Watauga Extension’s 2023 Report to the People

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On Tuesday, March 14, Watauga Extension presented their annual Report to the People to citizens and partners from various agencies and departments in the county. While heavy morning snow kept some attendees from driving in for the meeting, those who attended were treated to a home-cooked lunch prepared by FCS Agent Margie Mansure featuring locally sourced beef and vegetables. Agencies and organizations in attendance included Blue Ridge Conservancy, the Watauga County Cattlemen’s Association, Extension Master Gardener℠ volunteers, Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture & the High Country Food Hub, Farm Bureau, Soil & Water, Appalachian State University, the Town of Boone, and the Watauga County Manager and Commissioners. Following lunch, Extension Director Jim Hamilton provided a snapshot of the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Watauga County Center’s efforts from the prior year and initiatives that the county center is focusing on for 2023 and beyond. Hamilton mentioned that funding is being requested for a 4-H agent this year, due to renewed interest and a brand new 4-H club having just chartered in the county. He also highlighted the ‘Kill-Chill’ meat slaughter facility as a major public-private project for which $2.4 million in funding has been raised for thus far. This project would greatly improve economic capacity for the region’s commercial meat producers.

Watauga 2022 programming summary

Watauga Extension tracks contacts, programming, and outreach for all of its annual programming.

This was the first ‘in-person’ Report to the People since March of 2020, just before the pandemic. Hamilton used the opportunity to publicly recognize Agents and staff who received state and national recognition over the last two years for their accomplishments to the University, the community, and to our region.


Since 2020, several agents and staff received state and national awards for their achievements and programming efforts

Following Hamilton’s overview of past and current activities and initiatives, each Extension Agent highlighted priority areas for programming. Livestock Agent Eddy Labus discussed his work with livestock producers on forage production & pasture enhancement as well as his collaboration with Appalachian State University’s Frontline to Farm training for Veterans interested in farming. Margie Mansure, Watauga’s Nutrition and Local Food Agent highlighted her efforts in connecting consumers to local farms and products by offering cooking classes and demonstrations at Farmer’s Markets and will be developing a Master Food Volunteer program in 2023. Richard Boylan reviewed the technical production and food safety training that he carried out at workshops and individual farms, including a number of vineyards in the county. Paige Patterson discussed the many volunteer hours her Master Gardeners contributed to community projects and her role assisting the Christmas tree & commercial landscaping industries.

agent photos

Watauga Extension graduated 16 new Master Gardeners, assisted Veterans interested in becoming farmers, produced cooking videos, and worked with many individual farms in 2022.

An important consideration brought up during the meeting is that Watauga County ranked in the top 40 counties nationally in potential future loss of farmland. A comparison between 2012 and 2017 county agricultural data compiled from the NCDA and USDA farm census showed a decrease in the number of farms and in the acreage of farmland in the county. While sobering, this data reinforces the mission of Cooperative Extension to provide producers the best information and technical guidance to ensure that farm, farming, and open land continues to be available for not only production, but for the aesthetic that defines Watauga County.