What Is N.C. Cooperative Extension?

— Written By and last updated by Elisabeth Purser
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What is N.C. Cooperative Extension? Hopefully by now, many Union County residents have noticed a new sign on HWY 74 East promoting the Union County Agricultural Center and something called N.C. Cooperative Extension. However, many residents may not know exactly what Cooperative Extension is, nor what we do here in Union County. 

First a little background. Since the passage of the Smith-Lever Act of 1914, land-grant universities have worked toward a common mission to extend knowledge to the public. Both NC State University and N.C. A&T State University ensure that research discoveries are delivered from the campus to the community. 

How this is done. Extension has offices in every county of North Carolina and the Eastern Band of Cherokee. 

6 people standing behind a table that says N.C. Cooperative Extension

The staff and volunteers work with local government to support agriculture, horticulture, conservation, and environmental protection, nutrition, and health, as well as a variety of consumer, youth, and economic concerns. 

Program FocusNC State Extension connects farmers, agribusinesses, and communities with vital research-based information and technology. Research at NC State University targets society’s grand challenges. Extension delivers this research directly into the hands of North Carolinians, helping them to translate knowledge into everyday solutions. 

Extension offers a wealth of educational programs that address public health issues, improve economic well-being, and help people make healthier, better-informed decisions. Programs range from local foods, food safety, and food preservation to gardening and environmental efforts. 

4-H is the largest youth development organization in North Carolina. Hundreds of thousands of young people learn the skills to succeed through 4-H. educational programs and camps. NC State Extension and the Cooperative Extension Program at N.C. A&T State University conduct 4-H programs where youth learn by doing. 

Now, Union CountyYour N.C. Cooperative Extension of Union County office has staff members that are knowledgeable on a wide range of subject matter. We have one of the largest 4-H programs in North Carolina; focusing on EmpowerED and robotics with Union County Public Schools, public speaking & leadership development, to animal husbandry, quiz bowl, and skillathon, along with everything in between. Young people can begin 4-H as a cloverbud at the age of 5 and continue all through high school and college. Outside of the academic skills and abilities that 4-H teaches, by far the most important is life skills. If you are interested in your young person getting involved or you as an adult would like to become a volunteer, please contact our office and we will be happy to bring you into the 4-H family. 

We are very fortunate to have multiple staff members who work on improving the health and nutrition of Union County residents here at the UC Ag Center. Through wellness and nutrition, as well as the federally funded Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), Union County residents are in good hands to improve their day to day lives. We offer programming for all walks of people to come and engage in activities involving food safety and food preservation to meal planning and food budget preparation. Many of our programs in this subject matter are at local community centers, faith-based centers, and the Union County Health and Human Services facility. You will also find our wellness and nutrition team at the UC Farmer’s Market, working with both vendors and consumers on how best to prepare and serve healthy fruits and vegetables. 

Union County is the 3rd largest agriculture producing county in North Carolina. N.C. Cooperative Extension of Union County has a large supporting network of staff members to ensure that everyone from backyard gardeners and beekeepers to self-employed poultry and field crop producers have a resource for educational assistance and technical advice. With our vast network and knowledge base of Master Gardener volunteers in Union County we are able to provide homeowners with knowledge to improve their home gardens, assistance on plant selection for plantings, and be a resource for sourcing everything from flowering bulbs to fruit trees. With our small farms and livestock programs, we can assist any producers needs concerning small ruminants, beef cattle, backyard poultry, and equines. Our staff provides programming that help get producers and hobbyists alike outside with hands-on applications and training sessions that help to improve their livestock’s wellbeing. Lastly, we provide technical assistance and continuing education training for our large-scale farmers producing feed corn and soybeans, cereal grains, and fiber for our clothing. 

Now come get involvedOur advisory groups, on-farm demonstration cooperators, and volunteers are the backbone of what makes the N.C. Cooperative Extension of Union County office successful. We would like to encourage each of you to become involved in the community programming that we do here at the Union County Ag Center. We have something to offer anyone and everyone, no matter where your interest lies. If you have interest in helping to improve the lives of your community, no matter where it is here in Union County, we would love to get to know you. Over this next year we have numerous programs and activities lined up that you need to be involved in. We welcome you to stop by our office or please give us a call and we will be happy to meet you where you are located. We look forward to getting to know you better in this next decade!