UD Cooperative Extension offers Master Gardener workshops to Delaware community

The University of Delaware’s Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners will offer a series of workshops throughout the spring across all three counties to help educate Delawareans with an interest in gardening.

The Master Gardeners recently celebrated 30 years of service to Delaware and year 32 continues with a diverse and interesting series of spring workshops.

Master Gardeners are working volunteers and are supported by Delaware Cooperative Extension through the University of Delaware and Delaware State University Extension offices.

New Castle County

March to the Garden: Saturday, March 10, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., at the New Castle County Cooperative Extension Office, located at 461 Wyoming Road in Newark. The March to the Garden is designed for novice and experienced gardeners alike. The day features a variety of workshops, giveaways, food and an opportunity to network with other gardeners. The Master Gardeners will focus on gardening essentials to help participants with everything from plant selection to garden harvest.

UD Cooperative Extension offers Master Gardener workshops to Delaware communityBeginner Vegetable Gardening: Monday, Feb. 12 and Thursday, Feb. 15, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sign up is for two sessions and costs $25. In two fun and informative sessions, the Master Gardeners will cover the essentials for success: soils, siting, amendments, and of course all the individual vegetables, from arugula to zucchini.

Pest Management – Stress Relief for you and your Garden: Wednesday, Feb. 28, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The cost is $15. From critters to slugs, bugs to grubs, weeds, seeds, spores and more, pests can cause stress to garden plants and frustrate carefully prepared garden plans. This workshop will offer tips on how to deal with these problems. Participants will learn about the variety of pests that can attack their plants and the clues they leave that will help to identify the likely culprit. Participants will also consider strategies, practices, tools and a little philosophy of managing pests so that they and their plants can reduce the stress from pests.

Shade Garden Success: Tuesday, March 27, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Cost is $15. Participants are invited to learn how to transform a shady spot into a lush, peaceful, calm and relaxing oasis.

Pruning Basics: Wednesday, March 28, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Cost is $15. This workshop will cover the basics of pruning common plants, including shrubs and trees, for the health of the plant and the desired shape. Master Gardeners will discuss height, form and function, future growth, and the overall health of each plant to help participants develop the landscape they’ll enjoy.

Containia Mania: Tuesday, April 17, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Cost is $25. A hands-on, messy workshop, where participants can keep the plants. Bring gardening gloves and a 12-inch (diameter) container to learn the basics for container planting with annual ornamental plants.

Click here to sign up for any of the New Castle County workshops.

Kent County

The Kent County Master Gardeners are planning a series of workshops for the community through February. Classes are held at the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension Office, Paradee Center, 69 Transportation Circle, Dover, unless otherwise stated.  Contact the Extension Office at 302-730-4000 to register. The schedule is as follows:

Claude E. Phillips Herbarium: Friday, Feb. 16, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. No cost, but space is limited to 20 participants at the Delaware State University Herbarium. The Claude E. Phillips Herbarium, located at Delaware State university, is the only public herbarium on the Delmarva peninsula. It is a botanical resource center that houses a diverse collection of more than 210,000 plant materials from around the world. In this event, Cynthia Hong-Wa, curator, will share the functions of the Herbarium and provide an overview of the scientific collections that include mounted plant specimens as far back as 1799. Participants will also receive an exclusive look at other collections that highlight the importance of plants in general.

Time to Multiply Greenery – Propagation Workshop: Wednesday, Feb. 21, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Cost is free, at Delaware State University Greenhouse. Spring is a great time to start plants or nurture them in readiness for the growing season. During this workshop, Rose Ogutu, DSU Horticulture Specialist, will explore the many ways used to propagate plants. Participants will learn the basic principles for propagation. Together, they will explore the best way one can determine how best to propagate a plant that one might not be familiar with. Participants are encouraged to bring plant materials that they wish to propagate.

Sussex County

The Sussex County Master Gardener Workshop schedule includes a wide variety topics. Of special note, the Master Gardeners are hosting a presentation and book signing by Author Ruth Clausen.  The classes are free, unless otherwise specified, and held at the Elbert N. and Ann V. Carvel Research and Education Center, 16483 County Seat Highway, Georgetown 19947.

Tuesday, Feb. 20 at 6:30 p.m.:  Master Gardener Judy Pfizer will talk about Growing Native Plants from Seed. Learn how to grow native plants from seed – a great way to populate a garden with native plants without breaking the garden budget.  Participants will learn tips and techniques for seed starting indoors and outside, requirements for germination and will take home native seeds to start their own plants.

Tuesday, March 6, 6:30 p.m.:  Michele Walfred, University of Delaware Communication Specialist, will present Snap It and App It, a presentation on photography and creating gorgeous garden portraits and photo journals. This session will examine DSLRs, smart phones, lenses, apps and software as well as an array of gadgets and techniques to turn garden portraits into works of art. Participants are asked to bring their devices to this session.

Tuesday, March 20, 1 p.m.:  Master Gardener, Penny Deiner will share The Idea Garden. Participants will look back on last year’s garden to see whether they want to make small changes or big ones, subtle or profound, a larger garden or a smaller one, primarily annuals or perennials, vegetables or flowers. Deiner will share ideas that have worked in the Extension demonstration garden and in her personal garden.

Tuesday, April 3, 1 p.m.:  Master Gardener Betty Layton will present a workshop on Accessible Gardening entitled Garden Smart, Garden Easy. Learn what tools and techniques are available for the gardener as we age or develop mobility issues.

Tuesday, April 17, 6:30 p.m.:  Author Ruth Clausen will speak on her book, 50 Beautiful Deer Resistant Plants. Keeping a beautiful garden safe from deer is as simple as choosing the right plants. Clausen introduces the most versatile options: white snowdrops that bloom in the spring; shade-loving, electric gold hakone grass; long-blooming Texas sage in vibrant reds, peaches, and pinks; and the feathery foliage of Arkansas blue stars that glows golden in the autumn. Books will be available for purchase at about $20 and Clausen will be available to sign books after the presentation.

Tuesday, April 24, 1 p.m.:  Master Gardener Bill Huxtable will talk about Shade Gardening.  This workshop will help participants decide what plant or plants to use in their garden’s shady areas. There are a number of plants that love the shade from which to choose. Handouts will be available to assist in picking the perfect plant.

Tuesday, May 8, 6:30 p.m.: Master Gardener Tracy Mulvaney will hold a craft workshop called Making Seed Tape Cards and Other Items for Gifting to gardening friends.  Bring your children and grandchildren to this fun workshop. Limit to 25 participants. Fee $5.

Tuesday, May 15, 1 p.m.:  Master Gardener Terry Plummer will present Landscaping with Native Perennials. Make garden life easier with less watering and less fuss. Plant native perennials for a delightful landscape. Plummer will introduce you to a wide variety of native plant materials that will draw insects and the birds that love to eat them.

Pre-register for workshops by contacting Tammy Schirmer at (302) 856-2585, ext. 544 or by email at tammys@udel.edu.

It is Delaware Cooperative Extension’s policy that that no person shall be subjected to discrimination on the grounds of race, creed, color, sex, age, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, veteran or handicap status. If you have special needs that need to be accommodated, please contact the office two weeks prior to the event.

For assistance with home lawn, garden and pest questions, contact:
Sussex County Garden Helpline (302) 856-2585 ext. 535.

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD Extension offers instruction to crop consultants as part of annual Mid-Atlantic Crop School

The University of Delaware’s Cooperative Extension teamed with professors and extension professionals from the University of Maryland and other regional land grant universities and the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to offer continuing education credits for certified crop advisers at the Mid-Atlantic Crop School held in late November in Ocean City, Maryland.

The Mid-Atlantic Crop School has been operating for over 20 years and offers continuing education credits over a two-and-a-half-day period in the five areas that certified crop advisers are required to gain knowledge: crop management, pest management, soil and water management, nutrient management and also sessions on professional development or an innovative topic.

Other Universities involved with the Mid-Atlantic Crop School include West Virginia University and Virginia Tech.

UD Extension offers instruction to crop consultants as part of annual Mid-Atlantic Crop SchoolIn addition to offering the certified crop adviser credits, the school also offers Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and Pennsylvania nutrient management and pesticide credits for state programs.

Amy Shober, associate professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences and a Cooperative Extension specialist, said that there were around 275 participants this year and that the school is mostly geared towards technical service providers, nutrient management plan writers and crop consultants who advise farm clientele and need the credits to achieve or renew their certification.

In addition, Jarrod Miller, assistant professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences and an extension specialist in agronomy, said that Extension personnel also attend the sessions in order to stay up to date.

“Sometimes you can read papers on certain topics but there’s nothing like sitting in a room with the expert. We get NRCS personnel and representatives from both the Maryland and Delaware departments of Agriculture who show up,” said Miller.

The school features local speakers from regional universities, and also national speakers who talk on topics of national interest.

“Some of the courses are similar to what an undergrad might get at the University of Delaware. It’s basic and applied but other times it’s a recent problem. We have pesticide resistance issues or maybe we’ll have a new method of applying nutrients,” said Miller. “Precision agriculture is a big one so this year we had talks on drones because that’s a newer topic. We also had an economic session which was very popular.”

Other topics covered included salt water intrusion, soil compaction, and managing different pests depending on the crop.

Shober said that the session led by Douglas Beegle, Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Agronomy from Pennsylvania State University, on soil acidity and liming was very beneficial.

“He always gives great fundamental talks. Kind of going back to the basics and refreshing everybody’s memories. He gave a great talk this year. I feel like [soil acidity and liming] is a topic that I feel pretty comfortable with and I walked away from that talk with new information,” said Shober.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Jarrod Miller

University of Delaware and University of Maryland Extension Team Receives Outstanding Education Program Award

The Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education (AFCPE) annually recognizes the incredible innovation, work and leadership of its diverse community of members – financial professionals working across all areas of financial education, research and practice. Award winners are peer nominated and go through a rigorous application peer-reviewed process.

University of Delaware and University of Maryland Extension Team Receives Outstanding Education Program AwardThe Outstanding Educational Program was presented to the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension and University of Maryland Extension’s “Smart Choice and Smart Use Health Insurance.”

The Smart Choice Health Insurance and Smart Use Health Insurance program consists of five multidisciplinary modules that provide health insurance literacy education to assist adults in exploring the information they need to build their knowledge, skills and confidence to choose and use their health insurance wisely.

AFCPE award winners were honored in a November ceremony at the 2017 AFCPE Symposium in San Diego. Representing the Maryland and Delaware Health Insurance Literacy Initiative were Extension Educators Maria Pippidis, University of Delaware Cooperative Extension, Jesse Ketterman, University of Maryland Extension, and Mia Russell, formerly with the University of Maryland Extension.

About AFCPE®

AFCPE® ensures the highest integrity of the financial counseling profession by certifying, connecting and supporting diverse professionals. Our comprehensive certification programs represent the gold standard for financial counseling, coaching and education, including the AFC® (Accredited Financial Counselor®) certification which is accredited by NCCA and nationally recognized by CFPB and DoD.

Photo by Robb McCormick

UD Cooperative Extension accepts applications for Extension Scholars program

Applications are now being accepted for those interested in becoming 2018 University of Delaware Cooperative Extension scholars.

Now in its 14th year, the Extension Scholars program offers UD students a unique, hands-on 10-week summer experiential learning environment under the guidance of extension agents or specialists.

Interns will work the summer semester from June 4-Aug. 9, 40 hours per week with a $3,770 stipend. Some flexibility in dates/hours may be required.

canr extention scholars orientation townsend hall commons summer 2017During this summer internship, students will follow Cooperative Extension’s service learning model, implemented through one of extension’s four program areas: 4-H youth development, family and consumer sciences, lawn and garden, and agriculture and natural resources.

Any current undergraduate, in the summer following sophomore year and beyond, or graduate students at UD are eligible to participate and opportunities are available in New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties.

Interns will be expected to provide their own transportation, and mileage to and from work is at the intern’s expense. All interns will be expected to participate in the orientation on June 4 and the Service Learning Symposium in August.

The deadline to register for the Extension Scholars program is Wednesday, Dec. 20.

To register to become an Extension Scholar, visit the Cooperative Extension website.

About Cooperative Extension

Cooperative Extension connects the public with university knowledge, research and resources to address youth, family, community and agricultural needs.

The goal of Cooperative Extension is to help individuals, families and communities make informed decisions that can enhance their lives. In so doing, the organization generates and disseminates research-based information, provides focused educational opportunities and builds relationships that create effective solutions.

Innovation the focus of Delaware Cooperative Extension’s annual conference

Innovative ideas rarely begin as an “Aha” lightbulb-over the-head-moment, but rather come to life as part of a deliberate process – a navigation with twists and turns which embrace working differently, taking risks, and carving out free time for contemplation. This was the takeaway message at Delaware Cooperative Extension’s First State Innovate event held on Oct. 19 at Delaware State University’s Martin Luther King Jr. Center in Dover.

Delaware Cooperative Extension is a partnership of the First State’s two Land-Grant universities – University of Delaware and Delaware State University. Each fall, extension faculty, specialists, agents and staff convene for a day of networking and professional development. This year, innovation was the focus, empowered by a $10,000 grant from eXtension.org, a national organization dedicated to providing tools, services and enhancing the impact of Land-Grant institutions across the U.S.

The road towards innovation

Approximately 100 extension professionals were introduced to several innovation concepts throughout the conference, starting with the keynote address.

Jamie Seger, director of the Ohio State University’s Extension Educational Technology Unit, and Paul Hill, associate professor at Utah State University in 4-H and Community Development program areas, served as co-keynote speakers.

As active collaborators with eXtension in piloting innovation in extension offices across the country, Hill and Seger champion working differently, most notably with their Educational Technology Learning Network or #EdTechLN, a bi-weekly national conversation on Twitter.

“Popular culture has romanticized how innovation happens,” Seger said in her keynote, adding that tools and technology aren’t always the go-to solutions to foster innovative practices.

“All we need in Extension in order to innovate is to simply work differently,” Seger said. “It’s not about the stuff – it is about a new way of thinking and a new process for working.”

Changing the culture and working differently in extension means understanding the nature of innovation as a process, Seger said. Both defined innovation as a journey.

“It’s a long winding road that goes through peaks and valleys and sometimes turns around on itself, all while existing perilously on the edge,” Seger said.

A culture of innovation must exist within an organization if widespread innovation is to be realized, Seger said.

“Fear of failure leads organizations like extension toward a culture of efficiency,” Hill added. “If failure isn’t an option, then innovation isn’t going to take place. Success cannot happen without failure.”

Hill and Seger emphasized that innovative change needs to come from all levels, from leadership and from within each extension professional.

“We all have the power to create the culture we want in our system.” Seger said.

In the presentation, Hill contrasted the difference between a fixed and a growth mindset.

“A fixed mindset avoids the new and manages risk through analysis and seeks to understand the data. A growth mindset seeks the new, manages risk through action and develops empathy,” Hill said.

“People with fixed mindsets are great at getting pre-determined projects done, but not new projects and programs. They are implementers, but not necessarily innovators,” Hill said.

Innovation ideas

“Creating a culture of innovation begins with the extension professional and with leadership,” said Michelle Rodgers, associate dean and director of UD Cooperative Extension who along with an endowment from former UD extension director Jan Seitz, offered five teams up to $15,000 in support to put winning ideas in place.

Innovation the focus of Delaware Cooperative Extension’s annual conference
Making Change-Solutions placed first among eight teams and won a $5,000 grant to launch a 4-H Maker Library. From L-R, Jan Seitz, Carol Scott, Beverly Banks, Rene Diaz, Sequoia Rent and team coach from North Dakota State University, Bob Bertsch. Seitz, former UD Director of Delaware Extension funded the first place team through an endowment to UD Cooperative Extension

Earlier this spring, Rodgers and Donna Brown, interim director of DSU Cooperative Extension, invited their staff to form teams to compete for start-up funds to launch their innovation initiatives. Teams were encouraged to form across both institutions and utilize Adobe Kickbox, a tool for creating and deliberating about ideas created by Adobe for their employees and adapted for extension use.

Eight teams accepted the challenge and delivered three-minute pitches on stage and were judged by a panel of six with input from electronic peer voting. The top three teams were:

  • 4-H Afterschool Makers. Team: Bev Banks, DSU, Rene Diaz, UD, Sequoia Rent, UD and Carol Scott, UD. $5,000 to create maker spaces and a maker library for 4-H afterschool youth and for areas where materials and space to create are at a minimum.
  • Aerial Agents. Team: Troy Darden, DSU; Dennis McIntosh, DSU; Michele Walfred, UD; and Cory Whaley, UD. $4,000 for the purchase of two drones for communication and marketing purposes and to create and stock an online library of footage for use by and promotion of extension events and programs.
  • Soil Surfers: Team: John Clendaniel, DSU; Natasha Lamadieu, DSU; and Jenn Volk, UD. $3,000 to deliver integrated extension programming to take a community through assessing a garden site for environmental risks and impacts, growing the produce, and producing safe and healthy meals. Sessions will be recorded and turned into short videos for future communities to use.
  • Other winning teams were Lights, Camera, Extension awarded $2,000 and Wealth and Wellness Warriors with an award of $1,000.

All eight teams were assisted by a creative coach, three of whom were brought to Delaware via the eXtension grant: Bradd Anderson from the University of Missouri, Bob Bertsch from North Dakota State University, and Daphne Richards from Texas A & M University. Joining as coaches from UD were Cyndi Connelly, Christy Mannering and Adam Thomas. Throughout the summer and fall, creative coaches met with teams via technology for consultation.

“Donna, Jan, and I are very excited about the ideas we have heard today,” Rodgers said. “Today’s innovate event is an important first step in working differently and making an impact that will positively affect our extension staff and our communities in Delaware.”

During the conference, several opportunities to explore innovation practices took place including a panel discussion webcasted through eXtension’s online learn platform, a “Steal My Idea Showcase” featuring a circuit of 12 innovator mini-presentations.

Friends of Extension Awards

Brown and Rodgers also presented the Friend of Extension Award recognitions for UD and DSU.

“The Friend of Extension Award is the highest recognition presented to a non-extension person, business or organization and is designed to recognize truly outstanding support and personal involvement in extension efforts,” Rodgers said.

University of Delaware

  • Hetty Francke. A volunteer with extension for 30-plus years, Francke became a Master Gardener in 1987 and a Master Composter in 1989 and she served as volunteer compost education coordinator for Delaware 4-H.
  • Lazy Boy Farm. This family farm operation in Middletown has produced fresh cabbage, potatoes, soybean, corn and wheat since 1956. Brothers Ken and Chris Wicks, and their respective children Anna Wicks, a UD Alumna, and Michael, comprise the three-generation farm.
  • Karen Sommers.  A Master Food Educator (MFE) since 2011 with the Family and Consumer Science program, Sommers is valued for her tireless wisdom and volunteer efforts, with 175 hours served in the first half of 2017 alone.
  • Pat and Alex Bohinski and their staff at Southern States provide advanced training to Delaware Master Gardeners by participating in numerous meetings covering a variety of topics to keep Master Gardeners informed with new lawn and garden products, trends and problems.

Delaware State University

  • Pastor William Grimes. Under his leadership at the Solid Rock Baptist Church in Dover, Grimes opened his 4,200 square foot outreach center and collaborates with Delaware Cooperative Extension, helping to promote a healthy lifestyle through community dinners and Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP).
  • Kesha Braunskill works for the Delaware Forest Service and serves on the state’s Urban and Community Forest Council. Braunskill offers training on tree diseases and diagnosis, tree management, tree plantings and jobsite safety.
  • New Hope Recreation and Development Center, Inc. This organization led by Kendal and Delores Tyre bring STEM education to youth they serve during afterschool and summer camp programs. The Tyre’s center and volunteer staff provide a safe place for youth where students can learn and improve their academic and social skills.

Article by Michele Walfred

Photo by Jackie Arpie

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD Cooperative Extension teams with Molina Foundation to give away free books to Delaware youth

University of Delaware Cooperative Extension has received a Books Across Delaware grant from the Molina Foundation to distribute 7,000 free new children’s books ― enough to fill a library shelf a football field long ― to children throughout the First State.

The colorful children’s pleasure-reading books, activity book and workbooks, featuring fun themes and characters, were recently delivered to the UD Extension facility in Newark. Covering a range of grades and age levels, the books are being given out by UD Extension through its Delaware 4-H Program to children from low-income, at-risk communities for reading and family learning time as the new school year continues into the fall.

UD Cooperative Extension teams with Molina Foundation to give away free books to Delaware youthThe Molina Foundation, based in Long Beach, California, awarded the Books Across Delaware grant as part of its back-to-school literacy initiative taking place in select regions of the country including Virginia and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The initiative is designed to promote independent learning and help combat the “summer slide” where students may have lost academic ground. Students can drop an average of two to three months in reading and math skills over the break — a loss that can significantly impact their future academic and economic success.

The 7,000-book grant has a total estimated value of $57,000.

This book grant is a wonderful way to honor the continued good work of Cooperative Extension in Delaware,” said Martha Bernadett, Molina Foundation President and Founder.  “We believe in how they provide children and families across the state with valuable learning programs, resources and opportunities. We absolutely endorse what they do and we know that our books and learning materials can help them in their mission.”

The delivery was made in close partnership with UD Extension and 4-H program administrators in Newark. This is the second book grant in two years awarded by The Molina Foundation to UD Extension for a statewide campaign. In 2016, a total of 30,000 books were awarded.

UD Extension, which provides research-based programs and services to support local youth, families, agriculture, businesses and communities across the state, plans to continue coordinating the giveaway of books over the next several weeks and throughout the fall season at various 4-H activities and community events throughout the state.

Books Across Delaware is a worthwhile effort that closely aligns with the Extension’s work and mission, stated Doug Crouse, the State 4-H Program Leader.  “We are happy to partner with The Molina Foundation,” he said. “We believe that there is special value in making sure that books and reading are part of every child’s life. This is a heartfelt opportunity. Handing out these books will help thousands of Delaware kids get a good start to lifelong learning and success.”

The Molina Foundation is a national nonprofit organization. Since its inception in 2004, it has partnered with more than 2,000 organizations and schools around the country to promote literacy and wellness. In addition, it has donated more than 5 million new children’s books in English and Spanish, and hosted hundreds of free workshops and programs for educators, families, and children.

UD’s Michelle Rodgers named National Project Director for Culture of Health Initiative

Following the $4.6 million grant awarded to National 4-H Council by the nation’s largest health philanthropy, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), Michelle Rodgers has been named the new National Project Director of RWJF’s partnership with National 4-H Council and Cooperative Extension System (CES).

The grant aims to improve the health of 1,000 communities across the nation over the next 10 years. This will involve engaging all the land-grant universities that serve every county and parish in the United States. The partnership will also include and empower young people to help local Health Councils implement action plans that ensure all community members can be healthier at every stage of life.

Rodgers explained that one of the unique aspects of Cooperative Extension’s partnership with RWJF is that it “taps into everything that the Cooperative Extension System has done well since we were formed over a century ago as the national education and community development program of the nation’s land-grant universities,” said Rodgers.  “When we bring together Cooperative Extension and America’s philanthropy leader in health, it is amazing to envision the transformative impact we will have in communities throughout the country.”

UD’s Michelle Rodgers named National Project Director for Culture of Health InitiativeAs Associate Dean and Director, Rodgers provides overall leadership for programs, personnel and the organizational development of the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension. She is the immediate past chair of the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP) and served as co-chair of the ECOP Health Task Force. Prior to joining UD, Rodgers spent five years as associate director at Michigan State University Extension. Rodgers also worked at Penn State University as an agent and regional director in Cooperative Extension.

“We are thrilled to have Dr. Rodgers in this role as our college, and many others across the nation, embrace the One Health and Healthy Communities concepts,” said Mark Rieger, Dean of UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR). “She has done an outstanding job of leading the nationwide effort for Cooperative Extension to partner with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on these initiatives, and I know that the project is in very capable hands.”

The partnership will focus on three key elements to accomplish transformational change: (1) designing a sustainable network structure to promote health and well-being in communities across the nation; (2) creating and disseminating tools for healthier communities; and (3) launching a training curriculum for local community advocates. This approach will substantially increase the impact of the local Health Councils to drive impactful, sustainable outcomes.

Dan Rich, University Professor of Public Policy and Director, Community Engagement Initiative, the University of Delaware, noted that Rodgers’ national leadership role with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will also “greatly strengthen UD’s new Partnership for Healthy Communities, in which Dr. Rodgers also has a lead role, and will be launched officially by President Dennis Assanis at a knowledge-based conference on Strengthening Partnerships in Health and Education: Delaware and the Nation, on October 30 at Clayton Hall.”

UD’s Debbie Delaney helps West Virginia coal miners shift to beekeeping

Former coal miners or citizens whose lives have been shaped by the coal mining industry in southern West Virginia will soon learn how to establish and operate bee colonies thanks to help from the University of Delaware’s Debbie Delaney.

Delaney, associate professor of entomology in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, spent her summer in Summers County working as a consultant through Appalachian Headwaters which is a non-profit organization that formed the Appalachian Beekeeping Collective. Delaney said that the goal was to help get the socioeconomic growth program up and running for displaced miners in 14 counties in southern West Virginia.

“We got about 500 nucleus colonies or nucs, which are small colonies of bees, and a queen and all summer we’ve been erecting bear fences and creating bee yards so we can grow the colonies over the season and get them through the winter,” said Delaney.

Beginning next year, local partners will come on board and get hives which will be a way for them to generate income.

UD’s Debbie Delaney helps West Virginia miners begin anewDelaney said that how much income will vary depending on what kind of forage is available during that time of year—and that since the initial installation began after foraging season, they have had to feed the bees a lot to get them up to weight to make it through winter.

“Typically, I’d say in that area of West Virginia, if they do things right, they should be able to get close to 200 pounds [of honey] off of each hive,” said Delaney.

The way the program operates, the local partners will get the colonies, pull their honey off and bring it to the experts at the Appalachian Beekeeping Collective to extract.

“I’ve been helping them design a big honey processing building that will be able to process 100,000 pounds of honey and then we will bottle it, we’ll market it and we’ll sell it to a higher end community,” said Delaney. “We’re not just selling the honey but also a story which is really cool.”

Kate Asquith, program director at Appalachian Headwaters, said that starting a beekeeping operation can be a risky and expensive endeavor and they wanted to help the first-time beekeepers get over those hurdles.

“This is a way to make sure that they’re getting as much profit from their beekeeping as they can,” said Asquith. “Our hope is that we can help people get a lot more money for the work that they’re doing and Debbie is a really big part of all of it. She’s been a wonderful piece of helping us plan out the program.”

Appalachian Beekeeping Collective is headquartered at an old camp that was once owned and operated by coal mining companies that saw thousands of kids of coal miners go through the camp from different mining states.

“These people are so tied to this place. When I was there over the summer, at least twice a week somebody would drive by and say, ‘I went to camp here 50 years ago. This place means so much to me’ so it’s a really special spot,” said Delaney. “There’s so much rich history there.”

Because the people are tied to the land and invested in the history of the area, Delaney said that it made sense to get them involved in beekeeping.

“They’re native and they’ve been there for generations and they know every mountain, every hill has a name even though it might not be on a map. Because they’re so tied to the land, this operation had to be something that was sustainable and that was also very connected to the environment and beekeeping is definitely both of those things,” said Delaney.

The area also has a rich history of beekeeping as Delaney said she would find antique beekeeping equipment at area flea markets.

“Everybody’s grandfather had bees. It’s because it’s all hardwood forests there, which all produce nectar and pollen and so it’s a really good area for beekeeping, really high quality forage. I think both of those things make it ideal,” said Delaney.

The plan is for those beekeepers to keep their own apiaries but get bees raised by the Appalachian Bee Keeping Collective.

“We’re trying to raise a strain of Appalachian honey bee that is mite resistant and that’s a big piece of what Debbie is doing,” said Asquith. “She’s really skilled with natural beekeeping methods and has been a really big help for us.”

Asquith said that the first class of beekeepers, who will be trained over fall and winter, will number around 35 but next year the program will ramp up to include 85 beekeepers.

For the first-time beekeepers, Delaney said that the biggest challenge is going to be overcoming the fear of being stung.

“They’re going to be working with an insect that stings and learning the social behavioral cues of a colony, to read them, to know when they need to apply smoke or how much protective clothing they should wear; just learning to feel comfortable around them so that they are safe and that the participants can work them safely,” said Delaney.

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD Cooperative Extension teams with University of Maryland Extension to assess disease resistance in small grains

With over 105,000 acres of small grain crops planted in Delaware in 2016, at a value of $24 million, it is vital to keep the industry up to date on the latest developments in disease resistance.

One disease of particular interest is Fusarium head blight (FHB), considered the most damaging pathogen of small grains worldwide that reduces yields of wheat and barley and also contaminates grain with the carcinogenic mycotoxin known as deoxynivelenol (DON).

To help area growers, the University of Delaware’s Cooperative Extension Field Crop Pathology team has joined with a group from the University of Maryland to look at varieties of small grains with moderate resistance to FHB and DON.

Using a misted nursery, a nursery with plants that get mist irrigated every night by a sprinkler system, located at the University of Maryland’s Beltsville facility, the group assessed 57 wheat varieties for FHB and DON in 2017, collecting data and sharing that data on-line, as handouts at meetings and as mailers to growers in Delaware and Maryland.

 UD Cooperative Extension teams with University of Maryland Extension to assess disease resistance in small grainsFrom UD’s prospective, the study was led by Nathan Kleczewski, extension field crops plant pathologist, who said that mist irrigating the different varieties every night allows the disease to develop more consistently, enabling the researchers to provide more consistent and reliable measures of FHB and DON resistance.

“You might have two varieties,” said Kleczewski.  “Variety one might flower on Monday and variety two might flower on Friday. Now, if you get heavy rains on Monday and it is dry for the next several days or weeks, you may come back later and think, ‘Variety two is resistant to FHB.’ In reality, the environment was not conducive for disease, that’s why symptoms were not present on variety two.”

The researchers are evaluating commercial varieties and some varieties that haven’t been released yet to see which ones have the best resistance to head blight and DON.

“What we’re able to do is provide the growers with a nice, unbiased evaluation of the different varieties for head blight,” said Kleczewski, who noted that different companies sometimes use different standards when they rate their varieties for diseases.

“We compare everything across the board and we line up the varieties where they are relative to one another, not just within the company,” said Kleczewski.

The idea of the misted nursery research is to try and promote the utilization of newer varieties of wheat that have more resistance to FHB with the end result being that growers in the region will suffer fewer losses to head blight and DON.

“In the end, grain prices might go up because there will be less mycotoxin contamination, maybe we can minimize the amount of pesticides that are going on the plants and improve the profitability of the growers, the millers and everybody in the whole chain,” said Kleczewski.

Head Blight

Kleczewski said that FHB is a fungal disease that grows mostly on corn residue. Around Delaware and in the Chesapeake Bay area, there is a lot of no-till agriculture, which means that crops are planted onto residue and not tilled or buried material.

Wheat is usually planted after corn resulting in left over corn residue on fields which can be used as a food source for FHB. The pathogen overwinters on corn and in the spring, when the wheat starts to flower, spores are produced on the corn and can infect the heads of wheat during wet rainy periods.

“When the pathogen infects the head, it can cause yield loss because it chokes off the water and nutrient movement to the grain so that the grains aren’t as big, they don’t fill up with sugars as nicely, and they lose quality,” said Kleczewski.

The fungus can also produce a toxin, such as DON, and that toxin can deceive growers into thinking that their crop is good because it doesn’t appear to have head blight but it could be susceptible to accumulation of the toxins.

