Jones County Extension Success Stories: 2023

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Jones County Extension Success

Success Stories are organized by objective:

4-H Youth Development
How we have empowered the next generation.

Animal Production Systems
How we helped with livestock and pasture.

Community Development
Our impact throughout the community.

Food Safety And Nutrition
Undertakings in food safety and nutrition.

Plant Production Systems
Providing solutions to row crop problems.


4-H Youth Development

Making “Moo”ves

Jones County 4-H Agent, Samantha Bennett
Team Members: Emoni Burgess (Jones), Jacob Morgan (Jones), Margaret Ross (Jones), Brooke Zeleny (Craven)

Did you know that the state beverage for North Carolina is milk? The North Carolina dairy industry generates $3.5 million in wages and $12.25 billion in economic impact. Our state has about 40,000 dairy cows on 140 dairy farms with the top four milk-producing counties being Randolph, Chatham, Wilkes, and Iredell. Unfortunately, the dairy industry is suffering due to competition from milk alternatives, industry operating costs, and fluctuating milk prices. 160 farms in the Southeast United States have closed in the last decade with many more struggling to turn a profit. With most of our North Carolina dairy farms residing in the Western part of our state, we wanted to promote the dairy industry here in Jones County and provide an opportunity for 4-H’ers to participate in dairy cow care and showing.

The Down East Dairy Project and Show was started in Lenoir and Greene Counties by a previous Livestock Agent. Over the past years, the project expanded and added neighboring counties to be included in the end of project show. This year, Jones County 4-H hosted its first annual “Jones County 4-H Dairy Project” with the help of many county extension agents, local farmers, local businesses and many amazing 4-H volunteers. Jones County 4-H borrowed six Jersey heifers from Cherry Research Station and housed them at a local farm for almost two months where fourteen 4-H’ers were paired up with a partner and a heifer to train, care for and prepare for the Down East Dairy Show.

Over the course of the project, 4-H youth attended two formal practices each week, signed up for other weekly feedings and care, increased their dairy cow husbandry skills, recorded feed and medical information for their heifer, improved their dairy judging skills and gained leadership skills, responsibility, confidence and empathy. Timid 4-H’ers became more confident with their heifers and more confident 4-H’ers were observed stepping up as leaders and assisting peers when they needed it. Youth and heifer teams were very successful at the Down East Dairy Show after all their hard work and preparation. One local 4-H family had recently gotten their own dairy cows and had begun showing them on the dairy show circuit here in North Carolina. They were an asset to this new livestock project and even continued their efforts their efforts through the North Carolina State Fair Dairy Show by allowing two project participants to show with them there. These two rookie showman followed the spark created during their participation in the Jones County Dairy Project a month before. With the guidance of the local 4-H family and the kindness of two Western North Carolina dairy farmers who allowed the use of their cows, the two 4-H’ers got to experience showing at the state level and even brought home ribbons in their classes! The short term Jones County 4-H Dairy Project helped form lasting community partnerships and allowed 4-H’ers to gain industry knowledge and positive dairy experiences in and out of the show ring. 

Having a PIG Time with Jones County 4-H

Jones County 4-H Agent, Samantha Bennett

Pork production is the second largest agricultural commodity in North Carolina and has an economic impact of $11 billion. There is no denying the importance the swine industry has in our state but we are at a great risk of losing it. In 1997, a memorandum was created that has resulted in no new swine farms being built in over twenty years. Over those years, we have seen a decline in generational family farms as well. It is our job to expose Jones County youth to the swine industry and all the hard work it takes to ethically raise a pig. Not only will they increase their education about ethical commercial swine production, they will also have a greater understanding of where their food comes from and the hard work it takes to feed the world.

Jones County 4-H began a Pig Project in 2020. It was unfortunately cut short due to Covid-19 and we were unable to have our second year in 2021. In 2022, health safety regulations were relaxed enough for us to establish our second annual Jones County 4-H Pig Project which would run from January to April. We created a program that would allow 4-H youth to partner with a pig at a low cost, teach them to walk, care for them, show them at a local livestock show and then sale them to market. Youth and their families would cover the cost of the pig upfront and Jones County 4-H would cover all other costs associated with the pigs such as housing, medical, feed, grooming tools and transportation. Once the pigs were sold, the sale and sponsorship money earned would pay all expenses accrued and any extra money after that would be split between the 4-H youth participants.

The Jones County Pig Project supplied twelve pigs and had fifteen 4-H youth that practiced twice a week at formal practices and other days on their own. Together, the participants logged over 650 hours of hard work with their pigs. Each formal practice consisted of cleaning the pig’s pen, feeding the pigs, brushing and cleaning the pigs as well as exercising and walking the pigs. Participants also had educational activities included each week that taught common swine industry practices such as reproduction, ear notching, biosecurity, necropsies, injections and medicine withdrawal times. All their hard work was showcased at the Coastal Plains Livestock Show and Sale where participants showed in showmanship and market classes with their pigs. After showing, youth sold their pigs for market price plus added sponsorship money they raised. This project taught participants responsibility, animal husbandry skills, compassion, time management, leadership and confidence. 4-H’ers involved made new friends, created community connections and worked very hard to reach their goals. This year, youth worked hard to fundraise which resulted in each child receiving over $600 back in earnings after expenses were paid out. The project also added a perpetual Sportsmanship Award and Highest Sponsorship Earner Award. The sportsmanship winner was voted on my 4-H’ers and their families for the most deserving youth. This family oriented project was time intensive and brought youth of all ages together from across Jones County!

Hop To It: Craven, Jones and Pamlico 4-H Rabbit Project and Showmanship Show

Jones County 4-H Agent, Samantha Bennett
Team Members: Ashley Brooks (Craven), Kait Neeland (Pamlico), Brooke Zeleny (Craven)

It is estimated by the American Farmland Trust that North Carolina could lose roughly 20% current farmland to development by 2040. North Carolina 4-H began in the early 1900’s and was heavily rooted in agricultural education for community youth but over the years, 4-H has evolve to meet the needs of our changing state. Urban development and loss of generational family farms has made project areas such as livestock, a vital program from 4-H’s rural past, hard to implement with today’s 4-H’ers. Many 4-H families do not have the ability to house large livestock nor the experience to care for them. This has created a space where youth are not able to experience a 4-H livestock project where they gain lasting life skills and increase their knowledge of agriculture and food production in their own state.

