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Extension’s Successful Gardener Newsletter

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Scope: Spring 2006

Issue: Integrated program and marketing

Name of Program: Extension’s Successful Gardener

County: Open to statewide participation. Current participating counties for all aspects of the program: Brunswick, Burke, Cabarrus, Catawba, Cumberland, Davidson, Durham, Forsyth, Gaston, Guilford, Henderson, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Nash, Orange, Randolph, Rowan, Surry, Union, Wake. Additional counties involved: Johnston, Lee, Vance, Polk, Rutherford, Caldwell, Alexander, Buncombe, Franklin, Moore, Cleveland

District: Southwest, West, Northwest, South Central, North Central, Southeast

Departments: Communication Services (high level); varying levels for each of the following: JC Raulston Arboretum, Horticultural Sciences, Forestry, Crop Science, Plant Pathology, Entomology, Biological and Agricultural Engineering

Situation Statement:
Extension’s Successful Gardener was started nine years ago as an integrated programming and marketing model. It was test-marketed early on and has proven itself as a highly effective Extension brand. Its programming and marketing are based on research. Extension’s Successful Gardener team is one of the largest functioning teams in the organization with interdisciplinary team representation from counties (horticulture) and Communication Services (marketing and media relations); the team is expanded when specialists from various disciplines are sought out for consultation, such as water quality, crop science, turf management, entomology, all areas of horticulture, etc.

The work of this highly functioning team makes this an important brand program for Cooperative Extension and a model for other programs in using cross-disciplinary areas. It is a premier example of integrated programming and marketing, not just in this state but in other states as well. (The editor/team leader has been invited to other states to make presentations.) In fact, it is the first example where the early and current direction intentionally incorporates the integrated programming and marketing concept. This is one of the programs that coined the term for this organization and demonstrated integrated programming/marketing principles. The professionally packaged program consists of many components: award-winning, magazine-quality newsletter; county workshops; regional seminars; Learning Centers at all the major home and garden shows in the state; e-tips permission marketing; columns in newspapers and magazines; TV and radio segments; and a Website. There is also a component for youth called Extension’s Successful Gardener Kids, offered on a limited basis with the potential for further development and expansion for cross-marketing.

Extension’s Successful Gardener has demonstrated that it is highly capable of securing underwriters. For the 8 years that the team has published the award-winning newsletter, it has been successful in securing outside funding for all 8 years, with funding from Extension administration to cover less than two years. Half of administration’s contributions went toward the purchase of two large displays that are used extensively statewide. In 2005, contributing counties paid less than 10% of the year’s operating budget. Underwriters paid 91% of the costs for the newsletter. The program receives more than $50,000 in in-kind support each year. Feedback from underwriters indicates that if the program were supported statewide, our ability to secure sponsors would increase.

The work of this team helps position Cooperative Extension as the provider of sound horticultural research. Through Extension’s Successful Gardener Learning Centers, the organization is positioned in high-traffic, high-visibility venues such as the large home and garden shows in Charlotte, Greensboro, and Raleigh as well as smaller venues. More than 150,000 people visit these shows. Last year, nearly 20,000 show guests visited the Learning Centers and got their gardening questions answered or picked up a bag of Cooperative Extension information. Nearly 80,000 copies of the award-winning newsletter were distributed through garden centers, nurseries, Extension Centers, subscriptions and the home and garden shows. Extension’s Successful Gardener is consumer-focused and is a highly competitive, professionally packaged set of products that ties in with the Extension mission. It is a high-impact program in the environmental area and reaches large numbers of people with environmental information, especially water quality in terms of reducing fertilizer and pesticide use. There is an economic component as well considering that the green industry is such a major industry in the state. It also helps improve the quality of life. It is a program that helps counties meet one of the largest demands in county centers, particularly urban centers, and that is the need for sound horticultural information.