“We screen not just for visual symptoms but also for the mycotoxin. If our grain buyers here in Delaware buy a lot of wheat with a lot of mycotoxin, they can’t sell it to the people in Pennsylvania where they need to sell it so what they end up doing is bringing in grain from areas like Brazil or Canada and that costs them money,” said Kleczewski. “When they have to do that, it also lowers the price of wheat for our growers and so we want to try and minimize the amount of mycotoxin in our grain to really help everybody out in the long run.”

UD worked with Jason Wight, assistant research scientist at the University of Maryland, and the Variety Trials team at the University of Maryland on the project.

The Maryland team plants, maintains and harvests the plots. Kleczewski’s group inoculates the site with corn infested with the FHB pathogen, rates the varieties, and evaluates FHB and DON data.

For information on the researcher’s findings, visit Kleczewski’s website and Scabsmart. The data can also be found on the small grain variety trials website run out of the University of Maryland.

Article by Adam Thomas

UD Extension educates Delaware youth on food safety

University of Delaware Cooperative Extension nutrition assistants have been travelling to summer camps to educate Delaware youths ages 8-12 on the importance of food safety as part of their Are you Up for the Challenge: Don’t Bug Me curriculum.

The curriculum is divided into five hour-long sessions that focus on microbes, or ‘bugs’ such as bacteria and viruses, and the important role they play in food safety.

The courses are part of the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), which is funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’ s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and is geared towards low-income families with children.

Last year, the programming reached about 1,200 youths and the programs are expected to reach a similar number this summer.

Sue Snider, professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences and a food safety and nutrition specialist with Cooperative Extension, explained that the children learn how there are good bugs and bad bugs.

“In the first lesson, called Bugs: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly, we introduce the concept that microbes, particularly bacteria and mold, are used to produce food products like cheese and yogurt. There is also the fact that we have about a trillion microbes in our body and they help keep us healthy,” said Snider. “Then the bad are the bugs or the microbes that spoil your food, that make it smell bad and make it a poor color. Then there are the ugly, which are the pathogens, those are the ones that cause you to get sick.”

There is some food preparation involved with the first lesson featuring a salad with orange dressing, something from all of the food groups and blue cheese which is made from a ‘good bug.’

The second lesson is called The Bug Express and focuses on how microbes get from one place to another. The food prep with the second lesson involved chicken nachos where the nutrition assistants explained to the children that they want to use different cutting boards when preparing their chicken and their vegetables. They are also taught about how to properly wash their vegetables before adding them to the salad.

The third lesson focused on the importance of hand washing, the fourth dealt with temperature control and how to keep foods hot or cold so bacteria won’t grow on it and the fifth lesson was a wrap up highlighting how viruses and parasites get into the body and how they latch onto the cells or the stomach lining.

“It’s also a wrap up where they do a quiz kind of game,” said Snider. “They work in teams and it’s called Bugs Be Gone. One of the nutrition assistants shared with me that she was very impressed because the kids got so many of the answers right.”

The courses were either spread out over the course of a week or delivered once a week for five weeks.

The program is run in conjunction with 4-H Up for the Challenge, which is overseen by Karen Johnston, statewide extension educator and the 4-H grants manager, and teen health ambassadors who go to most of the locations and work with the nutrition assistants.

“We’ve been doing that particular combination since around 2013 and it’s great. The kids relate to the young people and the teens get a lot out of it,” said Snider.

The staff involved with the classes include Carmella Johnson, Kim Silva and Michelle Ernst Voegele in New Castle County; Jennifer Seabrook and Anita Cooper in Kent County; and Wanda Taylor and Mary Edwards in Sussex County.

There were also two Extension Scholars—Amanda Venuto and Emma Newell—working on the project.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Evan Krape

This story can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD students spend summer focusing on needs of the First State

UD students spend summer focusing on needs of the First StateUniversity of Delaware students are spread throughout the state this summer as Extension Scholars, Service Learning Scholars and Summer Undergraduate Public Policy Fellows, working on projects that help communities and give the students experiential learning opportunities in their future career fields.

Dan Rich, director of the Community Engagement Initiative, said this is the first time the programs shared an orientation.

Organized by Cooperative Extension, members had the opportunity to share the similar roles they play in applying research to needs in the community.

“Through these summer programs, UD students serve as engaged scholars. They contribute to improving the quality of life in communities throughout Delaware while they gain knowledge through experiential learning,” said Rich.

The 10-week programs wrap up in August when the students will present their work at the University’s Undergraduate Research and Service Symposium.

Extension Scholars

The Extension Scholars program, now in its 13th year, is run through UD’s Cooperative Extension Program and offers students a unique, hands-on 10-week summer experiential learning environment under the guidance of extension agents or specialists.

During this summer internship, students follow Cooperative Extension’s service learning model, implemented through one of extension’s four program areas: 4-H youth development, family and consumer sciences, lawn and garden, and agriculture and natural resources.

Michelle Rodgers, associate dean in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and director of UD Cooperative Extension, said the program provides an opportunity for students to interview and have real job experience while being mentored by someone on the job.

“Mentors often become references for employment. Numerous Extension Scholars have commented that this experience has been beneficial to obtaining employment as it provides them meaningful work experiences that assists them in sharing experiences in employment interviews,” said Rodgers. “There are numerous scholars who have come back and shared that their experience was key to their employment.”

The eight Extension Scholars are working on a wide array of projects ranging from integrated pest management and  4-H to climate change and environmental quality work.

Service Learning Scholars

The 19 Service Learning Scholars have spent their 10-week summer program working with community partners on projects and also doing academic reading and reflection with a faculty mentor.

Susan Serra, associate director of service learning for UD’s Community Engagement Initiative, said that the projects vary from students working in landscape architecture through community revitalization projects in Laurel and Leipsic, to students working at the Bear-Glasgow YMCA with adults with intellectual disabilities, to others working at Winterthur’s Terrific Tuesdays program, where they bring experiences found at the museum to the Salvation Army summer camp in Wilmington.

“The goal is to provide community partners with a resource they wouldn’t have had otherwise,” said Serra. “With the YMCA, for example, the students are working with a UD faculty member who studies the physical health of people with intellectual disabilities — the students are partnering with the YMCA to meet the needs of that community. We are also looking to, if possible, work on sustainable projects so that it might be something that different students would come back to in the future.”

Serra said that the experience helps students understand what it takes to make things happen out in communities.

“They begin to understand not just the challenges communities face but also their assets. Being partners means recognizing that the community brings as much to the table as you do,” said Serra.

Summer Undergraduate Public Policy Fellows

Run through the School of Public Policy and Administration in the College of Arts and Sciences, the Summer Undergraduate Public Policy Fellows is composed of 16 students working with three centers: the Institute for Public Administration, the Center for Community Research and Service, and the Disaster Research Center.

The program includes three field visits so that while the students work on a project in one of the three centers, they get exposed to work in all three of the centers and across different sectors.

“They’re getting to see what their peers are working on, which can spark some ideas of what they might want to explore in the future,” said Lisa Moreland, program manager and IPA policy scientist. “It brings them together, gives them a sense of camaraderie, and may spark opportunities for collaboration. It’s beneficial to the students, but also mutually beneficial to the center staff and organizations with which they are working.”

Joseph Trainor, associate professor in the School of Public Policy and Administration and program director for disaster science and management, said the project undertaken by his students combines sociological, engineering and economics approaches to explore the question of what makes a hurricane evacuation a success or a failure.

“This question is explored from two perspectives: that of the transportation agencies charged with managing an evacuation, and that of the individual households who participate in the evacuation,” said Trainor.

Using focus groups, a survey and simulations, the project will attempt to quantify these criteria into measurable variables, which can be used to form models to evaluate how much of a success or failure an evacuation is, according to these two perspectives.

“These models could be used to evaluate the impact of different evacuation strategies, in order to enable authorities to conduct evacuations that are more successful, both for the agencies that manage them and the households that participate in them,” said Trainor.

Other topics students are exploring include economics development in Delaware, best practices to engage minority communities in cycling and urban bikeshare networks, and small business trends and conditions in Delaware.

Signe Bell, director of nonprofit and community programs in the Center for Community Research and Service, said that getting students an opportunity to work in their field of study with faculty members and professionals allows them to explore and see what kinds of projects are actually happening in the field of public policy and organizational leadership.

“They learn about these projects and then they learn about themselves in the process,” said Bell. “I tell students all the time that it is just as valuable to learn what you don’t like to do as it is to find out what you love. Because you don’t want to learn that you don’t like something once you have your first full-time job doing it. This is a good, low stakes opportunity for learning.”

Moreland added that these experiences also give the students a leg up when it comes time to take the next step after graduation.

“It puts them ahead of the game for students coming from other universities when they’re trying to compete for jobs,” said Moreland. “These experiences on their resumes reflect on their work ethic and speak volumes. The bottom line that Signe, Joe and I have for our students is getting them that experience and having them put their best foot forward when they go out into their careers — whether it’s further graduate study or employment.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Wenbo Fan

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Delaware Cooperative Extension works to bring healthy food to urban areas

Delaware Cooperative Extension works to bring healthy food to urban areasWith the help of Delaware Cooperative Extension, urban farms and gardens are popping up all over the First State, providing a much-needed healthy food source and beautifying areas that otherwise wouldn’t have access to fresh vegetables or flowers.

Many of these gardens rely on the expertise of Cooperative Extension agents and the services extension provides, such as soil testing, plant pest identification and disease diagnostics.

One that has been particularly well served by extension is the Planting Hope Urban Farm located on North DuPont Highway in New Castle and is a partnership between the Delaware Department of Agriculture and Health and Social Services.

Gail Hermenau, the urban farm manager for Planting Hope, said the farm supports a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program that recently expanded to include families and children from the Terry Psychiatric Center, a campus market as well as a community garden space where they work with clients from the Delaware Psychiatric Center and the Division for the Visually Impaired.

The farm is in part funded by a three-year specialty crop block grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Hermenau said the children from the psychiatric center do different types of activities and plantings at the farm.

“They have two raised beds they use to plant a variety of vegetables, and they use that space to learn about plant life cycle and all the sustainable farming practices that happen on the farm. Then we harvest that material, and I usually cook something up for them and have a tasting,” said Hermenau.

Cooperative Extension is partnering with the farm to provide nutritional education in the class room for the students from December to April. Over the summer, they meet with Hermenau on the farm where she delivers a CSA share, one per household, to the Terry Psychiatric Center that’s distributed among resident children and children who are part of the day program.

Extending knowledge

Hermenau said she was always fascinated by gardening, but her interest and knowledge base took off when in 2004 she trained to become a volunteer educator in Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardener program, and later trained to become Master Composter and Master Food Educators.

Hermenau said getting involved with Cooperative Extension was the “best thing I ever did. Cooperative Extension is a wonderful organization. It’s made a tremendous difference in my life personally and professionally.”

Having been trained as a Master Gardener with a specialty in composting and vegetable gardening, Hermenau installed the original four raised beds, borders and compost site at the demonstration garden located in the back of the New Castle County Cooperative Extension building located on Wyoming Road.

Her role as a Master Gardener now includes working in the areas of community gardening and urban agriculture. It was in this role that she attended the Joint Council of Extension Professionals conference with Michelle Rodgers, associate dean of the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and director of UD Cooperative Extension, Maria Pippidis, New Castle County director and extension educator for family and consumer sciences, Nancy Bell, a Master Gardener, and Karen Sommers, a Master Food Educator.

The last day of the conference included a trip to Capitol Hill. At that time, Hermenau and the other Delaware extension professionals were able to talk about the low cost and free services extension provides to the Delaware community and invite Delaware Sen. Tom Carper to visit the urban farms and gardens in Wilmington.

Senatorial tour

Carper toured urban gardens and farms in Wilmington on May 30, including the E.D. Robinson 12th and Brandywine Farm and the South Bridge Community Garden, which Hermenau said was started by Randi Novakoff and a variety of partners including extension which was instrumental in helping get off the ground.

“One of the first things that the Southbridge community did was contact extension, and that’s what a lot of people do. They contact extension staff, in this case Carrie Murphy, [extension agent and the lawn and garden program leader], and explain ‘this is what I need to do, how do I go about doing this and can you help me?’ Carrie then provides assistance and makes connections to the appropriate experts including master gardeners and master food educators,” said Hermenau.

Carper was also able to tour Planting Hope where he had the opportunity to speak with community garden members, learn about how the garden helps a variety of people including those in drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs and clients from the division of the visually impaired, and how the garden members use various extension services throughout the year in a variety of ways.

While each urban community garden and farm is unique, Hermenau said the goal is always the same: for community gardens to be led by members of the community.

“Extension is always there as a resource, but we found that community ownership of the garden is really necessary to make it successful,” said Hermenau. “They need to make it their own. They come to us for resources, but we don’t go to them and tell them ‘this is what you should be doing and this is how you should be doing it.’ We tell them, ‘We’re here and these are the resources we have, how can we help you?’ That’s our approach.”

Ultimately, these urban farms and community gardens serve many purposes for the communities in which they are installed, not the least of which is providing fresh vegetables to communities in need.

“Urban gardening and farming is really important. When you think about the different communities with limited access to fresh vegetables, many of the members of that community also have limited access to transportation so any of these resources they can take advantage of make a big difference,” said Hermenau. “The areas that they work in, they were abandoned lots and so it improves and beautifies their neighborhood. It makes a difference in changing the neighborhood, and it makes the community come alive.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Evan Krape

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD Cooperative Extension at the Delaware State Fair

UD Cooperative Extension at the Delaware State FairThe University of Delaware Cooperative Extension once again has a strong footprint at the Delaware State Fair, which runs July 20 through Saturday, July 29, at the fairgrounds in Harrington.

“Each year I grow more impressed with our staff, Extension scholars and volunteers who represent Extension’s role and greet the public at the fair,” said Michelle Rodgers, director of Cooperative Extension and associate dean at the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “The fair venue is a great opportunity to converse with the public, answer questions, and highlight how Extension extends knowledge and changes lives across our state.”

Delaware Cooperative Extension, jointly represented by Delaware’s two land grant institutions, the University of Delaware and Delaware State University, return to their  newly designed exhibit in the Delaware Department of Agriculture (DDA) Commodities Building. Four large screen monitors highlight video of Extension’s four areas of outreach education: 4-H, agriculture, lawn & garden, and family and consumer sciences. Also featured is a 360-degree virtual reality display of UD’s irrigation research at Warrington Farm and DSU’s high tunnel research from its Smyrna Outreach & Research Center.  Extension experts will also be on hand to answer questions. Two gift baskets courtesy of UD and DSU will be given away on the fair’s final day, Saturday, July 29 at 4 p.m.

Directly across from the Extension exhibit, DDA’s demonstration kitchen will serve as a stage for a variety of interesting and delicious “how to” presentations, many taught by UD Extension staff members.

A ‘Super Bowl’ event for 4-H

For 4-H youth exhibitors, the Delaware State Fair is the 4-H version of the Super Bowl — the grand finale showcasing their project work throughout the year, which begins every September.

As they progress through the year, 4-H youth select the best of their work to display at the fair, with exhibits that span several project areas including canning, entomology, beekeeping, clothing and textiles, horticulture, crops, food products, woodworking, computer graphics and photography, and others.

Extension staff, Master Food Educators, Master Gardeners and 4-H alumni and leaders serve as exhibit judges. This year more than 10,000 exhibits were checked in.

The Delaware State Fair is the capstone event for 4-H contest winners at the county level, who will vie for overall state honors in Harrington, with competitions in livestock, poultry, horticulture, vegetable, clothing and textiles, and photography. Other featured contests include tractor driving, photography, archery, Avian Bowl, Consumer Bowl, the 4-H Horse Show and a talent show. The awards celebration for these contests are scheduled for  Saturday, July 29, at 5 p.m.

During the fair, temperatures in Delaware typically reach well into the 90s, with heat indexes into the 100s. Nevertheless, 4-H’ers keep their cool as added responsibility toward their livestock increases.

The heat index is of particular concern to the pigs, said Susan Garey, animal science extension agent. “The 4-H’ers and their families are very diligent,” Garey said. “They are up at the barn quite a bit.”

Pigs have a hard time cooling themselves, Garey said. 4-H’ers take their pigs to the wash rack to wet them down multiple times during the day. Wet bedding helps keep them cool.

Fair visitors may notice colored water by the livestock pens. Electrolytes added to the water help animals cope with the heat, much like human athletes when performing in hot weather.

With increased water intake and intentional damp bedding, 4-H families spend a great deal of time with shovels, brooms and rakes. “They go through a lot of shavings, that’s for sure,” said Garey. “But this is what they work for all year, what they plan for. It not just about the shows, it’s about their fair friends and the traditions and so they are enthusiastic no matter what the temperature.”

Follow 4-H and Extension at the fair on social media via @UDExtension and @Delaware4H.

Article by Adam Thomas and Michele Walfred

Photo by Michele Walfred

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD researchers work to predict disease resistance in lima beans

When downy mildew epidemics strike, they are a plague to lima bean growers in Delaware, which produces over 60 percent of the nation’s crop for canning and freezing.

Downy mildew is caused by the fungus like microorganism Phytophthora phaseoli, which has six documented races, A to F.

Race F is currently predominant in the Mid-Atlantic region, which creates a need for resistant lima bean cultivars that still retain those desirable agronomic characteristics that the market demands.

At the University of Delaware, researchers have developed genetic markers to detect Race F resistance in lima beans, which were validated and used to predict resistance to the disease using a diversity panel consisting of 256 different genotypes of lima bean, the first time these methods have been used in lima bean breeding.

The research was funded by a five-year, $1.5 million U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Specialty Crop Research Initiative grant (SCRI), and the results were published in a focus edition of the journal Phytopathology in 2016. The follow up field work using a diversity panel was funded by a $13,000 USDA Germplasm Evaluation Cooperative Agreement.

Terence Mhora, a doctoral student in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), works in the labs of Nicole Donofrio, associate professor, and Tom Evans, professor, in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences (PLSC), and was the lead author on the paper. Mhora also worked closely with Randy Wisser, associate professor in PLSC, on the project.

One of the problems with downy mildew is that when breeders find single dominant gene forms of resistance, the pathogen evolves and is able to overcome that resistance and cause infection which in turn causes economic losses.

The researchers at UD wanted to find a way to more efficiently breed plants that are resistant to Race F.

Using a technique called genotyping-by-sequencing (GBS), the researchers were able to find molecular markers that identified possible disease resistance.

This technique, as well as the utilization of a bioinformatics pipeline known as Reduced Representation (REDREP) was used to analyze the data.

This pipeline was developed at the Delaware Biotechnology Institute (DBI) by Sean Polson, assistant professor in the departments of Computer and Information Sciences and Biological Sciences, Wisser and Keith Hopper, an affiliated associate professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology.


This was no easy feat, as while other crops have had substantial research conducted on them, resulting in valuable resources such as sequenced genomes, linkage maps and characterized genes, none of this research has been conducted for the lima bean.

“That makes it difficult because, when it comes to the GBS, we have sequencing errors and so we actually have to be able to filter through the data we get to find out what’s bona fide and what isn’t,” said Mhora. “That complicates things when you don’t have a reference genome which will tell you, ‘Yes, the sequences that you have are bona fide’ and you have to go through a lot of methods to do that.”

Making assumptions based off of a closely related common bean reference genome, the researchers were able to identify resistance gene candidates using these markers that indicated disease resistance.

Tests for expression of these candidate genes in lima bean are showing the effectiveness of these markers, and with a reference genome for lima bean in the pipeline, more accurate descriptions of the mechanisms of resistance to downy mildew will be uncovered.

“The markers were useful for predicting resistance so we could predict and say, ‘OK, so when this marker is present in a certain plant, that plant is resistant to Race F,’” said Mhora.

After identifying the marker genes, the researchers passed the information on to Emmalea Ernest, associate scientist in the Cooperative Extension vegetable and fruit program and also in PLSC, who guides UD’s lima bean breeding program. Ernest will be able to use the marker set to tell her if the beans she’s breeding are resistant or not.

“It’s a tool for Emmalea and that tool comes from us to Emmalea and then straight to the farmer. It’s like a pipeline,” said Mhora.

To validate the marker genes, the researchers set up a diversity panel consisting of 256 different lima bean genotypes that were sourced from around the world, mostly from the lima bean’s center of origin which is in the Mesoamerican and the Andean regions of Central and South America.

“We tested these markers on this diverse panel of beans and were able to identify four out of the 256 that were carrying the resistance that these markers were able to detect,” said Mhora. While there were four lima bean accessions that carried the form of resistance that the markers were able to detect, there were 16 more individuals in the field that were resistant to Race F.

After conducting work in the field, the researchers then went into the greenhouse with the diversity panel to validate their results and see if there were any additional forms of resistance that the markers might not be associated with.

“The reasons that the markers would probably not be able to find the resistance that we’re looking for is because there’s different resistance out there,” said Mhora. “Especially because the diversity panel is from a widespread area but also because the markers might not be as tightly linked to the resistance as we think they are.”

Twelve candidates passed through both field and greenhouse phenotyping or screening, including the four that the markers had detected.

The next step for the research is to take all the candidates that were resistant in the field and do a more comprehensive experiment with them in fields on UD’s Newark Campus and in Georgetown, Delaware, at the University’s Carvel Research and Education Center. Both locations will be used to look at Races E and F.

Mhora said that this work has shown the researchers that they are able to develop markers that can detect Race F and that they are able to find alternative sources of resistance to Race F, which is also important.

“When we have multiple forms of resistance, that helps to make that resistance more durable. We call that gene stacking. Basically, when you have multiple forms of resistance within one individual, that individual has stronger and longer lasting resistance, they’re more able to resist a disease than if you just had one form of resistance. If you had one form of resistance, it’s easier for the pathogen to evolve so finding multiple forms of resistance is going to help,” said Mhora. “That will be a bigger part for the farmers and they’ll know they don’t have to spray as many pesticides, they don’t have to suffer from all these losses. The lima bean’s will have got the built-in resistance.”

Story originally posted on UDaily

Illustration by Jeffrey Chase

UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources opens second high tunnel greenhouse

UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources opens second high tunnel greenhouseRepresentatives from the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), Cooperative Extension and Rimol Greenhouse Systems held a ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday, April 13, to officially open a new high tunnel greenhouse donated to the University by the company.

The high tunnel, a state-of-the-art growing space greenhouse designed with practicality, sustainability and year-round opportunities for education in mind, is the second one on UD’s CANR campus provided by Rimol and will double the amount of indoor growing space available to offer hands-on learning opportunities and fresh produce to both students and the Delaware community.

CANR Dean Mark Rieger began the ceremony by thanking Rimol and highlighting how Mike Popovich, farm manager at CANR, uses the high tunnel to offer a farm-to-chef model with some of the produce grown on the farm going to local Delaware restaurants.

Rieger also spoke about how he teaches a class in the high tunnel, which is a big benefit as the growing season doesn’t always coincide with the school semesters.

“The only way that we could do that is by having some kind of protected cultivation because our students are here in the fall and the spring; they’re really not here in the summer when we could do it outside. Last fall for example we were in the high tunnel growing broccoli, cauliflower and kale all the way through to Thanksgiving and it wouldn’t have been possible without that,” said Rieger. “I’m personally benefiting from this, the college is benefiting from this, and the state of Delaware will benefit as well from the engagement and the kinds of demonstrations that we’re going to be doing out of these tunnels.”

Rieger also thanked the donors who help fund student interns who get hands-on experience growing food in the high tunnels and on the farm.

Bob Rimol, owner of Rimol Greenhouse Systems, said that he has fond memories of Delaware and highlighted the importance of partnerships between private and public sector institutions.

“When Mark and I started talking about this opportunity, I saw the enthusiasm with Mark and with Mike and we know what Delaware is capable of doing, and I’ve always been a big believer in supporting educational institutions,” Rimol said. “We’re all focused on these two high tunnels today but it just doesn’t stop here. We want to support you all the time in educational workshops. This is a great opportunity for you as educators to help growers, help students, help the whole industry that we’re trying to make better.”

Rimol added, “Eating right starts with fresh produce. This is an example of locally grown, healthy fresh produce, and when you can teach more and more people on how to do it — whether it’s urban agriculture or the family farm — we’re all going to benefit.”

Michelle Rodgers, associate dean and director of Cooperative Extension, thanked Rimol for the donation and highlighted how the high tunnel will enable extension agents to offer more courses that will benefit the community.

“This is a Cooperative Extension dream to have an opportunity for real life, hands-on experience. Extension is really into experiential learning and putting research we’re generating into the hands of the people who are going to use it,” said Rodgers.

Rodgers highlighted how Carrie Murphy, agriculture program leader, had already used the high tunnels for a beginning farmer class. The class brought together a diverse group of growers with varying levels of experience and allowed for networking opportunities among the participants, who shared their experiences and learned from one another inside the high tunnel.

“We have a lot of interest, particularly in this county, around urban agriculture and what we can do to expand and work in the area of food security and local food needs, and being able to help people to know different ways that they can do that,” said Rodgers, adding it will be beneficial “having them come here, whether it’s kids learning about where their food comes from or adults learning to use local resources to produce food for people in the communities.”

Rodgers also talked about how the high tunnel will allow extension to teach about urban gardening and urban food production, as well as to expand on already existing workshops for industry members and farmers.

“We can do some more things concerning production in terms of soil health and also the latest research around high tunnels that we can share and bring to Delaware for agricultural production. We are very enthusiastic about what we think we can do and how this really enriches our opportunity to partner with other organizations and reach out,” said Rodgers.

The event featured UDairy Creamery ice cream and was catered by Grain Craft Bar and Kitchen.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Wenbo Fan and Christy Mannering

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Third annual Farm-to-Table Recipe Contest set for Ag Day

Submissions are now being accepted for the third annual Farm-to-Table Recipe Contest that is held in conjunction with the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Ag Day event, taking place this year from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday, April 29, on the grounds of Townsend Hall.

The goal of this contest is to develop recipes that offer delicious ways of creating healthy dishes using fresh ingredients that are preferably locally grown.

“We’re accepting submissions for recipes that are healthy and use as many fresh vegetables or fruits as possible. We want the recipe contest to reflect how people can eat healthy, delicious meals, with food grown locally,” said Christy Mannering, communications specialist at UD who is organizing this year’s recipe contest.

Judges from UD Cooperative Extension’s Family and Consumer Sciences staff will be looking for recipes that offer delicious ways of creating fresh, healthy dishes. Judging will be based on completeness of the application — meaning all information must be included — appearance, simplicity of preparation, the use of a variety of fruits and/or vegetables as ingredients and if appropriate for the recipe – lean cuts of locally-produced meat.

Prizes will be awarded to the first, second and third place winners. Those who are selected award winners must be on hand at Ag Day to receive their prizes.

Awards will include mixed vegetable gift baskets from UD Fresh to You, a jar of Dare to Bee Honey from the UD apiary and assorted items from the UDairy Creamery.

The mixed vegetable gift boxes from “UD Fresh to You” will be given to the winners in the form of an IOU ticket as the vegetables will not be ready on April 29. The winner will be given a ticket and the winner’s contact information will be shared with “UD Fresh to You” staff.

Each person may enter only once and the contest ends on Friday, April 14.

For more information, visit the Ag Day recipe contest website.

Article by Adam Thomas

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UD’s Emmalea Ernest uses lima bean breeding program to develop disease resistant lines

UD’s Emmalea Ernest uses lima bean breeding program to develop disease resistant linesCreating a lima bean with built-in disease resistance to root knot nematodes — parasitic worms that cause crop damage — takes a lot of patience and time, requiring years of breeding and the careful identification of sources of nematode resistance.

Luckily for growers in the state, University of Delaware Cooperative Extension has a lima bean breeding program under the guidance of Emmalea Ernest, who began the program in 2004 to develop new varieties of lima beans that possess disease resistance and are well adapted to Delaware’s growing conditions and production practices.

Lima beans are Delaware’s most widely planted vegetable crop with approximately 14,000 acres of green baby limas for processing planted in the state each year. Fordhook and large seeded pole limas are also grown in Delaware.

Root knot nematodes

To look at nematode resistance specifically, Ernest, associate scientist in the Extension Vegetable and Fruit Program and in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, is part of a team of researchers that received a five-year, $1.5 million U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Specialty Crop Research Initiative grant (SCRI).

Some of those funds were used for Ernest to work with Paul Gepts from the University of California Davis to look at lima bean lines that had been successful against nematodes in that state.

Ernest said that unlike the Mid-Atlantic region, where nematodes are a relatively new problem, California has a long-standing breeding program working with nematode resistance.

“They have a decades-long program, since the 1940s, because nematodes are a major problem and have been a major production issue in California. Breeding for nematode resistance in lima beans has been a big focus of the California program,” said Ernest.

California lima beans

The researchers couldn’t simply take the lima beans from California with resistance and plant them in Delaware, however, as they are not suitable for production here.

“We can’t just use those varieties because they are white seeded and meant for harvest at the dry stage, and all of our production is of green seeded lima beans for freezing,” said Ernest.

The goal for this part of the project was to identify sources of nematode resistance that could be used in the Delaware breeding program and then to start using them.

Because of the years of lima bean breeding in California, there are a lot of potential sources of resistance to root knot nematode in lima bean germplasm, which Ernest said means there are a lot of potential parents that can be used to develop resistance in Delaware lima beans.

“I made crosses between the best sources of resistance from the California program and varieties that are suitable for production here,” she said.

Line screenings

Ernest screened inbred lines in 2014 and 2015, some of which were from Gepts and the California breeding program and others that were varieties that had reported nematode resistance.

Those were screened in inoculated field plots at the Thurman G. Adams Agricultural Research Farm in Georgetown, and ratings were taken on galling — abnormal outgrowths of plant tissues. The researchers found that there were two different sources of resistance that held up well against the Delaware root knot nematodes that were being tested.

In 2016, the researchers screened breeding populations in inoculated small plots and made selections out of the 401 planted individuals.

“Those were at a stage of being either four or five generations after the cross. With lima beans, the variety that is the end product is an inbred line and so once I get to seven or eight generations of inbreeding, seven or eight generations after the cross, that is considered pretty close to an inbred line and that’s a finished variety if it’s any good,” said Ernest.

Right now, the researchers are at the sixth or seventh generation and Ernest said she is “increasing seed to have plants in the field this coming summer to look at yield and commercially important seed characteristics in some of those selections that I made out of the field last year. The best lines that we identify this summer, we’ll be testing in the replicated yield trial in 2018.”

Ernest said that the ultimate goal is to identify nematode resistant germplasm to develop new varieties that growers could use in Delaware, adding that the researchers are very close.

“We have found some sources of resistance that work well that will give us resistance to the root knot nematodes, and we have crossed those sources of resistance with things that are adapted and have the commercial qualities that we need, like green seed, and high yields. We are pretty close to maybe having something that could become a variety that’s resistant and has green seed acceptable yield and good agronomic qualities,” she said.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Michele Walfred

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Delaware 4-H seeks UD proposals for 2017 Youth Adult Partnership Conference

Delaware 4-H seeks UD proposals for 2017 Youth Adult Partnership ConferenceThe Delaware 4-H Program will host the 2017 Youth Adult Partnership Conference, with the theme “Ride the Wave to Healthy Living,” from Nov. 10-12 at the Atlantic Sands Hotel in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, and is seeking presentation proposals from the University of Delaware community.

The weekend conference will bring together 150-200 youth and volunteers who will pair up in teams of two-to-four teens with an adult volunteer or staff member from the Northeast Region.

