The Orange County Extension office is “better than its ever been,” said County Judge Carl Thibodeaux after Extension staff members offered an annual report to commissioners.

The service partners with Texas A&M’s Agrilife system and offers education about nutrition, natural resources, youth programs such as 4-H and horticulture activities such as Master Gardeners.

Introducing the speakers was Dr. Roy Stanford, agent for agriculture and natural resources, who has been in the position about one year. He arrived in the aftermath of Ike and worked out of temporary offices until they could be moved to their Mauriceville location, 11867 Texas 62 N.

Master Gardener volunteer Joyce Kennedy said there’s been a very large interest in the Orange Farmers’ Market.

“In the spring we’re hoping to see a large number of participants,” she said.

Master Gardeners recently received about 2,000 trees, some of which will be planted at the Bridge City Parks Complex Saturday. Bridge City residents interested in having trees planted in their yards can contact city officials. Next year, Master Gardeners are set to plant trees in Bridge City, Vidor and other areas and will sponsor a youth poster contest. The winning entries will be displayed in the lobby of the Lutcher Theater during a performance of “The Man Who Planted Trees.” Master Gardeners hosts monthly meetings, education programs on plant health and devotes to a Junior Master Gardeners’ group.

Natural resources is the focus of the Sabine-Neches chapter of the Texas Master Naturalist program, Volunteer Royce Pendergast said. The group formed in September. In 2010 members will complete formal training and can served as community educators.

Paula Tacker with the Family and Consumer Sciences Division, said more than 6,000 persons attended diabetes prevention programs in 2009. The “Do Well, Be Well” diabetes seminars will continue in 2010, she said. Family and Consumer Sciences also offers senior citizens’ health education and a “Food Handlers” program.

Also promoting better eating and lifestyles was Fallon Foster with the Better Living Through Texas program. Future educational topics will include selecting foods with low saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, salt, added sugar and alcohol; the importance of balancing food intake with physical activity; the importance of kitchen safety and “stretching your food dollar.”

Marie Kenney with the 4-H/Youth Development division said the “Health Rocks” program targets good eating habits children who have to eat at home while parents work. Bridge City ISD has agreed to establish the program for its fifth-grade students for the next three years. After that, eighth-grade students will be added, and Bridge City school officials have agreed to train high school students to deliver the program to younger students. West Orange-Stark Middle School has agreed to start Health Rocks in their after school program in 2010.

Bill Hughes, a volunteer for the Livestock and Forage Education program, said the Extension service is vital to keep agricultural interests in Orange County.

In 2010, program will be offered on pond management, forage production and management of livestock operations.

“You may have noticed there’s not a lot of ‘Ag’ going on out there because the rice fields have been turned into hay fields or cow pastures,” he said. “That’s kind of, I think, the trend that’s going on. Most of the producers like me, we have about 20 to 50 head of cattle – not 5,000 or 500 head – and it’s getting hard to make a nickel or dime on cows only. So you have to get into hay production.”

For more information on Extension service programs, call 882-7010 or e-mail