Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Geodome Visits Watauga High School: Hands-on learning is what its all about!

As part of the “Mountains to Sea: Water Connects Us All” day at the high school, students participated in interactive stations where they learned about environmental challenges on earth today.  About 25 kids at a time entered the Geodome, a 35ft diameter, inflatable dome with a wraparound screen theatre to view a video, kind of like an IMAX.  The NC Aquariums and NC Museum of Natural Sciences produced the video, and this statewide project was funded through a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).   The Geodome gave students an inside look at how scientists learn and collect data about climate change and the effects on mammals that live in the world’s oceans. The presentation includes cold-water animals such as fur seals and polar bears “because although it’s a global phenomenon, the effects of climate change at present are more evident at the poles,” states a producer of the video. 

The Animal Adaptation station provided another connection to our changing world as Meghan Baker, Agricultural Extension Agent, and Jesse Pope, Grandfather Mountain Naturalist shared how adaptations can help or hinder animals survival on earth during changing climates.   For example, the feeding of a baleen whale differs from a toothed whale, as they each have specialized adaptations for their prey.  Students got to touch real baleen from a humpback whale and a tooth from an Orca, and identify how food availability can be a challenge if the whale is adapted to eating a certain kinds of foods and those foods start to diminish.

Students also learned about the “Life Cycle of Plastic” from Watauga Counties Recycling Coordinator Lisa Doty and Appalachian Voices AmeriCorp Volunteer, Erin Savage.  They shared that plastic is derived from fossil fuel energy resources, and that recycling plastic bottles saves 90% of the energy needed to produce plastic.  The kids got to participate in a blind taste test to see if they could tell a difference from tap, bottled, and well water.   The majority of kids could not tell a difference but a few disliked the bottled water from the grocery store shelf.  The whole point was that bottled water most of the time is no better than your tap!  And we could save a lot of money and resources by reusing water bottles.  $100 billion is spent on bottled water per year, and 1,500 plastic bottles end up as trash every second. Plastic bottles were banned from landfills in NC in 2009, and North Carolina residents still only recycles 18% of plastic bottles.   It can take 700 years for plastic to decompose, filling up our landfills and using fossil fuels to produce.    Which is unfortunate because Plastic Recycling = 14,000 jobs in NC!!!   Recycled plastic bottles can make clothing, carpet, plant pots, kayaks, toys, plastic lumber, playground equipment, and much more!

In fall of 2011, the world’s population reached 7 billion people.  As humans continue to populate and consume the earth’s natural resources we must learn to adapt to changing environments and cope with the diminishing limited resources.  We don’t know what the future holds, but we can each do our part by making conscious and mindful decisions when it comes to how we consume!

4-H Camp Registration opens

Trying to come up with a meaningful gift for a child or grandchild?  Why not give the gift of an Experience?  Consider giving a youth a week at camp, something that will create memories for a lifetime.  Now is the time to begin enrolling for 4-H Camp for Summer 2012.  Watauga County 4-H will escort a group of 8-14 year old campers to Betsy-Jeff Penn 4-H Center.  The center is located above Greensboro in Rockingham County, near Reidsville.   The camping week is June 24-June 29.    To guarantee a spot, register by January 27.  The good news is you can reserve your spot with a $100.00 deposit and have until June to save up for the rest of the fee, which is $330.00 more (total of $430.00).  The fee covers meals, lodging, t-shirt, transportation to camp and more.  Registration will continue beyond January 27, but spaces may not be guaranteed.  Contact the 4-H office at 264-3061 for more information or to register.  Check the website out at http://www.nc4h.org/centers

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

12/15/11 CSA Workshop & Panel at the Watauga County Agricultural Conference Center

12/15/11 CSA Workshop & Panel at the Watauga County Agricultural Conference Center

By now, most of you reading this know what a CSA is; a Community Supported Agriculture system usually involves some up-front payment by a buyer followed by multiple (often weekly) deliveries from the grower. But there are many varieties on this theme; what really works for local farms and consumers alike? Join NC Cooperative Extension, the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP), and a panel of successful local CSA farmers on Thursday, December 15, 2011 to learn more about the basics (in the morning session) and detailed logistics (in the afternoon) of successfully running a CSA.

