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Home Grown

Hertford County Commissioner Johnny Ray Farmer (center) chats with Hertford County Agriculture Agent Wendy Burgess (right) and 4-H Agent Brittany Scott at the fourth annual “Home Grown” presentation in Winton Tuesday night. The event recognizes Extension projects from the previous year. Staff Photo by Gene Motley

Hertford County Commissioner Johnny Ray Farmer (center) chats with Hertford County Agriculture Agent Wendy Burgess (right) and 4-H Agent Brittany Scott at the fourth annual “Home Grown” presentation in Winton Tuesday night. The event recognizes Extension projects from the previous year. Staff Photo by Gene Motley

WINTON – The NC Agriculture Department and Consumer Services likes to tout that “Goodness Grown in North Carolina”, and certainly a lot of that can be traced to the fertile farmlands, gardens, kitchens and pantries of the Roanoke-Chowan.

Tuesday at the Hertford County Cooperative Extension Center used the theme of “Celebrating Our Success in 2014” as part of their annual “Home Grown” event to honor those whose agriculture and consumer projects have been outstanding in the county over the past year.

“It’s just a time we can share with the community some of the programs and successes we’ve had,” said County Extension Director Stephanie Parker Helmkamp.

“We’ve provided programming for improving youth and adult health and wellness, increasing education achievement and excellence, family financial management skills, improving agricultural and food supply systems, just to name a few,” said Extension Advisory Board member Pat Byrd.

Byrd said the Extension service recorded 13,467 face-to-face contacts and 3,800 non-face-to-face contacts in addition to securing $22,109 in grants and donations that go to support programs like 4-H Camp, Nutrition Education, the Progressive Agriculture Safety Day, and many others.

“Without those additional funds we would not have been able to offer those programs, perhaps,” Byrd added.

2014 also saw Extension increase its social media involvement with its county Facebook page and the Extension Service website.

“Nowadays if you want to communicate with people you have to do that,” Byrd said.

A hallmark of Extension is volunteer involvement with 338 volunteers in Hertford County who logged 1,234 hours and saw 2,268 clients.

“The work of those volunteers and volunteer hours amounts to paying someone $27,321, and if you add the grant funds to that amount it’s almost $50,000 added to what this group has done,” she said.

Some of the projects in the works are the Voluntary Agricultural District program for Hertford County: a voluntary program that designates certain areas of the county for agricultural use, such as poultry farming or crop dust spraying.

“It signifies and notifies land owners when they purchase property that they are in an area designated for agricultural use,” said Stewart Pierce of the countyFarm Bureau board. “It lets them know what’s going on; information to make the public more aware.  It’s all voluntary for areas where there are a lot of agricultural activities going on.”

Shirley Sessoms Taylor of ‘Women in Agriculture’ said her group’s service project activities included making pillows for cancer patients, Easter baskets for Samaritan’s Purse, and introducing new recipes and learning and teaching about sun safety for skin cancer awareness.  They also sponsored field trips such as to the Elizabethan Gardens in Manteo and to the YamCo facility in Snow Hill where a variety of sweet potato and squash products are made.

“Our Soup-and-Sandwich fundraiser raised $800,” Taylor said. “This allowed us to send campers to the Eastern 4H Center in Tyrell County and use the rest for other voluntary agriculture service activities.  We’re also looking for new volunteers and members to join.”

In the absence of Winton Farmer’s Market Manager Libby Jones, Ag Agent Wendy Burgess updated the market’s activities.

“We’re scheduled to open for 2015 on May 1,” Burgess said. “We’re located on Main Street here in Winton and anyone interested in joining the market can see Miss Libby who’ll be more than glad to get them active and please check their Facebook page so you’ll know what’s being offered at the Market.”

The recipient of the 2014 Governor’s Volunteer Service Award, given for those volunteers who unselfishly give of their time to the betterment of others, was presented to the Roanoke-Chowan Christian Women’s Job Corps.  They will be receiving a certificate and official letter from the office of Governor Pat McCrory.

“This group has been in existence for two years and impacts lives through mentoring, utilizing local agencies for local programming, and supporting their participants in gaining life skills,” said 4H Agent Brittany Scott. “They continue to mentor participants after the 15-week program to ensure continued success on their new life journey.”

“Everyone supports Extension at sometime throughout the year, even if it’s just participating in a one-time event,” said Parker-Helmkamp. “Our staff works hard to give back to the citizens of the county. We’re not going anywhere; we’re viable and will continue to provide excellent programs with your continued support.  We’re here to serve you.”

Parker-Helmkamp also noted changes in Extension services mandated by a new planning process that becomes fully effective by mid-2016.

“We’ll vamp up some of our programs,” she said. “We’ll continue to focus on Agriculture, Food, and Youth Development and we’ll be moving away from Parenting, Caregiver, and Financial Management programs.  This gets us away from some of the services that are duplicated in some of the counties and focuses our efforts into the areas we are more expert in.”

The evening concluded with a drawing for door prizes where several attendees were able to win Extension T-shirts.