Those teams will participate in workshops to get the latest information on healthy living and bring the ideas back to their communities for projects to improve the health of participants’ schools and communities.

The conference committee is currently seeking proposals from the University community for 75-minute workshop presentations that involve active learning with a focus on Healthy Living content.

The workshops will take place on Saturday, Nov. 11, with time slots available from 9-10:15 a.m., 10:30-11:45 a.m. and 2:30-3:45 p.m.

The workshops will also be a way to model best practices for working in a youth/adult partnership within 4-H clubs and other organizations serving young people.

Workshops can be led by members of the UD community individually or as co-presenters to teach the healthy living content and model best practices for working together.

Proposals are due by Friday, March 31.

For those interested in submitting a proposal, contact Betsy Morris at betsym@udel.edu or call 302-831-8864 to obtain a 4-H Youth Adult Partnership proposal form.

Registration materials for the conference will be available June 15 on the 4-H website.

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Delaware Masters Gardeners take part in Water Warrior workshop

Delaware Masters Gardeners take part in Water Warrior workshopUniversity of Delaware Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardeners spent two days in February learning about the importance of clean water to the state’s environment and economy.

Participants explored simple, low-cost tips for protecting and improving local water quality in their backyards and community and engaging on topics such as green infrastructure as part of a Water Warrior citizen advocacy workshop.

The workshop featured presenters from UD, the Delaware Nature Society (DNS), the Delaware Water Resources Center (DWRC) and the Brandywine Red Clay Alliance, and was affiliated with the Clean Water: Delaware’s Clear Choice campaign, a statewide education and outreach effort led by DNS and focused on clean water.

Many of the presenters were also part of the Clean Water Alliance, a group of diverse stakeholders that supports the Clean Water Campaign and the Water Warrior workshops.

Carrie Murphy, extension agent and the lawn and garden program leader, said that a representative from DNS approached her about holding the training for Master Gardeners, saying it was a natural fit as the gardeners already get a baseline of training on how to help homeowners with water problems.

“There are bigger efforts in neighborhoods to manage the water but then on your own property, and in your landscape, there are slight modifications you can make, for example reducing lawn, planting more native plants, considering a rain garden if appropriate, to more effectively manage water. This has been our focus but we’ve never had extensive training to connect these suggestions to the bigger picture, so this was a great opportunity to do this,” said Murphy.

The first day of the workshop focused on sustainable landscaping, specifically how gardens relate to water management, and highlighted some of the challenges in New Castle County with regard to water management and how Master Gardeners can help people troubleshoot those issues.

Sue Barton, associate professor and extension specialist in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, presented on sustainable landscaping practices, such as bioswales, a landscaping element designed to concentrate or remove pollution from surface water runoff, and native plants that are appropriate for rain gardens.

A DNS representative gave an overview of the Clean Water Alliance and a presentation on “Water Warrior 101: Citizen’s Guide to Clean Water.”

Individual contributions to clean water

There are a number of ways that individuals can help contribute to clean water through individual practices, which is the focus of Water Warrior training. Gardeners, in particular, have a unique relationship with water and can have an immediate impact based on the individual practices that they utilize.

The second day included presentations on the value of watersheds and water in Delaware from Martha Narvaez, a policy scientist at the DWRC, located in UD’s Institute for Public Administration, and an overview of water restoration in the Brandywine-Red Clay Valley from Ellen Kohler of the Brandywine Red Clay Alliance.

The DWRC is on the Clean Water Alliance steering committee and Narvaez said they have been working with DNS on their campaign, trying to attract new alliance members and sharing information about the importance of clean water.

They have also been educating the public on their role in water quality, their impacts on water and the need for clean water.

“We conducted an economic analysis on Delaware’s watersheds in 2012 and, using three different methods, we found watersheds contribute anywhere from $2-6.7 billion annually to the state’s economy. We felt that quantifying [this number] was important so that we could give people a better understanding of why protecting water is important,” said Narvaez.

One of the biggest challenges in protecting water in Delaware and throughout the country is that water crosses state lines, so while Delawareans can address the pollution once it reaches the state, it is increasingly difficult to address the pollution at out-of-state sources.

“How do you address pollution in other states when you really have no regulatory authority to do that? That’s one of the challenges with water. People have different uses downstream and you may not have control of the sources upstream so you need to work to have innovative ways to incentivize people upstream to clean up the water so the people downstream are getting clean water,” said Narvaez.

As far as working with the Master Gardeners, Narvaez said she was happy to participate in the event and share the research DWRC has conducted on the importance of water resources.

“I think the Master Gardeners are a perfect group to carry that through because they are the people on the ground talking to home owners and really connecting with the public and I think they can connect in a way that a lot of us can’t and so I was really happy to be able to participate,” said Narvaez.

Those interested in becoming Master Gardeners or learning about Master Gardener services can call 302-831-COOP or visit the Cooperative Extension website.

Those interested in learning more about the Clean Water Alliance or hosting a Water Warrior training, can contact Brenna Goggin, director of advocacy at DNS, at 302-239-2334 ext. 132 or e-mail brenna@delawarenaturesociety.org.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Wenbo Fan

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UD researchers create website to inform lima bean growers of downy mildew risk

One of the most important factors for lima bean growers in Delaware and throughout the world is the ability to accurately measure and forecast disease occurrence in their fields during the growing season.

A new risk model developed by a team of researchers from the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) and the Delaware Environmental Observing System (DEOS), will allow lima bean growers in the state to utilize a free on-line tool to help them assess the risk of having their fields hit with downy mildew, a fungal-like disease caused by Phytophthora phaseoli.

The research was funded by a five-year, $1.5 million U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Specialty Crop Research Initiative grant (SCRI).

The team includes Nicole Donofrio and Tom Evans, professors of plant pathology in CANR’s Department of Plant and Soil Sciences; Gordon Johnson, assistant professor of plant and soil sciences and a fruit and vegetable specialist for Cooperative Extension; and Kevin Brinson, director of DEOS, which is housed in UD’s Department of Geography in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment (CEOE).

Matthew Shatley, computer research specialist, and Chris Hughes, environmental applications developer, both in CEOE, helped develop the website.

Donofrio said one of the goals of the grant was to create a risk model that growers and processors could easily access for lima bean downy mildew, adding that this new user-friendly website will be “an excellent tool that our cooperators can use that will inform them when and if they need to spray fungicides.”

Evans, who has been working on prediction models for downy mildew for 15 years with multiple students conducting research both in the field and in greenhouses, said that an older model predicted based strictly on temperature and rainfall.

This newer model uses that predictor but adds dew point and temperature, which is helpful as the ideal conditions for downy mildew may also be found in September when growers encounter heavy dews but not much rain.

“The month of September typically has a lot of dew because we have high humidity and low night temperatures. The one that uses dew point is the one that’s been predicting the most because most of the occurrences were in September. We haven’t had any major epidemics in July and August, which is kind of when we have rainfall driven disease,” said Evans.

The risk model utilizes a numeric scale from one to 10 and allows growers to assess how much risk they are willing to take on, before taking action.

“Everybody has a different risk tolerance and their tolerance has to be taken into account. My recommendation is that you’re in high risk when you’re in somewhere between seven, eight or nine, but there’s a lot of variation in that depending on the field and the conditions,” said Evans.

To use the website, users request an account via email to deos-info@udel.edu and an account is set up for them.

Once the user has an account, they can log in to the website to add their lima bean fields or view risk values of their existing fields. New fields are added to the system by providing GPS coordinates or by using a map interface to select the field’s location.

Weather data from the nearest stations in the DEOS network are determined using the field’s geographic location.  Additional information required for each field includes information on the lima bean cultivar planted as well as the field’s downy mildew disease history.

The website allows growers to look at a set of data and graphs that show them their fields’ daily risk value for the occurrence of downy mildew.

Knowing their individual risk factor allows them to know whether or not they need to spray their crops, which helps their economic bottom line.

“This might cut two or three protectant fungicide sprays out in a year and that might save them $100 an acre. And that adds up over time,” said Evans.

The less fungicides that growers use, the better it is for the environment and it also gives downy mildew less of an opportunity to develop resistance to the fungicides that are being used.

Evans said this model is unique to the state of Delaware and the researchers are in the stages of validating it so that that they can feel more comfortable about setting a general range for growers.

“I have not found a system that operates quite like this but that’s because we’re a small state and it’s free data. It’s public data and it’s being done by people that are employed by the state or the University or both,” said Evans.

Brinson said that the website should be launched in time for the spring growing season and that to validate the model, the researchers used data from lima bean fields owned by vegetable production companies that have scouts who regularly check their fields for downy mildew.

“We loaded that data into the system and then ran the model and did all the calculations and as the risk scores got higher, they would go out and try to confirm the presence of downy mildew,” said Brinson, noting that Evans would do a lot of the scouting himself.

“I know Tom was literally driving around with his iPad looking at our tool and saying, ‘Looks like this score is an eight so I want to drive to this field and check it out.’ The research team has put a lot of work into certainly this disease but this particular crop, too,” said Brinson.

For more information about the site, contact Donofrio, Evans or Brinson.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Wenbo Fan

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Northeast Extension Risk Management Education Center at home at UD

Northeast Extension Risk Management Education Center at home at UDFor the past 16 years, the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources has housed the Northeast Extension Risk Management Education Center, a center focused on providing public and private sector organizations with funding for educational projects designed to improve the ability of agricultural producers to effectively manage the complex risks associated with their agribusinesses.

The center — one of four regional centers serving the United States as well as Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa — is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and its responsibility spans 12 states from Maine to West Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia.

A key feature of the producer-focused program is that it is “results-based” – awards are made to projects that clearly identify risk management results for the participants.

The results are the specific, measurable and verifiable risk management outcomes that producers will understand, analyze, develop, decide or implement in managing their agribusinesses, and which will ultimately enhance their economic viability.

Laurie Wolinski, center director, said that the center usually funds 12-16 projects a year with $50,000 being the maximum that can be awarded to a particular project.

“We conduct a competitive grant program that awards funds to educators in the region for delivering risk management education to farmers and producers,” said Wolinski. “When the grants are written, the applicants need to demonstrate the type of measurable impacts that will be recognized by producers in the region to ultimately improve their economic viability.”

Projects are funded for an 18-month cycle with a typical timeframe of April 1 through Sept. 30 the following year.

One such project that was funded in 2015 was led by Dan Severson, a Cooperative Extension agent for New Castle County.

Severson led a needs assessment project with Susan Garey, extension agent, for back yard small ruminant farmers in the state to learn how they could help their clientele be better producers.

“First we sent out a survey through the Delaware Veterinary Association to see how many veterinarians are willing to work on small ruminants. Then we sent out a needs assessment to our producers to see what they would like to have more education on, and it came back that they needed basic veterinary skills,” said Severson. “We did a series of lecture-based workshops and then we did some hands-on workshops where producers actually got to work with sheep.”

Severson said that using the funds from the center was a huge help as it allowed him to focus on the workshops and not worry about budget constraints.

“I didn’t have any problems working with the center. After you did your proposal they let you do your thing, so we’re hoping to use the exploratory grant to apply for a larger grant in the future to basically elaborate or put together a curriculum for small ruminants. I’d just say if you haven’t applied for one, it’s well worth your time. I found the application process simple and straight forward,” said Severson.

Wolinski said that the center’s focus and resources are important because of all the uncertainties that are involved with farming.

“The uncertainties involved require all types of risk management. Everything from weather and input prices, to marketing and profitability, changing technology and regulations to farm transition – a topic that can be especially challenging for families to address. There are just so many different aspects of agricultural risk management,” said Wolinski.

In addition to Wolinski, the center is staffed by Susan Olson, program coordinator, and Michelle McCullough, administrative assistant.

The center was founded by H. Don Tilmon, a retired Cooperative Extension farm management specialist and professor.

For more information on the center, visit the regional or national website.

Those interested in learning more can contact Wolinski or Olson.

Article by Adam Thomas

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Gov. Carney praises Delaware 4-H volunteer leaders at annual forum

Gov. Carney praises Delaware 4-H volunteer leaders at annual forumDelaware Gov. John Carney visited Delaware volunteers at the annual 4-H Leader Forum held Feb. 4 at Polytech High School in Woodside.

Carney praised the gathering of more than 100 4-H volunteers, known as leaders, for their impact on the First State.

“What you do every day lifts all of us up and makes all of us better,” Carney said. “I don’t think there is any greater feeling than to teach a young person to do — whatever it is — and to see them successful at it. As a teacher, as a volunteer, that is what you do every day.

“We are not going to be successful as a country, or as a state unless we are able to instill in that next generation, the values, the skills and the leadership they need to takeover for us.”

After his remarks, Carney remained during the lunch hour, going from table to table talking with 4-H leaders and 4-H state teen officers and happily posing for photographs.

“The thing I appreciate most about Gov. Carney is that he is always supportive of youth and the things they are doing, and what we are doing here in 4-H,” said Doug Crouse, state 4-H program leader. “I know he has a busy schedule, so the fact that he spent an hour talking to every leader was very meaningful.”

The annual forum provides an opportunity for 4-H leaders and staff to present or attend professional development sessions. This year’s offering included: hippology, archery, personal branding, social media, food dehydration, leadership skills, teambuilding, healthy meals and health-related activities.

“I volunteer for 4-H because I am truly inspired by the children I lead,” said Brenda Shaffer, a New Castle County 4-H leader who is a regular at the annual conference. “I continue to learn and grow as a 4-H volunteer.”

“This year’s State 4-H Leader Forum was terrific,” said Ernie Lopez, state 4-H extension specialist. “We had a large and enthusiastic group of volunteers who came out to learn new best practices and join in recognition of the meaningful work being done by fellow 4-H volunteers up and down the state.”

Salute to Excellence awards

Each year provides an opportunity for each county to salute a volunteer of the year for excellence in service under 10 years, and a lifetime volunteer recognition for service of 10 years or more. County winners for 2016 were:

• New Castle County: Volunteer of the Year Blaky Wasgatt and Lifetime Volunteer Award winner Janice Melson.

• Kent County: Volunteer of the Year Sharon Little and Lifetime Volunteer Award winner Wayne Moore.

• Sussex County: Volunteer of the Year Tammy LeCates and Lifetime Volunteer Award winner Marian Carey.

From this selection of volunteer excellence, LeCates and Moore were chosen to represent Delaware for consideration in the regional and national 4-H Salute to Excellence Awards to be announced at a later date.

About 4-H leadership

To become a Delaware 4-H leader, adults go through an extensive application process which includes a criminal background check. In addition to training opportunities at the annual forum, 4-H volunteers receive curriculum training and support at the county level, and many participate in regional and national 4-H leader forums and 4-H sponsored events.

For more information about joining or volunteering for 4-H, visit the website.

For more photos from the forum, visit the Delaware 4-H Flickr site.

Article by Michele Walfred

Photos by Wenbo Fan

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University of Delaware Master Gardeners offer a day of learning

March 11: March to the GardenThe University of Delaware’s Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners will offer a “March to the Garden” workshop from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Saturday, March 11, at the New Castle County Cooperative Extension Office, located at 461 Wyoming Road in Newark.

Master Gardeners are volunteer educators who distribute research-based information from UD and the horticulture industry to home gardeners.

The workshop will be a day of learning with mini-workshops, displays, giveaways and food. The day will also provide an opportunity for participants to network with other local gardeners.

“March to the Garden” will feature topics such as basic pruning, lawn care solutions, soil health and composting and hummingbird gardening, among others. The topics will be presented by Master Gardener experts.

Additional Master Gardener experts and resource tables will feature the teaching gardens at the Extension office and other lawn and garden services and projects including soil testing, plant diagnostics, and the Master Gardener home landscape visitation program.

Registration is $55 if registered by Feb. 15.

For more information, visit the Cooperative Extension website or contact Carrie Murphy, extension educator and Master Gardener coordinator, at cjmurphy@udel.edu or 302-831-COOP.

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CANR teams up with William Penn High on agricultural education

Carrie Murphy speaks to students at William Penn High School.Educating the next generation about where their food comes from and getting them to appreciate the process that allows food to go from farms to their tables is one of the most important challenges facing the agricultural industry today.

It is with that in mind that experts from the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) and Cooperative Extension spent time at William Penn High School in New Castle, Delaware, teaching students in the Penn Farm class the ins and outs of agriculture — covering everything from plants to poultry — with hopes of reinforcing lessons they are learning as part of the course curriculum.

Carrie Murphy, extension agent and the lawn and garden program leader, and Donald Seifrit, a master’s degree student in CANR, visited the class on Dec. 5 and talked to the students about soil health. They also led an outdoor activity in which the students got hands-on experience working with soils, digging with spades and an auger — a tool with teeth at the bottom to break up rocks that can reach six feet down and pull up soil.

Murphy said the students had a lot of fun getting their hands dirty and was impressed at their willingness to embrace the learning activity.

“I handed out spades to everybody and they went ahead and started digging in the soil and we put it all into a couple of buckets and twirled it around and they got a closer look,” she said. “They were smelling it, rolling it around in their fingers, showing each other interesting things that they had found, and that helps us to have a real conversation with the kids.”

Murphy said the students were able to see soil in poor health — such as the compacted pathway that led back to Penn Farm — as compared to the healthy soil on the farm itself, which is better for growing crops.

“We could talk about the differences and help them understand why that might be important,” said Murphy.

Seifrit, who was an Extension Scholar with Murphy and hopes to one day be a teacher himself, said the students really responded to being outside and working in the field. He was eager to have the opportunity to engage with high school students, which is the age group he sees himself teaching and educating about agriculture.

“I want to show kids that it’s more than just corn and cows. For the next 50 years, when we’re supposed to hit 10 billion or so people in the world, it’s important that everyone can have good food. They should know where their food comes from and they should be involved in the process that gets people their nutrition every day,” said Seifrit.

Seifrit also said that the teachers had done a great job with the students in the class.

“They were vocal and active and it was really exciting. The three teachers we were there with have done a great job with those kids. They seemed engaged and they wanted to participate and that’s all you can ask for when you come in and present something,” said Seifrit.

Historic Penn Farm class

At William Penn High, one of the programs in which students can study is agriculture and they are exposed to four years of sustainable agriculture both in the classroom and on Historic Penn Farm.

Through a partnership with Delaware Greenways, the school operates and manages four acres at the farm, where students grow a wide variety of vegetables. William Penn High agriculture students also plan and grow vegetables to be prepared for use in school cafeterias.

Kelly Vaughan, one of the teachers involved with the class, said it is important for the teachers to educate the students on where their food comes from.

Carrie Murphy and Donald Seifrit discuss agricultural practices with William Penn High School students.“We don’t want them to say [the grocery store]. We want them to say a farm. Students should understand where food comes from and what goes into getting food from the farm to consumer’s tables. Farming is hard and many factors go into food production and where it comes from. We hope students gain that knowledge first hand here in our Penn Farm class,” said Vaughan.

Kathleen Pickard, a teacher at William Penn High who has been involved in the program since its inception, said that the class teaches students important skills to prepare them for college or future careers.

“Not only do students have to know how to apply what they’re learning in math class or science class to real life situations but they also need to know the soft skills such as working together as a team, getting along with others, being on time, being prepared and professionalism. Getting them college and career ready is really what the high school is all about,” said Pickard.

UD connection

In addition to Murphy and Seifrit, other UD professionals lined up to talk to the class include Mike Popovich, farm manager at CANR; Brian Kunkel, an ornamental integrated pest management Cooperative Extension specialist; Bob Alphin, instructor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences (ANFS) and manager of the University’s Charles C. Allen Jr. Biotechnology Laboratory; Tanya Gressley, associate professor of animal and food sciences; and Laura Nemec, ANFS lab coordinator.

The students also visited the CANR campus last summer and interacted with professors from all across the college’s four departments.

Karen Ferrucci, a William Penn High teacher and a CANR alumna, said that it was great for the students to have a connection to UD.

“Being a UD alumna, I get excited because maybe it’s a professor I had or I can tell stories to the kids and make more of a connection for them so they don’t feel that college is so far off. We have such a cool connection that we’re building with Mike [Popovich] and with Carrie and a lot of the professors we meet with in the summer. A lot of the kids are like, ‘Wow. I didn’t know UD did this or UD did that.’ It’s just kind of closing the gap for the students,” said Ferrucci.

Pickard said that visiting UD and having professors and professionals come out to the class helps take the scare factor out of applying to college.

“A lot of the kids are reluctant to fill out that application or take that SAT because they’re afraid, and just walking around the campus, interacting with the students and with the professors, taking a mini-course, it just really was exciting for them,” said Pickard.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Wenbo Fan

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2017 Delaware Agriculture Week offers information on best practices, new technologies

The 2017 Delaware Agriculture Week will be held Jan. 9-12 in Harrington, offering information on best practices and new technologies in the industryLast year at Delaware Agriculture Week, nearly 3,000 agriculture stakeholders learned best practices and new technologies, networked with leading industry vendors and experts and met with other agricultural producers.

This unique opportunity returns for its 12th year as the 2017 event will open on Monday, Jan. 9, and runs through Thursday, Jan. 12, at the Delaware State Fairgrounds in Harrington, Delaware.

“What has become a 12-year tradition, Delaware Agriculture Week continues to grow in impact,” said Cory Whaley, University of Delaware agriculture extension agent and chair of the Delaware Agriculture Week planning committee. “We’re pleased to offer fresh, practical and topical sessions that matter to our farmers, growers, crop advisers and industry. Our planning committee and team of experts and guest speakers have once again created a dynamic agenda to meet the needs of our stakeholders.”

The four-day event provides numerous sessions that cover a wide array of topics including small fruits, fresh market and processing vegetables, woodland management, small flock and commercial poultry, grain crops, hay and pasture, beef cattle, irrigation, direct marketing and a special session on soil health.

A risk management session on retirement and succession planning will be featured. Nutrient management, pesticide, and certified crop adviser continuing education credits will be offered. The sessions are taught by Cooperative Extension agents and specialists from UD, as well as from neighboring institutions and leading agriculture industry experts.

In addition to the events held in Harrington, the Delaware Urban Farm and Food Coalition will host a session “Feel the Pulse of Delaware’s Urban Agriculture Community” on Thursday, Jan. 12, from 6-8 p.m. at the Delaware Center for Horticulture in Wilmington. This session will engage in discussion focused on local school and community gardens, urban farming, and corner store efforts. Networking and refreshments will begin at 5:30 p.m.

The event is free, but registration is required. For more information, visit the website or contact Carrie Murphy at 302-831-COOP.

Delaware Ag Week is sponsored by the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension, Delaware State University Cooperative Extension and the Delaware Department of Agriculture.

Agriculture is an $8 billion industry in Delaware according to a 2010 University of Delaware report that factors in agriculture jobs and related production, goods and services that support the largest industry in the First State.

As with last year’s event, the main meeting area will be located in the Exhibit Hall, with additional meetings in the Exhibit Board Room and Commodities Building. A trade show with 89 exhibitors will take place in the Dover Building.

The Delaware Ag Week website features a listing of daily sessions as well as the 2017 program book, available for download. There is no fee to attend.

Article and photo by Michele Walfred

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD Cooperative Extension names Georgie Cartanza new poultry agent

UD Cooperative Extension names Georgie Cartanza new poultry agentUniversity of Delaware Cooperative Extension has announced its hire of Georgie Cartanza as the new poultry Extension agent.

The statewide position will be based from UD’s Elbert N. and Ann V. Carvel’s Research and Education Center in Georgetown, and the hire was effective Dec. 1.

“This opportunity at the University of Delaware puts me in a different position to really serve the industry that has served me so well and provided for my family,” Cartanza said.

“I am very excited to have Georgie Cartanza join the UD Extension team as Extension agent in poultry,” said Michelle Rodgers, UD associate dean and director of Cooperative Extension “Georgie brings personal and professional knowledge and expertise to the position enhanced with passion and commitment for the poultry industry in Delmarva, making her an excellent fit for this position.”

Cartanza’s experience in the industry is extensive. A graduate of Delaware State University with a bachelor of science degree in general agriculture, Cartanza was recruited straight out of college by Perdue Farms, where she enjoyed an eight and a half year career – three and a half years as a flock supervisor and five as a regional supervisor.

Later Cartanza joined Mountaire Farms, serving three years in their housing department.

Ten years ago, while working at Mountaire, Cartanza invested in her own poultry farm, and built four houses on family property in Dover. In April 2015, she made the decision to convert conventionally grown poultry and become a certified organic poultry farmer.

Poultry is the mainstay of Delaware agriculture and the Delmarva region. As Delaware Cooperative Extension’s state poultry agent, Cartanza will deliver the latest university research and best management practices to approximately 1,500 family farms in the region.

Cartanza’s Extension responsibilities include providing numerous educational workshops and webinars on topics such as poultry housing, energy and ventilation management, poultry health, animal welfare, and mortality and litter management.

Her efforts will cross state lines, often working in partnership with industry professionals and Maryland Extension poultry experts, particularly with outreach and matters concerning environmental innovation and nutrient management best practices.

Her experiences as a poultry farmer also motivates Cartanza to educate the public about her profession.

“My hopes are through research and Extension outreach I’ll be able to help people change their perceptions about our industry, but also help the people working in our industry to be more productive and competitive,” she said.

From her earliest college days, Cartanza’s goal was to help farmers. “The poultry industry has taught me so much. I have had tremendous mentors and people who helped me so much, so it’s prepared me to be a good candidate for this position and help as many people as I can,” she said.

Cartanza can be reached at the Carvel Center via email at Cartanza@udel.edu or by calling 302-856-7303, ext.557.

Article by Michele Walfred

This story can also be viewed on UDaily.

Cooperative Extension visits Read House for a taste of the past

With a focus on 18th century foods and preservation, the second annual Farm 2 Fork event was held Sept. 24 at the historic Read House and Gardens in New Castle, Delaware.

Cheryl Bush, UD Cooperative Extension educator and registered dietician in Family and Consumer Sciences, and Carrie Murphy, UD Extension Master Gardener coordinator and horticultural educator, were invited to participate by Katie McDade, head of Read House and Gardens and public programming with the Delaware Historical Society.

Farm 2 Fork event occurred on the same day as Smithsonian’s Museum Day Live!, in which multiple museums and cultural institutions across the country participated. More than 200,000 Museum Day tickets total were downloaded from Smithsonian’s website for this nationwide celebration.

Sally Reiss and Michael Hadley, both Master Food Educators, provided an in-depth and historically relevant demonstration on food preservation and preparation. The presentation took visitors back to the 1700s, offering a look at what food was grown, how it was preserved, and what was consumed.

Michael Hadley, a Master Food Educator, prepares for a Farm 2 Fork presentation.
Michael Hadley, a Master Food Educator, prepares for a Farm 2 Fork presentation.

Hadley, a personal chef, provided a demonstration on how to prepare autumn chopped apple salad, served in clear cups with red forks to complement the fall-themed recipe, which was created by Gail Hermenau, a Master Gardener and Master Food Educator.

Reiss said she found that many of Delaware’s earliest food and recipes were drawn from German and English influences, as many Germans initially settled in Pennsylvania and northern Delaware. Broiled chicken with sour-milk biscuits was a staple, and steamed crabs were a seafood favorite in the summer.

Some examples of popular recipes from the time include apple fritters, “sweet-meat” pudding, and potato soup.

The people of the 17th and 18th centuries did not have the modern technology of refrigeration, so other methods of preservation had to be used, including underground cellars packed with straw, salting, and pickling. Meat had to be consumed or preserved within 24 hours to prevent spoiling.

McDade said she believes the Farm 2 Fork event was very important and beneficial in helping the public understand history. “To know where we’re going, we have to know where we’ve come from,” she said. “To understand the community that we’re a part of, our sense of our identity, how we fit into our communities, and how we move forward, we need to know our past.”

In support of the project, Lori Ennis, Kent County Master Gardener and former John Dickinson Plantation interpreter, provided the Cooperative Extension with invaluable information about crops used from the time period. “John Dickinson and George Read were actually very close friends and it was very common practice to send plants back and forth among friends,” said Ennis, who added that common crops grown included cabbage, garden cress, carrots, turnips, radish, leeks, pumpkin and onion, just to name a few.

“It was a great opportunity get families to come out and see the garden, because the garden doesn’t typically get much public exposure through specific programming,” said McDade.

Providing information at the Farm 2 Fork event are Lynne Perry, Karen Curtis and Carrie Murphy.
Providing information at the Farm 2 Fork event are Lynne Perry, Karen Curtis and Carrie Murphy.

Also at the event, Murphy and Master Gardener volunteers Karen Curtis and Lynne Perry provided information on gardening at home. Murphy and the Master Gardeners discussed food-oriented gardening, provided soil test kits and information, and offered literature on vegetable gardening, backyard composting and pest management.

“Gardening know-how isn’t intuitive for most” Murphy said. “Many people make simple mistakes because they just never knew any different. Someone might buy a plant for the aesthetic look without understanding its needs. And many people inherit their landscapes with their homes so sometimes people don’t know where to start. Our goal is to help educate people on gardening, which can be intimidating sometimes.”

The event proved to be a huge success and plans are in the making for the third annual Farm 2 Fork next year. “I’m really excited and pleased to have worked with the UD Cooperative Extension. Hopefully this is a sign of more to come. Next year perhaps we can collaborate with some more partners and make it a more coordinated effort, as well as a larger event,” said McDade.

Those with interest in becoming Master Food Educators can contact Bush at cbush@udel.edu and those with interest in becoming Master Gardeners can contact Murphy at cjmurphy@udel.edu or 302-831-COOP.

Originally posted on UDaily

Article by Courtney Messina

Master Gardeners teach children at ELC about plants, wildlife

Children learn about plants and wildlife through a Master Gardeners program.
Children learn about plants and wildlife through a Master Gardeners program.

Since its inception in 2009, the Master Gardeners’ Vegetable and Fruit Demonstration Garden located next to Newark’s James Hall Trail has served as an outdoor classroom, educating members of the community about the importance of plants and wildlife.

One of the most beneficial ways that the garden has been used has been to educate local youths from the University of Delaware Early Learning Center (ELC) and the UD Laboratory Preschool, located next door to the New Castle County Cooperative Extension building.

Now, thanks to a partnership with the ELC’s prekindergarten program, the UD Master Gardeners will continue that education. The partnership was initiated by Phyllis Roland and Cathy Coppol, both ELC teachers in the pre-kindergarten class. Their goal is to help children learn how to increase the sustainability of the ELC garden, increase food production, and share fresh produce with the schools and local community.

Roland got the idea when she and her class passed the demonstration garden while walking along the James Hall Trail. She thought it would be “nice to partner with [the Master Gardeners] so they could help us to learn more about gardening. I stopped over to see Pat [Pat Cavanaugh, a Master Gardener], and she agreed to come and look at our garden and talk about their garden.

One of the things that we’re really excited about in our project is to help the children understand how to provide resources to the community. The Master Gardeners contribute to the area Food Bank, so we got on board with that. We bring some of the produce from our garden to contribute and add to what they’re harvesting,” said Roland, who added that they’ve grown broccoli, string beans, lettuce, cucumbers, zucchini, radishes, beans and carrots in the garden. They also have a flower garden and grow herbs.

Roland’s class visits the demonstration garden every Monday morning. The Master Gardeners talk about their gardening projects and introduce the children to processes such as composting, pollination and cultivation, and to various wildlife that help to enhance the garden.

Lynn Hessler, a Master Gardener, shared about a time when the children encountered a monarch butterfly.

“They were able to touch it and we showed them how to hold it and the butterfly wouldn’t fly away. It must’ve thought, ‘I’ve got food, I’ve got water, people love me. Why would I leave?’ So we all sat there and watched it,” said Hessler.