What - CSA Workshop - Basics, Marketing, Planning, and Recordkeeping

When - December 15th

Where - Watauga Country Extension conference room

Time (both sessions with lunch panel) - 9:30am – 3:00pm


- 9:30am - 11:30am: Area Extension Agent Richard Boylan on CSA 101, aka “What to think about before starting a CSA”

- 11:30am – 1:00pm - lunch with panel discussion by local CSA farmers

- 1:00pm – 3:00pm - Peter Marks of ASAP on marketing, planning, management, and recordkeeping for a successful CSA

Cost - $5 for either morning or afternoon session only

- $15 for whole day including lunch

The Lunch-time Panel members include a diverse range of CSA Farm examples, including:

Creeksong Farm - (Jeff Thomas) – A diversified Vegetable & Meat CSA has become a viable expanded market for one of the longest-running organic farms in the region;

High Country CSA – An effort to expand opportunities for new and small farms in the High Country region, HCCSA coordinates offerings from a multi-farm network to offer a wide diversity of foods year-round via internet ordering ;

North Fork Farm - ( Jimmy and Sheila Greene) – This remarkably successful CSA was part of North Fork Farm’s first direct-marketing efforts for their own pasture-raised beef, plus pork and chicken from neighbor-farms;

Shady Grove Gardens & Nursery - ( Susan Wright) – Shady Grove has brought the CSA concept to cut flowers in an innovative twist on this marketing system;

Goldfinch Gardens - (Ben McMann) – An example of a single-farm successfully using an internet/email ordering system.

Registration will be available through ASAP beginning Tuesday, 11/29, and a link will be placed at the Watauga County Extension blog by then. Meanwhile, inquiries and/or pre-registrations can be directed to richard_boylan@ncsu or by calling the Watauga County Extension Center at 828-264-3061, or e-mail Hollis Wild at hollis@asapconnections.org

Organic Production & Certification Class for New & Transitioning Growers begins in January

Organic Production & Certification Class for New & Transitioning Growers begins in January

A class for farmers wanting to begin or transition to

Commercial-Scale, Certified Organic

Production Of Vegetable and Fruit Crops

Have you heard about expanding sales opportunities for Organic growers? Perhaps you feel that your farm is too small to break into the conventional commercial vegetable market? Do you have some land that has been idle for a few years, and now are looking to put it into potentially profitable production? Do you want to farm more sustainably? Answering yes to any of these questions may mean that the upcoming class series on Organic Production is right for you. Whether you eventually choose to become a Certified Organic producer or not, the classes will be filled with information on proven techniques for successfully growing vegetable, small-fruit, and field crops while building your soils’ health and foregoing the use of synthetic chemicals on your farm.

This class series is geared toward growers who are already set-up for commercial scale production (e.g. - 1-acre of ready-to-be-certified-organic field land or more), and wish to enter the expanding Certified Organic Market, but smaller-scale growers are welcome, and many have found past versions of this class to be helpful as well. Topics covered will include soils & fertility, disease identification & control, insect identification & control, weed management, post-harvest handling, certification & record-keeping, and marketing to wholesale buyers.

The clasess will meet on Wednesdays, from 6:30-8:30 PM, at the Watauga County Agricultural Conference Center during the winter and early Spring of 2012.

Participating growers will receive books on organic agriculture, weed management, disease identification, and organic pest control, plus resource CD’s with additional information on organic production.

Cost: $50 – Class limited to 20 growers


· January 18 – Introduction to Organics & Certification, and Marketing to Wholesale buyers

· February 25 – Planning Your Organic Crops & Rotations

· February 1 – Soils & Fertility in Organic Systems

· February 8 – Weed Management in Organic Systems

· February 15 – Disease Management in Organic Systems

· February 22 – Tying Together Crop Rotation, Soil Fertility, and Weed & Disease Management Into One Coherent System

· February 29 – Insect Management in Organic Systems

· March 7 – Post-Harvest Handling for Selected Crops & Food Safety Considerations

· March 14 – Marketing Organic Crops & Certification Paperwork Wrap-up

· March 21 – Snow Date

· March 28 – Snow Date

· April 4 – Snow Date

Due to the likelihood that one or more of these classes may have to be cancelled due to snow, ice, or other inclement conditions, farmers enrolling this class should reserve their Wednesday nights through April 4, 2012. With luck, the class will be completed by mid-March, but one has to be cautious in these mountain winters…

For more information, call the Watauga County Cooperative Extension office at (828) 264-3061, or e-mail Richard Boylan at richard_boylan@ncsu.edu

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

WCFM Manager Position is Open

Cooperative Extension is listing this job opening as a courtesy for our important partner in the local foods system, the Watauga County Farmers Market. All inquiries should be directed to wataugacofarmersmkt@gmail.com.

The Watauga County Farmers Market (WCFM) Board seeks to hire a manager to lead in making the WCFM a destination for Boone and surrounding areas through high quality farmer and artisan products and with activities of interest to families. The Market Manager will serve as a positive, pro-active, energetic face for the Watauga County Farmers' Market. S/he will interact with the local community by providing information, answering questions, and addressing concerns. S/he must be well organized with respect to marketing, financial recordkeeping, and project management, and will coordinate all market activities, uphold the Market Rules, and implement and enforce market policies. The Market Manager is a part-time position, with primary responsibility being the day-to-day successful operation of the WCFM. This will include an on-site presence at the Market during all Market hours, as well as off-site work during non-Market hours.

