Texas AgriLIFE: Making a difference
The Orange County AgriLIFE Extension Service shined Monday in a workshop held before commissioners’ court. It was the day agents and volunteers presented their yearly report of all they have done in the past year and what their plans are for 2012.
“The agency was established in 1915 under the Smith-Lever Act to deliver university knowledge and agricultural research findings directly to the people,” stated the report. Local agents address emerging issues with custom designed programs pertinent to our area.
Roy Stanford, county extension agent, says with the help of over 100 volunteers they find the needs of the community and work on solutions to fill it.
This year they presented 252 educational programs and had 46,335 participants.
Diabetes education is a critical part of Family and Consumer Sciences Agent Paula Tacker’s programs. Participants were taken on grocery store tours to find out ways to purchase healthier food choices. Cooking classes were held along with healthy snack training for child care providers. Orange County Judge Carl Thibodeaux found it interesting that 76 percent of participants had no prior diabetes education.
County Commissioner Precinct 3 John Dubose said that he has noticed more of his friends are turning up with diabetes. “So far, I’m okay,” said Dubose. “I assume age has some function to it.”
“Age does have function to it, it also plays a role,” said Michelle Satchfield. “Our lifestyles now are much more sedentary. A lot of people are eating on the run. Age does play a role in that. That’s part of what the education teaches too, that there’s parts of it that are no one’s fault, it’s just genetics and age. But there’s other parts of it we can do something about it. You can still be healthy with diabetes.”
One of the ways AgriLIFE promoted health was by sponsoring the Hope for Health Expo and 5K held in West Orange Nov. 5. The 5K had 120 participants, while 175 people attended the educational session.
Susan Garrison is the Better Living for Texans (BLT) program assistant which also covers the Supplemental Nutrition Education Program (SNAP). This is a state funded program that focuses on nutrition education for food stamp recipients including meal planning, stretching food dollars and reducing the risk of poisoning and other food borne illnesses. “I’m so glad to have her, I’m just so excited, I think our office as a whole is excited to have her,” said Paula Tacker, the agent for Family and Consumer Sciences. “Just to remind you guys, the BLT program is a grant funded program that our agency receives…it costs Orange County nothing.”
“In Orange County, an estimated 15.6 percent of the populations has incomes that are 185 percent of poverty level or below; 12,230 receive food stamp benefits,” said Garrison. “We need to lower that. We need to teach them how to make better choices in their nutrition; how to shop for the better nutrition choices.”
For the coming year, several education classes are planned that will be held at Baptist Hospital Orange. Classes are scheduled for different times of the day to fit in most people’s schedules. Focus will be on weight management, physical fitness and meal planning using the Three Easy Bites curriculum. There will also be a weekly recipe program and the Walk Across Texas free fitness program.
Marie Kenney is the agent covering 4-H and youth development. With the addition of two clubs this year, she oversees 12 4-H Clubs with 110 members and 40 leaders.
A program on disaster preparedness, “Disaster Master” was implemented to be utilized through the schools. So far St. Mary is the only school that has experienced the program which teaches students how to make a plan during various types of disasters. One of the fun exercises is the Germ Game. Susan Garrison of BLT used a lotion or powder that can only be seen by a black light. “I shook kid’s hands, I patted them on the back, different things like that,” said Garrison. “I also touched a lot of things in the classroom.” The fun part came when they brought out the black light and the students could see how contamination spreads. “It was amazing, when we turned the black light on and started show them how quickly one person that had germs walking in here, how the germs spread. They were shocked and amazed. Then we talked about hand washing to prevent spread of disease.”
They found that 62 percent of the students started talking to their families about emergency preparation and planning. This program will continue on in 2012 and beyond and will be available to other third and fourth grade classes in Orange County.
“How many kids put their pencil in their mouth,” asked Commissioner Precinct 1 David Dubose?
“Almost all of them,” said Tacker.
Steve Draughn is a volunteer that works with the Junior Master Gardener program at St. Mary Elementary. “It happens to be where my grandchildren go,” he said. “I work with the students and the teachers at the school. This year I worked with the kindergarten children and we raised a pumpkin patch this fall.” He has also worked on two projects with the third grade class. They have 27 cabbages growing in their fall garden. “We planted shrubs around the marquee at the school and in front of the school to help beautify the school.”
Thursday Keep Orange County Beautiful will present the beautification award to St. Mary at 4 p.m.
Junior Master Gardener groups are found at many of the area elementary and middle schools.
Other educational programs sponsored by Texas AgriLIFE are the Earth-Kind Environmental Stewardship, Small Scale Agriculture, Natural Resource and the Wildfire Education Program.
Jan. 24 a new Master Naturalists class begins. The 12 week program costs $150. The deadline for application is Jan. 10. Applications can be downloaded from the agency’s Web site: orange.agriLife.org and should be mailed with a $10 fee and the permission form for a background check to Texas AgriLIFE Extension Service, P.O. Box 367, Orange, Texas 77631. A background check is required because Master Naturalists work in education programs with children. The remaining $140 can be paid at the first class.
Starting Feb. 21 gardening classes begin in sessions of five classes costing $30. “Grow Healthy Families, Plant a Vegetable Garden” is the first class, covering vegetable and herb gardens. Stanford requests persons interested in the class, please let him know so class supplies can be arranged. You can call the office at 409-882-7010 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about these or any other programs offered by the AgriLIFE Extension Service.All these programs will continue into 2012 and others will be added.