Senior High School in Sanford and Western Harnett High School in Lillington and floriculture and Randolph Community College in Asheboro.

"Sam brings almost 17 years of extension experience, all in Chatham County, to the county director position," said James C. Cowden, director of extension's North Central District, which includes Chatham County. "We are fortunate to have him as county extension director."

Cowden added, "In addition to his new administrative duties, Sam will continue his educational responsibilities in the areas of livestock and related programs as well as community and rural development. As the economy moves out of recession, Sam will provide the leadership and knowledge of extension programming that are needed to meet the needs of Chatham County citizens."

D. Caldwell

Posted by Dave at 03:44 PM

June 07, 2010

Vermiculture Conference attracts 116

vermicompost conference
Participants crowd the room at the 10th annual Vermicompost Conference. (Photos by Natalie Hampton)

When N.C. State’s Rhonda Sherman started her large-scale vermiculture workshop in 2000, there were only a handful of attendees. But at this year’s 10th annual Vermiculture Conference, the room was filled to near overflowing with 116 participants from 28 U.S. states – including 49 from North Carolina -- and five other countries.

Sherman, Extension solid waste specialist in biological and agricultural engineering, hosts the conference each year, bringing together experts from around the world to share information on vermicomposting, the process of using earthworms to break down organic wastes. As the only conference of its kind, it has a loyal following of participants, ranging from backyard gardeners to entrepreneurs to municipal waste managers.

This year’s international participants came from Guatemala, India, Thailand, Israel and Canada. In addition to providing a means of reducing organic wastes, vermiculture has the added benefit of producing a vermicompost -- earthworm castings – that is valued as fertilizer. Research shows that plants raised with vermicompost produce greater yields and have stronger disease resistance.

Sherman urged conference participants to look for opportunities to profit from a vermiculture operation. Such opportunities can include sales of earthworms, vermicompost and teas – liquid fertilizer made with vermicompost. In addition, Sherman said that composters and soil blenders are adding vermicompost to their products, which will bring new market opportunities.

Some participants at the conference were already making a living in vermiculture. Linda Leigh of Tuscon, AZ, has been in the earthworm business for three years. Her business, Vermillion Wormery, uses food waste from grocery stores and restaurants, as well as horse manure for vermicomposting. In Arizona, horse manure is a fire hazard, so providing a means of disposing of the waste helps reduce the hazard, Leigh said.

Leigh, whose grandfather also raised worms, says that her business involves selling earthworms and vermicompost at local farmers’ markets. She learned about the Vermiculture Conference three years ago, but this year was the first she was able to attend.

Vince Ivory of Los Angeles and Kirk Sudheimer of Wake Forest represented those considering starting an earthworm business. Ivory, a teacher laid off in California’s budget crisis, said he was “looking for something to do.” He was attracted to the conference because of the agenda. “This vermiculture is very complex in terms of looking at a business model,” Ivory said.

Rhonda Sherman
Rhonda Sherman speaks at the annual conference.

Sudheimer, who was raised on a farm in the Midwest, said he and his wife were interested in returning to some type of agriculture, possibly vermicomposting. Like many at the conference, he found Sherman’s resources on the web and was thrilled to discover she was so close by.

Maria Rodriguez of Guatemala, one of the conference speakers, is the founder of a small sustainable development group – Byoearth – that is helping extremely poor women in Guatemala to begin small-scale vermicomposting businesses of their own. These women, who live near Guatemala’s garbage dumps, receive a small bin and earthworms they can use to generate vermicompost and earthworms to sell.

Rodriguez also found Sherman online, and Sherman asked her to speak to the conference. “In Guatemala, there’s not this level of scientific knowledge about vermicomposting,” Rodriguez said. Rodriguez’s presentation was so moving that conference participants flocked to ask how they could contribute to her organization, Sherman said.

Conference speakers discussed issues such as effective large-scale biosolids vermicomposting and the effects of vermicomposts on plant growth and suppression of pests and diseases.

Mark Purser of Durham, CA, told the group about his 40-acre earthworm operation. Sherman said Purser had attended the conference for several years before she learned about his extensive operation. Now he is a regular speaker.

Purser told the group that he started the Worm Farm in 1994, as a way to transition out of chicken production. The operation now includes earthworms raised outdoors in windrows 300 feet long and 20 feet apart, earthworms raised indoors and storage for vermicompost, which is harvested once a year. Compost mixes make up about 75 percent of the Worm Farm’s business. The company also sells earthworms for $26.50 per pound, plus shipping, and the Worm Farm Learning Foundation hosts hundreds of school groups each year.

In addition to speakers, conference participants toured the Harris Worm Farm in nearby Mebane. Owner John Harris has 18 outdoor, on-ground earthworm bins that are bordered by railroad ties. He feeds his earthworms horse manure from a neighbor’s farm.

At the conference opening, Sherman announced that the first scientific book on vermicomposting, Vermiculture Technology: Earthworms, Organic Wastes, and Environmental Management will be published by CRC Press in October 2010. This 35-chapter book is edited by Dr. Clive Edwards (Ohio State University), Dr. Norman Arancon (University of Hawaii-Hilo) and Rhonda Sherman (N.C. State University). Contributing authors are from Australia, Belarus, Brazil, Canada, China, Cuba, Hong Kong, India, Mexico, Philippines, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and United States.

-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 10:19 AM

Extension publications now available

Several new and reprinted publications for Cooperative Extension are now available.

A new publication, Keeping Garden Chickens in North Carolina, is now available online. This 16-page publication gives information on choosing breeds for raising chickens at home, coop design, basic care, feeding and more. The publication was prepared by Anne D. Edwards and Donna K. Carver. Available online:

These new Extension publications are also available online:

AG-439-75W, Starter Phosphorus Fertilizer and Additives in NC Soils: Use, Placement and Plant Response
Prepared by Sheri Cahill, Deanna Osmond, Ronald Gehl, D. Hardy and Carl Crozier, Department of Soil Science
Decades of fertilizer application have led to phosphorus enrichment of most N.C. agricultural soils. Maintaining adequate soil P levels for crop growth can reduce P runoff, save money and protect the environment. Based on research with different N.C. crops and soils, the authors discuss plant response to starter P fertilizer, additives (such as AVAIL) and fertilizer placement. Available online:

AG-728-W, Optimizing Palmer Amaranth Control with Postemergence Herbicides
Prepared by David Jordan and Alan York, Department of Crop Science
Palmer amaranth pigweed can quickly dominate a field. Its control has become a major issue in many areas of North Carolina. Widespread resistance to ALS-inhibiting herbicides and to glyphosate has further increased the difficulty of control. This guide describes ways to optimize control of Palmer amaranth and other weeds when using postemergence herbicides. Available online:

These popular publications in the Estate Planning series have been reprinted. Send your order for copies to Jeanne Marie Wallace via fax (919.515.6938) or e-mail: jeannemarie_wallace@ncsu.edu

AG-688-01, How Do You Own Your Property?
Forms of property ownership can affect how and when property passes to your heirs and others with an interest in your estate. This four-page guide describes the different forms of property ownership and the property rights each form conveys.

AG-688-04, Your Estate Plan--Where to Begin
Estate planning begins with a series of questions that must be considered. This four-page guide includes those questions and tips on beginning the dialogue about your estate, developing objectives, compiling information and choosing a professional adviser.

Posted by Natalie at 10:05 AM