While many 4-H families do not have the space for larger livestock, most can accommodate and care for smaller animals such as rabbits. A group effort from Craven, Jones and Pamlico 4-H and Livestock produced a short-term rabbit project where they partnered with a local rabbitry so that 4-H’ers could borrow, care for, train and show the rabbits at a low cost with no long term commitments. Other local rabbit professionals were also involved in the success of the project by teaching a clinic and judging the final show.

The Craven, Jones and Pamlico 4-H Rabbit Project allowed attended an educational clinic, cared for their rabbits at home, trained their rabbit, improved their rabbit knowledge and showmanship skills and finally participated in the Craven, Jones and Pamlico 4-H Rabbit Showmanship Show. Thirteen 4-H’ers borrowed rabbits and participated in the educational project and twenty-one other 4-H’ers registered for the showmanship show with their own rabbits. Youth attended educational clinics and workshops, developed their rabbit showmanship skills, improved their rabbit husbandry knowledge and were introduced to a 4-H livestock opportunity that is obtainable for most families. A project evaluation showed that many 4-H families were excited to have a 4-H rabbit project opportunity offered in their area and were very pleased with the rabbit show, prizes and additional activities offered. 86% of the evaluation respondents were eager for a 4-H rabbit show circuit to be created that included surrounding counties and more opportunities to show locally. Participating extension agents hope to hop to it and continue sharing rabbits and all 4-H livestock programs have to offer youth in North Carolina.

Table Talk

Jones County FCS Agent, Sarah Ware
Team Members: Samantha Bennett (Jones)

Childhood obesity rates in the community are well above the national average, with over 30% of children classified as obese according to recent health assessments. The need for Extension action in addressing poor nutrition and dietary habits among children and families in this community is evident through both narrative and numeric data. This matters because it directly impacts the health, education, and overall well-being of the community, and addressing it is essential for creating a healthier, more prosperous, and equitable community for all.

The 2 day class covered a wide range of topics; the FCS agent taught cooking & food safety, the 4-H agent taught proper table etiquette & setting, writing invitations, and sending thank you cards. Collaborating with a local florist allowed for expertise in floral arrangements to be shared with participants.

12 children attended this class. 6 White and 6 African American. 7 girls and 5 boys. This cooking portion and food safety education for children not only promotes healthy eating habits and culinary skills but also instills important life skills, values, and awareness of the broader impact of food choices. These educational experiences contribute to a child’s well-being, independence, and overall development. The etiquette portion is important for children because it equips them with essential life skills that extend beyond the dinner table. It helps them develop social and cultural awareness skills, fostering confidence, appreciation for food, and the ability to navigate various social situations with grace and poise. These skills contribute to their personal and professional growth and overall well-being.

Chicken Harvest

Area Specialized Agent – Poultry, Margaret Ross
Written by: Becky Spearman (Bladen)
Team Members:Olivia Antonio Ventura (Sampson), Jacob Barber (Bladen), Aaron Blackmon (Columbus), Taylor Chavis (Robeson), Jessica Drake (Cumberland), Anthony Growe (Richmond), Liz Joseph (Cumberland), Jamie Lester (Brunswick), Elizabeth Merrill (Sampson), Toni Newby (Bladen), Tom Shea (Moore), Becky Spearman (Bladen), Matthew Strickland (Bladen)

A county environmental scan showed there is a need for agricultural literacy especially among youth. Bladen County 4-H, high schools, and college agriculture education classes have partnered for 8 of the last 9 years to provide broiler chicks for the students to raise to learn more about chickens and the agriculture industry.ResponseN.C. Cooperative Extension – Bladen County provided a hands-on learning opportunity with chickens for high school and college animal science classes and 4-Hers. The youth raised 65 broiler chickens. Chickens were harvested and over 290 pounds of meat was donated to two food banks. The day included a poultry processing demonstration for two high school classes to watch the processing and participate in dissecting the organs. An adult training class and demonstration was also held.

80 agricultural education students at three high schools, 12 college students, and 10 4-Hers raised the chickens. 15 volunteers and Extension Agents processed the chickens. 41 high school students attended the processing day and 18 adults attended the training demonstration. 100% of students learned new things about chicken processing, organ systems or the poultry industry. For the adult training, 100% learned new things about chicken processing and how to become a poultry exempt operator. 100% said the demonstration will help them in the future to process their own chickens. When asked about the experience, one high school student said “what they liked was when they dissected the chicken parts and learned more in depth on how a chicken is harvested”. Another student liked “learning the in-depth process of how it happens”. Comments from a high school teacher “My students found the harvesting of the chickens pretty neat. They saw the simplicity of the techniques and talked about how it could be done at home with some configuring of equipment. Thank you again for hosting the event. Students were very interested in the event”. Adult comments included: What they liked best on chicken harvest day was the hands-on learning and having the ability to do it on their own. They enjoyed having the ability to learn how chickens are processed. 100% were satisfied with the chicken processing training because they found it a very helpful experience on how to process chickens. One of them commented they were “thankful for the opportunity! It was an amazing day of learning and I was stunned by all the help, education and support that the extension service provided. An awesome event!!” Another adult said “Excellent day of training. I really appreciate the opportunity to attend and the effort it took for extension to host an event like this.”