The most beneficial aspect of the partnership has been providing students the experience of growing food from seed to fruit.

“It helps with their social, emotional development,” said Roland. “They have an opportunity to try fresh produce that they may not get at home and we bring food into the classroom. We cook with them and they understand how to process the environment for planting, maintaining the garden, and then eventually harvesting the fruit. It helps to generate excitement and they’re not thinking everything is just instant gratification but they’re looking at processes and I think they’ve grown a lot in that experience.”

Peggy Bradley, ELC director, said that it’s been “a lovely partnership” between the ELC and the Master Gardeners.

“We really appreciate their contribution to our program and it’s a very nice intergenerational connection for our children, as well as an educational connection,” said Bradley.

Bradley also said that research shows that there is “so much cognitive development that can come out of those sensory experiences of gardening. From the beginning planting the seed stage all the way through the picking and smelling and tasting.”

Garden Gals

The demonstration garden is currently being overseen by Cavanaugh, Hessler, Sally Reiss and Ruth Zorzi, all of whom are Master Gardeners and are known collectively as the “Garden Gals.”

There are a total of 27 Master Gardeners who help out with the garden and have interacted with the groups from the ELC and the UD Laboratory Preschool. Zorzi said she enjoys being able to show the children who visit the garden where their food comes from.

“You’re not just getting something out of the supermarket, you see that it grows out of the soil and you can take it in the kitchen and cook it and taste it and get different varieties,” said Zorzi.

Reiss said that it is one thing for a student to learn about science from a book in a classroom but it is another to give them a hands on learning experience at a young age.

“When they can see how the plants actually grow, it’s just the wonder of how all plants can be so different and we can show the kids stuff about caterpillars and talk about how they’re going to become butterflies. You just never know with kids what they’re going to remember but it’s a nice hands-on experience that they otherwise wouldn’t get,” said Reiss.

When they travel to the ELC, the Master Gardeners teach the children how to do things such as pick flowers, beans, cucumbers and tomatoes so that they aren’t pulling out the whole plant.

“They were all involved with picking the marigolds and taking them home for their parents and then a couple of the boys decided it was great fun to throw the marigolds like balls. Of course, by doing that, they were spreading the seeds so we said, ‘OK, this is a good thing,’” said Cavanaugh.

Gail Hermenau, who led the installation of the garden back in 2009 after helping to create a demonstration composting area, said the garden has been used by the ELC since the very beginning.

“When I was there on a regular basis, people from the James Hall Trail would come over, and we engaged a lot of people in the garden and it was just sort of a regular thing that we always worked with the children from Fran Walls’ classroom so I’m really glad that they still are doing different workshops with the kids,” said Hermenau.

“We would bring vegetables back into their class and show them the different insects and caterpillar larvae, the chrysalis if we could find them – whatever we could use that was taking place. It is like a living classroom out there for children and adults,” said Hermenau.

The Master Gardeners design and maintain gardens and a compost demonstration site for the purpose of teaching good horticultural practices. Those interested should stop by the demonstration site at the Cooperative Extension office, 461 Wyoming Road in Newark on the University of Delaware campus to learn more about growing fruit and vegetables, composting and plants native to our region.

Those interested in becoming a Master Gardener should contact Carrie Murphy, Extension Educator, Master Gardener Coordinator at cjmurphy@udel.edu or 302-831-COOP.

Story by Adam Thomas, Photo by Wenbo Fan

Originally posted on UDaily

4-H alumna, volunteer, staffer receives Joy Sparks Spirit of 4-H Award

4-H alumna, volunteer, staffer receives Joy Sparks Spirit of 4-H AwardRita Lofland of Greenwood, Delaware, was honored recently as the Sussex County recipient for the Joy Sparks Spirit of 4-H Award.

Lofland was surprised by the award, which was presented in front of the Sussex 4-H community during its annual achievement event on Sept. 25 at the University of Delaware Carvel Research and Education Center in Georgetown.

“It is an honor to be the 2016 recipient,” Lofland said. “I worked with Joy for 13 years and I always respected her knowledge and passion for Delaware 4-H.”

The Joy Sparks Spirit of 4-H Award was established in 2009 in memory of Sparks, the Delaware 4-H program leader who died in February of that year.

The honor recognizes outstanding achievement in individuals who exhibit dedication, enthusiasm and embodiment of 4-H values. The four H’s of the program represent “head, heart, hands and health,” which members and volunteers pledge to dedicate to their club, community and country through leadership, citizenship and the furtherance of life skills and community service.

Lofland, who retired as the Sussex County 4-H program assistant in 2016, has a long relationship with the program. At age eight, she joined as a member of the Peach Blossom 4-H in Kent County where her parents, Bobby and Ruth Ann Messick, were club leaders. Both of her parents were recipients of the Joy Sparks Spirit of 4-H Award while they were volunteer leaders. As a 4-H’er, Lofland was active in the fashion revues, foods projects, talent shows, 4-H camps and showed sheep and ponies at the Delaware State Fair.

“Joy and I were in 4-H together in Kent County,” Lofland said, noting they were a few years apart and in different clubs. “Her brother Alex Gooden and I were in the same year together as Kent County 4-H’ers.”

In 1987, Lofland became a volunteer 4-H leader when her two children joined their local club, the Greenwood Hi-Flyers. Her dedication to 4-H was recognized by Sussex County 4-H agent Mary Argo (also a 2013 honoree) and Argo hired Lofland in 1996 for what would be a 20-year career as a part-time 4-H program assistant with UD Cooperative Extension.

“Rita has been a valuable asset to Sussex County 4-H,” said Jill Jackson, Sussex County 4-H educator. “When I joined 4-H at eight years old, Rita was my club leader and was always looking for ways to promote 4-H values to our club members. She always goes above and beyond to help club members and leaders.”

Jackson added, “We are blessed to have wonderful leaders such as Rita who put their time and talents into helping our members ‘Make the Best Better.’”

Lofland’s contributions to 4-H were innumerable. She helped put together the monthly newsletter, managed the county 4-H bookkeeping, planned events, worked with volunteers and promoted many 4-H project areas, in particular anything to do with horses – the 4-H Horse Show, state judging contests at the Delaware State Fair and organizing Breyer Horse shows, Breyer paint nights, and working with youth on numerous horse bowl teams.

Her family’s love of horses led Rita and her husband Donnie to chaperone the first Delaware Appaloosa youth team and attended the national show in Oklahoma in 1998. The Loflands continue to own two Appaloosa horses along with four miniature pet donkeys.

Although her retirement from 4-H administrative work came in 2016, Lofland remains an active 4-H leader of the East Coast Riding Club.

While Lofland received many formal accolades over the years, including the National Association of Extension 4-H Agent’s Award for support staff, and the Salute to Excellence Lifetime Volunteer Award for Sussex County, the Joy Sparks Spirit of 4-H is especially significant to Lofland and her family.

“My parents both received this award during their lifetime. I am going to place mine right in the middle of theirs,” Lofland said. “This is very special to me.”

Article and photo by Michele Walfred

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Cooperative Extension hosts healthy recipe demos at farmers markets

Monica Marcial-Gutierrez and Regina Santangelo lead a healthy eating demonstration at Rockwood Park.
Monica Marcial-Gutierrez and Regina Santangelo lead a healthy eating demonstration at Rockwood Park.

The University of Delaware’s Cooperative Extension Family and Consumer Sciences program has been making its rounds to farmers markets throughout New Castle County, preparing ingredients and conducting demonstrations in order to raise public awareness about healthy eating.

The program is led by Maria Pippidis, New Castle County Extension director and a family and consumer sciences extension educator, who said that the demonstrations “promote easy and simple no-cook recipes that use seasonal ingredients and provide visitors with the chance to taste the recipes and maybe even try an ingredient they haven’t tried before.”

Overall, several volunteer UD dietetics students have visited 18 different markets throughout the county during the summer months, reaching 809 visitors and distributing 400 copies of healthy recipes.

Monica Marcial-Gutierrez, a UD alumnus who graduated in 2016 with a degree in dietetics and now works with Cooperative Extension, and Regina Santangelo, a volunteer for the demonstration who also graduated in 2016 with a degree in dietetics, led a demonstration in Rockwood Park, where they presented a corn and black bean salsa recipe.

“The whole point of doing these demonstrations is to show people what to do with in-season vegetables and also to encourage them to buy local produce. Our aim is also to show people how to make it, and just how easy it can be,” said Marcial-Gutierrez.

At Rockwood, the corn and black bean salsa was served with a side of chips for sampling and the ingredients were simple, fresh and easy to find.

One of the goals of Cooperative Extension is to educate the public on just how easy healthy eating can be. “Salsas like this are very popular, and you don’t have to be a cook in order to do it,” said Santangelo.

In some areas of Delaware, finding fresh food can be difficult, and all that may be available is fast food or processed food.

“I think it’s important for people to have access to fresh and healthy food. Some people don’t even know what to do with the food once they have the ingredients,” said Marcial-Gutierrez. “We get many questions from our visitors. For example, a visitor may ask, ‘Where do you get [the ingredients] and what do you do with it?’ I tell them, ‘You can get it right here, and here’s a nice recipe you can make with some of the ingredients.’”

“Cooperative Extension has a long history of helping local agricultural producers grow foods and be profitable, as well as providing nutrition education,” Pippidis said. “This project has helped us address both initiatives by linking local growers who are glad to have new clientele visit their booths for ingredients they just learned about from our farmers market food demonstration project.”

UD Cooperative Extension will hold demonstrations on Friday, Sept. 30, from 4-6 p.m., and Friday, Oct. 29, from 4-6 p.m., at the Southbridge Youth Farm Stands at the Neighborhood House in Wilmington.

Originally posted on UDaily

UD researchers examine best irrigation practices at Warrington Farm

UD researchers examine best irrigation practices at Warrington FarmWhen James Adkins started working at the Warrington Farm just south of Milton, Delaware, in 1999, the farm was plagued with poor drainage, noxious weeds and poor soil fertility.

Now, 17 years later, steady improvements to the soil and the drainage system allow University of Delaware researchers the ability to study irrigation and fertigation treatments for plots of soybean, wheat and corn and to make recommendations to regional growers on how to best irrigate and fertilize their crops.

Those issues are exceptionally important to farmers — in both Delaware, which boasts around 128,000 acres of irrigated cropland, and around the world — who must balance use of the correct amount of water and fertilizer to produce the best crop yields from the soils they are working.

Given to the University by Everett Warrington in 1992, the Warrington Farm is equipped with a variable rate center pivot irrigation system, which was upgraded in 2012 from a previous version that Adkins, associate scientist for irrigation engineering at UD’s Carvel Research and Education Center, built with Ian McCann, an irrigation and water management specialist, in 2001.

“At the time, it was like VHS and Betamax, and I built a Betamax,” said Adkins, who explained that before getting the new system in place, researchers would have to stand on the pivot point and wait for the water to hit a flag and then turn a combination of toggle switches to make the machine do what it needed to do.

In 2016, the irrigation system was upgraded to reflect the latest advancements in irrigation management and technology.

Now, researchers are able to use geographic information system (GIS) software to map where and how they want certain research plots irrigated. The primary goal is to evaluate and identify the most effective and efficient water management strategies to enhance crop production and nutrient management.

To plant the crops, Adkins uses a tractor equipped with real-time kinematic steering that can be set up to drive plus or minus an inch one way or the other for each pass so that all the rows on the farm are planted perfectly straight. He then takes that map out of the tractor and uses it with the pivot to determine how the farm plots get irrigated.

“We’ve got the farm randomized into about 300 individual 60- by 60-foot squares and we categorize the soils based on a range of factors such as electrical connectivity, which is a proxy for soil moisture holding capacity, and clay content. We’re categorizing them in such a way that we’ve got five tiers and we plant each of our treatments in each tier. We want to make sure that ‘Treatment One’ doesn’t always end up in the best soil and make sure it gets into all five tiers,” said Adkins.

Each square is irrigated differently, and every morning the researchers collect data from sensors that monitor soil moisture content at 6, 12 and 18 inches.

The data comes from watermark sensors that are hardwired to a wireless transmitter that sends data to a tower where 11 machines record all the information.

The researchers look at soil moisture values daily and can see how soil moisture values change throughout the day.

“We’ve got about 200 stations with three sensors each that log each hour so we’re looking at a large volume of data each day. We can tell where the roots of a crop are by looking at the soil moisture values because when the sun comes up, the plant starts using water so we’ll see that soil moisture profile start to drop. When the sun goes down, the plant is no longer using water so it will level off. By watching each depth, we can get a good idea where our root zone is and thus change how we irrigate,” said Adkins.

By analyzing the data for each plot, the researchers can prepare a prescription for how the machine will run for the day.

“If we have a treatment triggered by a sensor that reads 20 centibars or above – for instance, if we get in one morning and we have one plot at 21 centibars – that square gets irrigated,” said Adkins. “It’s a mechanism to be able to evaluate whether sensor-driven irrigation has an effect on yield and water use efficiency.”

Trevor Aldred, who is working on the farm for the summer before heading to medical school after graduating from UD with an honors degree in biological sciences, enters the data every morning into a spreadsheet that is color coded to tell the researchers which plots need to be irrigated and how they need to be irrigated.

With the soybean research, Adkins said the study is mostly devoted to the timing of application.

“We find that soybeans respond to water at a very particular time and if you just water based on conventional methods, you’ll actually hurt yield because it will result in a plant that is too big and that falls down,” said Adkins.

With the corn, they are looking at fertigation, mostly in regards to nitrogen use efficiency, with 11 different treatments replicated five times for a total of 55 treatment blocks.

Subsurface drip irrigation

In addition to the above-ground center pivot irrigation plots, there is a section of the farm devoted to subsurface drip irrigation (SDI).

For SDI research on a randomized population study on soybeans, Adkins uses a variable rate planter to put seeds in the field and color codes each section of the soybean crop, with each color representing a different population.

“There are four different populations and as the planter draws across the field, it’s planting an orange section with 180,000 seeds, the yellow area goes up to 220,000, then back to 180,000, then to 140,000, and then it turns around. The planter responds to a map that I drew and uploaded to the tractor,” said Adkins.

All four populations will be irrigated with SDI and end up in each irrigation treatment so the researchers have the ability to compare population with irrigation rate.

SDI is exactly as it sounds, with water running underground in order to irrigate a crop. The Warrington Farm is equipped with a variable frequency drive, a pump in the ground that changes speed to match the flow demand that can reach up to 475 gallons a minute. A control box handles 42 zones that are roughly a quarter of an acre each.

“Each zone can be timed to come on whenever we want so we’re taking the information on soil moisture values and we’ve got schedules in there for all kinds of different ways that we’re irrigating,” said Adkins.

Adkins said that SDI is a good option for irregularly shaped fields that don’t have room to fit a pivot and that it works well in heavier soil types, like loam soils and clays, because there’s enough hydraulic connectivity in those denser soils to wick moisture away from the drip tape and get it to the soil surface. For sandier soils, however, it’s hard to get the water to move vertically in the soil profile.

“When we bury the tape at 16 inches – and we have to do that in order to prevent it from being damaged by farm equipment – we don’t get a lot of it to come up to the surface. Early in the season when there are no roots down to that depth, we end up pumping considerably more water to try to get that water to move vertically in the profile so the efficiency we gain on the tail end doesn’t overcome the inefficiencies we get on the front end,” said Adkins.

Still for those who have the right soil types to utilize SDI, Adkins said that it is a good system.

“There are parts of the world, because of water use efficiency and lack of water, they’ve taken down pivots and put in subsurface drip, but I don’t see that happening here. We get enough recharge that it’s not really an issue. It has its place, but it’s not a silver bullet,” said Adkins.

Article and photo by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD Cooperative Extension offers Dining with Diabetes programming in Spanish

UD Cooperative Extension offers Dining with Diabetes programming in SpanishWith diabetes affecting more than 29.1 million people in the United States and approximately 85,000 Delawareans over the age of 18, University of Delaware Cooperative Extension offered its spring Dining with Diabetes program in Spanish at select locations throughout New Castle County to raise awareness among Hispanic residents on how to eat properly and lead healthy lifestyles.

The Cenando con Diabetes classes were led by Cheryl Bush, an Extension agent and registered dietitian nutritionist, and Carlos Dipres, Extension educator, and helped participants learn how to follow a careful meal plan to reduce sugar, salt and fat in foods without giving up good taste.

The first class dealt with desserts, the second with main dishes and the third with side dishes.

“The first class is information on artificial sweeteners, carbohydrates, statistics about diabetes and what diabetes really is. With the second class, we move more into fat and salt and different foods that people should limit if they have diabetes and need to manage their diet,” Bush said. “Then the last week is more focused on fiber and calcium and fruits and vegetables, foods that you can use to improve your diet along with exercise and activities to help with those blood sugar numbers.”

Betsy Morris, nutrition assistant, also helped with the class, getting all the preparation work done the day before with a team of Master Food Educator volunteers.

“We take all the food on the road, all the baked goods – anything Betsy and her team have prepped – and they do a live demonstration of Hispanic recipes, which is the focus each time they present. The fun part is that people get to eat; it’s a sample, but they receive some nice full plates,” said Bush.

Dipres said that the class was fantastic because it combined the theory and the practice of what people should eat and what they should watch.

“People don’t know what to eat. A proper education on the disease is definitely going to help you. Through Dining with Diabetes, we’re going to show you what diabetes really is,” said Dipres.

Bush said that in the Hispanic community, there are differences between diabetes rates among the different populations of Cubans, Dominicans, Mexican-Americans and Puerto Ricans, with the Puerto Rican population having the highest percentage of people with diabetes and who are considered pre-diabetes.

“We’re now approaching 30 million Americans overall and it’s about 440 million in the whole world, so it truly is an epidemic,” she said. “Anything we can do to help people understand that the lifestyle changes that they can control more than anything else — we always want to impart that it’s not a person’s fault that they have diabetes, as much of it has to do with genetics — are diet and exercise.”

The classes were held at the New Castle County Cooperative Extension Office and at Westside Family Healthcare, and participants ranged in age from seniors to the middle aged to young people with children.

Dipres said that those who participated with the class walked away impressed and informed.

“They were impressed not only with the food — which was great and fantastic — but they learned a lot. They came to realize what diabetes is and what they can do, and they were surprised when they learned that they could eat certain things to deal with the disease,” Dipres said. “I believe the theory and the practice – practice meaning the food that they eat and how to prepare it – was an eye opening experience. They all were impressed by learning what is going to increase their blood level, their glucose level. It was a really good program.”

Bush said it was great to get to work with Dipres, who translated questions from the audience and helped organize the program and get participants involved.

“Carlos had to do all that ground work of trying to get the various groups together and he also had to try to find the sites,” said Bush.

She noted that the participants did not have to pay full price for the program, with those who participated in a Healthy Living Challenge, designed by UD Cooperative Extension and the Department of Behavioral Health and Nutrition only having to pay $10 per person and some of the older participants sponsored by the Latino magazine El Tiempo Hispano and Westside Health.

Some of the participants had pre-diabetes with a few having Type-2 diabetes, and they passed along critical firsthand information to the other participants about what it was like to manage the disease. Others came to the class to pass along information to at-risk family members.

“Generally the idea of this is to sit down and have others talking about their experiences and that helps the whole group learn. We sat family style and it was really great. These groups were engaged more so than I’ve had in any other program that I’ve done here,” said Bush.

The most important lesson that most of the participants walked away with at the end of the program was to pay attention to food labels and portion control and to follow MyPlate, the current nutrition guide published by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

“When they walk out of there, they know a lot more about how diabetes is affecting them and the different things that they need to talk about with their physicians. We also direct them to what kind of help is available in Delaware,” said Bush.

Dipres said he is hopeful the program will be held again next year and that it is especially important for those at risk or already affected by the disease to take the class and get better educated about the disease.

“Prevention is the only medication that works, and this is prevention, right here,” said Dipres.

For those interested in learning more, email Dipres or call him at 302-831-1067.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Wenbo Fan

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD’s Pippidis recognized for work on Smart Choice Health Insurance program

UD's Pippidis recognized for work on Smart Choice Health Insurance programUniversity of Delaware Cooperative Extension educator Maria Pippidis was part of a team that has been presented the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute for Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA) Jeanne M. Priester Award for outstanding contributions to the Cooperative Extension System and the public in the area of health and wellness.

The team, made up of Cooperative Extension personnel from UD and the University of Maryland, was given the award at the National Health Outreach Conference and recognized for its work spreading the word about the Smart Choice Health Insurance program, which helps consumers make informed choices concerning health care insurance needs.

Pippidis, New Castle County director and Extension educator for family and consumer sciences, said she was pleasantly surprised to hear that the team had received the award.

“I didn’t know that an award nomination had gone in and so I’m very pleased for our Health Insurance Literacy team,” said Pippidis.

Since 2013, the team has developed and pilot tested curriculum, amended the curriculum as needed and offered trainings to other extension educators in 32 states across the country on how to use the Smart Choice Health Insurance program in their states.

“When we trained and certified educators from across the country to use the curriculum, they were also collecting the evaluation data and turning it in. This really helped to show that the curriculum was effective. The Priester Award recognized these individuals as well,” said Pippidis.

With the help of those educators across the country, Pippidis said they were able to get enough information from 1,600 participants to do a statistical analysis on the effectiveness of the program. An evaluation specialist in Maryland used the data to analyze the numbers and showed that the program was having an impact on participants.

“We can honestly say that almost every participant who participated in the program increased their knowledge, skills and confidence in making a health insurance decision or choice and increased their confidence around understanding health insurance terms,” said Pippidis.

Pippidis said the team encounters people who enter the program knowing they are confused and then also encounter individuals who think they are informed about insurance literacy only to find out their understanding of certain insurance terms is different than the reality.

“The term co-insurance is a good example. I don’t know how many people told me that they thought this term meant both themselves and their spouse were covered by the insurance plan as opposed to it relating to a cost term describing a percentage of the allowable amount that they’re responsible for. It’s a huge difference in understanding,” said Pippidis.

Other difficulties encountered include things like the differences between the types of plans and how to calculate costs.

“What we’re trying to teach is consumer decision-making and what are the best processes and strategies to do that. In addition, we are providing resources, ideas for next steps to find out more about the market place, or questions you can ask your employer about your options,” said Pippidis.

The curriculum has been delivered both in person and through the use of distance technology. Additional programs are also being developed for the program.

“The first program was called Smart Choice and this focused on how to make a choice around health insurance programs and health insurance options. What we’re working on now is Smart Use – how do you use your insurance effectively?” said Pippidis.

Pippidis said that throughout the whole project, the leadership at both UD, with Michelle Rodgers, associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and director of UD Cooperative Extension, and at Maryland, with Bonnie Braun and Teresa McCoy and their administrative team, has been outstanding.

The leadership has supplied financial and personnel resources so that the team can function well and the curriculum can have a foundation in research and literature, and they have helped to promote the importance of Extension in addressing health and health insurance literacy nationwide through the Extension system.

“We know if people don’t have insurance or can’t afford insurance, then they’re not going to access care. Potentially, their physical and mental well-being will diminish, which means that they won’t be able to work or go to school, which in turn means that they won’t be able to earn which means they won’t be able to get insurance,” Pippidis said. “There’s this circular connection between health and financial wellbeing that is really important to address. Our goal is to help people afford insurance by picking the right insurance and using it wisely so they can go to work and go to school.”

Other team members from the Maryland include Lynn Little and Bonnie Braun, co-leaders, University of Maryland, Extension; Mia Russell, Extension educator; Virginia Brown, Extension educator; Patsy Ezell, assistant director for family consumer sciences; and Teresa McCoy, assistant director for assessment and evaluation, University of Maryland Extension.

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD Cooperative Extension lawn and garden team gears up for spring

UD Cooperative Extension lawn and garden team gears up for springWith the arrival of spring, the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension Lawn and Garden Program is offering a variety of services to provide information and new research findings from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) to homeowners and industry in the state.

Carrie Murphy, Extension’s lawn and garden leader, said the program offers a wide range of services to help communities create landscapes that are both low maintenance and productive.

“The lawn and garden team provides education to professionals, homeowners, and communities to assist them in designing and maintaining productive, sustainable landscapes,” Murphy said. “We want to promote a balance between native plants that do well in this area and plants that are not native but still good choices for their landscapes.”

Lawn and garden team

Extension’s lawn and garden team is made up of seven primary members, each representing a specific need area — and in some cases crossing interest areas — to best address the needs of the Delaware community.

Dot Abbott, Extension’s renewable resources agent, does a great deal of work with wildlife habitat, backyard composting and urban/rural forest management. Abbott leads the Outdoor Woodland Classroom program, which is designed to get schools and communities outside to experience the natural environment. The 18-stop outdoor woodland classroom is located in Sussex County on the University’s Carvel campus, near Georgetown, but there are others throughout Delaware.

Sue Barton, associate professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences and an Extension specialist, is the sustainable landscapes leader and has done much work to develop roadside plantings to replace turf with more sustainable landscapes that promote diversity and utilize diverse plantings, shrubs, and perennials and meadow type plantings. Barton also teaches courses at UD that focus on sustainability and has worked on sustainable landscapes across the campus and on projects to rid it of certain invasive plant species.

Valann Budischak, Extension agent, provides extension programming for the nursery and landscape industry. She coordinates the Livable Lawns program with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) and the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT). She is the statewide Master Gardener coordinator and was instrumental in creating the first statewide training in the fall of 2015.

Budischak works with Barton to team up on various projects. She is the executive director of Delaware Nursery and Landscape Association (DNLA), which partners with Extension on many projects, including expositions and educational conferences. She’s also the education and volunteer coordinator for the UD Botanic Gardens.

Nancy Gregory, Extension agent, works with Brian Kunkel, ornamentals Integrated Pest Management (IPM) specialist, in the Plant Diagnostic Clinic and focuses on plant diseases, pests, environmental stress disorders, and mushroom and weed identification. Kunkel’s focus is insects and he offers home gardeners and industry professionals IPM education. Kunkel has cooperative research projects across the Mid-Atlantic region that address various nursery and landscape needs.

Gregory and Kunkel present up to date information in the weekly Ornamentals Hotline newsletter, in talks to growers and landscapers, and in training for Master Gardeners. Fact sheets are posted on the Extension website and updates made to the Hot Topics in Plant Health Blog.

Tracy Wootten, Extension agent, is located in Sussex County and, like Murphy, coordinates Master Gardener Volunteer Educators, and provides homeowner and green industry education, working with a more agrarian clientele.

“With the help of trained Master Gardener volunteer educators the lawn and garden team’s reach is extensive. We have a lot of information to share with the public to help them succeed in planting and maintaining their lawns and gardens.” said Murphy.

Lawn and garden services

In addition to training Master Gardeners, volunteer educators and experienced gardeners who provide home horticulture education, the Lawn and Garden Program offers home garden workshops throughout the year and a short course schedule for landscape professionals but is open to anyone who wants to participate.

Courses include everything from basic landscape design to pest walks. Many of the short courses also offer pesticide and nutrient management recertification credits for professionals who need continuing education credits.

There is a garden hotline at each of the county offices that people can call at any time to ask a question. Callers will receive a response that will direct them to what they need or provide them with an answer.

“To complement the garden line, we also have Ask an Expert, which is an on-line vehicle through Extension for asking questions. People can attach pictures; and, for example, if they are looking for identification, as long as it’s a quality picture, we can assist quickly,” said Murphy.

Soil testing and diagnostic program

The soil testing program allows farmers, homeowners and others engaged in soil management and land use the ability to analyze their soil which provides useful information on how best to manage their land. Soil tests can be purchased from each of the county offices, online and from garden centers and retailers in the counties.

The plant diagnostic clinic, run by Gregory and her team, allows for people to bring in plant samples to each of the county offices for disease or pest identification.

“We try to evaluate the samples and provide a diagnosis in the county office but if it’s something that we can’t handle we will get it to Nancy in the clinic and she’ll take a look at it and provide assistance,” said Murphy.

Livable Lawns

The Delaware Livable Lawns program is a project overseen by Barton and Budischak, backed by DNLA and other partners, that promotes good lawn establishment and maintenance and longer term management.

The Delaware Livable Lawns program website has information on appropriate times to seed or sod, and the appropriate times to fertilize. It also promotes soil testing for people to better understand their soil and how to make good decisions to fertilize or amend the soil.

“The goal of this initiative is to reduce fertilizer and pesticide runoff from lawns. By providing homeowners with the necessary information to apply the right product, in the correct quantities, at the ideal time, they will maintain a healthy, beautiful lawn and partner in protecting our environment,” said Budischak.

The program is connected to Livable Delaware, a series of publications that addresses invasive plants, native plants, good plant choices for landscapes, and good management techniques.

Vegetable gardening

The lawn and garden team also has demonstration gardens at each of the county offices that serve as classrooms where workshops and demonstrations are held. Everything in the gardens is labeled and people are free to walk around the gardens.

The group partners with food pantries and the Food Bank of Delaware to get the produce – such as blueberries, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers –  to people in need.

In addition, Wootten runs a program in Sussex County called “Garden Smart, Garden Easy,” which is about accessible gardening and provides people with tools and different ways to think about how to set a garden.

Home visits

Lastly, the Master Gardeners in New Castle County organize a program that will make house calls to residents in the county, a lot of times fielding calls from new homeowners who don’t know what plants they have and want help with identification. They also go out and provide design advice, and assist people who may be having problems where they are trying to plant.

“You can contact our office and request a home visit and Master Gardeners will try to accommodate the request,” said Murphy. More information for the program is on the New Castle County Master Gardener website. “It’s a popular program that we have to cut off most seasons. Last year the Master Gardeners visited 35 different home landscapes.”

The UD-Renewable Resources program also provides on-site visits to urban homeowners — including homeowner associations — for assistance with tree care concerns.

In addition, most of the lawn and garden team will be on hand at Ag Day.

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD researchers examine combinations of lamps, dimmer switches for poultry houses

Udaily story focused on their studying lighting technologies for poultry houses Newton Building College of Agricuture and Natural Ressources Univeristy of Delaware.

When it comes to broiler chicken houses, one of the most important parts of the operation is the lighting in the house, which can prove to be a sizeable investment.

A problem growers run into when trying to decide which lamps to purchase is knowing what lamps (commonly referred to as bulbs) and dimmers (equipment that controls lamp light output and switches lamps on and off) work best together for their particular operation.

Now, thanks to a study from researchers at the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), growers can determine the best sets of lights for their houses along with the best dimmers to pair with those particular lights by using an online selection tool.

The research team that developed the selection tool includes Sarah Morrissey, an Honors Program senior majoring in pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences; Eric Benson, a professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences (ANFS); Bob Alphin, instructor in ANFS and manager of the University’s Charles C. Allen Jr. Biotechnology Laboratory; Dan Hougentogler, a research associate in the department; and Bill Brown, a Cooperative Extension agent.

Lamps and switches

Beginning a few years ago when looking at the durability of alternative lights in poultry houses, Benson said they found that many lights that were supposed to last for thousands of hours were failing well before their advertised time of use.

Coupled with an evolving market that has introduced new lamps at a fast clip – which leads to growers wanting to adopt new technologies but unsure of how to go about doing that – the team members decided they wanted to get some baseline data to help growers determine how to best make their lighting selections.

Complicating the issue was the fact that the lamps run with a dimmer switch and are not simply run at full intensity all of the time.

