We Grow Durham County NC Cooperative Extension, Durham County Center

Fall 2020

We Grow Youth

Last quarter, we shared with you how the Durham County 4-H program was providing 'Victory Garden' kits to youth to help them start their own vegetable gardens at home. We distributed 90 summer kits and just finished giving away an additional 80 fall plants so families can continue their gardening with lettuce, kale, collard greens, and broccoli. Since then, we've heard from kids from across Durham who shared their excitement and joy at being able to watch their tomatoes, peppers, and basil flourish at home. Here’s a note from one 4th grader, Hazel who grew a bumper crop this summer!

We Grow Healthy Babies

As the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts our economy, many parents are in need of the basics for their young children- including diapers and formula. To help parents facing this challenge, our Welcome Baby program moved quickly to set up an emergency diaper distribution program. Even in the midst of the chaos of the early days of the pandemic, the team did not miss a single week of providing diapers to families. 

Every Friday, the Welcome Baby team provides these diapers, which are generously donated by the Diaper Bank of North Carolina, via a drive through, contact free process in the Durham County Cooperative Extension parking lot. Our services, which are usually only open to Durham County residents, are now open to anyone in need. Thanks to the continued support of the Diaper Bank of North Carolina our team has been able to provide an estimated 160,000 diapers since April 2020 alone. We are so grateful for this partnership, and that we are able to make sure our area's little ones can stay dry and healthy.

Diapers packed and ready for Friday morning distribution

We Grow Agriculture

As we welcome our new Agriculture Agent, Janel Ohletz, we’re also excited to announce how we’re expanding our Agriculture program more broadly. While Janel takes on the role of Small Farms and Local Foods Agent, current Agriculture Agent Ashley Troth will narrow her focus to Commercial Ornamental and Consumer (Home) Horticulture, and Darnell Parker will continue to serve the business planning needs of our agriculture community. Through these three positions, Durham County Cooperative Extension will be able to work more in depth with farmers, home gardeners, and landscapers.

Janel grew up in rural New Hampshire on a small family farm with a market garden and barn animals of every genre. She recently received her PhD in Soil Science as a USDA National Needs Fellow in the Crop and Soil Science Department at NC State University, and also holds a M.S. in Agricultural Science and a B.S in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems from the University of New Hampshire. In addition to her background as a classically-trained chef, her wealth of experience and knowledge will help her build an even stronger Small Farms and Local Foods Program in Durham County.

Ashley is excited to continue to oversee the Extension Master Gardener Program in Durham County, while further developing education and support opportunities for landscapers and nursery professionals. This year she has contributed to state-wide efforts such as the Backyard Naturalist Program and strategic planning for the Master Gardener Program. Keep an eye out for in-person, socially distanced, and remote learning opportunities for all things home gardening this coming spring!

Darnell is a long-standing member of the Durham County Cooperative Extension team, and will continue to share his talents for business planning and technology with farmers. Perhaps most exciting, Darnell is currently working to create the list that will be included in the Visit NC Farms App for Durham County. Durham’s inclusion in this statewide service will create a one stop shop for anyone looking for farmers, farmers markets, or locally-sourced restaurants in Durham County.

Durham continues to grow- and our farms, landscaping businesses, and gardeners are no exception. Our agriculture team looks forward to supporting this growth in the year ahead.

We Grow Civic Engagement

This summer the Kids Voting Durham program hosted its biggest internship program ever- with 25 virtual interns who worked on a variety of amazing projects- from an Instagram 2020 Candidate guide, to great candidate videos , including the above interview with Durham's own Mayor Schewel, and an 'art voting challenge'. The words in this collage come from a virtual team meeting in which the interns described their voting identities.

Moving into the fall, we're offering a weekly Countdown to Election newsletter packed with family fun activities on different civic engagement topics. Durham County kids can still vote this year through our virtual ballot which is available online at Kidsvotingdurham.org during the Durham County early voting period. Read more on our Kids Voting Durham 2020 Election page.

We Grow Amazing Volunteers

Briggs Avenue Community Garden, a magical 45-acre forested lot located in East Durham, is operated by Durham County Cooperative Extension and a score of amazing volunteers. The garden has always been a special place where the community can come together and learn how to garden. However, since the pandemic hit, the garden has become an even more important part of our community.

Since March, Briggs Avenue Community Garden Volunteers and the NC State Extension Master Gardener Volunteers have stepped up to share the literal fruits (and veggies) of their labor with community members in need. They've been delivering fresh produce to elderly and sick community members who are unable to leave their homes, and providing it to Durham Technical Community College students in need through their food pantry.

On October 1, this beneficence was expanded even further when our Master Gardener volunteers came to Briggs to show off their work to each other. In a twist, they brought food INTO the garden this time … canned and boxed goods to supplement the veggies that have been going out of the garden.

At the end of the day, the volunteers were able to teach one another about their work in the garden- and filled a truck with nonperishable goods to help our neighbors in need.

Volunteer Spotlight

Theo Roddy

NC Extension Master Gardener Volunteer

Theo Roddy is one of those amazing volunteers who knows Durham County Cooperative Extension in and out. Before she 'retired', she worked as part of our Welcome Baby program for over ten years. She is also one of the most well-versed Master Gardener Volunteers, having helped start the Durham County group back in 1990.

Since that time, she has helped the group grow- by developing guidelines and policies; helping create a plan for retention of other Master Gardeners; establishing a newsletter; serving as training class coordinator for six years; and of course by helping local gardeners bring their gardening dreams to fruition through sage advice and support.

Theo also shares her time and talents with other local groups, like the Durham Garden Forum. She's been awarded the Thirty Year Award as a Master Gardener volunteer, as well as the Ila H. & W. Scott Gehman Outstanding Volunteer Award and Maggie Watkins Volunteer Spirit Award, both from Duke Gardens.

For Theo, volunteering is a chance to give "back to others the knowledge that I have received from training, continuing education and trial and error". She has certainly done that for our Durham County community. We are a lovelier spot thanks to the efforts of Ms. Theo Roddy.

Employee Spotlight

Evelyn Ramirez

Welcome Baby Latino Parent Educator

Evelyn Ramirez , a native of Mexico City, Mexico, came to the Triangle in 1998 and has been helping Spanish speaking parents in our region ever since. Evelyn teaches Spanish-language parenting classes, such as the evidence-based Incredible Years program, through the Durham County Cooperative Extension's Welcome Baby program.

When Evelyn first came to the Triangle, there weren't many parenting classes that were linguistically and culturally appropriate for our area's growing Latinx population. She has played a major role in changing that, using her experience and certifications in a wide range of parenting techniques and practices to grow the offerings for our immigrant families. "Being able to help families is why I love my job", she says.

Even outside of work, Evelyn is focused on improving our community, notably through her role as a sacristan for St. Thomas More Catholic Church, which gives her the opportunity to help her community through her faith.

Since the pandemic struck, Evelyn hasn't missed a beat- providing parenting classes online and distributing diapers and clothing every week to families in need.

We were lucky to have Evelyn Ramirez join our team back in 2006. She has shared her expertise and helped grow our Welcome Baby program into the success that it is today.

Created By
Christa Gibson


Created with images by Bence Balla-Schottner - "untitled image" • Eco Warrior Princess - "Essential gardening equipment for those looking to flex their green thumb."