83rd Annual Coastal Plains Junior Livestock Show and Sale

Area Specialized Agent – Poultry, Margaret Ross, Jones County 4-H Agent, Samantha Bennett, Jones County 4-H Livestock Agent, Brooke Zeleny, Jones County Extension Director – Field Crops, Jacob Morgan
Written by: Kaelyn Mohrfeld (Lenoir)
Team Members: Jessica Anderson (Greene), Samantha Bennett (Jones), Ivy Brantley Reid (Lenoir), Andy Burlingham (Pitt), Jessica Hall (Duplin), Bridget Huffman (Duplin), Melissa Huffman (Onslow), Charmae Kendall (Duplin), Jordan Kennedy (Lenoir), Coleman Killinger (Carteret), Max Knowles (Sampson), Kaelyn Mohrfeld (Lenoir), Jacob Morgan (Jones), Paige Petticrew (Lenoir), Margaret Ross (Jones), Tara Taylor (Onslow), Carly Taylor (Greene), Velvet Tyndall (Lenoir), Kelly Tyndall (Lenoir), Abbigail Wells (Lenoir), Brooke Zeleny (Craven)

The Coastal Plains Junior Livestock Show has been taking place since the 1940’s and is a staple to our agriculture community. This year approximately 180 youth from twelve surrounding counties came to exhibit their spring projects whether it is a goat, pig, cow, or lamb. 4-H and Livestock Extension Agents in the counties come together to help put on a show for our youth to showcase what they have learned throughout the spring.

Extension Agents and the Coastal Plains Committee work together to put on a successful show. Approximately 180 youth exhibited livestock and 100 kids participated in our sale. The sale helps support the child in their next project and allows a connection to be made with our local community. Community Professionals join us in supporting the youth with a meal and then a sale sponsoring the youth.

Youth who participated in the Coastal Plains Livestock Show and Sale took home core attributes such as hard-work, determination, and perseverance. These youth also built connections with our local community through the show and sale. We had over 100 buyers come and support our youth in the show and sale. Extension Agents help put on yet another show and look forward to doing the same next year.

Lift Off Day Camp

Jones County 4-H Agent, Samantha Bennett
Written by: Abbigail Wells (Lenoir)
Team Members: Abbigail Wells (Lenoir)

A county environmental scan showed there is a need for agricultural literacy especially among youth. Bladen County 4-H, high schools, and college agriculture education classes have partnered for 8 of the last 9 years to provide broiler chicks for the students to raise to learn more about chickens and the agriculture industry.ResponseN.C. Cooperative Extension – Bladen County provided a hands-on learning opportunity with chickens for high school and college animal science classes and 4-Hers. The youth raised 65 broiler chickens. Chickens were harvested and over 290 pounds of meat was donated to two food banks. The day included a poultry processing demonstration for two high school classes to watch the processing and participate in dissecting the organs. An adult training class and demonstration was also held.

80 agricultural education students at three high schools, 12 college students, and 10 4-Hers raised the chickens. 15 volunteers and Extension Agents processed the chickens. 41 high school students attended the processing day and 18 adults attended the training demonstration. 100% of students learned new things about chicken processing, organ systems or the poultry industry. For the adult training, 100% learned new things about chicken processing and how to become a poultry exempt operator. 100% said the demonstration will help them in the future to process their own chickens. When asked about the experience, one high school student said “what they liked was when they dissected the chicken parts and learned more in depth on how a chicken is harvested”. Another student liked “learning the in-depth process of how it happens”. Comments from a high school teacher “My students found the harvesting of the chickens pretty neat. They saw the simplicity of the techniques and talked about how it could be done at home with some configuring of equipment. Thank you again for hosting the event. Students were very interested in the event”. Adult comments included: What they liked best on chicken harvest day was the hands-on learning and having the ability to do it on their own. They enjoyed having the ability to learn how chickens are processed. 100% were satisfied with the chicken processing training because they found it a very helpful experience on how to process chickens. One of them commented they were “thankful for the opportunity! It was an amazing day of learning and I was stunned by all the help, education and support that the extension service provided. An awesome event!!” Another adult said “Excellent day of training. I really appreciate the opportunity to attend and the effort it took for extension to host an event like this.”

NC 4-Hers Win Poultry Nationals for the First Time Ever!

Area Specialized Agent – Poultry, Margaret Ross
Written by:Ashley Brooks (Craven)
Team Members: Jonas Asbill (Randolph), Ashley Brooks (Craven), Beth Burchell (Halifax), Margaret Ross (Jones)

Youth in Craven County have been participating in the 4-H Poultry Judging Program for the last 6 years to further their knowledge of the poultry science and, for some of them, with the intent to or pursue careers in the industry. These youth worked hard in their field as Junior participants and once they became Seniors, they wished to increase their knowledge and take their skills to a higher level by competing at the National Competition hosted by the University of Kentucky.

The Craven County 4-H Agent created a more intensive program to work with these youth weekly, seeking help from a wide range of people, organizations, and resources. North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and North Carolina State University specialists trained youth in all areas of the competition – production hens, market poultry, and market eggs in addition to hatching hens for with which the youth could practice. Area poultry agents and surrounding extension agents assisted with oral reasons preparations and answering questions. A variety of published resources from universities such as Kentucky, Georgia, and Auburn assisted in explanations for youth and deepened their knowledge. A local farmer provided space to house the practice birds. Youth participated in practices at universities, local practice competitions at the Craven Extension Office, and online Zoom practice sessions.

The Senior 4-H team participated at NCSU’s State 4-H Poultry Judging Competition and won 2nd place Overall Senior Team. They were asked by NC State to represent North Carolina in the National Competition and asked high-scoring individual Tessa Darnell, a Halifax Co. 4-Her, to join them as a 4th member. With a great team who worked together well, they spent hours online and in-person practicing and preparing. Traveling to KY, they worked hard during the 5 hour contest that requires them to judge Egg Production Hens, Market Poultry, and Market Eggs against USDA standards and the poultry specialists who set up the competition. They won 8 individual awards and were top 3 team in each of the categories and finished as the overall National Champion Poultry Judging Team out of 17 Teams from across the country North Carolina has never won this competition since it began in 1965. Their list of awards included: 5th & 6th Place Individuals & 3rd Place Team – Market Eggs, 3rd & 7th Place Individuals & 2nd Place Team – Market Poultry, 1st Place Individual & 1st Place Team – Production Hens, 4th, 6th, & 19th Place Overall High Individuals, 1st Place Overall Team. All youth received scholarship offers from multiple universities including the UGA, Auburn, and NCSU. At this competition youth had the opportunity to see what a career options were available, connect with other people who shared their interests, and receive additional resources. They gained in-depth knowledge and practice at judging poultry and eggs according to USDA standards. Their critical thinking and communication skills dramatically improve as they have to think on their feet during oral reasons and make snap decisions due to time limits and then justify the decisions that they made. Two of these youth have plans to study poultry in college and another has started a processing business. They have been inspired to help other youth with this event as coaches and look forward to contributing to NC Agriculture.

