Henderson County Cooperative Extension Staff Awarded

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Five award winners pose together.Multiple local agents at Henderson County Cooperative Extension office were awarded during the annual North Carolina Cooperative Extension West District Conference on December 7th, 2023. 

Three men pose with an award winner.

Extended Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) educator, Betsy Hooker, was awarded the NC Grange Search for Excellence Award for Program Assistants. Betsy was recently awarded the New EFNEP Educator Award, Over the Mark – Silver Award, and Golden Star Award in collaboration with Ms. Amy McEntire at Hillandale Elementary School. Betsy has been with N.C. Cooperative Extension for just under three years and in that short time she has developed a comprehensive EFNEP program. In just her first year alone Betsy taught a total of 247 classes and reached 972 students. Of that number, 86% of her youth improved diet quality and 66% of her youth improved physical activity. Among adults, 94% showed improvement in diet quality in at least one area. This type of program has a tremendous impact on the community!

Three men pose with an award winner.

Farmworker Health and Safety Educator Area Agent, Chris Just, was awarded the NC Grange Search for Excellence Team Award. Chris Just is part of the Farmworkers Health and Safety Education Program team made up of seven Extension staff across the state. In 2023 the team organized educational workshops for Farm Labor Contractors, coordinated three Spanish language Pesticide Applicator Schools, and hosted a Farmworker Fair. Chris also partnered with Interfaith Assistance Ministries to provide food boxes to over 100 farmworkers. Chris and the Farmworkers Health and Safety Education program team are recognized for their contributions to the dedicated workers in the local Latino community. 

Two men pose with an award winner.

4-H Youth Development Agent, Hannah Peeler, was awarded the Victoria Jean Cope Award for exceptional growth through professional development. Hannah Worrell Peeler grew up participating in 4-H and has worked her way up from intern, Program Assistant, and has now been 4-H Agent for Henderson County for three years. Hannah’s 4-H program is very competitive at the District and State levels as they win numerous awards each year in presentations, project records and shooting sports.This past year, all 22 youth that competed at the district level in presentations received a gold or silver medal. 54 youth completed project records, of which 34 went to district competition and all placed. Hannah is dedicated to the values of 4-H and assisting local youth through excellent programing.

Two men pose with an award winner.

Commercial Vegetable and Small Fruit Agent, Karen Blaedow, was awarded the Lois G Britt Award for Outstanding Extension Agent. This award is only given to one agent in the state each year. During her seven years in Henderson County, Karen has developed a reputation among her growers as being indispensable. She is directly involved with local Farmers Markets across the county and has aided producers and patrons alike. Area tomato, blackberry, and raspberry producers look to Karen for guidance as she researches best practices for growing in Western North Carolina. Beyond that she has developed a regional and national reputation for her programs and expertise. It is her commitment to go above the call of duty that has brought her such respect.

Four men pose together, one is an award winner.

Consumer and Commercial Horticulture Agent, Steve Pettis, was awarded the NC Grange Search for Excellence Award for Agriculture and Natural Resources. In just under seven years, Steve has developed one of the most in-demand programs in Extension. Steve is highly sought after in Henderson County and the surrounding counties as a speaker and expert in horticulture. His effective program includes many facets, including a tour of nurseries and garden centers, his weekly radio show Gardening in the Mountain on WTZQ , Farm City Day, Master Gardener training, and much more. The clientele numbers that he reaches go up every year and it is not uncommon to have 30-40 clients reach out to him in one day.

A man in a collared shirt smiling.

County Extension Director and Tree Fruit agent, Dr. Terry Kelley, was awarded the Dr. Joe and Mrs. Lise’ Zublena Award for excelling at empowering people and providing solutions. The impact of Dr. William Terry Kelley’s efforts to get disaster relief for fruit growers in Henderson County will be felt for years to come. After many conversations with local legislators and Farm Service Agency officials, Dr. Kelley was able to secure around $8 million dollars in disaster relief for growers who were devastated by the April 2021 freeze event. One grower that called Dr. Kelley commented, “We are so grateful for your help with this effort. I know that if it had not been for you, we would not have gotten this relief. It has made the difference in whether we can continue to stay in business or not.” Terry’s work in supporting the fruit and vegetable producers in Henderson County demonstrates the dedication, expertise, and programing excellence.

If you have questions about agriculture, horticulture, nutrition, health and safety, youth programming, and much more, please contact us! Contact us at (828) 697-4891, visit our office at 100 Jackson Park Road, Hendersonville, NC 28792, check out our website at henderson.ces.ncsu.edu, or find us on Facebook at N.C. Cooperative Extension – Henderson County Center