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Jim Cowden column: Rowan Cooperative Extension has a lot to report from past year

The Rowan County Cooperative Extension annual Report To The People will be Tuesday at 7:30 a.m. at the Agriculture Center, 2727 Old Concord Road, Salisbury.
The extension educational program highlights and successes over the past year will be presented. The general public is invited to attend and an RSVP would be appreciated.
Cooperative Extension in Rowan County empowers its citizens and provides solutions to their problems. Educational programs cover the development and enhancement of profitable and sustainable agriculture systems; emerging agricultural, bioenergy and value-added enterprises, safety and security of our food and farm systems; urban and consumer agriculture; local food systems; life skill development; family financial management; healthy eating, physical activity and chronic disease risk reduction; volunteerism; and k-12 academic achievement.
Agriculture in Rowan County really shined in 2008. The Salisbury-Rowan Farmers Market continued to grow, offering WIC vouchers to eligible participants, which is a win-win for the market consumers and vendors. Food safety trainings provided by Darrell Blackwelder, agriculture/horticulture agent, made a large impact with local growers. A national salmonella outbreak concerned consumers, while extension’s training assured the public that local producers were being proactive.
The voluntary agriculture district program enrolled more than 10,000 acres by the end of 2008. Private, public and commercial pesticide applicators received training to maintain license certification. Beef and dairy producers were provided recommendations on feeding, selection and management of their herds.
The Rowan County Master Gardeners conducted five 4-H Summer Fun programs for 55 participants. They provided classroom presentations to over 500 school children, and they conducted demonstration garden trainings each week during the growing season.
Families and youth received training in eating healthy, physical activity and chronic disease risk reduction. Toi Degree, family and consumer sciences agent, conducted several Eat Smart, Move More, Weigh Less workshops in the county. Participants who completed the 15-week training lost body weight, improved their blood pressure and learned to make healthier food/drink choices, which leads to a healthier lifestyle.
The Rowan County 4-H and youth development program helps youth age 5-18 to master skills to make career and life choices; connect to communities and learn to give back to others; mature in self-discipline and responsibility; learn to better understand themselves; become independent thinkers; and develop lifelong friendships and long-term relationships with caring adults.
The 4-H and youth program began a three-year celebration of the North Carolina 4-H Centennial. Rowan County has begun to promote this achievement and honor those in 4-H, both past and present, who have made a difference in the lives of many. In 2008, Sara Drake, 4-H youth development agent, reported reaching 1,380 youth through clubs, camping, school enrichment and individual study.
Brad Johnson, dairy and livestock agent, coached 4-H dairy judging, quiz bowl, skillathon and livestock judging. Many youth were successful at the district, state and national level.
The Cooperative Extension agents work closely with community partners to reach adults and youth with an array of educational programs. As part of Rowan Partners for Education, volunteers are reaching out to the public schools to reduce the dropout rate, assist teachers with classroom supplies, conduct parental information sessions and promote the value of education in the community. In the career and technical training area, youth are gaining exposure to various careers in agriculture and the world of work.
This is a sampling of some Cooperative Extension programs. If you would like to learn more of what extension can do for you, feel welcome to contact us.
James Cowden is Rowan County Extension Director. Contact him at Jim_Cowden@ncsu.edu, call 704-216-8970 or log on to http://rowan.ces.ncsu.edu.

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