“In poultry lighting, we don’t just put them in and turn the lights on. There’s a dimmer or two in the house, and it turns out that there’s a pretty significant interaction between the dimmer and the lamp and how it controls the lamp. Some lamps work really well with a given dimmer, some don’t,” said Benson.

Morrissey said there can be 80 to 100 lamps per house, and with the Delmarva region averaging two and a half poultry houses per farm, with some farms having up to 10 houses, the investment is significant, as lamps can cost up to $40 each.

Udaily story focused on their studying lighting technologies for poultry houses Newton Building College of Agricuture and Natural Ressources Univeristy of Delaware.

Morrissey began working on the project during Winter Session 2015 and looked at lights from 17 particular lamps — 15 LED lamps, one incandescent lamp and one cold cathode fluorescent lamp. She also looked at eight dimmers with 21 different dimmer profiles that made them more or less compatible with different technologies, and used a spectrometer to measure five aspects of the lights per test.

Those five tests included measuring voltage; the milliamps, which is the current; the Kelvin temperature; the luminous flux, which is the light intensity; and the re-fire.

Benson said they looked at the re-fire because in a poultry house with 100 lamps, “the re-fire determines the lowest point that the dimmer and the lamp will work together and in a lot of cases, when they’re out in a big house, they don’t all go on at the same point. Instead of all 100 lamps going on at the same point, two might go on at one point and six at another, which makes it difficult for growers to program their lights.”

Sometimes, the lights don’t start and stop at the same point.

“If the lamps go all the way down to 10 percent, some of those same exact combinations that can go down to 10 percent during the dimming won’t come back on to produce light until 25 percent just because of the interactions between the dimmer and the lamp,” said Morrissey.

The group ended up performing over 3,000 tests and they did not find an ideal lamp that worked best with all the dimmer profiles, and no dimmer profile that worked best with all the lamps. That was one of the reasons the group decided to create the online selection tool.

Selection tool

The selection tool is a website that anyone, including poultry growers, can access and find the results of the research. Greg Keane, a database administrator for CANR, and Christy Mannering, a web developer for CANR, helped with the development of the website.

“People can see the results for the different combinations tested to see which lamp works well with which dimmer and vice versa,” said Morrissey.

Benson added that growers can also ask, “‘I have a dimmer, I have a lamp, what’s the best profile?’ There’s some different ways that they can use this to try to optimize what they’re doing.”

While the group didn’t find a “one-size-fits-all” solution to the problem, they did find some combinations that didn’t work well together, which can be just as useful to the growers.

“Initial investments-wise, if you have all these lamps, it may make more sense to consider buying a different dimmer that’s more compatible with those lamps because a dimmer could be $200-$300 depending on the technology but the lamp investment, say you’re getting $40 lamps and 100 total, that adds up,” said Morrissey.

Morrissey was able to present the research as part of Delaware Ag Week, which she said was a great experience.

As for if she ever envisioned herself studying poultry lighting and using that research as part of her senior honors thesis when she entered CANR as a freshman, Morrissey said definitely not.

“I knew I wanted to get involved in research but I hadn’t quite narrowed it down. I was keeping myself open to different options and then they needed some help and I made my way into this and became more and more interested in it. I wouldn’t stop talking about my light bulbs over the summer,” said Morrissey

Extension outreach

The group also had the help from Cooperative Extension as Brown helped the group realize how important it is for poultry growers to have the correct lighting in their houses and how it has been an ongoing issue for the industry.

“Besides Sarah doing an excellent job with this, I think this type of project is ideal because we’re involving an undergraduate in research and there’s an applied side where it’s dealing with a real world problem that she’s helped in answering, and we’re fulfilling our land grant outreach,” said Alphin.

Alphin said that they support the poultry industry through research conducted in the department and work closely with Extension agents like Brown to get that information to growers.

“We’re trying to help the broiler industry and with this project, we’re seeing a problem, we’re seeing research that is coming up with some answers and helping with a possible solution for the problem and we’re involving undergraduate students in the process. I just think that kind of says it all.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Wenbo Fan

UD Cooperative Extension accepts applications for Extension Scholars program

Applications are being accepted for 2016 Extension ScholarsApplications are now being accepted for those interested in becoming 2016 University of Delaware Cooperative Extension scholars.

Now in its 12th year, the Extension Scholars program offers UD students a unique, hands-on 10-week summer experiential learning environment under the guidance of Extension agents or specialists.

During this summer internship, students will follow Cooperative Extension’s service learning model, implemented through one of Extension’s four program areas: 4-H youth development, family and consumer sciences, lawn and garden, and agriculture and natural resources.

Any current undergraduate, in the summer following sophomore year and beyond, or graduate students at UD are eligible to participate and opportunities are available in New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties.

Interns will work summer semester from June 6-Aug. 12, 40 hours per week. Some flexibility in dates/hours may be required.

Interns will be expected to provide their own transportation, and mileage to and from work is at the intern’s expense. All interns will be expected to participate in the orientation on June 6 and the Service Learning Symposium in August.

The deadline to register for the Extension Scholars program is Tuesday, March 1.

To register to become an Extension Scholar, visit the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Internships page and click on the Extension Scholars: Application.

About Cooperative Extension

Cooperative Extension connects the public with university knowledge, research and resources to address youth, family, community and agricultural needs.

The goal of Cooperative Extension is to help individuals, families and communities make informed decisions that can enhance their lives. In so doing, the organization generates and disseminates research-based information, provides focused educational opportunities and builds relationships that create effective solutions.

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

New Castle, Sussex counties announce spring Master Gardener workshops

New Castle, Sussex counties announce spring Master Gardener workshopsDelaware Cooperative Extension has announced Master Gardener workshops for the winter and spring in New Castle and Sussex counties.

New Castle County will offer workshops for the home gardener with topics ranging from beginning vegetable gardening, beneficial insects and their role in the garden, a child-friendly bee house building workshop, as well as hummingbird gardening in Delaware, landscape weed identification and a session on growing crape myrtles, camellias and magnolias.

Most workshops, unless otherwise noted with the individual description, are held at the New Castle County Cooperative Extension Office, 461 Wyoming Road, Newark, on the University of Delaware campus.

For a complete list of New Castle County offerings, visit the New Castle County Master Gardener website.

For more information, contact Carrie Murphy at cjmurphy@udel.edu or 302-831-COOP.

Sussex County will offer a wide variety of topics and will host a presentation and book signing in March with Arthur Tucker, internationally renowned botanist and herb expert, who will introduce his new book The Culinary Herbal.

Classes are free unless otherwise specified, and all will be held at the Elbert N. and Ann V. Carvel Research and Education Center, 16483 County Seat Highway, Georgetown, Delaware.

Pre-register for workshops by contacting Tammy Schirmer at 302-856-2585, ext. 544, or via email at tammys@udel.edu.

To register online, visit the Sussex County Master Gardener website.

About Master Gardeners

Master Gardeners are working volunteers and are supported by Delaware Cooperative Extension through the University of Delaware and Delaware State University Extension offices. It is Delaware Cooperative Extension’s policy that no person shall be subjected to discrimination on the grounds of race, creed, color, sex, age, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, veteran or handicap status. Those who have special needs that must be accommodated should contact the office two weeks prior to the event.

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Delaware Junior Duck Stamp Program to host art and conservation competition

Delaware Junior Duck Stamp Program to host art and conservation competitionThe Delaware Junior Duck Stamp Program will host an art and conservation statement competition, a national art competition that is held each spring to select the design for the next Federal Junior Duck Stamp.

Each state will submit its best of show artwork and statement for the national competition.

Competitors that participate will choose a waterfowl from a list of species on the official U.S. Fish and Wildlife webpage and draw a live portrayal of that species in its habitat demonstrating its natural behavior.

“For the judging process they’re not looking for just the waterfowl but its surroundings and behaviors, as well, because that’s the driver in conservation for the program, and showing that they learned something,” said Autumn Starcher, Junior Duck Stamp Program state coordinator.

Submissions must be post-marked to the state 4-H office no later than March 15. The judging event will be held on March 29 at the New Castle County 4-H office.

The 4-H Junior Duck Stamp Program is an art and science based program that encourages wetland and waterfowl conservation through sharing and expression with art.

“Some kids might not be interested in science but they might really like art, so it engages the artistic kids in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and helps the science-oriented kids to be more creative,” said Starcher.

Each submission will be checked for plagiarism and put into groups based on age. This year there will be four groups: Group I (grades K-3), Group II (grades 4-6), Group III (grades 7-9) and Group IV (grades 10-12).

Those who submit artwork work are encouraged, but not required, to write a conservation message that expresses what the child has learned through research and planning for their Duck Stamp entries.

The Junior Duck Stamp Club is a national conservation effort supported by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Delaware 4-H Foundation.

K-12 youth who are U.S. citizens are encouraged to participate in the statewide art competition.

For more information on the Delaware Junior Duck Stamp Program or registration for the competition, see the website or contact Starcher at starcher@udel.edu.

Article by Jackie Arpie

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Delaware Ag Week big on attendance and state’s global future

Delaware Ag Week big on attendance and state's global futureThe 11th annual Delaware Agriculture Week concluded Jan. 14 after a four-day run, with Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee calling the event “the biggest Ag Week ever.”

The event, held at the Delaware State Fairgrounds in Harrington, is co-sponsored by the University of Delaware, the Delaware Department of Agriculture and Delaware State University.

The final day wrapped up an intensive schedule that offered a wide array of sessions reflective of the First State’s broad agriculture output.

It also included a visit from Gov. Jack Markell, who expressed gratitude to those involved with the industry for “making Delaware agriculture so strong.”

Markell praised local farmers for meeting environmental challenges. “We know very well farmers are really our first environmentalists,” Markell said, referring to the Delaware Nutrient Management Program, which began during the administration of then-governor Thomas R. Carper.

“Collectively you have done a lot of important work in this area over the last couple of decades. It has an impact in Delaware and impact more broadly in the Chesapeake Bay region,” Markell said. “Some of the numbers we’re seeing certainly reflect the progress that has been made. We are particularly grateful to you for how you are handling your nutrients more efficiently and for being good stewards of our land and water.”

Markell joined Kee in recognizing Delaware’s newest Century Farm, owned and operated by Robert C. Thompson of Hartley. The Century Farm program honors families who have farmed the same land for 100 or more years.

The Jan. 14 session also included a panel discussion on successes and challenges of agricultural production that featured Kee; his predecessor, Michael Scuse, who is now serving as under secretary of agriculture for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA); Douglas Fisher, New Jersey secretary of agriculture; Steve Connelly, Maryland assistant secretary of agriculture; and Hamish Gow, agriculture professor at Massey University in New Zealand, who provided insight on emerging global opportunities for Delaware farmers.

An 11-year tradition reaps a large following

Farmers from Delaware and neighboring states view Delaware Ag Week as a valuable tradition. As co-sponsors, the Delaware Department of Agriculture (DDA), UD and DSU assure that the topics and speakers are timely, research-based, and reflect changing regulations and innovations.

“We try to assure our sessions offer new and timely information. Presenting new and different research is key to keeping Ag Week relevant and offering something different to farmers each year,” said James Adkins, an irrigation specialist for UD Cooperative Extension and a member of Delaware Ag Week’s planning committee.

Twenty agriculture experts from UD joined partners from DSU and DDA, and invited guest experts to present on a variety of topics and emerging issues of interest to agriculture stakeholders.

Sessions covered commercial and backyard flock poultry, beef cattle, small ruminants, and equine topics, as well as hay and pasture, woodland management, processing fruits and vegetables, fresh market fruits and vegetables, wheat quality, marketing, urban gardening and food production, and risk management.

Richard Wilkins, a third-generation grain farmer and vegetable producer, has attended Delaware Ag Week since the beginning and sees the event as an opportunity to keep abreast of best practices.

“In food production systems today, farmers are employing the most modern technology, the best science available in order to provide consumers with safe, abundant and nutritious amounts of food,” said Wilkins.

The sessions meet farmers’ need to know the many different productions practices in place today in order to appeal to specific consumer tastes.

Wilkins, citing his travels abroad, said that the “Cooperative Extension System in this state is part of what has made our agriculture system the most efficient role model for countries around the world. Their farmers look to Cooperative Extension as a role model for how to improve food production and standards.”

Bob Voorhees, a retired dairyman who currently produces hay and small grains four miles outside Harrington and also rescues horses, attended all four days and said he values the networking and learning opportunities the event provides. “The biggest thing is keeping up on the trends and updates on the amount of government regulations coming down the pike,” he said.

George Whitehead and his wife Lynda, small cattle farmers from Townsend, attended sessions on pasture, forage and beef cattle, and sought out the risk management session on farm succession in particular.

Whitehead estimates he’s attended Delaware Ag Week for at least nine years, and over that time has learned how things can be improved on his farm.

With a son, daughter-in-law and grandson involved in the family farm on a daily basis, Whitehead said he was keen to hear advice from experts on preserving his farm for future generations, specifically in the risk management and farm succession planning sessions on Wednesday.

“This session was very eye opening,” he said.

Referencing a session on estate planning, Whitehead learned an important distinction between the definition of “fair” and “equal” as they refer to matters of estate inheritance. “They’re not the same thing. This session tonight requires me to reevaluate my plan. We intend to proceed with what we learned here today,” he said.

Whitehead learned about the session from Dan Severson, New Castle County Extension agent. “He’s been super in helping us and our farm operation,” Whitehead said.

Whitehead said his relationship with Extension has made all the difference in his farm operation. He advises fellow farmers to take the time to become acquainted with their Extension agent.

“The benefit to a small mom and pop farm like ours is just absolutely, well, you can’t go out and buy it. The dedication of Extension folks is just unbelievable. They are always there to help. They’re just super,” said Whitehead.

Presenting big ideas

In one of the sessions, Gow elaborated on the opportunity for Delaware farmers to understand their role in a rapidly changing global market. Trends indicate a global demographic shift to Asia, Gow said, adding that the fastest growing middle-class consumer sector is in Asia and the key to capturing that market is understanding consumer attitudes and preferences.

Gow said that 62 percent of Chinese consumers share their food experience on social networks. “Big Brother today is the consumer, and they are watching you wherever you are,” said Gow.

Holding up his smart phone, Gow said mobile devices now transform farm operations. Farmers need to connect what they are doing on the farm with the rest of the world and to those interested in buying farm products and learning more about the farm.

In New Zealand, Gow works with a clothing manufacturer aware of a consumer’s need for connection. Labels include a scannable code where the consumer can see where the wool on a shirt or sweater came from and learn about that particular farm.

Global interest in American agricultural is high, Gow said, but foreign markets are tuned into authenticity and ethics.

“Delaware has a huge opportunity to be a global local farmer,” Gow said.

Wayne Carmean, a corn and soybean farmer from Millsboro, hasn’t missed an Ag Week in 11 years, said that he found what Gow had to say about the preferences of the global consumers “very interesting.”

Article and photos by Michele Walfred

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UD’s Michelle Rodgers recognized with two national Extension leadership roles

Delbert Foster, chair of the national Extension Committee on Organization and Policy for 2014-15, hands the gavel to UD's Michelle Rodgers.Michelle Rodgers, associate dean of the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and director of UD Cooperative Extension, has received two national Extension honors.

Rodgers was named chair of the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP) and elected as a trustee on the National 4-H Council.

Rodgers said her position as ECOP chair is a major responsibility and that she looks forward to representing a diverse group of leaders with different opinions on Extension decisions made on a national scale.

“I’m very cognizant of those who may think differently than I and I want to reflect on all the interests of Extension directors from across the country,” said Rodgers. “It’s a good challenge for any leader of a group to reflect the diversity of the thoughts and opinions of the group but also to bring some consensus and decision making to move forward on the items.”

The executive committee has set forth many national goals for Cooperative Extension for the coming year, among them figuring out best practices for Extension programming in urban areas, focusing on innovation, and professional development.

Officials also are looking at the core values for Cooperative Extension on a national scale.

Rodgers said that providing a framework for a national Extension system is a challenge because each state is staffed and funded differently.

“A topic I talked about recently in Washington, D.C., was pesticide safety education. In Delaware we have no one individual assigned to pesticide safety education, whereas Texas has eight or nine people,” Rodgers said. “Extension is staffed from a statewide perspective but when we talk about doing things nationally, what does that look like and how can we speak as a national system when we’re still based in a state, funded in part by state dollars, and have expectations from our state legislators? What are the common things around the national focus that we can agree on and work with?”

Rodgers said that an example of a successful national program came about last year when Extension developed common training and curriculum for agents across the country with regard to farm risk management education.

“In our state, Laurie Wolinski and Dan Severson were the key leaders. They attended national trainings and then provided education to producers here in our state in combination with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA). All states used the same evaluation instrument and we were able to compile data and tell a wonderful story about the impact that Extension made nationally as a result of the effort across the states,” Rodgers said.

“We have the capability to work locally but on a national scale and that really helps to show the impact of our national system and why people should continue to invest and fund and support Cooperative Extension,” Rodgers added. “It’s more than a state system; it’s really bringing our collective pieces together on key issues at a national level.”

National 4-H Council

As a trustee on the National 4-H Council, Rodgers will have a role in providing leadership for fund development, marketing and promotion for 4-H nationally.

“We’re getting ready to launch a national marketing campaign across the country about 4-H and, again, instead of each state having to do their own individual marketing, we’re working with professional partners,” Rodgers said. “We’re getting ready to launch a national marketing campaign with some national spokespersons this spring. About 10 people are lined up, great people who are 4-H alums and who will speak to that.”

Rodgers is an alumna and a product of the 4-H program and her parents met in 4-H.

“I wouldn’t be here if my parents hadn’t met in 4-H, and 4-H was a major factor in my career choice,” said Rodgers, who got her first job working with a family and consumer science educator who had been her mentor while in 4-H.

“I have 35 years of work in Cooperative Extension as a direct result of having been a 4-Her and having been opened up to the career opportunities through 4-H. I also think it had a lot to do with my success in my college years in terms of my abilities to organize, make presentations and to work with others. I think it had a major impact on my capabilities to be a good scholar because I had skill sets that I had learned in 4-H.”

Rodgers said she thinks 4-H is one of the best youth-serving organizations in the country, with great adult mentorship for young people and important life skill development, and singled out all that Delaware 4-H has to offer.

“I’m very proud that Delaware has a wonderful menu of ways to be involved in 4-H. We have in-school, after-school, community clubs, we have camps, we have self determined projects that you can do — there’s many ways that you can be a 4-Her in this state depending on what works and what your interests are,” she said.

As to the future, Rodgers said that, much like institutions of higher education are reaching out to first generation college students, she would like to try and reach more first generation 4-Hers.

“I’m a product of the program, but what about the kids who haven’t had the opportunity to be a product of the program? How do we reach out to the first generation of 4-Hers who may or may not have had exposure to 4-H? I think there’s a great opportunity for us to expand our program by focusing on the diversity of young people who are first generation 4-Hers. And I think we do some of this, but I also think we could do more,” said Rodgers.

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD Extension, CHS encourage Delawareans to ‘Eat Better, Move More, Live Well’

UD Extension, CHS encourage Delawareans to 'Eat Better, Move More, Live Well'University of Delaware Cooperative Extension has teamed up with the Department of Behavioral Health and Nutrition in the College of Health Sciences to help Delawareans improve their fitness and eating habits as part of the inaugural “Yes We Can Healthy Living Challenge.”

The challenge, which has as its motto “Eat Better, Move More, Live Well,” is funded by a Delaware Division of Public Health grant to the Department of Behavioral Health and Nutrition and is part of the Healthy Lifestyles Interventions: A Community Cooperative Agreement grant.

The seven-month challenge encourages individual and community wellness through a friendly competition among teams, which identify strategies for individuals and teams to improve physical activity and eating habits. Teams can enroll at any time during the challenge period.

Points are assigned to a variety of activities and each person earns points for completing an activity. Each month, individuals and teams will log their efforts and receive points.

“The idea behind the challenge is to get people to make some healthier choices about what they eat, how much they exercise, and how they engage their families or their communities in order to help support them in making those decisions,” said Maria Pippidis, New Castle County Extension director. “It’s really not just about what can I do but about how can we do this together. That’s why we’re calling it ‘Yes We Can,’ because it’s about togetherness and working toward whatever the healthy living goals might be for an individual.”

Kathleen Splane, Extension agent and state program leader for family and consumer sciences, said that in addition to improving healthy habits among individuals and teams, the hope is to also make participants aware of available Extension programs.

“The team members are able to get points based on things such as eating well, being more physically active and getting a good night’s sleep, but one of the main ways that they can get points is by coming to Cooperative Extension programs,” said Splane. “Then they get kind of bonus points for attending Cooperative Extension programs. So we have it as an incentive based team approach where we’re averaging the team scores and then we have different incentives for different levels.”

Elizabeth Orsega-Smith, associate professor in the Department of Behavioral Health and Nutrition, said the challenge has been a three-year project, with the researchers spending the first year conducting interviews and focus groups to get information from potential program participants about their perceptions of active living and healthy eating.

After the initial interviews and after identifying key stakeholders to help promote the project within the communities, Orsega-Smith said that the team-based approach will allow them to “allot points for various physical activities that people may be doing, such as walking, and also things such as trying a healthy recipe or eating a meal with your family.” 

Orsega-Smith said that through pre- and post-questionnaires, they are hoping to see some change in fruit and vegetable consumption and physical activity from the participants.

The challenge officially kicked off with two events held recently in New Castle and Kent counties.

Both events had interactive, educational displays — such as making better fast food choices and stretching the food dollar — as well as healthy living activities. Healthy recipes with food samples also were available for participants to try.

At the event in Kent County, participants took part in a shopping challenge where they went through a mock grocery store and used a certain amount of money to create a meal that included every part of MyPlate, the U.S. Department of Agriculture nutrition program.

“They were evaluated on cost effectiveness, nutrition, and how well they did with what they picked. That was, I think, the highlight of the event,” said Splane.

At the New Castle County event, in addition to the interactive exhibits, student groups such as the University’s Zumba Club, the Nutrition and Dietetics Club, Health Behavior Science Club, Public Health Club, and Health and Physical Education Majors Club, were on hand to staff displays and engage children in attendance with fun games such as one involving a parachute and a bean bag toss.

Orsega-Smith said that they wanted to get the student groups involved in the project so they can “have a real experience in looking at how they can make an impact in the community.”

There was also a soccer game at the New Castle County event featuring players from the Delupes Soccer League, with the winner taking home a Healthy Living Challenge Cup.

While the New Castle County program is primarily geared toward the Hispanic population and the Kent County program toward the African-American population, Splane and Pippidis stressed that the challenge is open to anyone who wants to participate.

Pippidis said that key partners in the challenge include churches in both counties.

Orsega-Smith said that it has been great to partner with Extension on the project because they already have key connections within the communities.

“They are the individuals who actually have a buy in with the community because people are familiar with Cooperative Extension and familiar with the programs,” said Orsega-Smith.

Those interested in getting involved in the challenge should contact Lucy Williams at 302-730-4000 in Kent County and Carlos Dipres at 302-831-1239 in New Castle County.

For more information on the Healthy Living Challenge, visit the website.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Wenbo Fan

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Friends of Extension, collaboration focus of Cooperative Extension’s annual conference

2015 Delaware cooperative extension annual conference oct 22 at modern maturity center Dover DelawareAs Delaware farmer R.C. Willin approached the lectern to deliver remarks after being named one of four National Friends of Extension, Willin quickly turned the tables on the Delaware Cooperative Extension professionals seated before him at their annual conference, held at the Modern Maturity Center in Dover on Oct. 22.

Willin, a grain and poultry producer in Seaford and last year’s recipient of the Delaware Friend of Extension Award, was surprised to learn his name had been forwarded and accepted at the national level. Humbled and surprised by the honor, Willin credited much of his success to Cooperative Extension.

“I am really the one who should be offering you my humble and heartfelt appreciation for the quality of character, the heart of service, and the passion with which you give yourselves to the work of Cooperative Extension,” Willin said.

“Each one of you, in your respective disciplines, work to advance American agriculture, promote stewardship of the abundant natural resources with which we are blessed and make a significant investment in the lives of youth, families, homes and communities throughout this great nation,” Willin said.

“Unfortunately, few in our nation are aware of the magnitude of the impact on our society and ultimately the world that you, as individuals serving in Cooperative Extension, have had in the past and are having today,” Willin said. “Thank you again for this award and the great honor of being a part of your efforts.”

Willin, along with his brother J.C. Willin and their sons, currently grow corn, soybeans, wheat and barley, and have three poultry houses on their 1,200 acres. Willin’s priority in environmental stewardship and his collaboration with the UD as a cooperator in areas of nutrient management, weeds, insects and irrigation, establish Willin and his family’s farm as valuable stakeholders in agriculture.

Willin also serves on the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) Dean’s Advisory Board, Sussex County Field Crops Program, Sussex County Poultry Extension Program and UD Extension Nutrient Management/Environmental Quality Advisory Committee, as well as many other groups dedicated to improving Delaware.

Conference highlights

As in past conferences, the 2015 extension conference offered professional development workshops and a backdrop for a day of learning, sharing ideas and innovative collaboration.

Donna Pinkett Brown, interim dean and director of extension at Delaware State University (DSU), began the conference by noting DSU’s observations of the 125th anniversary of the second Morrill Act, establishing the 1890 land grant universities nationwide. Together as land grant institutions in Delaware, UD and DSU extension staff frequently collaborate on statewide outreach.

2015 Delaware cooperative extension annual conference oct 22 at modern maturity center Dover DelawareBrian Snyder, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, served as the conference keynote speaker. His stated goal was to change the audience’s perspective about local food, and to challenge the audience to redefine the term “small farm,” a descriptor he believes is inadequate and which limits the larger potential he sees for smaller acreage to sustain food production for many.

Snyder mapped out the centennial U.S. in territories of water and food sheds. He suggested that Delaware is poised to play a significant role by thinking of the region in such terms.

Snyder presented examples, such as urban gardens, which are yielding crops on small plots of land. He pointed to modern and ancient cultures that adapted their agricultural practices to limited geography or resources and yet produced beyond expectation. Snyder advocates thinking local in terms of a 150-mile radius, and feeding local markets first, before exporting.

“The challenge for extension is thinking beyond its own state, and look at the region you are in,” Snyder said. “The impact of Delaware far outweighs its size. Because of where we are located, the potential is enormous and the impact is huge.”

Extension Recognition

Michelle Rodgers, associate dean of CANR and director of Cooperative Extension, and Donna Brown, DSU, presented the Friend of Extension Awards in several program areas.

“The Friend of Extension Award is the highest recognition presented to a non-extension person, business or organization and is designed to recognize truly outstanding support and personal involvement in extension efforts,” Rodgers said.

University of Delaware
George Lynam – Agriculture

2015 Delaware cooperative extension annual conference oct 22 at modern maturity center Dover DelawareGeorge Lynam of Baker Farms was a model cooperator for Delaware Extension. An early innovator, Lynam embraced technology and was one of the first Delaware farmers to use GPS. He freely shared his research findings with extension experts. Fully engaged with extension programming for 25 years, Lynam served on several boards and was an invested stakeholder in Delaware agriculture. He helped to shape the vision of farming in the First State. Lynam was a willing mentor and natural-born educator to anyone who wanted to learn more. The honor was awarded posthumously and accepted by his wife Sherry Kitto.

Janice Melson – Family and Consumer Science

Well known in Delaware’s 4-H arena, Melson, a retired family and consumer science teacher in the Red Clay School District, continues to share her expertise by enrolling as a Master Food Educator (MFE) volunteer, where she develops and delivers many programs across the state. In her role as MFE, Melson trains new volunteers, and conducts programs such as “Cooking from the Spring Garden” and “Cooking for One or Two.” She stepped up to take additional training to the 4-H Food Smart Families program, where the 4-H and family and consumer science programs are seamlessly blended. Melson has refused all stipends the program offers and travels at her own expense across the state.

Walter and Burli Hopkins – 4-H

Each year in May, the Hopkins family opens the barn doors of their Green Acres Farm and Hopkins Farm Creamery in Lewes to thousands of schoolchildren who gleefully tour Delaware’s largest dairy farm. Known as the 4-H Hopkins Spring Tour, the outreach has welcomed 25,000 students to date. Each year, the family brainstorms on new and innovative ways they, together with 4-H, can deliver agriculture outside the classroom. The Hopkins family’s generosity was recognized in their support of scholarships to agriculture students, providing logistical support by offering their Henlopen Holsteins for youth to lease and exhibit.

The Cordrey Family – Ornamental Horticulture

Owners and operators of the East Coast Perennial Garden Center, the Cordrey family was honored for its commitment to charity and the development of an enrichment center, as well as a successful retail home and garden center. Growing to employ 100 people, the Cordrey family and their center serve as hosts to UD summer horticulture expos, and provides their venue for many extension programs of all disciplines. Noted for their active participation in the Livable Delaware supporting native plants, the family serves as a valuable collaborator in the Mid Atlantic Women of Agriculture outreach where last year Valerie Cordrey delivered the keynote address.

Delaware State University

Nina Graves – Family and Consumer Science

A newcomer to Delaware and a committed advocate for healthy living, Graves was commended for her willingness to take her certification as a Zumba instructor to any location, churches, schools, and alongside DSU’s established programs such as the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and family and consumer science outreach efforts

The Aquatic Resource Education Center – 4H

A section of the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife, the Aquatic Center served as the supportive venue for two week-long summer retreats – Juneteenth and the Boys Retreat. More than 250 youth have benefited to date. Attending Mallard Lodge, 4-H youth experience the great outdoors and wetland education. Activities such as a Boardwalk Loop, canoeing, birdwatching and fishing have left a lasting impact on Delaware youth.

Andrea Aligo-Keen – Small Farms

Andrea Keen, employed by the Delaware Division of Public Health as a clinic manager, was lauded for her tireless energy and devotion as a volunteer in organizing other volunteers for DSU’s community gardens across the state. It was noted Keen motivated young volunteers to do the required weeding. Paying no mind to the obstacles of rain, mud, wind, dust, Keen leads by example and conveys the importance of community gardening.

Delaware Cooperative Extension Director’s Leadership Award – UD and DSU

The Delaware Cooperative Extension Director’s Leadership Awards were presented to Michele Walfred (UD) and John Clendaniel (DSU) for their leadership role during the Delaware State Fair, coordinating extension’s joint presence before and during the 10-day event.

Rodgers also acknowledged former UD director of Cooperative Extension, Jan Seitz, for her vision in establishing a second endowment, the Janice Seitz Seed Fund, to financially encourage extension professionals to pilot new initiatives and ideas. Seitz’s first endowment for the Extension Scholars Program has supported 69 students with a summer, service-learning internship.

Photos of the 2015 Delaware Cooperative Extension Annual Conference can be viewed on the Flickr photo gallery.

Article by Michele Walfred

Photos by Wenbo Fan

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Delaware Cooperative Extension 4-H program hosts students from Russia

The University of Delaware Cooperative Extension 4-H program recently hosted 19 youths from Russia as part of a leadership program focused on volunteerism and citizenship.

The program was funded by the United States Department of State through its Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).

The participants spent three weeks in the United States and did everything from exploring Washington, D.C., going to the Urban Tree Connection in Philadelphia and visiting New York City.

They also had a weekend retreat at Cape Henlopen State Park where they interacted with Delaware 4-H members, went to the Food Bank of Delaware in Milford and made fleece blankets for the non-profit organization “Fleece for Keeps,” which donates the blankets to children in the state’s foster care system.

The students took part in workshops that included personality development, managing conflict and effective communication.

While participating in the program, the youths were asked to develop service-learning projects designed to solve problems facing their communities, important information that they can take with them as they return home.