2023 Egg-cellent Egg Contest

Area Specialized Agent – Poultry, Margaret Ross
Written by: Liz Joseph (Cumberland)
Team Members: Laura Allen (Rowan), Jonas Asbill (Randolph), Marcia Berry (Camden), Brandi Boaz (Caswell), April Bowman (Forsyth), Jared Butler (Lee), Taylor Chavis (Robeson), Jessica Drake (Cumberland), Alex Eaker (New Hanover), Angela Galloway (Scotland), Richard Goforth (Harnett), Lauren Greene (Cleveland), Anthony Growe (Richmond), Jessica Hall (Duplin), Sarah Holden (Transylvania), Emma James (Wake), Holly Jordan (Buncombe), Liz Joseph (Cumberland), Charmae Kendall (Duplin), Coleman Killinger (Carteret), Alex Kissinger (Wilkes), Jamie Lester (Brunswick), Elizabeth Merrill (Sampson), Toni Newby (Bladen), Amy Ormond (Nash), Rachel Owens (Union), Hannah Peeler (Henderson), Bailee Perkins (Caswell), Cynthia R Decker (Entomology & Plant Pathology), Margaret Ross (Jones), Martina Smith (Cumberland), Becky Spearman (Bladen), Missy Treffer (Edgecombe), Misty Varnell (Madison)

The Egg-cellent Egg Contest was started in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic to continue to provide interactive, educational programs for youth. Many youth across the state have participated in projects in the past where they raised and showed laying hens. This created an interest to offer the Egg-cellent Egg Contest to any youth in North Carolina that had a flock of hens that were laying eggs. Due to the success of the regional program in 2020 and 2021, the agent committee decided to make the contest available to any 4-H participant in the state.

N.C. Cooperative Extension Livestock and 4-H agents from across the state and the Poultry Area Specialized agents worked together to offer an Egg-cellent Egg Contest. The contest included entering eggs into the different color and size categories, attending training sessions, and completing a host of supplemental activities. A Google site was created to house all of the information needed to complete the contest. Some of the supplemental activities included: a virtual escape room based on egg production and selection, multiple posters and video submissions, testing the strength of egg shells, applying egg economics scenarios, learning what nutrients come from the different parts of an egg, etc. Specialists in the NC State Poultry Science Department and NC Department of Agriculture Egg Inspectors served as judges for the contest. Youth were provided prizes sponsored by numerous agricultural businesses and organizations.

Sixty youth from 29 counties submitted 87 half-dozen eggs for the 2023 Egg-cellent Egg Contest. Because youth from across the state participated, they were divided based on the Poultry Area Specialized Agents’ regions to increase the number of youth who were recognized for their achievements. The project raised $1,250 in sponsorship money which was applied toward the awards for the participants. Agents, participants, and parents were thankful for the opportunity to participate in this project and reported an increase in knowledge and ability to select quality eggs. Overall, all participants said they would do the project again. One parent commented that as a second year participant, they have been very happy with this competition. The activities and resources are excellent and they love having a webpage dedicated to all of the resources so that we have access to information at all times. Plans for continuing the contest in 2024 are underway.


Animal Production Systems

Increasing scientific outreach to the Islamic community

Area Specialized Agent – Aquaculture, Mike Frinsko

In 2019, I was asked to assist in a students Masters program for a former NCSU colleague, Dr. Kamran Tavabe now of the University of Tehran, Iran. It is important that, as scientists, we work with colleagues across Geo-political boundaries to solve problems, especially when cultural and political conditions strain traditional relations between countries. It was an honor to be asked to participate in this meaningful project and assist in the progress of global aquaculture research.

The students project involved the comparison of various probiotics related to the aquaculture production of the pacific white shrimp, Litopenaeus vannamei shrimp larvae. This species is one of the most commonly cultured shrimp species for human consumption and is a significant economic product for seafood markets worldwide. My efforts focused on provided strategic project planning, methods to be used, assist in initial draft writing and final editing.

The global COVID epidemic affected our progress such that the project was halted in 2020 as labs closed. The final results were analyzed in 2021/2022 with writing/editing taking place during 2022/2023. The results of the work were finally published in 2023 in “Aquaculture Reports”. The title being: Effects of Bacillus subtilis and Lactobacillus plantarum probiotics on the Litopenaeus vannamei growth performance, hemolymph factors, and physicochemical parameters. This publication is know shared to the scientific community world-wide as: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aqrep.2023.101873

High Oleic SBM as an Alternative to Fishmeal for Juvenile Domesticated Striped Bass

Area Specialized Agent – Aquaculture, Mike Frinsko
Team Members: Steven Hall (Biological & Agricultural Engineering), Michael Joseph (Prestage Poultry Science)

After completing the High Oleic SBM project, our team (with other research colleagues) completed the writing of a manuscript detailing the research.

The manuscript has been submitted to the journal, Aquaculture for publication

We are currently awaiting comments from the Editor.

Continued Evaluation of Commercial Microdiets as Artemia Replacements for First Feeding of Striped Bass

Area Specialized Agent – Aquaculture, Mike Frinsko
Team Members: Michael Joseph (Prestage Poultry Science)

This continuation of a microdiet evaluation for the rearing of first feeding Domesticated Striped Bass. Most marine fish species require the use of live feeds during the larval rearing stage. This is especially true when feeding just hatched larval fish up through the first 3 weeks of culture. Live feeds generally comprise different types of zooplankton, the most common of which are the brine shrimp, aka. Artemia. Live feeds must be fed multiple times daily, throughout the month long larval phase. This is an expensive and labor intensive process. Numerous feed companies have made “microdiets”, to replace or augment the use of Artemia. Unfortunately, many of the most valuable fish species do not accept microdiets.

With colleague, Dr. Michael Joseph of PO, we continued to work to develop a microdiet that would be palatable to larval striped bass. Using diets that we formulated and manufactured by a special process of marumerization, feed is shaped to spheres of less than 350um in diameter; the same size as live feeds such as Artemia. Our goal is to also have this feed the same elasticity of the Artemia.

