County commissioners, county staff and agribusiness professionals were invited to the Sampson County Cooperative Extension office Monday night for a closer look into the world of Extension agents and administrators as part of the annual Report to the People.
Through its Agriculture, Family & Consumer Sciences and 4-H Youth Development branches, the Sampson County Cooperative Extension’s 15-strong staff offers knowledge on a plethora of topics, including profitable and sustainable agriculture; leadership and community development; school to career development; natural resource conservation and environmental sustainability; healthy eating; and chronic disease risk reduction, among many others.
During his welcome and invocation, County Extension Advisory Council vice chairman Dempsey Craig talked about the importance of the Extension programs to not only the county’s farmers and agriculture industries, but the county’s youth.
“It’s very important for us to allow our kids to learn through hands-on experiences,” Craig shared. “Looking around Sampson County you can see how blessed we are in so many ways.”
Once guests were divided into teams, they rotated through three presentations with the Extension staff. At each rotation station, guests were served a portion of their meal and presented with information from the Family & Consumer Sciences staff, 4-H Youth Development staff and Agriculture staff.
Agriculture is a $1.3 billion industry in Sampson County, with the county ranking No. 1 in North Carolina farm cash receipts. Over 48 percent of the county is farmland. Agents like Paul Gonzalez, Brad Hardison, Della King and Max Knowles provide educational resources to the agricultural community throughout the county.
As part of the agriculture aspect of the Extension, 243 animal waste operators and 474 pesticide applicator certifications were maintained during 2017; Extension Master Gardeners volunteered 1,392 hours at a value of $33,603 to residents; small farmers were provided educational resources leading to a financial benefit of $110,000 through implementing recommendations; adopted cattle educational programs led to a net income gain of $71,000 to producers; and 782 crop producers increased knowledge and best management practices which improved profitability.
The Family & Consumer Sciences staff of Sydney Johnson and Lethia Lee work to make a difference in the lifestyles of Sampson County residents through proper nutrition and exercise. During 2017, 1,482 adults and youth reported increased their fruit and vegetable consumption and 1,330 participants increased their physical activity once they received information through the program.
Steps to Health and the Speedway to Healthy programs provide nutrition information to elementary age youth throughout the county. Last year, more than 1,000 youth were influenced by these efforts.
“We are working to teach our kids through hands-on learning where their food comes from,” Lee said.
Lee, who is the program assistant for the Expanded Food & Nutrition Education Program, said the Extension office provided 160 families learning opportunities to live and eat healthier and reduce chronic disease risk factors.
Throughout 2017, 4-H agents reported 5,692 youth participated in activities. As part of the Substance Abuse Prevention program increased resistance skills of 437 youth in local schools to develop healthy lifestyles. The Teen Court and Juvenile Restitution program had a 100 percent success rate in improving action, behaviors and attitudes of 78 young people. A total of 99 youth participated in after-school clubs and 55 youth participated in community clubs.
“Our 4-H program empowers kids with the life skills needed to be successful in life,” Elizabeth Merrill, 4-H program assistant said.