Healthcare. Infrastructure. Employment. Broadband internet access.
These were just a few of the issues on the table at the inaugural Rural Day event in downtown Raleigh on May 9.
Speakers representing government, industry, nonprofit and education delivered a snapshot of North Carolina’s rural communities, focusing on a number of different issues, from Medicaid expansion to farmland preservation. Eighty of North Carolina’s 100 counties are classified as rural, and many are struggling to provide critical services to their citizens.
The good news? Organizations like North Carolina Cooperative Extension — a partnership among NC State University (NC State Extension), N.C. A&T State University, and federal, state and local governments — are hard at work throughout North Carolina solving problems and supporting rural communities.
“Extension’s mission is to help create economic and societal prosperity by extending knowledge and innovation from our state’s two land-grant institutions,” said NC State Extension Director Richard Bonnano at the Rural Day convocation. “We do that by forming partnerships with regional governments, businesses and stakeholders … we listen to and understand local challenges, and we work with researchers and subject matter experts to create and deliver innovative solutions directly to those who need them most.”
Bonnano listed programs like NC Ag Ventures and Stronger Economies Together (SET), a partnership of Extension, the United States Department of Agriculture and the Regional Rural Development Center. To date, SET has secured more than $7 million in local assets to advance regional economies in North Carolina.
“We also connect farmers to agricultural research conducted at NC State and N.C. A&T State universities and deliver hands-on education and training to help them improve their operations,” Bonnano said.
In fact, he said, more than 50,000 crop producers a year are adopting management practices recommended by Extension.
“Government policy has a lot to do with the success of agriculture, but ag research is what’s taken us to the point we are today,” said North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler at the event.
Presented by the North Carolina Rural Center, Rural Day included legislative visits, a Rural Fair with a variety of exhibitors, assemblies and a reception at the North Carolina Executive Mansion.
While the event celebrated the state’s rural communities, it also aimed to raise awareness of the issues crippling them and inspire action. And Extension is helping lead the way, improving the lives of citizens from the mountains to the coast.