Unfortunately, when supplied to the fish fry, our diets were found to still be too hard. We confirmed this with a special measurement referred to as “nanoindenter analysis”. Working with folks at the UNC-Chapel Hill Chapel Hill Analytical and Nanofabrication Laboratory, we measured our particles much harder than that of the Artemia. As such, we will continue to develop a more suitable material this year.

Continued Evaluation of Commercial Microdiets as Artemia Replacements for First Feeding of Striped Bass

Area Specialized Agent – Aquaculture, Mike Frinsko
Team Members: Michael Joseph (Prestage Poultry Science)

This continuation of a microdiet evaluation for the rearing of first feeding Domesticated Striped Bass. Most marine fish species require the use of live feeds during the larval rearing stage. This is especially true when feeding just hatched larval fish up through the first 3 weeks of culture. Live feeds generally comprise different types of zooplankton, the most common of which are the brine shrimp, aka. Artemia. Live feeds must be fed multiple times daily, throughout the month long larval phase. This is an expensive and labor intensive process. Numerous feed companies have made “microdiets”, to replace or augment the use of Artemia. Unfortunately, many of the most valuable fish species do not accept microdiets.

With colleague, Dr. Michael Joseph of PO, we continued to work to develop a microdiet that would be palatable to larval striped bass. Using diets that we formulated and manufactured by a special process of marumerization, feed is shaped to spheres of less than 350um in diameter; the same size as live feeds such as Artemia. Our goal is to also have this feed the same elasticity of the Artemia.

Unfortunately, when supplied to the fish fry, our diets were found to still be too hard. We confirmed this with a special measurement referred to as “nanoindenter analysis”. Working with folks at the UNC-Chapel Hill Chapel Hill Analytical and Nanofabrication Laboratory, we measured our particles much harder than that of the Artemia. As such, we will continue to develop a more suitable material this year.

NOAA Striper Hub: Larval Striped Bass Production

Area Specialized Agent – Aquaculture, Mike Frinsko
Team Members: Steven Hall (Biological & Agricultural Engineering)

As part of the NOAA Striper Hub project, my role is to lead the effort in developing advanced larviculture technologies. To date, this has focused in areas of swimbladder inflation, feed development, and enhanced stocking and handling of fry as they develop through to metamorphosis. This is a critical bottleneck of production and an industry imperative.

With colleague, Dr. Steve Hall, we are together evaluating additional areas of importance related to larval rearing. This includes determination of the best speed of rearing tank water flow and the best placement of aeration systems.

In both cases, above, the hydromechanics of water flow/aeration devices have dramatic impact on the swimming and feeding behavior of the small, delicate larvae and fry. Dr. Hall’s engineering expertise is complimentary to my biological focus and together we are determining solutions to these basic industry questions. While data is still being collected, we on the water velocity/hydromechanics study, we are seeing growth rates of the “slow” velocity (1L/26 sec) greatly reduced. This is due to the lack of feeding behavior resulting from feed not getting the attention of the fish. In water systems with greater velocity (1L/13sec and 1L/8.6 sec) feeding increases as feed particles move in the water, similar to prey. We will continue to evaluate growth and performance to determine impact of feed efficiency. In the meantime, we can also report that current results of our swimbladder inflation work have shown increases of up to 85%, which is a >100% improvement above the industry standard of 30%. This can increase hatchery efficiency greatly, resulting in increased profitability.

Mobile Poultry Processing Unit and Trailer

Area Specialized Agent – Poultry, Margaret Ross
Team Members: Jonas Asbill (Randolph), Richard Goforth (Harnett), Lauren Greene (Cleveland)

During the COVID-19 pandemic that began in 2020, we saw an increase of folks wanting to learn how to raise and grow their own food, which carried over into 2022 and 2023. On-farm poultry processing interest also skyrocketed during this time, making processing demonstrations a strong educational need in eastern NC.

One of NC State Extension’s most integrated programs is our Coastal Plains Chicken Show where the broilers stay after the show to be processed the next day in conjunction with a farmer demonstration training class. Extension agents partner with NCDA&CS, the Prestage Department of Poultry Science, NC Choices, and local farming families to hold an educational and hands-on demonstration of how to properly process poultry on-farm. Participants are given the opportunity to practice processing chickens that day on-site with help from agents and provided information on the current poultry exemption rules. In 2023, two Animal Agriculture Program Team Workgroups, the Niche Meat group and the Poultry group, in conjunction with funding from Jones County, were able to purchase an enclosed trailer for the mobile poultry processing unit housed at the Jones County Extension office, that was also purchased with funding from the AAPTs.

Not only is the trailer and mobile poultry processing unit used for demonstration purposes, it’s also available to rent to anyone in the state who would like to process their own birds. The trailer was a huge asset because it helps to house the unit indoors, in a safe, cool, and dry environment which helps maintain the equipment as well as it makes transportation of the equipment much easier. The trailer has also allowed for more flexibility with unit rentals because agents do not have to physically help load and unload the equipment. We know the trailer and the unit will continue to provide a much needed service for local farmers at a nominal price that will help them be more self-sufficient and sustainable on their farms for many years to come.

Poultry Processing Day

Area Specialized Agent – Poultry, Margaret Ross
Written By: Taylor Chavis (Robeson)
Team Members: Aaron Blackmon (Columbus), Nelson Brownlee (Robeson), Taylor Chavis (Robeson), Mack Johnson (Robeson), Mac Malloy (Robeson), Margaret Ross (Jones)

There has been an increased interest in people that want to learn how to grow their own food and safely process it.

N.C. Cooperative Extension – Robeson County Center hosted a hands-on learning opportunity to demonstrate how to safely process poultry using a mobile processing unit. Participants were given the opportunity to safely practice processing broiler chickens and learn about poultry exemption rules from NCDA Compliance Officer.

12 participants attended the training along with 6 agents and 5 volunteers who helped process 48 broiler chickens. 100% of participants gained knowledge and skills required for proper chicken processing, product packaging, and safe handling of poultry from processing to the kitchen. A follow-up survey and plans to conduct a 2024 poultry demonstration class are in place.