Mallory Vogl, an extension agent for UD Cooperative Extension, said the students chose topics such as bully prevention, teen pregnancy and drug and alcohol addiction.

The 19 participants came from five cities across Russia, including Moscow and Vladivostok, and Vogl said that they went through a rigorous application process to take part in the program.

“This group of kids were so empowering not just to the teenagers from Delaware that they got to work with but even for the staff. We were just blown away and impressed by not only their knowledge of government within their country but also their knowledge of our country as well and their ability in only three weeks to really have such an impact,” said Vogl.

When the program ended, it was hard for the young people and the staff members to say goodbye.

“It was so impactful to these kids, and we have kids that are interested in coming back to UD. We have kids that are interested in coming back to the U.S. in general and they all agreed that this was an absolute life-changing experience. For all of us staff, too – I’ve worked with a lot of groups but this group was just incredible,” said Vogl.

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Delaware Cooperative Extension welcomes statewide Master Gardener class

UD Extension welcomes statewide Master Gardener classIndividuals training to become Cooperative Extension Master Gardener volunteer educators met at the University of Delaware campus in Newark on Monday, Sept. 21, for their first, in-person, statewide meeting as part of Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardener training program, an intensive 16-week course designed to prepare candidates for the volunteer phase of the program.

Training is provided by Cooperative Extension specialists and agents from UD and Delaware State University (DSU), green industry experts and experienced Master Gardeners.

While the courses previously had been taught separately in all three Delaware counties, this  statewide approach is designed to promote collaboration and camaraderie among staff and trainees throughout the state.

Classes will take place throughout Delaware, with Zoom distance learning technology allowing for video conferencing. “Ideally, it would all be face to face but that can’t happen if we’re all doing it at the same time. However, no more than one-third of the training is done via distance learning,” said Tracy Wootten, extension agent in horticulture.

Valann Budischak, extension agent and statewide Master Gardener training coordinator, said, “We decided to incorporate distance learning with Zoom, where the instructor is present in one location and teaches not only to that group of Master Gardeners but a distance group of Master Gardeners as well. The instructor rotates counties.”

The training program includes formal lectures, discussion sessions, tours, workshops and problem-solving sessions. Topics covered include plant identification, soils and plant nutrition, integrated pest management, and home landscaping and maintenance, among others.

Participants meet twice a week on Mondays and Wednesdays from 1-4 p.m. until Nov. 23, when they graduate.

Upon completion of the training program, Master Gardeners are expected to donate a minimum of 40 hours of their time to Cooperative Extension. Volunteer time is spent solving problems, educating and advising the gardening public of Delaware.

Master Gardeners’ outreach efforts include home gardener workshops and presentations, youth education, answering calls put into the garden help line, plant diagnostic services and demonstration gardens.

The program is run cooperatively with DSU, with Megan Pleasanton, extension educator at DSU, working with the UD extension agents.

“Master Gardener training and the volunteer participation that follows is absolutely essential to the success of our Extension horticulture program in Delaware,” said Carrie Murphy, program leader and extension agent.  “We couldn’t have the impact and reach that we do without our incredible Master Gardener volunteers.”

Budischak said that while the class is a statewide initiative, the educators are aware that the different counties have different needs.

“We still want to preserve each county’s individuality. Sussex County will cover more information on herbs and propagation, whereas New Castle County will delve deeper into urban agriculture, which wouldn’t be as predominant in Kent and Sussex. So while we want to make sure that we’re all learning the same things in the same way, we need to preserve their individuality,” said Budischak.

Wootten said that approach stems mostly from wanting the participants to be trained on the particular questions they are most likely to get when they staff their county garden hotlines, a table at an outreach event, or interact with community members in the county office.

The statewide initiative has benefited the Cooperative Extension educators, as well.

“It’s been a great learning experience for us; it’s forced us to look at the curriculum and other aspects of the program to provide consistency. We hope that each of our programs will be enhanced because of it,” said Budischak.

Wootten said a feature of the Master Gardener classes is that each one is unique and that the classmates all form bonds with one another.

“My first class was 2003 and the members of that class, the Kent and Sussex class, they still get together once a month for lunch. And each class is different. They have their own little flavor and then they get integrated into the whole program,” said Wootten.

For more information on Master Gardener services visit the Master Gardener website.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Wenbo Fan

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD Cooperative Extension to co-sponsor ‘A Day on the Farm’ event in Hockessin

UD Cooperative Extension to co-sponsor 'A Day on the Farm' event in HockessinUniversity of Delaware Cooperative Extension invites Delaware residents and visitors to see and experience agriculture first-hand at the “A Day on the Farm” event on Saturday, Sept. 19, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Woodside Farm Creamery in Hockessin.

UD Cooperative Extension has teamed up with the Mitchell family, the Delaware Farm Bureau, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the New Castle Conservation District and other sponsors to put on this event.

The event is free and parking is free.

“We’re excited to share our farm and promote the importance of local agriculture to our special visitors,” says Jim Mitchell, owner of Woodside Farm Creamery.

The event will feature a “Who’s Your Farmer” tent showcasing local farm producers, educational exhibits, demonstrations, hay rides, a straw bale maze, outdoor woodlands classroom, a scavenger hunt for kids, simulated cow milking, and many more activities.

Food will be on sale by several vendors including New Castle County 4-H Links/Leaders, Haass Butcher Shop, the Delaware State Grange and the Woodside Farm Creamery.

For more information, call New Castle County Cooperative Extension at 302-831-8965 or visit the Facebook page.

This story can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD researchers look at sweet corn damage caused by stink bugs

Researchers at UD look at stink bugs on sweet cornCooperative Extension agents and researchers at the University of Delaware are taking a closer look at how brown marmorated stink bugs are causing damage to developing ears of sweet corn, the results of which could lead to better pest management strategies for growers throughout the state.

The research was supported in part by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) Coordinated Agricultural Project, and the findings were recently published in the Journal of Economic Entomology.

Bill Cissel, an integrated pest management extension agent, is a member of the research group and said that in 2011 and 2012 the researchers infested sweet corn ears with different densities of brown marmorated stink bugs — zero, one, three and five adults per ear — at three different corn growth stages: silking, blister and milk.

“The objective of our research was to determine how many brown marmorated stink bugs it takes to cause damage, both quality and yield reductions, in sweet corn,” said Cissel, adding, “We also wanted to look at what influence the plant growth stage may or may not have on the amount of damage that we see and also the severity.”

The researchers used replicated research plots on UD’s Newark Farm, as well as the University of Maryland’s Wye Research and Education Center, and conducted their research by placing mesh bags over developing ears of corn and then artificially infesting those bags with different densities of brown marmorated stink bugs at different plant growth stages for a period of seven days.

Cissel said the results showed that brown marmorated stink bugs cause a significant amount of damage in sweet corn by piercing through the husk leaves and feeding on developing ears and kernels.

The researchers determined that the greatest potential for yield loss happened when infestations occurred during earlier stages of ear development, whereas the greatest reductions in quality — damaged kernels — occurred during later stages of ear development.

“We looked at feeding that occurs prior to and during pollination, before the kernels even begin to develop, and we found that brown marmorated stink bug feeding injury can result in aborted kernels. The reason we think that’s the case is because they’re actually interrupting pollination by damaging some of the silk channels,” said Cissel.

The research team also found that while the bags filled with the higher densities of brown marmorated stink bugs saw the most damage to the corn, the stink bugs are capable of causing substantial economic losses due to quality reductions at densities as low as one bug per ear of corn.

Cissel said that the milk stage was determined to be the most sensitive stage of corn development, with the highest number of damaged kernels observed when compared to the two earlier stages, but stressed that they did see high levels of kernel damage at all the stages.

“I think of it this way: prior to pollination, they’re feeding on developing ear tissue and causing damage to the ear where kernels could ultimately be and the kernels never develop. After pollination has occurred they’re feeding on individual kernels,” said Cissel. “The milk stage seems to be the most important, but having said that, we did see some pretty high levels of kernel injury at all the growth stages that would likely result in quality reductions for sweet corn growers.”

Now that the study is complete, Cissel said that the researchers are hoping to take their findings from the study and figure out the best times to apply pesticides to manage brown marmorated stink bugs in processing and fresh market sweet corn for growers in Delaware.

“We plan to take the findings from that study in which we identified these different plant growth stages that are important for managing brown marmorated stink bugs in sweet corn to prevent economic losses from occurring and target those timings with insecticide applications to see how or if we can achieve control by focusing on these key timings,” said Cissel.

Researchers on the project include Cissel; Charles Mason, professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology (ENWC); Joanne Whalen, extension specialist and state program leader for agriculture and natural resources; Judith Hough-Goldstein, professor in ENWC; and Cerruti Hooks, associate professor and extension specialist at the University of Maryland.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Christy Mannering and courtesy of Bill Cissel

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

4-H to hold Science Saturdays for youths 8-12 starting in September

4-H science saturdaysThe University of Delaware Cooperative Extension New Castle County 4-H program has announced a series of science-focused Saturdays to be held September through December in various locations.

Locations include the New Castle County Cooperative Extension office and White Clay Creek State Park, both in Newark, and the Mallard Lodge in Smyrna.

The workshops are co-sponsored by Dow Chemical Co. and 4-H, and are designed to give participants hands-on experiences in entomology, habitat conservation, geocaching, mathematics, wetlands ecology and waterfowl biology, food science and chemistry.

The workshops are open to all Delaware youths ages 8-12.

Cost of attendance is $10 per workshop. Space is limited. For more information, contact the 4-H office at 302-831-8965.

Applicants need to complete the 2015 4-H Science Saturday workshop series registration form as well as a 4-H health, photo and conduct form.

The 4-H Science Saturday topics include:

Sept. 5, 9 a.m. to noon: New Castle County Cooperative Extension Office, 461 Wyoming Road, Newark, “Project Butterfly WINGS.” Entomology and habitat conservation.

Oct. 3, 9 a.m. to noon: White Clay Creek State Park, Del. 896, Newark, “Treasure Hunt!” Geocaching.

Nov. 7, 9 a.m. to noon: Mallard Lodge, 5128 Hay Point Landing Road, Smyrna, “Migrate with Us!” Wetlands and waterfowl biology.

Dec. 5, 9 a.m. to noon: New Castle County Cooperative Extension Office, “Be a Food Scientist.” Food science and chemistry.

For more information and to download registration forms, visit the 4-H Science Saturdays website.

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD Cooperative Extension class strives to educate new and beginning farmers

UD Extension training new and beginning farmersUniversity of Delaware Cooperative Extension is helping educate state residents who are interested in farming but lack experience through its new and beginning farmer training program.

The program, which started in February, is running one session in New Castle County and one in Sussex County and is geared toward new and beginning farmers working in small-scale vegetable and/or fruit production.

The beginning farmers tend farms, community gardens or plots of land of different sizes and have varied reasons for taking the class, with some wanting to develop market gardens or small scale commercial farms, others seeking to add to existing small farms, and still others planning to provide locally grown food for their communities.

The class covers all aspects of growing, from crop specific production practices to food safety to pest control to plant diseases to developing a sound business plan.

“I think that, more than anything, this class is an example of how Extension is helping the small, non-traditional farmer,” said Carrie Murphy, a Cooperative Extension agent and lawn and garden program leader.

Tracy Wootten, a fellow agent, said the beauty of the class is that the Cooperative Extension educators are able to tailor it to meet the needs of the individuals instead of just having a general overview for the participants.

“A lot of people in the class had already started thinking about becoming growers and this helps them get moving on to the next steps, or evaluating what they already had considered,” said Wootten.

The program involves classroom sessions as well as field trips to participants’ farms or commercial farms – such as Filasky’s Produce in Middletown and Ma and Pa’s Produce in Bridgetown – so participants can learn from growers in the field.

Gordon Johnson, a Cooperative Extension fruit and vegetables specialist and an assistant professor in UD’s Department of Plant and Soil Sciences (PLSC) who is the lead instructor in the program, said he tries to vary the classroom sessions to meet the needs of his audience.

“For example, upstate, there’s more interest in organic growing systems so I cover more on that topic. But it is challenging because there are some people who might be interested in mixed vegetable production, others in specific fruits such as blueberries, others who are interested in flowers, and still others who are interested in community gardens,” Johnson said.

Johnson also said that the New Castle County class tends to have more participants interested in community gardens and urban agriculture, while the Sussex County class has a more traditional interest with people looking to start a business or add a side business.

Class participants

Susan Kemer is one of the participants in the class and has been managing a garden on about one-third of an acre at St. Andrew’s School in Middletown since fall 2012. She said the hands-on learning has been the most beneficial part of the class, adding that other valuable aspects have been connections she has been able to make with other farmers and the resources for growers in the area that she discovered through the course.

“I took the class because I wanted to learn more about farming, and I have been learning more,” Kemer said. “There is obviously a huge learning curve because I don’t have an agriculture background and I’ve been learning the science and methods involved with agriculture. The class has been very helpful in melding it all together and it’s been nice because I’ve made a lot of really good connections with other beginning farmers.”

The class was able to tour the organic garden that Kemer tends at St. Andrew’s as one of its on-site visits and she found it beneficial. “Having them come and visit was good – just to have those boots on the ground learning and observations and recommendations from our teachers and facilitators.”

Kemer said that one of her goals for the garden at St. Andrew’s is to “try to find ways to engage students, not just in harvesting and planting and labor but also in the science behind it, and to try and help them see that part of it.” She said the class has been very helpful in that regard.

Ron Walker Jr. is a class participant who owns a farm that is about one-third to one-half an acre – and that he plans to expand to nearly one full acre next season – off of Route 40 near Porter Road, growing lima beans, tomatoes, peppers, watermelons and pumpkins. He said the networking is a great feature of the class.

“I enjoy the knowledge that the other people have. It prevents a lot of trial and error,” said Walker, who added that another benefit of the class is being able to “pick Gordon Johnson’s brain.”


Wootten said that when it comes to adult education, “You learn as much from the teacher as you do the other students. There’s camaraderie there, and you get to know each other and you can talk about things – it’s something they have in common. Through the networking with current growers, they can learn from them about things they tried that maybe did or didn’t work. It’s important for them to see what’s been successful, too.” 

In addition to the farm visits, participants are invited to Cooperative Extension field days, which take place at the 344-acre research farm in Georgetown at the Elbert N. and Ann V. Carvel Research and Education Center.

During sessions they also were able to tour UD’s Fischer Greenhouse and the new high tunnel installed on the University’s Newark Farm.

Helping hands

With such a sprawling program topic, the program has been helped by many Cooperative Extension agents and specialists, including Johnson, Murphy, Wootten, Emmalea Ernest, Joanne Whalen, Nancy Gregory, Mark VanGessel, Maria Pippidis and Dan Severson.

Mike Wasylkowski, a small farms educator with Delaware State University, also helped with the class.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos courtesy of Carrie Murphy and Tracy Wootten

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

University of Delaware Cooperative Extension expands literacy for children in state

Cooperative Extension partners with the Molina Foundation to hand out free booksUniversity of Delaware Cooperative Extension has partnered with the Molina Foundation, a national nonprofit organization focused on reducing gaps in health and education – specifically by improving literacy among children of low-income and high-risk families – to distribute around 30,000 children’s books donated by the foundation for use by young people throughout the state of Delaware.

Books were given away last week at the Delaware State Fair, with over 6,000 distributed to youths in attendance.

“The parents and the children just love them. They had great smiles on their faces when they got the books,” said Kathleen Splane, Extension agent and state program leader for Cooperative Extension’s family and consumer sciences program.

At the fair, teenage volunteers took fully stocked wagons and golf carts loaded with boxes of books and distributed them to children around the fairgrounds, and encouraged them to stop by the 4-H building to get more. They also took armloads of books out to distribute to fairgoers.

In addition to teen volunteers passing the books out at the fair, the Extension Scholars were called on to aid in the organization and distribution process, which was overseen by Oriole O’Neill, an Extension employee.

Some of the books will go to children in the 4-H Food Smart Families summer camps and others will be handed out at a number of distribution sites, including the food pantry at the Church of the Holy Cross in Dover and the Hilltop Community Center in Wilmington.

Splane said that those books geared toward an older, 8-12-year-old audience are being distributed through the 4-H Food Smart Families program.

“We are giving the kids bags of groceries to take home through the program and we’re putting the books in as an extra thing with that,” Splane said.

In addition to these distributions, child care providers will be invited to each of the county Cooperative Extension offices to pick up books that they can use at their sites.

A few of the titles being offered are:

  • Sophia the First and the Floating Palace by Catherine Hapka
  • The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan
  • Jake and the Never Land Pirates: Mama Hook Knows Best by Sharon Osbourne
  • Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan
  • Minnie’s Busy Bow-tique by the Disney Book Group
  • The Avengers: A Mighty Sticker Book by the Disney Book Group

These titles, among many others, are geared toward all different age groups for children, with about 20,000 of the 30,000 books targeted for the 3-5 child age range. Older youths are encouraged to read these preschool level books to a younger sibling, cousin or neighbor.

The books have been sorted by age range, stamped with Cooperative Extension and Molina Foundation stickers, and grouped based on their intended location: New Castle County, Kent County and Sussex County.

Many volunteers were integral in helping with this process and on one day, eight volunteers sorted and placed stickers on roughly 3,000 books over the course of three hours.

Making a difference

Many parents know that reading with their children at home is important, as it enables them to improve communication and speech skills, excel in school, make progress in logical thinking skills and enhance concentration, Splane said.

“It also helps them to learn that reading is fun,” she added. “Through this project, the Molina Foundation and UD Cooperative Extension will help expand the value that reading offers to kids.”

Splane said she believes “the generous book donation from Molina Foundation allows children throughout the state of Delaware to receive quality books that will instill a love of reading. Some older children received books for younger siblings and have enjoyed reading out loud to them.”

Article by Katie Russel

Photos by Michele Walfred

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD researcher finds potential cause of hollow heart disorder in watermelons

An examble of hollow heart disorder in watermelons.
An examble of hollow heart disorder in watermelons.

Hollow heart disorder in watermelons affects growers throughout the United States and threatens the marketability of the fruit, which can lead to monetary losses.

Trying to find a cause and possible solution for the disorder, the University of Delaware’s Gordon Johnson performed a 2014 progressive pollinizer spacing study that showed that increasing the distance from a pollen source increased the incidence of hollow heart and reduced flesh density.

Johnson, a Cooperative Extension fruit and vegetables specialist and an assistant professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences (PLSC), was assisted in the research by Donald Seifrit, a graduate student in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

A problem with hollow heart disorder is that it is difficult to predict when it will occur, which is frustrating for growers. “It’s not like a disease where you have a fungus or a bacteria or a nematode in the area,” Johnson explained. “It is something that occurs when it occurs, and doesn’t occur when it doesn’t occur.”

Because growers are unable to treat hollow heart through a pesticide or fertilizer application, they lack a defense to protect their crop.

Pollination study

Graduate student Donald Seifrit and Gordon Johnson.
Graduate student Donald Seifrit and Gordon Johnson.

Looking for a solution, Johnson turned to discussions by watermelon researchers that the disorder could be linked to pollination.

In 2010, he conducted a study in which he created situations to limit the pollen available to watermelons to quantify if that would have an effect.

“Basically, I designed a study where watermelons would be a longer or shorter distance from a pollen source,” said Johnson.

Johnson conducted the study on seedless watermelons – although hollow heart also occurs in seeded watermelons – because the bulk of the watermelon industry grows seedless varieties.

The production of seedless watermelons is a bit of a complicated system because the watermelon produces a seedless fruit but requires a pollinizer plant, which is the seeded type. Generally growers plant in a one-to-three ratio, with one seeded watermelon that produces viable pollen for every three seedless watermelons that do not produce viable pollen.

“You have to get the pollen transferred from the pollinizer to the seedless watermelon for fruit set,” Johnson said. “I set up some experiments to put seeded types at varying distances from the seedless, and I found that when you got further from a pollen source (wider ratio of pollinizer to seedless), you got more hollow heart.”

After the initial study, Johnson started repeating the experiments, continuing to put the pollen sources at varying distances or ratios. “Each time I would find that when I got further away (wider ratio), I would have a higher incidence of hollow heart,” he said.

Johnson also found that the flesh density of a watermelon variety plays a role in how it is affected by hollow heart. “When we looked at the more dense varieties versus the less dense varieties, the less dense varieties had more hollow heart, particularly when you moved away from a pollen source,” said Johnson.

To learn more about how density plays a role in watermelons affected by hollow heart, Johnson is looking at the initial number of cells that are being produced in the plant.

A slice of watermelon that has hollow heart disorder.
A slice of watermelon that has hollow heart disorder.

Johnson said that timing and weather conditions also have an impact on watermelons affected by hollow heart.

“It occurs in poor weather conditions, and oftentimes in the early watermelons,” he said. “That’s because we’re more likely to have cold nights or stormy conditions, particularly cold nights, where those early flowers are the most affected.”

Although it is rare to find hollow heart later in the year because growers generally have enough pollen being produced, Johnson said that if growers lose some pollinizers, or if the pollen producing watermelons don’t get planted, problems could still occur.

Industry buy-in

The relationship between hollow heart disorder and the amount of pollen that’s available has been accepted by the industry and Johnson is now able to make recommendations to growers about what factors might favor the disorder.

He points to three factors that could impact the frequency of hollow heart.

• The first is that the grower may not be getting enough pollen produced in the male flowers on the pollinizer plants.

• The second is the transfer of the pollen, which has to be moved from the ,  plants to the seedless plants by bees, may not be occurring at a high enough level.

• The third concerns whether the pollen being produced is actually viable.

“When I talk to growers, I address each one of those areas – the pollen production, the pollen viability and the pollen transfer – and tell them what they can do as far as management in each of those areas,” said Johnson, who has spoken in Florida, Georgia, Indiana, and Delmarva, the nation’s major Eastern watermelon growing regions.

“I’ve spoken at conferences and to growers and I even had a colleague who was able to repeat some of what I was doing last year. That’s always the telltale sign, when someone is repeating the study and getting similar results,” he said.

The presentations have reached more than 400 watermelon growers representing over 20,000 acres, and the recommendations have been well-received with over 91 percent of growers surveyed in seven states indicating that they would change one or more growing practices due to the research and recommendations presented.

Johnson said that one of the most interesting aspects of the study is that this isn’t his main research focus but more of a side project.

“It just goes to show that in all of the things that you do, you have got to be very observant and cannot be afraid to do side projects because oftentimes those projects are the things that become very important,” said Johnson. “I’ve talked to colleagues in the college and they always have a lot of different things going on, even if they’re not funded by grants. They’re trying different things because you never know where discovery is going to come from.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos courtesy of Gordon Johnson and by Jackie Arpie

Eight UD students selected to participate in Extension Scholars program

2015 UD Extension Scholars announcedEight University of Delaware students began their first day as 2015 Extension Scholars on June 8, marking the start of a 10-week summer experience working with Cooperative Extension research and program outreach in communities throughout the state.

Now in its 11th year, the Extension Scholars program offers UD students a unique, hands-on experiential learning environment under the guidance of Extension agents or specialists.

During this summer internship, students will follow Cooperative Extension’s service learning model, implemented through one of Extension’s four program areas: 4-H youth development, family and consumer sciences, lawn and garden, and agriculture and natural resources.

Michelle Rodgers, associate dean and director of UD Cooperative Extension, welcomed the scholars at their first-day orientation and explained how their new role in the Cooperative Extension Service — a 101-year-old system — remains connected today in every state through land grant universities, such as UD, Delaware State University, Cornell University, Rutgers University and Pennsylvania State University.

“I started my career doing something just like this,” Rodgers said, noting that most Cooperative Extension locations throughout the country offer a similar type of summer intern program.

The 2015 University of Delaware Extension Scholars are:

Jackie Arpie: A rising junior in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), Arpie will work with her mentor, Michele Walfred, communications specialist based at the Carvel Research and Education Center in Georgetown. Arpie will concentrate on Extension communications and create video and social media content, and integrate Delaware efforts with the national affiliate eXtension.org. Arpie will focus on Extension efforts statewide, including coverage of her fellow scholars.

Jacqueline Bavaro: A rising senior in the College of Health Sciences (CHS), Bavaro will work with New Castle County’s Expanded Food Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and with 4-H as it implements its summer nutrition programs. She will mentor teen health ambassadors and provide overall nutrition education to young people. Bavaro will work with Sue Snider, professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences (ANFS), and Kathleen Splane, family and consumer science agent in Kent County. Bavaro’s internship is funded by the ConAgra Food Smart Families grant.

Rebecca Carroll: A rising senior in CANR with a double major in ecology and biology, Carroll will with work with Gordon Johnson, extension specialist, on climate hub research projects involving Delaware crops and climate change. Carroll plans to compile climate resources for farmers and will organize a climate change field day this summer.

Andrea Davis: A rising junior in CHS, Davis is a health behavior science major with a minor in biology. Davis will partner with Mallory Vogl, New Castle County 4-H agent, and will work with 4-H summer day camps, oversee 4-H teen member volunteer counselors, and conduct county outreach programs at the Delaware State Fair.

Megan O’Day: O’Day is a dietetics major and rising junior in CHS. This summer O’Day will work with both Kent and Sussex EFNEP and 4-H summer nutrition programs, as well as mentor teen health and conduct overall nutrition education for young people. O’Day will work jointly with Snider and Splane under the Food Smart Families grant.

Hunter Murray: A rising senior in CANR, Murray is majoring in food and agribusiness. Murray will be based in Kent County and will work with Susan Garey, Extension livestock agent, on a variety of initiatives including 4-H youth development and agriculture program areas and events at the Delaware State Fair.

Madeleine Rouviere: A rising senior majoring in nutrition and dietetics with a minor in psychology in CHS, Rouviere is slated to work with New Castle County’s EFNEP and 4-H staff with summer nutrition programs, mentor teen health ambassadors, and oversee nutrition education of young people. Rouviere will work with mentors Snider and Splane. Her internship is made possible through the Food Smart Families ConAgra grant.

Kathryn Russel: A rising junior in CHS, Russel is majoring in dietetics with minors in Spanish and journalism. Russel will be working with Snider and Splane on nutrition communications in both traditional and social media venues. One of the projects Russel will be working on is developing short nutrition, food safety and food buying text messages for a special project aimed at EFNEP clientele.

The Extension Scholars program began in 2004 under the leadership of Rodgers’ predecessor, Jan Seitz. The program is funded through endowments, private gifts and Extension program cost-share contributions. Increasingly, scholars are funded through grants, such as ConAgra’s Food Smart Families grant.

The program initially began with an opportunity for three scholars. Rodgers noted that without the gracious gifts of private donors and endowments, the Extension Scholars program would not have expanded to its present capacity. “People who have observed us and what we do have said, ‘This really matters,’” Rodgers said.

In addition to the generous gifts, Rodgers said that this year at least three positions have been funded by ConAgra.

Each Extension Scholar will work a 40-hour week and earn a stipend of $3,770. In addition, scholars may elect to earn three course credits from CANR, supervised by Rodgers as faculty adviser.

As a capstone to the end of their internship in mid-August, the Extension Scholars will participate in the University’s Undergraduate Research and Service Celebratory Symposium.

The symposium provides scholars an opportunity to meet other summer interns and network across UD’s broad student and faculty community. Extension Scholars present their research or creative work through their choice of a 20-minute presentation or through the Scholars Poster Session. View the 2014 symposium photos.

“It’s wonderful to see the Extension Scholar program expand and be supported on so many levels,” Rodgers said. “These young scholars are enthusiastic and ready to do the good work of Extension.”

For updates on the Extension Scholars throughout the summer, follow UD Extension on Twitter @UDExtension and on Facebook.

Article and photo by Michele Walfred

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

CANR employees craft pillowcases for Romanian orphanage

Michelle Rodgers (left), Donna Bailey (middle), and Alice Moore (right), made pillow cases to donate to an orphanage in RomaniaWhen Michelle Rodgers mentioned to Donna Bailey that her niece was going on a mission trip with the Children to Love organization and needed 500 pillowcases for an orphanage in Romania, she never imagined the robust support she would receive.

Individual quilters and quilt groups from throughout Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania quickly volunteered to chip in and create numerous pillowcases for the cause.

“It was neat for me to see one mention of one act of kindness get multiplied in multiple ways,” said Rodgers, associate dean for Cooperative Extension in the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR). “People picked that up and really went with that so I don’t know how many pillow cases we’ll end up with.”

More pillowcases will be created this weekend as Rodgers has an event planned at her church in Lancaster County on Saturday, May 16, from 9 a.m.-noon.

Those who attend the session will put together pillowcases in an assembly line fashion that Rodgers learned from Bailey’s Penn Ridge Quilters group.

“Because Donna’s group had done this assembly line style, they provided directions on the best way to do it, so I’m planning to use their best practices,” said Rodgers. “They were really willing to share how to set it up and what to have everyone doing so I don’t have to figure that all out.”

Bailey, who works in the administrative offices at CANR, said the Penn Ridge solicited fabric from local quilt shops and organized a sew night, making 35 pillowcases. Also, Bailey’s granddaughter, Abigail, raised money at her school and made four pillowcases.

CANR administrative office staff members — who have their own quilt group that includes Rodgers, Bailey, Alice Moore, Susan Davis and Katie Hutton, recently retired — also held a quilt night at which they had the Penn Ridge group over for dinner at Bailey’s home and sewed 11 additional pillowcases.

Moore said the assembly line set-up worked well because “it’s a way of incorporating people who don’t sew or have knowledge of sewing but have a variety of skill sets. There are some who are good at ironing and pressing and folding, and making sure that everything gets organized right. It was nice that they had opportunities for us and it was great to meet some of Donna’s friends and neighbors.”

In addition to the pillowcase-making events, Rodgers said that she never knows when she might find bags of pillowcases placed in her office. “There have been many a day when I’ve walked in and there’s been a bag from somewhere,” said Rodgers.

Rodgers said she has been asked the question, “Why don’t you just buy pillowcases for the children?” and her answer is that the point of the exercise is for the children to have something crafted especially for them.

“We could buy them and it would be cheaper but they’re not personalized and they’re not made out of special fabrics. The idea behind this is that each one is individually made in love for a child – it has been crafted for that child,” said Rodgers.

Bailey added that she once made a pillowcase for a child that was having surgery and as he recovered and healed “his head was on the pillow, he said to his mom, ‘I know somebody who loved me made this’ and I think that answers very well to those asking ‘Why do you do this?’ Because somebody who loves me made this, you know, there’s a healing balm in that.”

Moore echoed those sentiments, saying that the pillowcases were “made of love because you know that they are going to someone who really needs a hug and really needs care. It’s something that you can do to help in some small way but know that you’re going to make a lasting impression on that child.”

Rodgers said that in the event that the group gets more pillowcases donated than the desired 500, they would donate the rest to an orphanage in India.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Lindsay Yeager

10th annual Delaware Agriculture Week concludes with breakfast event

10th Agriculture Week wraps upThe 10th annual Delaware Agriculture Week, a celebration of an industry vital to the state’s economy, wrapped up on Jan. 16 with the Friends of Ag Breakfast.

This year, Delaware Agriculture Week — held Jan. 12-16 at the Delaware State Fairgrounds in Harrington — welcomed a record 2,085 visitors to learn best practices and new technologies, expand existing networks and make connections with leading vendors.

U.S. Rep. John Carney attended the Friends of Ag Breakfast, saying, “As Delaware’s largest industry, agriculture plays a central role in our state’s economy. Each year, Ag Week is a great opportunity for all those involved in Delaware’s agricultural industry to come together to share information and collaborate on new ways to support and strengthen agriculture in our state. I always look forward to attending events during Ag Week to discuss the challenges facing farmers and to find opportunities to grow Delaware’s economy through agriculture.”

