2023 – A Year of N.C. Cooperative Extension, New Hanover County Center

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2023 – A Year of N.C. Cooperative Extension – New Hanover County Center and Arboretum in Review 

arial view of new hanover county arboretum pond and grounds

I am fortunate to have a beautiful workplace, the New Hanover County Arboretum. This free public garden is seven acres of horticultural wonderment. The garden is home to our county’s N.C. Cooperative Extension team. We do good work throughout our community in areas of youth development, family and consumer science, natural resource education, and, of course, horticulture: therapeutic, residential, and commercial education. Our garden is maintained by a few talented staff and many loyal volunteers, but we are not just a beautiful garden! 

 As we see the end of a calendar year, I want to recall some highlights of our good work. We provide support for TreeFest, the annual bare-root tree giveaway. As for trees, some of our team are actively involved with the Alliance for Cape Fear Trees with board service, doing tree planting, distributions, education and care throughout the region. 

 Last spring, we participated in a regional “Farm School” with 22 participants learning the business side of farming. The program’s field day brought the students face-to-face with some of our talented local farmers producing food with small-scale sustainable methods. 

 At various times throughout the school year, Therapeutic Horticulture programs were conducted at local schools, including Social Emotional Learning at the JC Roe Center, an alternative school in New Hanover County for students in grades 6 – 12 with behavioral issues. 

 In June, our NC State University affiliation allowed us to facilitate a “blueberry gleaning” at the local University agriculture research station in Castle Hayne. Dozens of volunteers harvested nearly 500 pounds of fresh fruit, immediately provided to organizations which directly give the produce to those in need. This bounty is the result of great research and blueberry breeding work done right here in southeastern North Carolina. 

 In September, our garden served as the hub for the Native Plant Festival, an educational event designed to inspire folks to include native plants in their landscapes, supporting wildlife and environmental health. Late Fall, our gardens hosted an annual fundraiser for our “Friends” organization, Art in the Arboretum. The Tidewater Camellia Club Show and Sale takes place in fall and early spring. And the New Hanover County Library hosts some very popular children’s outdoor story-time most months of the year in the beautiful garden setting.  

 Our Family and Consumer Science program delivers educational programs throughout the county, including a “Med instead of Meds” class. We also do work to facilitate food access, including “Donation Station”, the Cape Fear Food Council, and developing a long-term food access plan. 

 We offer education on safe pesticide applications, Extension Master Gardener training, and much more. Our Horticulture program has launched a successful “Nature at Home” certification and supports the growing “Garbage to Gardens” school composting initiative. And we have more to come in the new year! 

entrance sign to NHC Arboretum with flowers and plants