Nearly 10,000 area residents utilized the services of the Scotland County Cooperative Extension Center in some form during 2012.
“We have interacted with about 9,700 citizens this past year whether it’s someone walking in our office with a simple question about our yard or someone like [Family and Consumer Science Extension Agent Sharon English] working with someone on parenting that she interacts with every single week,” said Randy Wood, county extension director.
The center made its annual Report to the People on Monday evening to recap its 2012 activities for the community. The meeting was attended by Cooperative Extension’s supporters including its board members and staff and Scotland County commissioners John Alford, Whit Gibson, Carol McCall, Guy McCook, and Clarence McPhatter.
Last year, Scotland County’s cooperative extension center operated on a $456,000 budget, $147,000 of which came from the county. The center was also funded in large part by its parent universities, N.C. State and N.C. A&T, which contributed $264,000. The center also received $45,00 in federal monies and $77,650 in grants and user fees.
“In terms of a system, we are considered one of the strongest in the nation and several states look to us,” said Clinton McRae, south central district extension director. “Part of that is due to the partnership that we have with our counties; if we didn’t have that partnership, we wouldn’t be as strong as we are.”
Through partnership with the universities, Wood said that Scotland County clients gain access to specialists in various fields for little to no direct cost.
“We are one of the truest partnerships of our two parent universities that you’ll see,” Wood said. “This is really not putting a dollar value on the specialists that we get - whether it’s parenting, 4-H, the vast majority of agricultural specialists that we have to draw on, those types of salaries are a little bit harder to put a dollar figure on. They don’t get captured, they’re just part of the ‘thanks for being our partner’ that we get back.”
In 2012, the center provided a total of 362 educational programs in Scotland County and also certified the staff of some 90 restaurants and agribusinesses in areas such as pesticides and waste management.
A video was shown encapsulating several of the center’s projects throughout the county, such as Wood’s field days with local cattle farmers and community garden coordinator Sarah Brown’s sprout and shiitake mushroom projects with students at Wagram Primary School. In the video, John Cooley of Cooley’s Nursery in Wagram gave examples of the services farmers access through agriculture agent Davis Morrison.
“Extension provides the best unbiased opinion on all kinds of production,” said Cooley. “With strawberries we utilize a lot of different tissue sampling, soil sampling, and try to keep down on chemical use. So being able to know exactly what is out there is good.”
The video also included a reflection from Clay Brooks, a Laurinburg native and Scotland County 4-H alumnus, upon the lessons he learned in the program as a teen court participant.
“While I learned that I was not meant to be an attorney, it really taught me that justice is about more than punitive measures; it’s about real people, keeping families together, and balancing the needs of the community with really giving a person a real shot at a second chance,” said Brooks, who is currently working toward a Master of Divinity degree at Union Theological Seminary in New York, N.Y.
Angela Galloway, who joined the center in December as 4-H youth development extension agent, is planning an expansion of the center’s 4-H program offerings this year. Currently some 100 youth are enrolled in 4-H, with 20 of them active in the program.
“We have some clubs now, but we want to increase it so we actually need volunteers to try to do some of the traditional clubs,” said Galloway. “One of the things that is not in Scotland County is the STEM projects, so that’s one of the things we’re actually going to bring here.”
Public speaking and debate well as all-terrain hiking clubs will likely be offered, and Galloway will hold interest meetings to determine the interests of children and their parents.
“A lot of kids have actually specified an interest in sewing, so we’re trying to recruit volunteers to assist with that and that’s one of the things that we’re definitely going to test out this summer,” she said. “Horses are another thing, so that’s something I’m trying to find out the dynamics of. Those are some of the traditional ones, but science is going to be a big push here.”