Cara Cuite, associate research professor in the Department of Human Ecology at Rutgers University Cooperative Extension, was the keynote speaker at this year’s breakfast and discussed “GMO’s and Public Perception in the 21st Century.”

Cuite spoke about a survey on genetically modified foods that she and two Rutgers colleagues — William K. Hallman, professor and chair of the Department of Human Ecology, and Xenia Morin, associate dean and liaison for sponsored programs — conducted in fall 2013.

She began by explaining how people have been working to improve plant and animal species through techniques such as selective breeding and crossbreeding for much of human history.

“However, genetic engineering is different from this. Genetic engineering allows scientists to select specific genetic traits from one organism and insert them into the genetic code of another organism,” said Cuite.

The results of the survey found that for many people, opinions about genetically modified foods are not strongly held, and that many people base their opinions on feelings and that opinions change as they learn more specifics.

Cuite’s group concluded that how the genetic modifications are referenced — whether as GMOs, genetically modified foods, genetically engineered foods or agriculture biotechnology — makes a big difference in how people respond.

“We’ve done research that finds people respond differently to different terms. ‘Agriculture biotechnology’ people seem to like better than ‘genetic engineering,’ so it really matters what we call it. And we know that most of the world uses the term ‘genetic modification’ and uses ‘GMOs’ to describe the product of this process,” she said.

Cuite said the group found that out of all the terms, the one most frequently searched online was GMO.

“GMO is clearly what most people are thinking about and searching for when they are thinking about this issue,” said Cuite.

National award

At the breakfast, Dave Marvel, a grain and vegetable farmer from Harrington and the vice president of the Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association of Delaware, was recognized with the 2014 National Epsilon Sigma Phi Friend of Extension Award.

Susan Garey, a Delaware extension agent, presented Marvel with the award and talked about how he was instrumental in “working with UD Cooperative Extension to establish a Produce Food Safety (GAP/GHP) training program for Delaware growers and has helped us receive over $45,000 in grants to support Produce Food Safety programs.”

On receiving the award, Marvel thanked Cooperative Extension, saying, “Cooperative Extension touches our lives in a lot of ways that we don’t realize. When it comes to food, to health, to agriculture, to people, to animals and plants, Cooperative Extension plays a role in it to better the lives of Delawareans.”

About Delaware Agriculture Week

Delaware Agriculture Week provided numerous sessions that covered a wide array of topics including small fruits, fresh market and processing vegetables, small flock and commercial poultry, grain marketing, grain crops, hay and pasture, beef cattle, irrigation, direct marketing, and much more. Nutrient management, pesticide, and certified crop adviser continuing education credits were offered.

Agriculture is an $8 billion industry in Delaware, according to a 2010 University of Delaware report, which factored in the agriculture jobs and related production, goods and services that support the largest industry in the First State.

Delaware Agriculture Week is sponsored by University of Delaware Cooperative Extension, Delaware State University Cooperative Extension and the Delaware Department of Agriculture.

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Delaware 4-H invites alumni to check in, help youth win $10,000 sponsorship

Delaware 4-H invites alumni to check in, help youth win $10,000 sponsorshipDelaware 4-H is competing in a national contest to win a $10,000 “Innovation Incubator” Science Sponsorship, with local 4-H alumni determining the outcome.

The contest is part of the 4-H GROWN Alumni Campaign, sponsored by National 4-H Council and HughesNet.

The interactive campaign invites the estimated 25 million 4-H alumni across the U.S. to help direct sponsorship funding by checking in, tagging friends and casting votes to bring more science innovation experiences to youth in their hometown communities.

When a local 4-H alum “checks in” at the 4-H GROWN website, Delaware 4-H will get one vote closer to winning the $10,000 “Innovation Incubator” Science Sponsorship for the state. With the sponsorship, 4-H leaders will engage local youth in hands-on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) activities and will challenge them to design innovative solutions to solve a real community problem.

If Delaware 4-H wins a sponsorship, up to two local young innovators will also have a chance to receive an all-expenses paid trip to the flagship 4-H National Youth Science Day event in Washington, D.C., where they will participate in the world’s largest youth-led science experiment.

“We see every day the impact of 4-H in growing confident, caring and capable young people who are skilled for life today and prepared for careers tomorrow,” said Doug Crouse, interim state 4-H program leader. “This is an exciting chance for 4-H alumni who also understand the life-changing 4-H experience to help us reach more young people and show them that STEM can be rewarding and fun.”

Through 4-H GROWN, local alumni will also re-connect with the local 4-H that helped them succeed and with a network of millions of 4-Hers around the world. National 4-H Council and HughesNet are offering this opportunity through their collaboration to spark more youth interest in STEM.

The partnership brings hands-on STEM learning experiences to youth across the country, with a focus on small communities where resources for interactive STEM learning are limited.

To check in as a 4-H alum and help Delaware win an “Innovation Incubator” Science Sponsorship, visit the website.

To learn more about the National 4-H Council and HughesNet partnership, visit this website.

10th annual Delaware Agriculture Week to be held at fairgrounds in Harrington

10th annual Delaware Agriculture Week setOver 1,900 agricultural producers will learn best practices and new technologies, expand existing networks and make connections with leading vendors during the 10th annual Delaware Agriculture Week to be held Monday to Friday, Jan. 12-16, at the Delaware State Fairgrounds in Harrington.

New sessions for 2015 include: “Agriculture Best Management Practices – Financing,” “Weathering These Changing Times,” “Soil Health” and “Growing Delaware’s Agriculture in Urban Communities.” All sessions are free, however some require preregistration.

Delaware Agriculture Week provides numerous sessions that cover a wide array of topics including small fruits, fresh market and processing vegetables, small flock and commercial poultry, grain marketing, grain crops, hay and pasture, beef cattle, irrigation, direct marketing, and much more. Nutrient management, pesticide, and certified crop adviser continuing education credits will be offered.

This year, Delaware Agriculture Week will begin on Monday evening with the fruit and beef sessions. The main meeting area will be located in the Exhibit Hall, and the trade show — with more than 80 exhibitors — will be housed in the Dover Building.

“Ag Week provides a great opportunity for the ag community to come together to learn new ways of doing things, catch up with friends, and talk with local experts,” said Cory Whaley, University of Delaware agriculture extension agent and Delaware Agriculture Week chair. “Our programs get better each year and we are very happy to be celebrating our 10th anniversary with the Delaware community.”

Agriculture is an $8 billion industry in Delaware, according to a 2010 University of Delaware report, which factored in the agriculture jobs and related production, goods and services that support the largest industry in the First State.

Delaware Agriculture Week is sponsored by University of Delaware Cooperative Extension, Delaware State University Cooperative Extension and the Delaware Department of Agriculture.

For more information, including an electronic version of the program booklet, visit the 2015 Delaware Agriculture Week website or call Karen Adams at 302-856-2585, ext. 540.

UD alumna plants community garden on abandoned tennis court

UD alumna Elisa King led the effort to create a community garden in Elsmere.
UD alumna Elisa King led the effort to create a community garden in Elsmere.

When Elisa King was an undergraduate student at the University of Delaware, she gained an appreciation for community gardens through her work volunteering at that maintained by the English Language Institute and also as a member of the University’s Food and Gardening Policy Committee.

Now that she has graduated, King is applying that love of gardening to the real world as she has spearheaded an effort to launch a community garden on an abandoned tennis court in the town of Elsmere, Delaware.

King said that her idea to start the Garden at Linden — located in Walling Park on Linden Avenue in Elsmere — came out of her desire to improve the community. Given her passion for food and green spaces, a community garden seemed like a great place to start. The only problem was, King didn’t really know where to begin.

A community garden has been created on an abandoned tennis court in Elsmere.
A community garden has been created on an abandoned tennis court in Elsmere.

“I started finding people around the neighborhood who were equally interested in the project but we didn’t know where to begin, so we started making some connections with people like Carrie Murphy and Tara Tracey,” said King.

Murphy, a Cooperative Extension agent at UD, and Tracey, urban agriculture manager for the Delaware Center for Horticulture (DCH), are co-chairs of the Delaware Urban Farm and Food Coalition. They explained to King how she could get things moving, offering information on issues from how to approach the town with the idea to what kinds of materials they would need to start the garden.

King said the group decided that the garden would be totally communal, meaning volunteers would get to take home some of the harvest. “There’s no fee involved and one of the reasons we wanted to do that was that we wanted to make it as inclusive as possible, so if people wanted to volunteer at any given time, they could,” said King. “Another reason for doing that is to gain interest in the community and have people spread the word.”

Tennis court garden

The town of Elsmere granted the group permission to use the tennis court, which needed to be repaved and could no longer be used for tennis. King said it was a win-win for her group and the town.

“They saved money from not having to re-pave and we got to do something different in the community — getting residents engaged in how food grows and doing some healthy outdoor activity,” said King.

Once they had the space, the group held fundraisers and received grants from the Delaware Department of Agriculture, New Castle County and the New Castle Conservation District to help fund the project.

A crew of 30 people built the garden, which has 15 raised beds, at the end of March, and King said that a core group of around 15-20 people rotate to maintain the garden. They have been getting more and more positive community response.

“People just show up. They want to be a part of it but it might not fit in their schedule, but they come and give us positive feedback or ask questions to find out what we’re doing. It’s been really good,” said King.

Learning to grow

As for the growing process, King admitted that it was a learning experience for everyone involved.

“I probably had the most horticultural or agriculture experience out of everybody and I would say that my experience is not that vast,” said King. “It’s been interesting and definitely an awesome learning process for everybody. Everybody’s been able to contribute in some way. We help each other out and we’ve been reaping the benefits from it.”

Even with the learning process, King said the group had a nice harvest through their first season and they are in the midst of fall gardening work.

As for what they grow in the garden, King said that they are experimenting with a bit of everything, taking the approach of companion planting — planting different crops in close proximity for pest control, pollination and to maximize space and crop productivity — as they do not use any type of chemical treatment.

The garden has everything from kale, tomatoes, corn, beans and all different kinds of squashes. They also have blueberry bushes that were donated — a big draw for the local children who wanted to come and see the blueberries — and started strawberries, asparagus, sweet and hot peppers, and lots of different herbs.

The garden also has an herb spiral — a vertical garden design that allows gardeners to stack plants to maximize space — that King called a focal point.

“That herb spiral always looks beautiful because we have lots of different herbs and flowers growing in there,” said King. “We’ve integrated different flowers so we could attract pollinators and beneficial insects. We have flowers like marigolds and sunflowers and it’s been interesting seeing the life form in that space because there was nothing before. It was just pavement and now there’s birds and all these different insects.”

Elsmere Garden Society

Learning about the importance of community gardens and urban farms has led to an informal organization known as the Elsmere Garden Society, and King said she is hopeful that the idea will catch on and that people will want to put gardens in other spaces that are being underutilized in Elsmere.

“The garden is generating awareness that I think is really needed as far as where our food comes from, how to eat healthy, how growing food effects the environment and who has access to fresh food,” said King. “And when we have community gardens and urban farms, we can make more of an impact on the neighborhood scale, and I think that’s really important.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Lindsay Yeager

Sen. Coons acknowledges Extension’s rich history, future at annual conference

U.S. Sen. Chris Coons (center) receives the Friends of Extension Award from Albert Essel of Delaware State University and Michelle Rodgers of UD.
U.S. Sen. Chris Coons (center) receives the Friends of Extension Award from Albert Essel of Delaware State University and Michelle Rodgers of UD.

Cooperative Extension professionals from the University of Delaware and Delaware State University met on Wednesday, Oct. 22, in Dover for their annual conference.

The day included professional development workshops, and celebrated the remaining months of Cooperative Extension’s centennial anniversary. It was also an opportunity to recognize individuals and partnerships that have facilitated Extension’s mission to deliver university-based research and innovations to Delaware’s families and agricultural constituents.

U.S. Sen. Chris Coons served as the conference’s keynote speaker and took questions after his remarks. Coons thanked Delaware Cooperative Extension for the significant service it has provided to the nation and the state.

“To me, it is extraordinary that you engage year in and year out, day in and day out, hour in and hour out in your careers in public service,” Coons said. “We need the men and women of Cooperative Extension, and what you bring to the communities of our country today, more than any time in the last century.”

Coons recognized the history of Extension and its significant impact and role during wars, famines and the changing dynamics of agriculture.

“My hope is that Cooperative Extension will bring to this century, what it brought last century – exactly the support needed to stabilize and sustain family farming, to create new opportunities for farming in places where it has disappeared decades ago, and make farming more profitable and more positive and more engaging to a generation of young people here today,” he said.

“Cooperative Extension has an amazing long record of making Delaware a better place,” Coons added. “Think about the challenges we have together in the century we are in and the years to come. Know with confidence that you are exactly the right people in the right place and the right time to help us meet those challenges.”

Michelle Rodgers, associate dean of UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) and director of Cooperative Extension, and Albert Essel, director of Extension at Delaware State University, presented Coons with the first Friend of Extension Award of the day.

“The Friend of Extension Award is the highest recognition presented to a non-Extension person, business or organization and is designed to recognize truly outstanding support and personal involvement in Extension efforts,” Rodgers said.

In presenting the award to Coons, Rodgers said, “A friend listens and shares ideas to help make programs happen. A friend backs you when trying new ideas. A friend provides resources, knowledge and funding to create strong successes. A friend helps build linkages, is inclusive and helps to create opportunities for success. A friend makes time to share their expertise and assistance.”

2014 Friend of Extension honorees 

In addition to Coons, the following individuals received the distinctive Friend of Extension Award:

R.C. Willin Jr.

R.C. Willin Jr., along with his brother J.C. Willin and their sons Chad and Brent, operate Willin Farms, west of Seaford, Delaware. The fifth-generation family farm — where they are currently growing corn, soybeans, wheat and barley on 1,200 acres — has a long-standing commitment to agricultural excellence. They own and operate three poultry farms with a capacity of 222,000 roaster birds.

Placing environmental stewardship as a high priority, Willin frequently works with UD as a cooperator for crop research in the areas of nutrient management, weeds, insects and irrigation. The farm serves as a host for several agricultural field trips that highlight both agricultural and environmental best practices.

Willin also serves on the CANR Dean’s Advisory Board, Sussex County Field Crops Program, Sussex County Poultry Extension Program and UD Extension Nutrient Management/Environmental Quality Advisory Committee, as well as many other groups dedicated to improving Delaware.

Faith Kuehn

Faith Kuehn is a plant regulatory officer in the Department of Plant Industries at the Delaware Department of Agriculture (DDA). With DDA, she has made contributions to UD’s plant pathology and plant diagnostic programs through donations of equipment, supplies, time and expertise.

Her commitment to strong partnerships includes Extension and has not only helped to create a Delaware team that is enviable and nationally recognized but has ensured the economic viability of agricultural products in the state.

Kuehn promotes pollinator gardens and sustainable landscapes across the state. She also works closely with Extension professionals and volunteers to demonstrate the benefits and best practices of urban agriculture, including her support of urban farms and community gardens.

Jean Skibinski

Recognized for her 54-year involvement as family consumer educator (FCE), Jean Skibinski joined Extension in 1960 when she learned about the Home Demonstration Clubs and wanted to be included.

Skibinski launched the New Brook Club, and has served at every level of FCE service, including the leadership role with UD Cooperative Extension as the first president of the Delaware Extension Homemakers Association.

Skibinski currently serves as New Castle County and state FCE treasurer. She has written educational guides and presented workshops at the national, state and county level.

Skibinski is civic-minded, and was instrumental in helping to pass the seatbelt laws in Delaware. She rallied state legislation and participated in public policy debates. Also, she was active in adult leadership training and served in all aspects of funding and implementation of this training across several issues.

Her dedication extended to women’s financial literacy and the Women’s Financial Information Program.

Delaware State Fair

As an organization, the Delaware State Fair has provided long-term support and facilities for Delaware 4-H’s Youth Development Program. The fairgrounds have been the location of many annual county and state events, as well as numerous conferences, workshops and seminars conducted for Delaware Extension clientele.

The 80-member board of directors, as well as the administrative staff for the Delaware State Fair, recognizes the importance of providing opportunities to 4-H youth. The outstanding facilities provide the program the ability to conduct educational, safe and fun events for youth, as well as for those 4-H youth from other surrounding states.

In addition, the fair supports various 4-H programs through monetary support or donations to assist in fundraising efforts. The Delaware State Fair demonstrates a large interest in the overall Extension programs and appreciates the impact Extension and 4-H have made consistently over the years.

Delaware Cooperative Extension Director’s Leadership Award

The Delaware Cooperative Extension Director’s Leadership Award was presented to Jennifer Volk, Extension specialist in environmental quality and management, for her role in developing and implementing a reporting system for recording the impact of Extension programs across the state.

Rodgers also acknowledged former UD director of Extension, Jan Seitz, for her vision in establishing the Extension Scholars Program, which continues as a meaningful service learning model where UD students develop leadership and interpersonal skills, as well as apply a wide variety of Extension knowledge and university coursework.

Rodgers noted Seitz’s long-term commitment in giving back to her adopted state by creating and endowing the Janice A. Seitz Cooperative Extension Scholars Fund.

Delaware State University honorees

Delaware State University also honored three award recipients — Linda Dayes, Faith Robinson and Tamaira Banks.

Photos of the 2014 Delaware Cooperative Extension Annual Conference can be viewed on Extension’s Flickr photo gallery.

Article and photos by Michele Walfred

UD’s Cooperative Extension aids local urban farms, gardens

UD Cooperative Extension is assisting with local urban gardens and farms.
UD Cooperative Extension is assisting with local urban gardens and farms.

Urban community and school gardens, and urban farms have been springing up all throughout the state and many of these have been helped along the way by the University of Delaware’s Cooperative Extension program, specifically Extension Master Gardeners and Master Food Educators.

Carrie Murphy, a Cooperative Extension agent at UD, explained that Master Gardeners, Master Food Educators and Extension as a whole are providing technical assistance and educational programming to gardens across the state, though the majority of the sites are in New Castle County.

“We’re fortunate to have over 100 Master Gardener volunteers just in this county and in the last few years we’ve had such an explosion of requests to support urban agriculture projects, school gardens, community gardens and back yard, small-scale production that we’ve focused on training Master Gardeners to help,” said Murphy, adding, “A subset of the Master Gardeners has really dedicated their volunteer time to providing urban agriculture outreach programs.”

Helpful hands

Murphy said each garden is different but in general, they have helped communities test their soil, construct garden beds, design planting schedules and learn about basic garden maintenance.

“We also work with communities to evaluate a potential garden site,” said Murphy. “We walk around the site, make sure they have what they need — for example, water and sunlight — and just insure that they get off to a successful start.”

Often, Murphy said, they are working with communities that are fairly new to agriculture and gardening.

UD Cooperative Extension is assisting with local urban gardens and farms.
UD Cooperative Extension is assisting with local urban gardens and farms.

“Master Gardeners and Master Food Educators help communities better understand where their food — like tomatoes, peppers and kale — comes from, and we partner regularly with the Delaware Center for Horticulture,” said Murphy.

One of the sites that has benefited from Extension’s help is the Garden at Linden, a community garden in Elsmere run by Elisa King, a 2013 UD graduate.

King said Murphy has made herself available to answer questions and helped get the garden up and running.

“She’s been awesome. I contacted her when we had some issues with certain plants. She stopped by and checked things out for us to see what the problem might be and gave us some possible solutions, so she has definitely made herself readily available,” said King. “She’s come to consult with us on planting season and after we built, we were trying to plan out the growing season and she helped us with that and provided us with some really good resources. Carrie has been involved whenever we need her to be.”

Delaware Urban Farm and Food Coalition

Another way that these gardens have been helped is through the Delaware Urban Farm and Food Coalition, which is made up of nearly 80 individuals and organizations and co-chaired by Murphy and Tara Tracy, urban agriculture manager for the Delaware Center for Horticulture.

One notable urban farm supported by the coalition is the first in the city of Wilmington, the 12th and Brandywine Farm. This farm was developed as the flagship effort for the coalition. It has almost 1,400 square feet of a three-season growing area in raised beds, and is situated in an area of the city where residents have little direct access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

Tracy explained that the farm has both a production component to it — supporting a farmer’s market in the community — and a community garden component, as it includes another 600 square feet of raised beds for community members to rent plots in which to grow food for their families.

Community engagement

The main thing community gardens and farms need to be successful is buy-in from the community members.

Murphy said, “Many of the projects are homegrown and grassroots where community members have identified an interest in starting or connecting into a growing project.”

When the community is deeply involved in the planning and upkeep of their farm or garden, it leads to community development and community engagement.

“When you think about farming on a small scale in an urban environment, it has a different set of impacts and benefits and considerations. Really, the benefits of social and community are almost one in the same,” said Tracy. “People in a neighborhood that might be somewhat divisive can come together in a community setting to ‘green’ their neighborhood. It might not be through a community garden, but they come together planting trees or creating rain gardens, or something like that. It’s creating those connections with people so it has the benefit of improving the community, along with economic and aesthetic benefits.”

Garden for the Community

In Newark, there is a fine example of an urban farm in UD’s Garden for the Community, which is located on a third of an acre on the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) campus. The garden includes vegetables, herbs and some fruits to provide fresh, local, sustainably grown produce and donates some of that food to the Food Bank of Delaware steadily throughout the year.

Of the Garden for the Community, Murphy said, “It’s a great growing and demonstration space where you can learn more about small-scale production and different types, including ethnic varieties, of fruits and vegetables.  I direct people to the site all the time.”

The University also has a UD Fresh to You program with produce grown on the CANR campus and sold at the UDairy Creamery and at the UD Farmers Markets throughout the summer.

In addition, the city of Newark announced that its first community garden will be opening in 2015 at Fairfield Park.

Murphy has been working with the city on the project and they are planning workshops in the winter for the community gardeners.

For those in Newark who are interested in a gardening plot, visit the city of Newark Parks and Recreation page.

For more information on the Delaware Urban Farm and Food Coalition, visit the website.

Article by Adam Thomas, can also be seen on UDaily.

UD Cooperative Extension helps launch butterfly garden at Kirk Middle

Shots of dedication and ribbon cutting of the Monarch Waystation at George V. Kirk Middle School.  The event is the culmination of a joint effort between the Master Gardeners and the 4-H Afterschool program at Kirk.Three monarch butterflies traveling to Mexico for the winter got their trip started on Tuesday, Sept. 23, at the dedication ceremony for Kirk Middle School’s newly installed Monarch Waystation. 

The Monarch Waystation was created with the assistance of University of Delaware Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners Peg Baseden, Ellen Hahn, Fred Mann and Gil Martin, who provided support to the Delaware 4-H Afterschool Program’s Recycling Club. 

Fontella Taylor, an extension educator and site director for the 4-H Afterschool Program at Kirk, Gauger-Cobbs and Shue-Medill middle schools, explained that the Monarch Waystation helped bring together many parts of Cooperative Extension.

“4-H is a huge part of Cooperative Extension. It was great to partner with Carrie Murphy, an Extension educator in horticulture who coordinates the Master Gardeners who came out to help with the butterfly garden,” Taylor said. “They helped design the garden, select appropriate plants, and show the kids how to plant and maintain a garden.”

Taylor added that once the 4-H Afterschool Recycling Club gets a composting project off the ground, she is hoping to partner with Cooperative Extension Master Food Educators to teach the group about healthy living and eating.

Monarch Waystation

The Monarch Waystation features all native vegetation, particularly milkweed and nectar plants that were donated to the school.

“We emphasized using native plants to Delaware and the milkweed is for the larval stage, or the caterpillar stage. The nectar plants are for the adult stage,” said Mann, who graduated from UD with a degree in entomology. “The caterpillar has chewing mouth parts to chew the leaves and the butterfly adult has a straw-like mouth part that goes into the flower and sucks up the nectar.”

Hahn said the Master Gardeners are trying to put milkweed into every garden they can because the monarch butterfly population has decreased so significantly.

“The monarch population has decreased to the point where, while the monarchs will not go extinct, people think that the migration will. The reason that the monarchs are in trouble is that there is so much less milkweed than there used to be,” said Hahn.

To track migration, the butterflies released at the school were all tagged under their wings so that when they are found, they can be catalogued by the Monarch Watch organization to show how far they traveled.

“You put these little tags on the underside of their wings and there’s a number we record when we release it,” Mann said. “We record whether the butterfly is male or female, where we released it from and the date, and then that’s put into a database. Whoever finds the butterfly can go back, look at the number and email Monarch Watch.”

Hahn said that the monarch butterflies usually travel to Mexico for the winter, an amazing 2,000-mile journey for a creature that weighs about the same as a paper clip.

“In the spring, they start the return journey and the first generation gets to maybe northern Mexico or Texas, where they lay eggs and then die. It takes about three generations for monarchs to arrive back here and it’s usually in June,” said Hahn.

Hahn has been to the sanctuary in Mexico where the monarchs travel for the winter, and said that the site has to be seen to be believed

It’s just an unbelievable experience. It’s very high in the mountains and it’s just the right climate so that they kind of go into almost a torpor. They expend very little energy and they winter there in these huge bundles, bundles that I just can’t even describe, thus the reason that we don’t want to lose the migration,” said Hahn.

Mann said that to get an idea of what the sanctuaries look like, one simply has to look up at a tree full of leaves. “They actually look like leaves because they’re so dense. Look up at a tree’s leaves and pretend they’re all butterflies, that’s how dense they are,” said Mann.

4-H Afterschool

The Monarch Waystation is just one of many improvements made to the courtyard area of Kirk thanks to the 4-H Afterschool Program’s Recycling Program at the school.

The area has chickens, a tool shed, six raised garden beds and a compost area.

Jackie Kook, who teaches the agriscience program at Kirk, said students learn a lot by getting hands-on experience with the plants and the animals in the courtyard.

“The kids totally transform when they come out here. I’ve seen not just my students, but students with other teachers as well, and being out here is such a treat,” Kook said. “They love to watch the animals, they want to hold and interact with the animals, and our chickens are layer hens so they produce eggs that we give to the 4-H Afterschool Family and Consumer Science program for their cooking labs.”

The idea to add a Monarch Waystation came about when Helene Ross, who teaches the Recycling Program with Kook, read about them on the Monarch Watch website.

Ross connected with Master Gardeners who came out to do a site assessment and give instructions on where to construct the garden. The students, with the help of Master Gardeners, then started building the garden in April.

Ross said that now that the garden has been installed, students in the Recycling Club will do a research project on the monarchs.

“Since we have the monarch butterfly garden, the kids just started doing research on the butterflies. They looked up the information on life cycles, and they’re going to look at some data on how many butterflies have been affected, where the milkweed has lessened in the United States, and try and tie the research in with the garden,” said Ross.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Doug Baker

This story can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD selected as partner in USDA Northeast Climate Hub

UD selected as a USDA northeast climate hubThe University of Delaware is one of 12 land grant universities that have been selected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to serve as part of a New Hampshire-based Northeast Climate Hub. 

The climate hubs have been created to centralize information from universities and federal agencies related to climate change risk adaptation and mitigation. The hubs will address increasing risks such as fires, invasive pests, devastating floods and crippling droughts on a regional basis and translate science and research into information that can be used by farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to adapt and adjust their resource management.

Jennifer Volk, a Cooperative Extension specialist, will serve as UD’s point of contact for the Northeast Climate Hub.

Michelle Rodgers, associate dean for Cooperative Extension in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), and Tom Sims, deputy dean for CANR, also will be involved with the hub.

At UD, Volk and other researchers will first consider what farmers and land managers in the region view as the biggest climate risks to gain an understanding of their needs, as well as how they can help meet those needs both through research and Extension services.

This information will be gathered through a survey being adapting to suit the Northeast that will be sent out in the near future.

Volk also will share research that she has undertaken concerning salt tolerant crops with the hub, something she said is important for states in this region, especially those like Delaware that have many miles of coastline.

Seashore mallow

Volk’s research involves seashore mallow, a native wetland plant, as an alternative crop on salt-impacted lands.

Of seashore mallow, Volk explained that it can be found anywhere along the East Coast, basically from New Jersey south, and then along the Gulf Coast all the way to Texas.

“It’s a perennial; it’s basically a shrub so it comes back every year and it has a very pretty pink flower on it. It has seeds that are similar to soybeans, where about 20 percent of the seed is oil, so there’s potential for it to be used as a biofuel or cooking oil. We’ve been looking at potential uses for the stems, and poultry litter bedding is one of them,” said Volk.

Researchers from across UD helped with the study, and the results could provide chicken growers with an alternative to using pine shavings for bedding, which are expensive and harder to find.

Volk said that a preliminary assessment has already been completed with the help of Bill Brown, a Cooperative Extension agent for poultry.

“We got Bill some of the stem material, went through the process of chipping it up to get it in nice, uniform pieces, and then he did a pen study looking at traditional pine shavings, sea shore mallow, Miscanthus and switch grass and comparing bird health, growth and paw quality under those four different types of beddings,” said Volk.

Warmer weather

Besides salt tolerant crops, Volk said that another important issue for Delaware farmers and growers is a warming trend that may continue into the future, making the state hotter on an annual basis and in the summer. This could affect both temperature and precipitation.

“With climate projections, they’re very variable for precipitation but it looks like there is potential for more intense rainfalls and rain not necessarily occurring when crops need them. I think the potential for droughts and for flood outs are things that people can anticipate as climate continues to change,” said Volk.

Volk added that Delaware has a great deal of irrigation and it is hard to predict the quantity of irrigation supplies if they have to be used to help offset the impacts of hot, rainless days.

“The question is, do we know that we’re going to have the groundwater resources into the future if everybody is using it for irrigation at the rate that we’re using it now? It’s going to likely continue so those are the things that we need to consider,” said Volk.

At UD, Volk said there are people doing climate-related research in the fact that they are working to improve production and help protect how production grows in the future. These researchers include Gordon Johnson, assistant professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences (PLSC), and Emmalea Ernest, associate scientist the department, Richard Taylor, an Extension specialist, and James Adkins, an associate scientist of agricultural research and education who is doing irrigation work.

As for what she is most looking forward to about working with the Northeast Climate Hub, Volk said, “I think connecting more with farmers and learning what their take is on climate change. I think a lot of people feel that farmers think ‘Whatever, climate change is going to happen, we’ll deal with it,’ but do they really think that there is anything to be worried about and what do they need from us as their trusted source of information.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Lindsay Yeager

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

In Memoriam: Memorial service for Mark Manno set Oct. 20 in Clayton Hall

In Memoriam: Mark MannoThe University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources will hold a memorial service for Mark J. Manno, a long-time leader in the Cooperative Extension Service, at 1 p.m., Monday, Oct. 20, in Clayton Hall on the University’s Laird Campus. Friends and family may begin visiting at 11 a.m. 

Mr. Manno, who was state 4-H program leader, died suddenly on Saturday, Sept. 13. He was 64. 

“Mark Manno left an indelible impression on the University of Delaware and our state’s 4-H Program,” said Mark Rieger, dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “His commitment to Cooperative Extension, its volunteers, staff and youth was unparalleled. We are grateful for his vast contributions and the precedent that he set as part of his legacy.”

“Mark was a blessing to UD Extension and to many of us personally,” said Michelle S. Rodgers, associate dean for Extension and outreach in the college and director of UD Cooperative Extension. “I am grateful that the 4-H staff celebrated with him this past week as he prepared for retirement. Please lift up Sandy and the Manno family in your thoughts and prayers.”  