Coastal Plains Chicken Project Show and Processing Demonstration

Area Specialized Agent – Poultry, Margaret Ross
Team Members: Jonas Asbill (Randolph), Samantha Bennett (Jones), Ashley Brooks (Craven), Emoni Burgess (Jones), Andy Burlingham (Pitt), Yan Campbell (Prestage Poultry Science), Richard Goforth (Harnett), Lauren Greene (Cleveland), Crystal Howard (Lenoir), Melissa Huffman (Onslow), Lori Jones (Pender), Charmae Kendall (Duplin), Coleman Killinger (Carteret), Kaelyn Mohrfeld (Lenoir), Jacob Morgan (Jones), Kait Neeland (Pamlico), John Osborne (Onslow), Paige Petticrew (Lenoir), Margaret Ross (Jones), Stephanie Stevenson (Carteret), Jennifer Stroud (Lenoir), Stefani Sykes (Wayne), Carly Taylor (Greene), Tara Taylor (Onslow), Bailey Tilghman (Wayne), Kelly Tyndall (Lenoir), Sarah Ware (Jones), Abbigail Wells (Lenoir), Brooke Zeleny (Craven)

During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, we saw a shift to folks wanting to learn how to raise and grow their own food and this is still true present-day. This project is aimed at giving youth a chance to raise chickens from start to finish. On-farm poultry processing interest also skyrocketed during 2020, making this processing demonstration a strong educational need in eastern NC.

Extension agents from Craven, Pamlico, Jones, Duplin, Lenoir, Greene, Johnston, Onslow, Pitt, Wayne, Pender and Carteret counties offered a comprehensive chicken project combined with 4-H embryology. 4-H agents set broiler eggs in local schools where youth turned the eggs, cared for the incubator, and watched the birds hatch. The layers were ordered through a hatchery. Both types of birds went to 4-Hers and FFAers, who cared for the birds and worked with them to prepare for the show. The broilers were processed the next day, in conjunction with a farmer demonstration training class. Extension agents partnered with NCDA&CS and the Prestage Department of Poultry Science to hold an educational and hands-on demonstration of how to properly process poultry on-farm. Participants were given the opportunity to practice processing chickens that day on-site with help from agents and provided information on the current poultry exemption rules.

The youth participants from the program were able to raise the chickens from start to finish–from the three-day old chicks they received to the eight-week old large meat birds. The meat was donated to local food banks – 73 birds total were provided to families in need in local communities. Farmer participants learned how to process chickens and familiarized themselves with rules and regulations. Evaluation results show 100% of participants that filled out the evaluation were either Satisfied or Very Satisfied with the overall quality of the training workshop. There were a range of responses from Very Low to High in the Before the Workshop section, but 83% of participants responded their knowledge After the Workshop was from Moderate to Very High. Of the 12 participants who answered the question, seven said they thought the workshop would save them $1-$500 and three said the workshop would save them $500-$1,000. We were able to add even more educational components this year to the project. The Carteret 4-H agent was also able to utilize chicken hearts and feet for educational science labs in local high schools and Jones County saved 25 birds from the processing day to distribute to families who participated in the Holiday Food Box Giveaway and Food Safety program. Twenty participants attended a one-hour food safety program with the Family and Consumer Sciences agent and then received their chickens in addition to a box of donated food the Jones County Extension Office had collected. The remaining chickens were donated to a local Jones County Food Bank – The Filling Station.

Commercial Poultry Ventilation Clinics

Area Specialized Agent – Poultry, Margaret Ross
Team Members: Jonas Asbill (Randolph), Richard Goforth (Harnett), Lauren Greene (Cleveland)

Broilers (chickens grown for meat) are the top agricultural commodity in NC. There are over 900 billion broilers grown in NC annually and their care is in the hands of multiple contract growers, employees, and integrators. Building on introductory clinics from 2020, NC State Extension provided two summer ventilation clinics and two winter ventilation clinics to live production staff in 2021 and two more clinics in 2022. This past year, there was a continued need to provide ventilation education to company personnel. The transition from summer to fall and then winter to spring is typically one of the hardest to navigate when it comes to regulating the environment within a poultry production house. These clinics were an opportunity to review some of the basics with less experienced flock supervisors to ensure a developing set of skills that these employees could pass along to their producers for the upcoming change in seasons.

NC State Extension’s four area specialized poultry agents and specialists from the NC State Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering partnered with HogSlat to provide two no-cost trainings to live production staff from two different broiler companies and complexes. By training these 26 members of the live production staff, we were able to indirectly reach over 400 contract growers in their complexes as they take their knowledge to the field.

By providing this training, we positively impacted the environment of more than 100 million broilers annually in nearly 2,000 commercial houses in Central and Eastern North Carolina. Improving the environment in which the birds are raised increases livability, average daily weight gains, and feed conversion, thus increasing the growers’ production levels and pay. These increases also boost the economic impact of the poultry industry in NC. Improved bird husbandry practices also provide higher quality products to the end consumers.

HPAI Educational Resources

Area Specialized Agent – Poultry, Margaret Ross
Written By: Jonas Asbill (Randolph)
Team Members: Jonas Asbill (Randolph), Richard Goforth (Harnett), Lauren Greene (Cleveland), Margaret Ross (Jones)

HPAI outbreaks are a serious threat to the Poultry Industry. With over 40% of North Carolina’s agricultural receipts coming from poultry, the 2022-23 outbreak that swept across the country could cause serious havoc to the state’s economy. Our mild winters and extensive Atlantic coastline make it a prime stop for migratory birds. Many of these birds stay all winter and shed the virus while here. This exposure is a threat to resident wild birds, backyard flocks, and the commercial industry. Sound biosecurity practices by all poultry-related industries is key to prevent the spreading, replication, and mutation of the virus. In January 2022, USDA announced the first HPAI positive samples in hunter harvested waterfowl in South and North Carolina. Positive commercial and backyard premises began popping up across the country soon thereafter and continued throughout 2023. The need to alert and educate poultry growers and enthusiasts of all types and sizes became an immediate need.

