Pender County N.C. Cooperative Extension is a resource for farm and garden assistance as well as youth development.
Regardless of where you live in Pender County, at some point you will have a question about your soil and vegetation. And if you’re a backyard gardener or traditional farmer, you will have exponentially more questions.
While Google and YouTube offer instant information, they don’t always provide the best or most accurate responses to your location-specific queries. Enter the Pender County N.C. Cooperative Extension office, which has been offering residents free and low-cost agricultural and horticultural information and services since 1914.
The origins of the extension service date back to the nineteenth century. Concerned about the effects of the industrial revolution, Abraham Lincoln and Congress passed the Morrell Act of 1862, which promoted practical agriculture, science, military science and engineering programs throughout the United States. In 1890, a second Morrell Act was passed to ensure that African Americans were also offered such training.
N.C. State and N.C. A&T State University continue to oversee and help fund the numerous N.C. Cooperative Extension offices throughout the state.
Farm & Crop Assistance
Here in Pender County, Mark Seitz, county director and field crops agent, focuses primarily on pesticide safety for farmers, helping new landowners explore ways to get started in farming and assisting landowners as they assess what to do with their timber and estate planning.
Although you’ll find relatively few farms east of Rocky Point, the county nevertheless is home to 336 total farms, each consisting of at least 10 acres and generating more than $10,000 a year.
“No one who lives here grows cotton or tobacco anymore,” Seitz says, but the most common field crops currently are corn, soybeans, wheat, blueberries, strawberries and blackberries. Timber is also a big crop in this county, bringing in roughly $22 million in sales in 2019.
Homeowners & Master Gardeners
Tiffanee Boone, consumer horticulture and local food program agent, helps homeowners with such property conundrums as identifying suitable grass types, removing weeds, knowing when to plant what and learning how and when to prune plants.
“I also get a lot of questions about how to get rid of something because it makes a hole in their yard, or it swarms, or because they are scared of it, such as snakes,” she says. “Many animals and insects are actually very beneficial to us and the ecosystem, so I try to help people understand and appreciate them.”
Boone also runs the Pender County Extension Master Gardener Volunteer program. These volunteers care for the county’s demonstration gardens and educate students and the public at large in such places as the Ask a Master Gardener Booth at farmers markets and festivals.
If you’re interested becoming a Master Gardener Volunteer, applications for the upcoming January 2022 class can be found online (see website below). There is a one-time fee of $110, and class size is limited to 25 people due to its hands-on nature.
4-H & Youth Development
Traci Spencer, 4-H youth development agent, oversees all eight of the county’s 4-H clubs as well as other youth programs.
“My favorite part of my job is engaging with youth and providing enriching, hands-on educational opportunities,” she says.
According to 4-H.org the program “provides kids with community, mentors and learning opportunities … grounded in the belief that kids learn best by doing.” Hands-on projects explore such topics as science, health, agriculture and civic engagement. Area clubs include Hooves, Spurs and Furs (Burgaw); Phoenix First 4-H Robotics Team (Pender High School); and Holly Shelter 4-H Shooting Club (Hampstead).
All 4-H members are encouraged to participate in yearly presentations and project competitions as well as the local Cape Fear Fair and Expo. Teen 4-H members also have the opportunity to participate in the statewide 4-H Congress and 4-H Citizenship Focus, a three-day event where they meet with their elected officials in the N.C. General Assembly.
In the summer, Spencer coordinates fun day camps such as Bees, Worms and Soil, STEM camp and field trips. These spots fill up quickly so be sure to check the N.C. Cooperative Extension’s Facebook page and website in February 2022, when the schedule will be announced.
Want to reach out?
On average the Pender County N.C. Cooperative Extension office responds to 7,718 face-to-face contacts and more than 100,000 non-face to face and digital media contacts annually.
To help ensure that your question gets answered in a timely manner, it is recommended that you email your query and, if possible, attach a clear, close-up photo of the problem or issue. Agent email addresses can be found at pender.ces.ncsu.edu.
Phone calls are also welcome, or you can by the office.
Pender County N.C. Cooperative Extension
801 S Walker Street, Burgaw