Mr. Manno began his career with the 4-H Youth Development Organization in 1974, working as an extension agent in Virginia, Maryland and finally Delaware. He most recently served as program leader for the entire state of Delaware. 

His dedication to 4-H was more than a career obligation; it was a way of life. He had an impact on the lives of thousands of children who participated in 4-H programs over the years.

In 2008, Mr. Manno was awarded the Ratledge Family Award for Delaware Public Service by the University of Delaware. The award recognizes significant public service by the members of the UD community that contributes to the overall well-being of all Delawareans. 

Mr. Manno frequently said that his greatest career satisfaction came from the former 4-H’ers who would thank him for the impact that he had on their lives.

Born in Wilmington, Delaware, Mr. Manno was a 1967 graduate of Salesianum High School and was enlisted in the U.S. Army National Guard from 1971-1972. 

He received his bachelor’s degree in animal science and agricultural education from UD in 1971, his master’s degree in dairy science from Virginia Tech in 1974; and his M.P.A. degree in personnel from UD in 1988.

His work with 4-H afforded him the opportunity to travel to each state in the continental U.S., and he took several trips to Europe. He enjoyed gardening and stamp collecting and was an avid fan of UD sports, especially football and basketball – both the men’s and women’s teams. 

Mr. Manno was involved in the Knights of Columbus and was a devout parishioner at St. Johns-Holy Angels Church. 

His dedication to 4-H was exceeded only by his dedication to his family, as a devoted husband, loving father and adoring grandfather.

He is survived by his wife of 42 years, Sandy (Smith); his daughter, Nikki Szymurski and her husband, Jared; his sons, Tony and Mark, and Mark’s wife, Kim; his grandchildren, Mason and Everly; his brother, Fran Manno Jr. and his wife, Helen; his sister, Joan Haizlip and her husband, Chris; and several nieces and nephews.

Family and friends are invited to visit from 5-8 p.m., Friday, Sept. 19, at the Doherty Funeral Home, 3200 Limestone Road, Pike Creek. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m., Saturday, Sept.  20, 2014 at Holy Angels Church, 82 Possum Park Road, Newark. Burial will follow at All Saints Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions be made to the Delaware 4-H Foundation, 113 Townsend Hall, Newark, DE 19716. 

New Castle County 4-H to hold 5K walk and run, Fitness Fun Day

New Castle County 4-H Quest for the Clover to be held Saturday, Sept. 27New Castle County 4-H and the 4-H Food Smart Families program will hold the third annual Quest for the Clover 5K walk and run and a 4-H Fitness Fun Day on Saturday, Sept. 27, in Wilmington. 

The race check-in is at 9 a.m. and the race starts at 10 a.m.

Through the involvement of the 4-H Food Smart Families program, this year will also feature a 4-H Fitness Fun Day after the race from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Lunch will be served and each family will receive a bag of groceries. There will also be stations set up to allow participants to play different games, taste test different products and learn about being healthy and fit.

The race will be held at Dead President’s Restaurant, 618 N. Union St., in Wilmington.

Participants will receive T-shirts and be entered into a raffle where they will have the opportunity to win gift cards, 4-H prizes and the grand prize of an iPod Touch.

All proceeds will benefit the New Castle County 4-H program on both the county and club level.

4-H is a youth development organization serving children ages 5-19 that covers hundreds of project areas and strives to reach youth in three national mission mandates: healthy living, citizenship and science.

Participants are encouraged to pre-register for the race. Registration ends Sept. 24 and the cost is $10 for youth, students and children and $15 for adults.

Registration is available online at Races 2 Run.

For more information, contact Mallory Vogl.

For 4-H volunteer opportunities, contact the 4-H office at 302-831-8965.

This story can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD summer camp aims to educate youth about the fun side of science

4-H hosted a Marvelous Microbes camp this summer to teach how science can be funAnyone can be a scientist, science can be lots of fun and — to the surprise and delight of most of the children who participated in the 2014 University of Delaware Marvelous Microbes Camp — science can be easy. 

Those were the key messages that Emily Sklar, a master’s degree student in UD’s College of Education and Human Development, hoped to instill in the youngsters who participated in the camp, which was run in cooperation with 4-H through a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Aimed at children ages 5-13, Marvelous Microbes took place in all three counties, with the New Castle County camp taking place the week of July 14 at Gauger-Cobbs Middle School and the southern Delaware camps taking place concurrently the week of July 21 at Mifflin Meadows in Kent County and the Hickory Hill Community Center in Sussex County.

The camp served many at-risk children, who Sklar said can sometimes find themselves falling behind during the school year.

“They really respond well to having us come in and dedicate our time to them,” said Sklar. “A lot of these kids are told they’re bad kids. They’re the ones acting up, they’re the ones not doing homework, they’re the ones failing tests, and having us take the time to come in and create something fun and educational for them has a huge impact.”

Sklar noted that doing something as simple as offering up words of encouragement worked wonders for the students.

“If we come over and say, ‘Wow, you’re a really good scientist’ or ‘You’re doing a great job on that experiment,’ and you see this light bulb turn on with them thinking, ‘Oh, maybe I am good at this. Maybe I’m not a bad kid, maybe science is something for me.’”

Sklar served as the lead teacher for the camp and created the camp curriculum after being selected by Janine Sherrier, professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Learning process

Sklar said the campers do everything ranging from making bread — to show how bread with yeast rises and bread without yeast doesn’t — to completing tasks as difficult as a Gram stain, a method of differentiating bacterial species, which she said is an Advanced Placement level high school experiment.

With activities like bread making, Sklar and the teachers also got to teach the campers life skills. “They got to learn how to measure and also, in talking about microbes, they learned the importance of washing their hands and general kitchen safety. We’re teaching them a lot of other things, too, it’s not just science,” said Sklar.

One of the main goals of the camp was to show that anybody, regardless of age, race or gender, has the ability to be a scientist.

On their first day of camp, the students were asked to draw a picture of a scientist. Sklar said, “About 75 percent of them drew a white male, with crazy hair. Then, on the last day, we had them draw a picture of a scientist again and a lot of them drew themselves, which was fun. It was cool to see that progress.”

Another teaching tool the camp incorporated this year was teaming with the ArtsBridge Program to help the students think outside the box when it comes to learning science.

Sklar said the ArtsBridge teachers instructed the campers in dance movement, music vocabulary, how to read music, and tone and pitch in the context of a content area, in this case science.

DBI imaging

One of the highlights of the camp was when a group of campers traveled to UD’s Delaware Biotechnology Institute (DBI) where they got to see the room known as “The Cave,” a visualization studio with a giant screen that displays 3D images.

The campers got to see images of the microbes that were discussed in camp sessions, and also of lungs as they took a virtual trip down the esophagus and through the bronchial tubes.

Sklar said many physicians and researchers use The Cave for access to leading edge technology that can help them better understand what is going on in the human body. “It’s really cool and the kids really enjoyed that,” she said.

And of course, using the tools is always fun. “They also got to use some of DBI’s high-powered microscopes and look at different images and touch some incredible machines,” said Sklar.

As for her personal favorite part of the camp, Sklar said that it’s a natural blending of two of her favorite things: teaching and science.

“One of the reasons I went into teaching science is my love for biology and my love for sharing knowledge with others, and I love seeing other people get excited about science, especially kids. Teaching them that it’s not all just sitting in a lab mixing chemicals and it’s fun, it can be easy — it can also be really, really hard — but it can be easy.

“And I’ll never forget one of the students looked at me and said, ‘Science in school is boring, but you guys make it so easy and fun.’”


Support for the camp was provided through National Science Foundation grant NSF-1127155, which was awarded to Sherrier. It is related to a larger NSF-funded science project on plant genomes and microbes.

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Cooperative Extension celebrates 100 years of extending knowledge, changing lives

Visitors enjoy Cooperative Extension Centennial ice cream.
Visitors enjoy Cooperative Extension Centennial ice cream.

A lot can change in 100 years. That is especially true when it comes to Cooperative Extension.

It was with that in mind, and with an eye toward the future, that members of the Delaware community gathered on Thursday, July 24, at the Grove Picnic Area at the Delaware State Fair in Harrington to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Cooperative Extension. 

Cooperative Extension was established across the country in 1914 with passage of the Smith-Lever Act, which enabled Extension agents to disseminate critical knowledge developed at land grant colleges, including the University of Delaware, to farmers and to the public. Addressing how far Cooperative Extension has come in its 100 years, Gov. Jack Markell said, “I think the founders of Cooperative Extension would be amazed at what it is today.” Markell noted how Cooperative Extension now has an office at every land grant institution, in every county of every state and territory, with a total of more than 3,000 locations. “Its mission in the 21st century is inclusive. Extending knowledge, changing lives. It’s been a really important part of the Delaware community now for 100 years, increasing the quality of life for citizens throughout our state,” said Markell. Reflecting on how Cooperative Extension influenced his life personally, Markell noted how he lived in Newark’s Windy Hills neighborhood as a neighbor to Extension agent Dean Belt and his wife Peggy Belt and that he “grew up thinking that Cooperative Extension was Dean Belt and Dean Belt was Cooperative Extension, and I didn’t know that it actually applied in other states and others schools.” Saying that Belt knew more about agriculture than everyone else he knew combined, Markell said, “The Belts were really positive influences on my life and I always look forward to seeing them. These are just extraordinary, extraordinary people who set the standard for what Cooperative Extension is and ought to be across the country.”

Mark Rieger, dean of UD's College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, says that through 100 years the mission to Cooperative Extension has remained the same, to extend knowledge from campus to field.
Mark Rieger, dean of UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, says that through 100 years the mission to Cooperative Extension has remained the same, to extend knowledge from campus to field.

Mark Rieger, dean of UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), spoke next and reflected on how much Extension has changed over 100 years. “I was driving down here today and I was reflecting on if I were a county agent coming from the University of Delaware in Newark 100 years ago, I wouldn’t be in a Nissan Altima, I’d probably be in a horse and buggy or coming on horseback. It would probably take me the better part of a week to come from that University to this area to see farmers and to make my way around and make my way back home  — and that’s what those people did 100 years ago. They got out, they extended that knowledge from the University to the people that could use it under some really difficult conditions,” said Rieger. Rieger talked about how farmers now use smartphone apps and are able to diagnose problems in the field in real time and how, in the future, there may be flying drones used over fields and farmers may be equipped with the ability to get a snapshot of photosynthesis as it’s happening. “The means have changed but the mission has stayed the same over those 100 years. So I’m really excited about the future of Extension and all the new things that we’re going to get to do,” said Rieger, who also touched on how the people of the world are going to need to use that technology in order to find ways to feed the estimated nine billion people who will be on the planet in the next 30 years or so. “We cannot continue to cut down more forests to open up land for agriculture, we’ve got to increase the yields on the land that we have and the way we’re going to do that is with good science, good technology and extending that science through Extension out to the growers. So I’m confident that UD and Delaware State University Extension will rise to the occasion and deliver on that grand challenge of feeding the world and protecting the planet,” said Rieger. Michelle Rodgers, associate dean for Cooperative Extension in CANR, spoke next, joined on the podium by Albert Essel, associate dean for Cooperative Extension at Delaware State University. Rodgers spoke about how in Delaware, there are two universities — UD and DSU — that form Cooperative Extension and “it’s our pleasure to work together to bring Cooperative Extension to you for 100 years worth of Cooperative Extension.” Rodgers, who has familial Cooperative Extension roots dating back 100 years and whose parents met through 4-H, thanked all the legislators in attendance and explained how their support is critical to the continuation of Cooperative Extension services. “We’re very much like a family in Cooperative Extension — our retirees, those who we partner with, it is a cooperative and it’s in the name for a purpose and it’s because we do cooperate so well with each other. It’s a very meaningful part,” said Rodgers.

Joyce Witte (left) is honored for her winning Cooperative Extension Centennial ice cream flavor.
Joyce Witte (left) is honored for her winning Cooperative Extension Centennial ice cream flavor.

Rodgers then recognized all the staff members, both past and present, and the volunteers who make Cooperative Extension a success. “Cooperative Extension individuals are very giving, very caring, very compassionate people who really care about communities and the people in them,” she said. “It is our pleasure as directors to work with this group of people who give so much of themselves to the community and to celebrate this centennial event with you. I just thank you for our past, I thank you for our present and I am very excited about our future and the next 100 years and what we’re going to do.” The event concluded with the unveiling of a Cooperative Extension Centennial flavored ice cream from the University’s UDairy Creamery as part of a flavor contest. The winning flavor, Centennial Cherry Chunk, was submitted by Joyce Witte, who was presented with a gift certificate for coming up with the winning flavor. Rodgers joked that Witte can now “eat as much Centennial ice cream as you like.” For more information about the Cooperative Extension Centennial, visit the website. Article by Adam Thomas Photos by Evan Krape This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

4-H agent Doug Crouse serves 25th year as Delaware State Fair treasurer

Doug Crouse has served at the State Fair for 25 yearsAsk Doug Crouse if Christmas in July is a real event and he’ll answer “yes.” It’s called the Delaware State Fair, an annual event at which he has worked for 25 years. 

Crouse wears many hats inside the 271 acres of the Harrington-based state fairground. As Kent County’s 4-H agent and 4-H building superintendent — and also serving year-round as the fairground’s treasurer and on the board — the days and weeks surrounding the 10-day “fair week” are full of planning and excitement equaled only by the winter holiday.

If any event can get a human being frazzled, it would be the first day of fair week as questions are put to Crouse left and right.

The Delaware 4-H building, located at the Centre Ice Rink, averages 10,000 4-H exhibits alone. Crouse is the go-to authority for where they are placed and how each is arranged for display.

But Crouse, who hears his name called numerous times, answers each question and solves each mini-crisis with calm aplomb. “If I can survive the first day, the rest of the fair I am home free,” he said.

Paula Woods, a Kent County 4-H volunteer, said of Crouse, “I go to Doug for everything. He can multi-task like no one I ever known. He is more than kind and he never loses his temper.”

Crouse’s unflappability and calm manner come from years of experience and doing what he loves. He was nearly born into it.

Born and raised in Felton, Delaware, Crouse grew up with 4-H. At the age of 10, he joined the Harrington Sunshine 4-H Club and was exposed to all that 4-H had to offer. “I did everything in 4-H, except state 4-H camp,” Crouse said.

His 4-H leader was Jane Everline, whose high expectations Crouse recalls fondly. “It was never put to us, ‘Will you do a public speech or demonstration?’ Rather I was asked, ‘What is your public speaking topic going to be?’ Participation in those events was expected,” said Crouse.

After Crouse graduated from high school and the 4-H program, he earned an accounting degree from Delaware State University and began a 20-year career in banking. Crouse worked at several local banks as a teller, a branch manager, in loans and credit and eventually as president of his hometown Felton Bank.

In 1982, Crouse married Karen Poore, and the first of their two daughters, Heather, arrived two years later. Heather joined 4-H at the age of 9, and her sister Jennifer followed. All became members of the same club to which their father had belonged.

A 4-H career beckons

Eventually, when the organizational leader of 4-H stepped down, Crouse was asked to assume the role, which he did along with his wife Karen. For Crouse, returning to 4-H felt right.

Under their joint leadership, the club’s roster grew from eight members to well over 100.

As a full time banker, Crouse never saw the additional responsibilities of running a 4-H club as a burden, rather he saw it as a respite. “4-H was my way of relieving stress,” Crouse said. “I love working with children.”

In 2001, Crouse became a Kent County 4-H agent.

Although he was president of the Felton Bank, Crouse was looking for something different in his life and talked about it with his family. The decision was a difficult one to make with salary an important factor. “Having money does not always lead to happiness and it is a decision I have never regretted,” said Crouse.

In 2006, Crouse became Kent County Extension director, housed at the Paradee Center in Dover.

Fair treasurer 

Crouse’s financial experience and reputation made him a natural to be tapped to help the fair’s treasurer. In 1982, while still working as a banker, Crouse was asked if he was interested in helping the fairground’s part-time treasurer. He agreed and served seven years as an assistant to the treasurer, helping with gate sales and admissions.

In 1989, the treasurer retired and Crouse found himself voted in as a fair board member and treasurer.

Serving on the 80-member fair board is a year-round task, and while fair board members tour other fairs to get new ideas to bring back to Delaware, Crouse said, “Nothing can compare to what we have here.”

In his years as treasurer, Crouse has many interesting stories to tell, as he’s personally met almost every entertainer who has played at the Harrington venue. Crouse reviews the contracts that come in, working closely with the agents to see it all runs smoothly and learns of the usual show business requests, such as the type of stool an entertainer wants to sit on, or a particular brand of food or beverage an act may want.

The most puzzling line item came when a country act stipulated in their contract that they did not want any farm animals visible during their stay at the fairgrounds. “I was surprised at that kind of request,” said Crouse.

Article by Michele Walfred

Photo by Jacquelyn Arpie

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD Cooperative Extension holds flash mob to raise healthy eating awareness

4-H Delaware State Fair Flash MobSurprising then entertaining visitors at the Delaware State Fair, a University of Delaware Cooperative Extension 4-H flash mob burst onto the scene Tuesday, July 22, to raise awareness about the Food Smart Families healthy eating program.

The flash mob, featuring people of all ages, performed its dance routine to the song Veggie Believer by Carl Winter, a parody based on the Monkees’ 1966 hit I’m a Believer

The dance routine was created by Laura Sahd, a senior in UD’s College of Health Sciences who majors in dietetics and nutrition, minors in dance and is an Extension Scholar. She said that being able to combine her undergraduate interests while working with children was a great experience.

“It’s been really exciting because I teach dance, as well. It’s really fun to apply that knowledge and apply my nutrition knowledge and work with kids,” said Sahd.

While working as a dance instructor, Sahd has choreographed ballet and tap dance routines for 3-7 year olds but said she had never planned a routine this big before.

She said it took about two weeks to plan the routine and that two practice sessions were held in Kent and New Castle counties, with the routine video recorded and emailed to those who were unable to attend the rehearsals.

In addition to planning the dance routine, Sahd has also been spending the summer teaching the Food Smart Families curriculum to youth attending summer camps throughout the state. She said she enjoys the educational aspects that the Food Smart Families program provides to participants.

“It’s great to get them started learning about healthy eating and how to make healthy choices, whether they’re choosing fast food or what they should drink,” said Sahd. “Food Smart Families is a way to start to get people thinking about what they’re choosing to eat, and to start good habits early in life.”

Food Smart Families

The Food Smart Families grant was awarded to the National 4-H Council by ConAgra Foods, and Delaware 4-H was one of five state programs selected to receive funds to undertake nutrition education.

The nutrition education is delivered to children ages 8-12 in five two-hour lessons taught by one teenager and one adult. The goal is to reach 2,500 children in the state with 10 hours of nutrition, physical activity and “shopping savvy” education by Oct. 31.

Michelle Rodgers, associate dean for Cooperative Extension in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, explained, “One of the objectives of the Food Smart Families grant is to increase fruit and vegetable consumption, along with increasing physical activity and a number of other goals.”

Rodgers said the flash mob “was really just a fun way for the youth to be involved in the program, to get engaged with the concept, to showcase what they’re learning and to help them think about it in a different way. We’re pretty excited about the flash mob and about what we’ll able to do with this grant in terms of outreach.”

Kathleen Splane, extension agent and state program leader for family and consumer sciences, said that in addition to offering the curriculum at summer camps, “We’re doing a lot of community events at different community centers where we’ve done the education. That is designed to bring the parents and the families in to learn more about the program.”

Sue Snider, nutrition and food safety specialist with Cooperative Extension, adapted curriculum from Cornell Cooperative Extension to create Delaware’s 10-hour program.

The five sessions taught are focused on getting participants to drink low fat milk and water instead of sweetened drinks, to eat more fruits and vegetables, to eat more whole grains, and to eat fewer high fat and high sugar foods. Sessions also teach the importance of eating a healthy breakfast.

Every week, the Food Smart Families curriculum is taught at about a dozen sites throughout the state and judging by the pre- and post-tests given by the program leaders, the message has really resonated with the Delaware youth.

“We’ve had some really positive feedback from the kids. Kids are saying, ‘I’ll never drink soda again.’ We’ve had kids that have been in camps and they’re reading the labels of what’s in their lunch,” said Splane. “And parents are responding like ‘How are you getting my kid to eat zucchini? They never ate zucchini before.’ It’s due in part to the fact that every lesson has food preparation as a component, so the kids get to sample a healthy recipe that’s associated with the lesson that day.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Doug Baker

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD Cooperative Extension heads to Delaware State Fair

UD Cooperative Extension heads to the Delaware State FairUniversity of Delaware Cooperative Extension will once again have a strong presence at this year’s Delaware State Fair, which runs Thursday, July 17, through Saturday, July 26, at the fairgrounds in Harrington, Delaware.

4-H youth, in particular, have a strong stake in the Delaware State Fair as it serves as the culmination of planning that begins at the start of the 4-H year the previous September.

As they move through the year, 4-H youth reserve the best of their work to display at the fair, with exhibits that span several diverse project areas including canning, entomology, beekeeping, clothing and textiles, horticulture, crops, food products, woodworking, computer graphics and photography, to name just a few.

Extension staff, Master Food Educators, Master Gardeners and 4-H alumni serve as exhibit judges. In 2013, 4-H checked-in 10,362 exhibits.

The 4-H general demonstrations, also known as illustrated talks, will take place from 10 a.m.-noon, Monday, July 21.

In addition, there will be 4-H floats on display during fair’s nightly parades.

The Delaware State Fair is the capstone event for 4-H contest winners at the county level, who will vie for overall state honors in Harrington. There will be competition in livestock, poultry, horticulture, vegetable, clothing and textiles, and photography. Other featured contests include tractor driving, photography, archery, Avian Bowl, Consumer Bowl, the 4-H Horse Show and a talent show.

The awards celebration for these contests will be held on Saturday, July 26, from 5-7 p.m.

In addition to the 4-H presence, Cooperative Extension will be represented by members of the Master Gardeners, who will answer gardening questions at their gazebo across from the plaza.

At the Delaware Department of Agriculture (DDA) Commodities Building, the Cooperative Extension exhibit will feature an online Ask an Expert station, which debuted at the state fair last year. At the station, members of the public are invited to query on topics that include lawn and garden, food safety, consumer sciences and questions about 4-H. Live Extension experts will also be on hand to answer questions.

Directly across from the Extension exhibit, DDA’s demonstration kitchen will serve as a stage for a variety of interesting and delicious “how to” presentations, many taught by UD Extension staff members.

In celebration of Cooperative Extension’s 100th anniversary, there will be chances to win one of four gift baskets from each of Extension’s program areas — 4-H, lawn and garden, agriculture and natural resources, and family consumer sciences — with the drawing taking place on Saturday, July 26, at noon.

The Cooperative Extension centennial celebration ceremony will take place from 2:30 p.m.-4 p.m., Thursday, July 24, in the Grove Picnic Area. The public is invited to hear brief remarks by Gov. Jack Markell and others, and enjoy cake and the unveiling of the Centennial ice cream flavor created by the University’s UDairy Creamery especially for the occasion.

Article by Adam Thomas and Michele Walfred

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Delaware 4-H hosts Sicilian students as part of Youth Ambassadors Program

4-H hosts students from SicilyThe University of Delaware Cooperative Extension 4-H Program recently hosted 14 students from Sicily, the largest of the Italian islands, as part of the 2014 Youth Ambassadors Program.

The program is funded by the U.S. Department of State through its Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).

The participants spent time in the United States from May 17 through June 7 and did everything from exploring Washington, D.C., to spending a night in New York’s American Museum of Natural History.

They also learned how to solve problems facing their communities, important information that they can take with them as they return home.

“They’ve had a pretty broad experience with the idea that they go back to Sicily and maybe do some projects in their community that engage people,” said Mark Manno, Delaware 4-H program leader. “We’ve been trying to teach them how to identify who the stakeholders are in their community and then how to proceed with a project, looking at what steps they need to take so that it’s successful. I think learning those skills will really help them in the end because you could have a great idea for a project but if you don’t know how to implement it, it won’t get off the ground.”

Many of the students identified pollution as a major problem in their community and so they spent time at the Peninsula Composting Group facility learning about commercial composting. They also took an ecological kayak tour at Sedge Island in New Jersey and helped plant beach grass to replenish the dunes.

In addition, the students learned about working in groups, doing team-building exercises to learn about each other’s personalities and how they meshed when trying to solve a problem.

“They’ve gone through what we call the True Colors personality IQ so they all understand their particular styles,” said Manno. “We always do that with kids and it’s really an exercise in diversity. They learn ‘why is this person this way and why am I that way,’ and it helps them understand that some people are very organized and some are just completely different. So they’ve done a lot of skill building and team building exercises.”

Chiara Maggiore, one of the students participating in the program, said that the program “is really teaching us something about ourselves in particular; about our capacities and how we can do something better for our community. I like the fact that we are having so much fun. We are enjoying the trip and we are experiencing things for the first time. At the same time, we came from different parts of the same region and we have such different personalities but we’ve come together and created a great group.”

Gaetano Pardo, another student on the trip, said that he had visited Australia before and was expecting America to be similar to that country. “I was expecting it to be like Australia but it’s not,” said Pardo. “There are a lot of trees and the houses are very different.”

Extending across states

The students spent a large portion of their time in the United States in New Jersey, staying with 4-H host families in the state and being led by Rutgers University Cooperative Extension. Manno pointed out that Alayne Torretta, a New Jersey 4-H agent, was great to work with and that this program — as well as the last program that had students from Colombia and Ecuador — shows the possibilities of Extension partnerships among different states.

“Last fall Delaware 4-H teamed with Maryland’s Cecil County 4-H. This is a great example of cross-state partnerships in Extension. When I first got this grant, I knew we couldn’t do two cycles a year, so I put out a call to my colleagues in the northeast region and I got a lot of interest from that. And I’ve known Alayne Toretta a long time and it’s worked out very well so far,” said Manno.

Manno added that Delaware 4-H is waiting to hear from the State Department about round two of the program. “Teens from almost anywhere in the world may be coming to Delaware and Maryland soon,” he said. “Wherever they come from, they’re guaranteed a great experience in learning about democracy and problem solving.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

4-H Palindrome Robotics Club impresses in inaugural year

4-H Palindrome Robotics team impresses in first yearDuring its inaugural year, Delaware’s 4-H Palindrome Robotics Club had a strong showing, competing in a regional championship and finishing with a top 40 ranking in the Mid-Atlantic.

Club members competed in three competitions, making it all the way to the Mid-Atlantic For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Region Championships at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Palindrome Robotics finished the season ranked 36th out of 110 teams in the region, which is no small feat for a team that started in August 2013.

The club made it to the regional championship by competing in two district events, finishing as a semifinalist at the first district event and as a quarterfinalist in the second event.

At the competitions, the club competed with its robot, named Aibohphobia — meaning the fear of palindrome — in a group competition that saw alliances of three teams working together with their robots to compete in a game created by FIRST called “Aerial Assist.”

The game was played by two competing “alliances” of three robots, each of which had to work together to score as many goals as possible in a two minute and 30 second time period. One goal was suspended seven feet high, with two lower goals located on each corner of the field. Teams were awarded 10 points for the high goals and one point for the low goals. Robots were allowed to play the role of goalies in order to keep the balls out of their goals.

There was also a five-foot truss in the middle of the field that teams scored points for getting the ball over, and teams were awarded bonuses if their robots assisted their alliance members in the scoring of goals and moving the ball together through the field’s three zones.

The balls that the alliances had to move were exercise balls approximately two feet in diameter, and one human player stood on the side to load the balls onto their robots.

The first 10 seconds of each match was an “autonomous period” in which the robots operated independently of their drivers and each robot was allowed to begin with a ball and have a chance to score a goal. For the rest of the match, drivers remotely controlled the robots from behind a protective wall, known as an “alliance station.”

Santesh Shah, the mentor for the club, explained that it took the club six weeks to design, build and program the robot.

Shah said that his favorite part of being involved with the program is that he can “teach kids things in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields and then see them build a robot that can accomplish the task it was built for.”

Club’s formation

The 4-H Palindrome Robotics Club was formed when a group of young people approached Mark Manno, Delaware 4-H program leader, and Mallory Vogl, Cooperative Extension agent, about partnering with 4-H so they could compete in the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC), which is a high school age competition that requires participants to be associated with a non-profit organization.

“A few of them had participated in another group before but they were trying to start their own group and it just seemed from the beginning like a wonderful partnership,” said Vogl. “We obviously are a non-profit organization and so that worked out for them. For us, 4-H has three national mission mandates, one of them being STEM, and science is our biggest push right now, so any time we have the opportunity to do some different science programs, we are all about that. It just seemed like a match made in heaven.”

The 4-H club has 18 members, and 16 of them attended competitions. The club usually meets once or twice a week, either Tuesday or Thursday, with meeting reminders sent out through email and posted on the club’s website.

Shah said that the club is now actively participating in community events and recruiting for its next season in 2015.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Cooperative Extension agents, Master Gardeners offer gardening advice

Cooperative Extension agents, Master Gardeners inform the public on gardening, extension programmingUniversity of Delaware Cooperative Extension agents, specialists and Master Gardeners headed to Gateway Garden Center in Hockessin, Delaware, on Saturday, May 10, to give a brief presentation on successful gardening methods.

The team was on hand to discuss good plant health and identification of both insect pests and beneficial insects in local landscapes, and to answer any questions that the customers had when it came to their home gardens. 

They were also there to inform the public about the many free and beneficial services Cooperative Extension offers to the community.

Brian Kunkel, an extension specialist, and Carrie Murphy, extension agent, attended the event along with Jane Adams, Betsy Rosenberger and Bob Deming, all Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners.

Murphy said the program was successful as it provided “another great opportunity to take Cooperative Extension and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) information directly to home gardeners, in their community garden center.”

Kunkel said he answered mostly insect- and pest-related questions, as he brought with him a variety of insects and examples of diseased plants.

“We had a table where I brought pinned insect specimens, various wasps and bees, because that’s often a common question I get from home owners — what can I do with my bees? So I was able to say, ‘Look, all these bees that you’re seeing here are not pests. However, they can be a nuisance and in some instances you may need to do something, it just depends on your own physiology and what your own tolerance levels are,’” said Kunkel.

Kunkel said that while it was important to educate those who were at the garden center about insects and plant disease, there also was a larger goal of informing them about the many Cooperative Extension services that are available.

“We provide a service at no cost to home owners and I think a lot of the industry is fully aware that we are there, and they use us when they have the need, but homeowners aren’t always aware that there is actually help out there that is reliable and that they don’t have to pay for,” said Kunkel. “Our goal has been to try and increase Cooperative Extension awareness, and that it’s not going to cost anything and that we’re willing to help you out.”

As far as the services Cooperative Extension offers homeowners, Kunkel mentioned insect and plant disease diagnoses, plant identification, soil sampling — to let homeowners know what type of soil they have and what plants will perform the best in their gardens — and household insect identification.

Murphy added that the team provided information about the Master Gardener program, including the garden line (302-831-8862), home gardener workshops, the home horticulture advice program, and demonstration gardens, and information on “sustainable landscapes and implementing an IPM plan in your landscape to help sustain its health.”

An open house, integrated pest management (IPM) walk and talk will be held on Thursday, June 19, from 6-8 p.m. at the New Castle County Cooperative Extension teaching and demonstration garden. Kunkel, Murphy and the Master Gardeners will take participants on a plant, pest and beneficial insect walk. The event is free and open to the public.

For more information, visit the Cooperative Extension Lawn and Garden website.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Evan Krape

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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