The commercial industry was quickly aware of the threat due to NCDA&CS’s response and news alerts, but the general public still had questions. All 4 of NC’s Area Specialized Agents for Poultry began brainstorming ways to gather and disseminate relevant information/resources to backyard & small flock owners. An article was written to initially spread the word in 2022, but additionally the HPAI Educational Resources Page was set up on NC State’s Poultry Extension Website. In addition to news releases, other sections included resources from various reputable sources including USDA APHIS, NCDA&CS, NC State College of Veterinary Medicine, NC State Extension, and the CDC. Resource documents included focus on FAQs, biosecurity methods, HPAI facts, and disease reporting, but also include recaps of the outbreak by state, bird type, and a link to real time migration. This website has been updated throughout the last 2 years as relevant news and/or resources develop or links need refreshing.

By providing the HPAI Educational Resources Page, we were able to meet an ongoing need. The HPAI Educational Resources Page still remains a great asset as somewhere to direct requests to ensure the public has easy access to current and reputable HPAI resources in one location. The page received the most traffic in its first year with a total of 1531 views for both the 2022 and 2023 calendar years. Updates continue to be made as relevant HPAI news is available.


Community Development

Additional Storage Capacity

County Extension Director – Field Crops, Jacob Morgan

Fiscal responsibility and safety is often a balancing act when it comes to storage around an Extension Office. What can/should we keep for use in the future to reduce spending in subsequent years is often tempered by the amount of storage and the safety concerns that surround too much stuff in that storage area. Multiple safety concerns were noted by the Jones County Safety team in within the Extension office as a result of supplies and equipment storage.

The County Extension director worked on multiple quotes and a sufficient site for a separate storage building to relieve the storage concerns within the office.

The Extension office with the support of the Jones County Manager was able to purchase a metal building to greatly increase the safety and fiscal responsibility around storage of supplies and equipment.


Food Safety and Nutrition

Cook Smart Eat Smart

Jones County FCS Agent, Sarah Ware
Team Members: Stephanie Stevenson (Carteret)

Cook Smart Eat Smart provides a vital avenue for individuals to acquire skills in preparing healthy, budget-friendly meals for their families. This program holds significant promise in elevating overall health and enhancing the quality of life for participants. The urgency of our mission is based on data revealing that cancer and heart disease are the leading causes of death in Jones County. A recent community needs assessment reveals the critical role our program plays, with 150 respondents identifying low income/poverty and a lack of community resources as substantial factors negatively impacting their quality of life. By addressing these pressing concerns, our collaborative effort aims not only to instill culinary expertise but also to contribute significantly to the broader health and well-being of the community.

Collaborating with a fellow Family and Consumer Science (FCS) agent and a local food pantry to host the class, we embarked on a transformative journey by offering the Cook Smart Eat Smart series. This program serves as an invaluable resource, empowering individuals to master the art of crafting wholesome, cost-effective meals for their families. Witnessing the positive impact, we are not only enhancing participants’ overall health but also elevating their quality of life. Our participants were four females and one male, all committed to embracing a healthier and more sustainable culinary lifestyle.

Through our program, we’ve seen a tangible impact on participants’ financial and physical well-being. A study conducted by the American Heart Association found that individuals who received education on budgeting and healthy eating experienced a 27% reduction in healthcare costs over five years. Moreover, the confidence gained in navigating the grocery store and preparing nutritious meals at home has translated into substantial savings for participants. A report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that, on average, Americans spend around 9.7% of their income on food. By empowering individuals to make informed choices, we contribute to long-term financial stability, as participants are better equipped to manage their grocery expenses. Overall, our approach not only enriches lives in the present but also lays the foundation for a healthier and economically sustainable future for the community.

Holiday Food Box Giveaway and Food Safety Program

Jones County FCS Agent, Sarah Ware
Team Members: Samantha Bennett (Jones), Emoni Burgess (Jones), Jacob Morgan (Jones), Margaret Ross (Jones), Brooke Zeleny (Craven)

Food safety and access to free food are imperative for the County’s public health and community well-being. Ensuring safe food practices is crucial to prevent foodborne illnesses that could lead to severe health consequences. In the United States, approximately 48 million people annually suffer from foodborne illnesses, resulting in substantial healthcare costs. Additionally, providing free food, especially to those facing economic challenges, addresses food insecurity, with 1.5 million of North Carolina residents experiencing food insecurity in 2021.The County Extension Office initiated a transformative project aimed at providing holiday cheer to the community through a Food Safety Program. The project involved a multi-faceted approach, starting with the hatching of broiler eggs in classrooms across County Elementary Schools and a High School. The 4-H Agent played a pivotal role in implementing the 4-H Embryology curriculum, engaging students in the Chicken Project and Show.

4-H’ers actively participated in raising the chicks, culminating in a chicken show in May. The livestock agent’s assistance was crucial in preparing the 4-H’ers for the show. Following the exhibition, the broilers were processed in a community poultry processing demonstration led by the Area Specialized Poultry Agent. The outcome was 25 ready-to-cook birds that were then frozen for distribution during the County Holiday Food Box Giveaway and Food Safety Class. 20 people attended, 12 white, 6 African American, 1 American Indian or Alaska Native, and 3 who selected two or more races. All twenty were female with one reporting to be hispanic.

The success story unfolded during the holiday season when the community gathered for the Jones County Holiday Food Box Giveaway. The Office Admin, organized the canned food donation aspect of the event, complemented by the support of the Extension Director. The frozen broilers, a product of the earlier Chicken Project, became a significant part of the holiday food boxes distributed to community members. The project’s impact extended beyond the distribution of food. The Family and Consumer Science Agent, took the lead in teaching valuable food safety lessons during the Holiday Food Safety Class, ensuring that program attendees were well-informed about safe holiday food practices. The evaluation reported all twenty individuals learned more about food safety such as the proper temperature of cooked poultry and how long food can sit out before needing to be disposed of. In the end, the collaborative effort of the Cooperative Extension staff, resulted in a community success story that not only provided tangible support during the holidays but also imparted valuable lessons in agriculture, food safety, and community collaboration. The Holiday Food Box Giveaway and Food Safety Program exemplified the positive impact that dedicated individuals and a well-executed project can have on a community.

