What Cooperative Extension can do for you

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Those not familiar with the Cooperative Extension Service often get a puzzled look when the name is mentioned.
They possibly have heard about 4-H, Agriculture Extension or Home Economics, all part of the Cooperative Extension Service that has served the citizens of the U.S. for more than 100 years.
To better understand the Cooperative Extension Service, let’s look at the history behind it.
Cooperative Extension is part of the land-grant college system. A land-grant college or university is an institution that has been designated by its state legislature or congress to receive the benefits of the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890.North Carolina is fortunate to have two land-grand institutions, North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University.
A key component of the land-grant system is the agricultural experiment station program created by the Hatch Act of 1887. The Hatch Act authorized direct payment of federal grant funds to each state to establish an agricultural experiment station in connection with the land-grant institution there.
To disseminate information gleaned from the research, the Smith-Lever Act of 1914 created a Cooperative Extension Service. University-based specialists also use stations to conduct research.
North Carolina Cooperative Extension is an educational partnership of N.C. State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, N.C. A&T State University’s School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and county governments.
Extension’s mission is to partner with communities to deliver education and technology that enriches the lives, land and economy of North Carolinians.
Cooperative Extension in Rowan County continues to empower Rowan’s citizens and provide solutions to their problems. Educational programs are conducted to develop and enhance sustainable, profitable and safe plant, animal and food systems.
Extension helps youth and adults achieve educational excellence, including teaching life skills and parenting. Community, leader and volunteer development, along with economic and workforce development, are important issues in the county.
Good nutrition to maintain a healthy weight, as well as prevent chronic disease are key issues, too. Extension will provide programs in natural resources management, environmental stewardship, energy conservation and emergency and/or disaster preparedness.
Rowan County contains a good mix of rural and urban areas over its 511 square miles. The population is more than 135,000 and the unemployment rate is nearly 10 percent.
The county has 780 working farms that raise primarily beef, dairy and field crops such as corn, soybeans, small grains and hay. Total annual cash receipts are $43.5 million. Tourism is important to the county’s economy. The county has the top, third and 19th most popular field trip destinations in the state.
The key issues facing Rowan County ó loss of jobs, healthy weight and chronic disease, loss of farmland and open space and the high school dropout rate ó are all being addressed by Cooperative Extension.
Achievements from 2008 include: more than 10,000 acres enrolled in the Voluntary Agricultural District program; two Eat Smart, Move More, Weigh Less classes, where participants lost an average of 66.4 pounds and 17.25 inches off their waist; food and nutrition and science and technology classes resulted in 26 percent of students increasing their healthy food choices; WIC vouchers at the local Farmers Market have been popular for the local food producers and the consumers, with more than $9,000 in vouchers redeemed; and life skill development in youth through traditional and special 4-H programs and competitions. The livestock agent assisted and coached 17 youth in county, district, state and national dairy and livestock judging, quiz bowl and skillathons.
Marketing efforts include two weekly anchored columns in local newspapers, one for Latino readers, that reach more than 27,000 households; two monthly radio programs that reach 8,000 listeners; three agents have blogs, two have Web pages, and more than 50 percent of all newsletters are sent electronically each month.
N. C. Cooperative Extension has 101 county and Cherokee reservation offices. Rowan County’s Extension office is located at 2727 Old Concord Road. There are five full-time extension agents and two support staff in the local office. Two extension associates who serve a larger region of the state use Rowan County as their home base.
Check out the picture of our staff and education program offerings on our Web site, rowan.ces.ncsu.edu
Future columns will highlight some of the specific programs the Rowan County Cooperative Extension has to offer.