Please see the WCFM web site at
for full details and application requirements.

Please also note that a separate, but related, position administering the USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) Grant will soon open, with an additional salary of approximately $11,000. Applicants for the WCFM Manager position should indicate in their application letters whether they are interested in and available for this separate but related FMPP position. Qualified WCFM Market Manager candidates will be encouraged to apply.

Closing deadline for applications is Monday, December 5, 2011.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Over 200 Celebrate 56th Annual Farm City Banquet

With a little barbecue and bluegrass, Watauga CES and the Farm City planning committee, hosted the 56th Annual Farm City Banquet at the Boone United Methodist Church. Tickets sold out by Thursday afternoon and over 200 farmers and supporters of agriculture in the county turned out for a local food dinner catered by Bandana's and awards ceremony. Dr. Dan Meyer, Boone Area Chamber of Commerce Director, emceed the event. County Commissioner Vince Gable read the formal proclamation of Farm City and eleven awards were presented. 39 door prizes were also given away including gift baskets full of local goodies. Sponsors for Farm City included Watauga Farm Bureau (Gold Sponsor), Hollar & Greene Produce, Critcher Brothers Produce, Allen Wealth Management, the Watauga County Farmers Market, Watauga Cattlemen's and Christmas Tree Associations, PHARMN, Mountain Keepers, Mountain Kubota of Boone, Carolina Farm Credit, Piedmont Federal, Ross-Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge, Watauga Soil and Water, and the Boone-Blowing Rock Lodging Association.

Awards included:

• Christmas Tree Farmer of the Year: Steve Stanley.
• Cattleman of the Year: Jeff Winkler.
• Beekeeper of the Year: Burton Moomaw.
• Beekeeper Association's Presidents Award: James Wilkes and Mark Henson of Hive Tracks
• Mary Boyer was posthumously awarded the Woman in Agriculture Award.
• Agri-tourism Award went to New River Corn Maze
• L.E. Tuckwiller Award, recognizing a town or community for outstanding efforts in community development went to Recycling Consortium.
• Agriculture in Arts Award went to Jane and Mike Campbell.
• Youth in Agriculture award went to Jacqueline Walczak and Jazmyne Maxwell.
• Spirit of Farm City Award went, posthumously, to Angela Church McCoury.
• Farm Family of the Year Award went to David Yates from the Cool Springs Community. He also received a certificate from the Champion Tree Program from NC Division of Forestry for the largest butternut specimen in the state.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Grants for farm diversification, local agriculture groups

WNC Agricultural Options will award a total of $150,000 to approximately 35 farm businesses and farmer-led groups in 2012.  Funded exclusively by the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, WNC AgOptions continues its eight-year history of advancing the mountain region's diverse agriculture system.

"Successful farming in today's environment requires taking on challenges," said Ross Young, Madison County Extension Director and WNC AgOptions steering committee leader. "New crops, new farming systems and new marketing strategies all increase the potential of a farm's success but also increases risk. The WNC AgOptions program helps this region's farmers balance that risk by providing financial assistance as well as hands-on guidance with a new venture. The goal of this program is to discover farming practices that are innovative and have the potential of helping other farmers in the future."

Grants of $3,000 and $6,000 will be awarded to individual farmers proposing diversification projects that boost economic viability of their businesses. Awards of $10,000 will go to three farmer-led groups working to solve processing, packaging, marketing and other distribution needs of the local agriculture system.

Applications for the two grant opportunities are available at www.wncagoptions.org and at local Cooperative Extension Centers. Interested applicants must contact their local Extension Agents by November 16 to notify them that they intend to apply. The application postmark deadline is December 1.

Recent recipients of WNC AgOptions community grants created systems and undertook promotional campaigns to market produce and products directly to customers. Individual farm businesses responded to the growing demand for healthily raised poultry products, purchased equipment to receive Good Agricultural Practices certification, added crops to their vegetable operations to ensure steady income flow, built grade B inspected goat milk parlors, and expanded their vineyards and wineries. Several recipients used the grants to expand their businesses so they can become full-time farmers.

Eligible farms are in: Avery, Buncombe, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga and Yancey counties as well as the Cherokee Indian Reservation.

For more information, see the following: WNC Agricultural Options: www.wncagoptions.org; N.C. Cooperative Extension Centers: www.ces.ncsu.edu; N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission: www.tobaccotrustfund.org; WNC Communities: www.wnccommunities.org; Tobacco Communities Reinvestment Fund, RAFI-USA: www.ncfarmgrants.org.