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The North Carolina Cooperative Extension Holds One of 12 Public Listening Sessions in Boone Nov. 19

Nov. 12, 2013. As the North Carolina Cooperative Extension nears its centinnial, the organization is holding a series of 12 listening sessions across the state in November and December. Cooperative Extension, which provides educational programs in 4-H, Agriculture, Family & Consumer Sciences and Community Development to citizens in all 100 counties and the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation, is seeking public input as the organization launches a strategic planning initiative for the future.

Watauga County is hosting a listening session at the Agricultural Conference Center at 252 Poplar Grove Road (behind the Extension office on November 19th at 6:30 p.m. Dr. Joe Zublena, N.C. Cooperative Extension Service director, will be in attendance to update participants on progress and to engage in discussion about the organization’s future.

“I cannot state enough the importance of this endeavor and the need for participation and feedback from the public. At Cooperative Extension’s core are people and communities, and it’s their input we need to ensure another century of educational services for the people of North Carolina,” said Zublena.

View the full list of Listening Sessions: www.ces.ncsu.edu/vision-initiative/listening-sessions

Register here: http://go.ncsu.edu/2013_ncces_listening_sessions

Cooperative Extension in North Carolina has seen recurring federal and state budget cuts of around $20 million since 2000, leaving roughly 90 positions unfilled – mostly at the county level – over the past four years. The listening sessions and strategic planning process were implemented to help the organization adapt accordingly to the economic environment and resulting impacts going forward.

Participant feedback gathered during the listening sessions will be reviewed and analyzed starting in January and will assist in the development of a recommended action plan to meet the needs of Cooperative Extension and its partners for the future. “The listening sessions will allow the public…our clientele and the different commodities and partners we work with, to express what THEY think about the services we provide.” said Watauga County Extension Director Jim Hamilton.

He adds, “Our county-based outreach and extension model of providing research based information on issues that face our local community is not just steeped in tradition, but economics.” Hamilton related that budget cuts are forcing Extension’s leadership to consider potentially restructuring the organization or re-priortizing programming areas. He says “We definitely need to look at the services we provide to be able to provide the best bang for our taxpayer dollars.” He adds, “We enjoy strong support from our county government and local partners because of the services we provide our county’s agricultural economy and other service niches. Folks may not realize that our agents have brought in several hundreds of thousands of dollars just in the last five years through grants to support environmental, agricultural, youth, and nutrition-based programs.”

N.C. Cooperative Extension was founded in 1914, in conjunction with the national Cooperative Extension System, as part of the Smith-Lever Act. The organization will officially turn 100 on May 8, 2014.

“North Carolina Cooperative Extension has built and maintained a high level of success over the last century,” said Zublena. “This is a journey we have to make together – employees, public and partners – and I believe that collectively we’ll navigate Cooperative Extension through this process to another century of success.” Hamilton encourages members of the public to attend. “I hope we pack the session with clients who have benefitted from our services over the years to reinforce why Cooperative Extension matters locally.”

About the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service
Established in 1914, the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service (NCCES) is part of N.C. State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) and a national Cooperative Extension network. The N.C. Cooperative Extension Service partners with county and tribal governments and N.C. A&T State University’s Cooperative Extension Program to provide seamless educational programs that enrich the lives, land and economy of North Carolinians. Extension programs meet people’s needs, supply decision-makers with unbiased data and help individuals, families and communities succeed. Discover more at www.ces.ncsu.edu