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Noteworthy Giving

Nickels for Know-How bill is signed for referendum * Ground broken for McSwain Extension and Agriculture Center * Challenge grant announced at arboretum's Gala in the Garden


Nickels for Know-How bill
is signed for referendum

Would you be willing to give five cents for a lot of knowledge? It’s a good bet that the farmers of North Carolina are willing.

They’ll have a chance to vote on just that question November 4 in a statewide referendum on renewing and adding a third nickel to the Nickels for Know-How program.

Hunt, Graham, Fox and Oblinger at bill signing.Gov. Jim Hunt, Chancellor Marye Anne Fox and Dean Jim Oblinger, along with Nickels for Know-How bill sponsors Rep. Dewey L. Hill and Sen. Charles W. Albertson gathered at the state capitol on Wednesday, June 9, to sign the bill calling for the referendum. Other influential members of the farm commodities industries, N.C. State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the N.C. General Assembly also attended.

If the referendum passes, the additional nickel will not be added until January 1, 2001, “in deference to some of the challenges now faced by our agricultural community,” Hunt said.

“These are tough times for farmers, but we are rededicating ourselves to helping make agriculture profitable again.”

Nickels for Know-How is a 48-year-old voluntary tax on feed and fertilizer produced in North Carolina. Initially the tax was one nickel on every ton of feed or fertilizer; later, a second nickel was added. Even though the tax is voluntary, no one has ever asked for a refund of Nickels for Know-How contributions.

As Oblinger pointed out, “Since Nickels for Know-How began in 1951, most of the state’s research-based agricultural advances have at some point shared ‘Nickels’ funds.”

Every six years, as is required by law, there has been a statewide referendum on the program. It has always passed by more than 90 percent. All producers or users of feed or fertilizer in North Carolina are allowed to vote in the referendum.

The money raised goes to the N.C. Agricultural Foundation Inc., which in turn distributes the funds through scholarships, fellowships, faculty support, professorships, research and Extension activities.

In 1998, Nickels for Know-How raised more than $797,000. Fox thanked the farmers and producers of the state, the General Assembly and the governor for their support of Nickels for Know-How.

“We are so pleased to get this support and so grateful,” she said. “Our crucial basic research in genomics, animal waste and many other areas will benefit from this.”

—Alexandra Mordecai

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Ground is broken for McSwain
Extension and Agriculture Center

Ruby McSwain’s historic Worthy House near Sanford led visitors to feel they were stepping back in time when they arrived on a Sunday in June to break ground for a new county agricultural center on the grounds.

About 350 friends, supporters and Lee County residents turned out for the ceremony in the shade of ancient oaks and pecan trees. Some guests rocked quietly on the porch; others brought lawn chairs to sit and listen to the ceremonial remarks. Punch and refreshments were served in the cool of the back yard and in the parlor inside the house, accented with vases of cut flowers arranged by “Ms. Ruby” herself.

John Hall, Ruby McSwain and Dean Oblinger In 1997, Mrs. McSwain donated the house and 300 acres of land to the N.C. Agricultural Foundation Inc. to be managed by the Lee County Center of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. It is the largest planned gift ever received by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. In addition, Mrs. McSwain set up endowments to aid research and extension activities and provide for upkeep of the house.

“I’m thankful to have had these years with this property in my care,” she said during the ceremony. “Now I am happy to pass it on to others. There’s a feeling about the house and the land that make you want to be a part of it.”

Sunday’s groundbreaking was for the Ernest and Ruby McSwain Extension Education and Agriculture Center. The facility will serve as home to the Lee County Extension center, as well as offices of the Lee County Soil and Water District, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Rural Development and the Farm Service Agency. More than 200 donors have contributed $300,000 to pay for an auditorium for the center, along with other improvements.

Dean Jim Oblinger recognized the efforts of Mrs. McSwain and Lee County Extension Director John Hall in making the new center a reality. He also pointed out the important role that partnerships have played in the development of the center.

Mrs. McSwain accepted accolades, roses and a plaque of appreciation during the ceremony. At the conclusion, she joined other local and N.C. State University dignitaries in turning the soil, marking the official groundbreaking. About 20 local friends, heeding the College’s invitation to “bring your own shovel,” joined McSwain to turn a bit of dirt themselves, symbolizing the important role this center will play in the lives of all Lee County citizens.

— Natalie Hampton

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Challenge grant announced
at arboretum’s Gala in the Garden

It’s no surprise to see hats at a garden party, and the 1999 Gala in the Garden, held May 2 in the J.C. Raulston Arboretum, was no exception. There were colorful head toppers of all sorts. But perhaps what topped everything that evening was an announcement made by Chancellor Marye Anne Fox: Lib and Willie York of Raleigh have established a $300,000 challenge grant to support the arboretum’s future education center.

More than 650 arboretum supporters and friends enjoyed a dinner under a big white tent as they listened to the news of the challenge.

“The arboretum represents the fulfillment of the great dreams of Professor Raulston and all that he has meant to the greening of North Carolina,” said William C. Friday, executive director of the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust and former president of the University of North Carolina. “At this place, he developed whole new industries for our people; and the state, through its friends, now will build here a lasting tribute to this man, whose noble spirit impacted each of us.”

Bill Wilder, chairman of the arboretum board of advisers and legislative liaison for the N.C. Association of Nurserymen, officially accepted the challenge, saying, “Lib and Willie York have challenged the arboretum community to raise $3.4 million in legislative funding and $800,000 in private funds to build the future education center. On behalf of the arboretum board of advisers and the North Carolina green industry, I thank Lib and Willie York for their generous commitment and this motivation to move forward.”

The gala netted more than $38,000 toward construction of the education center. Groundbreaking for the center will begin as soon as the $4.2 million necessary for construction is raised.

—Alexandra Mordecai

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