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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          NEWS SERVICES
210 Pittsboro Street, Campus Box 6210
Chapel Hill, NC  27599-6210
(919) 962-2091   FAX: (919) 962-2279


For immediate use

May 6, 2004 -- No. 248

Local angles: Craven, Franklin counties

Tar Heel Bus Tour to begin journey
with visits to farms and the coast

Monday, May 10

Tobacco farming, Neuse River water quality and North Carolina’s colonial history will be the focus of the first day of the 2004 Tar Heel Bus Tour for 36 new faculty and administrators from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

They will visit the farms of Steve and Irene Mitchell and John and Betty Volmer in Bunn. The farm owners will discuss the effect of the 1998 tobacco settlement has had on their operations. The group will then head to New Bern to learn about issues facing North Carolina’s waterways and how UNC researchers monitor Neuse River water quality. Participants also will tour Tryon Palace, the residence of North Carolina’s colonial governor in the late 18th century.

Tour background:

The UNC group will travel more than 1,000 miles in a classroom on wheels to learn about distinctly North Carolina topics ranging from tobacco to stock car racing to an economy in transition. A week with 14 educational stops is designed to teach about North Carolina’s people, geography, economy, culture, history, education system and health and social issues. The privately funded tour, which began in 1997, aims to help new faculty and administrators better understand the state where 82 percent of Carolina undergraduates grow up. Participants will learn firsthand about the university’s commitment to North Carolina and the people it serves. Several stops will highlight UNC outreach projects. Faculty also will have opportunities to learn how their own research, teaching and public service activities tie in with the state’s needs.

During the week, participants will eat barbecue in Smithfield, visit textile and furniture factories in Mount Holly and Lenoir, tour Grandfather Mountain, visit a NASCAR racing shop in Huntersville, meet with health-care professionals in Dunn and Siler City and visit an elementary school in Greensboro to learn how the university’s Carolina Covenant, a new debt-free initiative for low-income students, is being received around the state. A detailed schedule can be found at

Accompanying the tour participants on this leg of the trip will be Chancellor James Moeser, Dr. Judith Wegner, chair of the UNC faculty and a law professor, and tour guide Dr. James Leloudis, director of the James M. Johnston Center for Undergraduate Excellence, associate professor of history and associate dean for honors. Lynn Blanchard, director of the Carolina Center for Public Service, will serve as tour host.

Carolina connections:
Craven County is home to 116 Carolina students and 825 alumni; Franklin County, to 56 students and 321 alumni.

Monday’s schedule, highlights:

8:50 a.m. Mitchell Farms, 5079 N.C. 39 South, Bunn
Tobacco is Steve and Irene Mitchell’s main crop, but the Mitchells also grow soybeans and small grains and raise beef cows.

9:50 a.m. Vollmer Farm, Bunn
John and Betty Vollmer have been growing tobacco since 1972, taking over the operation from their family. In 1996, they diversified their farming operation. Besides tobacco, the farm produces strawberries, spring and fall vegetables and pumpkins.

Among those invited to join the tour at the farms are Janice R. Dunham, executive director of the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce; N.C. Rep. Lucy Allen; Cedric Jones, county extension director at the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service, Franklin County Center; Marsha Winstead Strawbridge, mayor of Bunn; and Keith Smith, chairman of the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce board of directors.

2:45 p.m. Neuse River Water Quality Study, New Bern
Participants will learn about the Neuse River Monitoring and Modeling Project at the Institute of Marine Sciences, a UNC research unit based in Morehead City and part of Carolina’s nationally recognized marine sciences program.

Participants will board boats and venture onto the Neuse to learn firsthand how water quality is measured and assessed and the role rivers and estuaries play in water quality at the coast. The Neuse River basin encompasses all or part of 23 counties. In the past decade, pollution on the Neuse has led to increased algae growth and fish kills.

Dr. John T. Wells, professor and director of the institute, and other representatives from the institute will serve as guides.

6 p.m. Tour of Tryon Palace
New Bern, North Carolina’s second oldest town, was the seat of the colonial government under Royal Gov. William Tryon and a major seaport. Faculty and administrators will tour Tryon Palace, the colonial governor’s residence, with its deputy director, Phillippe Lafargue.

Interviews: Participants and tour organizers are expected to be available for print and broadcast interviews at stops. During the tour, call UNC News Services at (919) 962-2091 with questions about coverage, directions to tour stops or interviews.

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