Community Development 2022 Program Report – Mark Seitz, County Extension Director

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The County Extension Director (CED) works with community groups and Pender County government agencies to address questions and challenges across the county.

The CED made four in-person presentation related to county trade pull factors and how they impact a county’s economic tier ranking. 106 people attended these presentations, two of which were in front of the Pender County Board of County Commissioners and the Pender County School Board. A revised FY 2021-2022 County Trade Pull Factor Report was published in September 2022 and presented to both boards.

Community development and economic impact information was shared via email and social media reaching an estimated 20,458 people.

The CREATE BRIDGES program provided $2,000 in funding to do an analysis of how county trade pull factors impact four counties in western NC: Graham, Swain, Jackson and Macon. This research will be published in 2023 in collaboration with the Southern Rural Center at Mississippi State University.

 The CED partnered with the NC Blueberry Festival four, 1-hour tours of the NC State Horticulture Research Farm in Castle Hayne, NC were conducted providing festival goers an inside look at how research is conducted to support the blueberry industry. 110 people attended.



Community Development


The NC Blueberry Festival is held annually on the third Saturday in June and represents five blueberry producing counties in southeast North Carolina: Bladen, Duplin, New Hanover, Sampson and Pender. This festival attracts 35,000 to 40,000 visitors each year on the third Saturday in June to celebrate blueberries.


In 2022 in partnership with the NC Blueberry Festival Planning Committee, N.C. Cooperative Extension – Pender County and the NC State Horticulture Crops Research Farm in Castle Hayne, NC offered festival goers the opportunity to participate in on hour tours of the research farm to get a behind the scenes look at the blueberry industry.


Agents shared historical information about the blueberry industry in North Carolina and southeast North Carolina, history about agriculture in Pender County, history of the land grant university system, Cooperative Extension and the research farm network in North Carolina with 110 festival goers. Participants met with Drs. Jessica Spencer and Hamid Ashrafi, Massimo Iorizzo, NC State Horticulture Science Department Blueberry Plant Breeders and Geneticists to learn about some of the research being done at NC State and the Horticulture Research Farm. Tour participants were able to taste a number of different blueberry varieties being tested at the farm, watch a mechanical harvester pick blueberries and see those berries cleaned and sorted by a small-scale cleaning and sorting machine, similar to those used by commercial farmers.

 Team Members

Bill Cline (Entomology & Plant Pathology), Melissa Massing (Pender), Cindy Rivenbark (Pender), Mark Seitz (Pender), Traci Spencer (Pender)