Extension Service offers wide-ranging services
By Larry Dale
Daily Courier Staff Writer
Part 4 – July 10, 2009
SPINDALE – The Cooperative Extension, a partnership between county government and state government, is a multifaceted agency that seeks to meet a wide range of needs.
“We are directly affiliated with our two land-grant universities, North Carolina State University in Raleigh and North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro,” said Rutherford County Cooperative Extension Interim Director Greg Traywick recently.
“Basically our role is to take the research-based information that comes from the university-level researchers and also our research stations on various technologies of how to solve problems and help farmers utilize that right here at the local level. And so we do that a number of ways.
Crop Values2005 Estimated Farm Income for Rutherford County
|Hay and other crops||
|Milk, wool, honey||
“We have workshops and training sessions that we offer for them (farmers). We do a thing that we call demonstrations where we might pick one or two farmers who want to try out or test a new practice that they will implement on their farm and invite other farmers to come in and take a look at it to see how it’s working at the local level.
“We have a number of print publications and technical print pieces that we can make available. We do newsletters to various commodity organizations and different special interest groups.
“With farmers, we provide training sessions, certification training to keep them current on safe and judicious use of pesticides, so that they can keep their pesticide license in place.”
Another strength of Cooperative Extension, he added, is that the agency can work with farmers on a one-on-one basis or as members of a specific group.
“I think part of our role,” Traywick said, “is we’re available for individual consultation and folks can come into the office or call. When travel funds are available, we can make farm visits to meet the farmers one on one.
“Part of what we do, with the producer organizations like our Cattlemen’s Associations, our Beekeepers Association, Master Gardener groups, whatever it might be, we sort of support and help keep those groups cohesive and directed so that they can meet and learn froth each other.
“A lot of times we’ll provide an educational component for their meetings so that it is not just a social event.”
“And we’re providing a conduit from the university,” said Jan McGuinn, agriculture extension agent, “again with technical information, to help those organizations.”
Leadership is a very important element in the groups, McGuinn said.
“Some groups,” she noted, “will be very active and maybe their leadership will diminish a little bit. For the beekeepers group we’re really excited that we’ve had Jeanne Price’s help in developing it and getting it back going again.”
McGuinn noted that a collaborative effort with other organizations is also essential.
She noted, for example, that Agricultural Extension is working with Foothills Connect in its program of helping smaller growers.
“We’ve been trying to approach the consumer angle in enhancing the receptivity of the consumer to our local commodities so that we can build a market share for them here and, in turn, build their businesses,” she said.
“It is truly a grassroots initiative as far as what we need to direct our energy towards,” McGuinn said. “In the last decade, increased agricultural awareness has been a priority both from our advisory leadership locally and our ag program group. They see the big picture and they help direct our work effort. That’s why our Growing For You Project, our Grilling and Chilling Workshop, Kids and Chefs that we do with children (ages 10-13) as far as getting them out to see what agriculture production is occurring, networking with our local chefs, and teaching them the skills they will need to go into adulthood. But again, connecting them to our agricultural base, both in the youth aspect and the adult aspect. And those are directives that we have received from our advisory leadership groups, which enhances our efforts locally.”
The Grilling and Chilling Workshop is an educational outreach aimed at teaching participants the selection, proper handling and preparation of locally produced summer foods.
The Growing For You Project is a collaborative effort that involves Rutherford, Buncombe, Cleveland, Lincoln, McDowell and Polk counties that seeks “increased farm visibility and economic growth of the industry, improved consumer food safety practices and increased utilization of locally grown commodities, and increased consumer knowledge of agricultural production techniques,” the Cooperative Extension Web site reports.
“Cooperative Extension will be celebrating its 100th year in serving the public,” McGuinn said. “It has been a liaison with the universities. So We have a long heritage in direct ag agents, direct consumer events and 4-H agents that have gone before us, and that will hopefully continue to come after us, meeting their needs, solving their problems, whether it be the farm community, or with 4-H helping a child launch into public speaking, a life skill development.”
Agricultural Extension began in Rutherford County in 1912 when J.N. Jones became the county’s first farm agent. In 1918, Jessie Steel became the county’s first home agent.