The 4-H program in the county is conducted by the local office, namely Tammara Talley and Carol Pitts. 4-H is a hands on, youth development organization that seeks to empower youth to reach their full potential, working and learning in partnership with caring adults while also learning new skills and serving their communities each year. 4-H offers clubs, special interest programs, summer camps, school enrichment and after-school child care.
According to Talley, 4-H is the nation's largest youth development and empowerment organization.
“We are a free program that works with North Carolina's land grant colleges, Macon County government, local volunteers and families to provide fun, positive activities for Macon County youth,” said Talley. Children ages 5 – 18 are eligible to join and in Macon there are 11 clubs that meet monthly.
“4-H is important to our community because it is a fun way for kids to learn independence and life skills. Our goal is to “learn by doing” - we enjoy experimental learning. We want 4-Hers to have creative minds that can solve problems, that are compassionate and that look for ways to serve their community.”
The office also offers educational programs that provide farmers and agribusinesses with research-based knowledge that they can use to produce high-quality crops and livestock in economically and environmentally sustainable ways. The office can provide soil sample results, give tips on avoiding water damage, provides tips on pest management and conducts informative workshops that are often free to the public unless there is a need for materials.
Another focus at the local office is health and nutrition. Educators provide research-based programs that promote good health. The programs cover a broad spectrum, from pesticide safety to indoor air quality, from childhood nutrition and physical activity to heart-healthy eating and food safety.
“The Cooperative Extension is primarily an educational program, but we do offer services as well,” said Executive Director Alan Durden. “Every two years, we offer pesticide removal. If somebody were to find pesticides in their basement or a new home, then we can help them dispose of them. There is a certain process that needs to take place to dispose of them.”
The extension agents can also provide information that addresses topics like protecting well-water, managing family budgets, early childhood development, parenting and aging.
There are also workshops that focus on specific topics like the Shitake Mushroom workshop that was offered recently. The class was so popular that Durden will have to hold another one just to accommodate the overflow.
“Anybody can take these workshops. Somebody may come in and learn how to grow the mushrooms and turn it into a commercial business while others may just come to workshop to learn how to grow them for personal consumption and then of course, hopefully their neighbors will get to enjoy them, too,” Durden said following the workshop.
With the spring months quickly approaching, the cooperative extension is to make ready the Community Garden plots for planting. Anyone who may be interested in planting a garden but finds themselves ill-equipped with space or perhaps the know-how, can pay a small fee to use a plot of land. The plot comes ready for planting and assistance and knowledge is available from people who are experienced in gardening.
“We have Master Gardeners who just keep volunteering to help out. It's a great community asset,” said Durden.
More information about upcoming workshops or other programs provided by the Macon County Cooperative Extension Office can be found at http://macon.ces.ncsu.edu or call the Macon County Center, located at 193 Thomas Heights Road, at (828)349-2046.