We Grow Ashe County NC Cooperative Extension, Ashe County Center

January / February 2020

We Grow Youth

Our 4-H Shooting Sports Informational Meeting was bursting at the seams! Folks heard from club leaders and each of our recently elected officers introduced him/herself to the entire group. We're proud of this team and look forward to new things in store for them this year!

Travis Birdsell, County Extension Director, took Cindy, a golden retriever in training to become a therapy dog, to Learning Through Play Child Pre-K class. The class learned how to tell if a dog was happy or scared, how to properly present themselves to a dog, and how to be a tree if a strange dog runs up to them. All the children were able to correctly introduce themselves to Cindy and give her a treat. Thank you to Marge Rogers of Rewarded Behavior Continues for providing the Dog Gone Safe educational materials for the children.

4-H EFNEP students have fun with review games on their graduation day.

Amanda Butalla created this video that highlights Rhonda Church's dedication and impact on the youth of Ashe County.

We Grow Agriculture

Ashe County had its annual Winter Christmas Tree Meeting on January 23. There were over 70 people in attendance, 31 received pesticide license recertification credits. The meeting's sponsor and longtime supporter of the Ashe County Christmas tree industry was LifeStore Insurance. This meeting included speakers from NC State University and the National Christmas Tree Association. The North Carolina Christmas Tree Association (NCCTA) made an announcement that the National Christmas Tree Association would hold their national meeting in conjunction with NCCTA state meeting in August of 2021 in Ashe County!

The NCSU Christmas tree genetics team, which includes newly hired professor Dr. Justin Whitehill, came to the high country to tour the Upper Mountain Research Station and meet with growers. Here, Mitch Poe of Cardinal Tree Farms explains his experience with improved Fraser fir genetics in his developing containerized seedling production. He attributes his success to Cardinal Tree Farms partnership with Cooperative Extension and access to research based information.

Travis Birdsell, County Extension Director, was asked to speak on a panel at the NC Farm Bureau Vision Conference telling farmers about his experience implementing the Visit NC Farms app. Ashe County is part of the High Country Region that includes Watauga and Avery Counties. Farmers learned of the benefits of this Agritourism mobile platform, how it is marketed, and how it allows people to find the way to their farms or to the products they have for sale in local stores and restaurants. You can download the app from the apple store or google play store today!

In February, Brad Edwards, IPM Program Assistant, and Travis Birdsell, County Extension Director, were asked to speak at the Pennsylvania Christmas Tree Growers Winter meeting. The meeting hosted people from 7 different states and Canada. They shared research, projects and best practices from the NCSU Christmas Tree Team for Post Harvest Quality and Weed Management in Christmas trees. It was a great opportunity to represent Ashe County and North Carolina and all the amazing work that takes place here on a regular basis.

On February 25, twenty eight farmworkers attended a Worker Protection Standard training with Extension Agent Micah Orfield and Migrant Education Program Coordinator Michelle Pelayo. This hands on training educates workers on pesticide labels and safety practices while utilizing pesticides. This program was offered in English and Spanish.

Extension Agent Micah Orfield taught a session on February 26 that helped prepare pesticide applicators for the pesticide license exam and on February 27 she taught the pesticide recertification classes to 54 attendees. The recertification classes review safety information as well as provide important updates.

We Grow Community

Many Ashe County residents took advantage of the annual Christmas tree recycling program. This took place in the parking lot across from the main entrance to Ashe Park. This free program would not be possible without the partnership and cooperation of Ashe County Maintenance Department and Ashe County Parks and Recreation. We are glad these trees were able to fulfill their potential as an environmentally sustainable choice.

The EFNEP 2nd year program with Head Start began with showing parents skills they will learn when enrolled in EFNEP classes this spring. The purpose of the 2nd year is to include parents in EFNEP classes so parents also become advocates of healthy living at home.

Michelle Pelayo, Migrant Education Program Coordinator, translated the Pre K and Kindergarten DIAL Screening announcement and posted it around Ashe County to help spread the word.

Staff Highlights

Jill Cockerham, Local Foods Coordinator, visited two shared use kitchens: Piedmont Food Processing Center in Hillsborough and Out of the Garden Project Shared Use Kitchen in Greensboro. Networking with other commercial kitchen managers and building supportive work relationships with regulatory agencies continues to be very beneficial towards understanding the needs of local food entrepreneurs, marketing and economic development for the High Country Commercial Kitchen.

FCS Agent, Amanda Butalla, attended Safe Plates for Food Managers and Home Food Preservation 101 Training Programs in Raleigh at NC State University.

Extension Agent Micah Orfield and Local Foods Coordinator Jill Cockerham attended the Business of Farming Conference in Asheville, NC, on February 22, hosted by Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP). Micah attended the Crafting Your Farm Story, Developing Your Brand and Social Media Support sessions, while Jill's focus was the all-day Farmers Market Summit, featuring guest speakers Mike McCreary and David Smiley.

On February 24, Local Foods Coordinator Jill Cockerham attended the Food & Farming Business Summit, held at Southwestern Community College Small Business Center in Sylva, NC. This day long conference included a value added food business track, which focused on marketing, regulatory guidelines, and business development, taught by Smithson Mills from Blue Ridge Food Ventures in Asheville.

FCS Agent Amanda Butalla attended a regional training session for the Visit NC Farms App on February 26. This app is live in Ashe County and promotes Agritourism throughout North Carolina. Download the app today!

Employee Spotlight

Amanda Butalla

Extension Agent, FCS (Family and Consumer Sciences)

Amanda joined Ashe County Cooperative Extension in July 2019. She moved from Wisconsin, where she grew up, to Jefferson, excited to get to work and explore the North Carolina mountains.

During her time at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, Amanda earned degrees in Family and Consumer Sciences and Spanish. She spent a semester studying in Spain where she was able to immerse herself in Spanish language, culture, and cuisine. She was able to extend the adventure by traveling Europe between classes, visiting a total of seven countries.

Her degree in Family and Consumer Sciences brought her to work with Extension, where her focus areas include nutrition, family health, food safety, and local foods.

Working in FCS was a natural choice for Amanda, as she has a personal passion for exploring new foods, recipes, and how they can elevate health. You can find her making a mess in her kitchen when she’s not at the office.

NC State University and N.C. A&T State University commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity and prohibit discrimination and harassment regardless of age, color, disability, family and marital status, genetic information, national origin, political beliefs, race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), gender identity, sexual orientation and veteran status. NC State, N.C. A&T, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments cooperating.

Created By
Jessica Ham


John Lambeth, NC Farm Bureau and NC Cooperative Extension, Ashe County Center Staff