Venison Canning Class: Jones

Jones County FCS Agent, Sarah Ware
Team Members: Jessica Gardner (Onslow), Brooke Zeleny (Craven)

Canning is a great way to preserve food, but it must be done safely to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. Improper canning can lead to food poisoning and other health hazards. Therefore, it is important for people to learn about safe canning methods, including the use of proper equipment, the correct processing times and temperatures, and the proper storage of canned foods. With the costs of food rising, more people are interested in learning how to preserve their food. The FCS agent had numerous people contact her, who were interested in canning.

The FCS agent conducted an interest survey, scheduled two classes and had a total of 15 people register for a Venison Canning class. The agent had NC Wildlife Resource Officers talk about local hunting laws and regulations, Livestock Agents teach about herd health and disease, and FCS agents teach about food safety.

13 people attended, 11 white males, 3 females, one who identified as hispanic. The agent received four anonymous feedback forms after the class. All stated that their knowledge was heightened in reducing cross-contamination, cooling your carcass, deer disease and trauma, foodborne illness, cleaning & sanitation, and refrigeration & freezing & thawing methods. All eight responded that the class met their needs and they would recommend the class to others.

Food Safety for Carteret County Public Schools Nutrition Staff

Jones County FCS Agent, Sarah Ware
Written by: Stephanie Stevenson (Carteret)
Team Members: Stephanie Stevenson (Carteret), Sarah Ware (Jones)

According to the Center for Disease Control, approximately 48 million cases of foodborne illnesses occur each year, resulting in 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. Particularly vulnerable are the young, elderly, pregnant, and immune-compromised (YOPI) populations, all of whom are served in schools. By educating school nutrition staff and implementing Safe Plates, we can empower food handlers with the essential knowledge to adeptly prepare, cook, and store food for the YOPI demographic they serve. Compliance with this imperative is evident in the requirement for Food Managers in school cafeterias to successfully complete an accredited Certified Food Protection Manager exam.

The Nutrition Director of Carteret County Public Schools reached out to the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, seeking collaboration to organize a Safe Plates for Food Managers course and Safe Plates for School Nutrition Staff ahead of the 2023-2024 school year. In a synergistic effort, the Carteret County FCS agent joined forces with the Jones County FCS agent to facilitate an intensive week of training and exam proctoring for the dedicated school nutrition staff.

The dedicated Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) agents conducted comprehensive training sessions, successfully equipping 31 school nutrition staff members with the essential knowledge of Safe Plates for Food Managers. As diligent proctors, they ensured the smooth administration of the National Registry of Food Safety Professionals Food Manager Certification exam, with an impressive 30 participants achieving success. This accomplishment not only fulfills the FDA Food Code 2017 requirement for a Certified Food Protection Manager in North Carolina but also extends its validity throughout the United States for a substantial five-year period. In addition to this, the FCS agents imparted crucial insights to 27 other school nutrition staff members through the Safe Plates for School Nutrition Staff program. This specialized training delved into fundamental food safety principles and provided practical guidance on implementing these concepts within school settings. Notably, this training aligns with the mandatory requirements set by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NC DPI), ensuring compliance every four years for staff members.


Plant Production Systems

Crop Sense

County Extension Director – Field Crops, Jacob Morgan
Team Members: Jenny Carleo (Iredell), Guy Collins (Crop & Soil Sciences), Ron Heiniger (Crop & Soil Sciences), Anders Huseth (Entomology & Plant Pathology), Jacob Morgan (Jones), Chris Reberg-Horton (Crop & Soil Sciences), Dominic Reisig (Entomology & Plant Pathology), DJ Stokes (Crop & Soil Sciences), Rachel Vann (Crop & Soil Sciences), Matthew Vann (Crop & Soil Sciences)

The timeliness of crop production information can make a big difference in the value of that information. Historically, crop production information from Cooperative Extension has come in two forms. Winter production meetings and monthly newsletters. While very useful, information shared in winter meetings can be forgotten when the growing season rolls around and newsletters require specific time and attention to read. Farmers spend a vast amount of time driving equipment and vehicles. Podcast have emerged as a audio experience that is easily consumed while doing other tasks such as operating equipment or driving a vehicle.

The Agent produced a podcast to help provide very timely information to growers across North Carolina. This format allows 15-25 minute discussions with Specialists discussing current issues, considerations, and corrective measures.

The agent produced 13 episodes with a total downloads of 2,744 downloads. This means 2,744 clients have received research based information to help them make better decisions with regard to crop production to help them be more efficient with their time, be more profitable, and more environmentally sustainable.

Applying Pesticides Safely and Legally

County Extension Director – Field Crops, Jacob Morgan

Insect and weed pests cause major economic loss to field crops. Pesticides, particularly restricted-use pesticides, which require a pesticide applicator’s license to purchase, are a very cost effective means of control. The applicators must pass a very rigorous test and attend trainings to be able to renew their licenses.

The Jones County Cooperative Extension Agriculture Agent held 7 training sessions for 13 private applicators whose license expires in 2023. The courses covered both common and new herbicide problems found in field crops. (IPM). This assists the applicators in becoming more cost effective in their operations while also ensuring that the pesticides are being applied by properly trained and knowledgeable people; which also helps to protect the environment. This training teaches them to apply only what is required to control the pest. They also learn to apply the pesticide at the appropriate time and with the proper method improving results with fewer chemicals.

All 13 Private Pesticide Applicator license holders were able to receive the needed credits to renew their license.

Cotton Winter Meeting

County Extension Director – Field Crops, Jacob Morgan
Team Members: Mike Carroll (Craven), Guy Collins (Crop & Soil Sciences), Keith Edmisten (Crop & Soil Sciences), Daniel Simpson (Pamlico)

Cotton Production plays a big roll in the profitability of row crop farmers across eastern North Carolina. The varieties are always changing and production methods are always being challenged by industry and growers alike. Research based information is very important to help farmers make wise decisions to remain profitable.

Agents in Jones, Craven, and Pamlico county provided an opportunity for specialist from N.C. State University to come present up-to-date research information to growers in the surrounding areas.

24 individuals attended the meeting. Among the 7 individuals who filled out the survey, they collectively said the value of the information provided was over $125,000 in increased profit.


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