Agents report on year

OSU Extension talks achievements, plans

By Patricia Ann Speelman - [email protected]

SIDNEY — The Shelby County OSU Extension staff presented information about 2015 accomplishments and 2016 plans during its annual meeting in its offices in Sidney, Wednesday, Sept. 29.

Reports were made about agricultural programs, 4-H and Junior Leaders activities and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) education by Laura Norris, county extension director and 4-H extension educator; Dr. Deborah “Debbie” Brown, agricultural and natural resources extension educator; Victoria Cordonnier, SNAP education program director; and Lydia Rinehart, 4-H program assistant.

“The ag program has been very strong,” Brown told the area nonprofit leaders, extension advisory committee members and elected officials who attended. She noted that in 2015, training for fertilizer application certification by licensed pesticide applicators was added to January’s West Ohio Agronomy Day activities, which had already comprised private pesticide applicator recertification for farmers and continuing education for certified crop advisers.

“It made for a very long day,” she said. Next year, a daytime program will be scheduled on one day and an evening program, a week later.

“I may have some outside speakers come in,” she said. And she may also plan breakout sessions.

Brown attended Columbus training sessions concerning the new farm bill and then oversaw three meetings of some 200 area farmers to discuss its ramifications. She also led a dairy farm bill meeting for 21 farmers. But, she noted, much education takes place one-on-one over the phone.

“I get a lot of calls,” she said.

A new program in March, “Women in Agriculture: An Empowerment Celebration,” was so popular that the extension office had to turn people away because the room wasn’t large enough to accommodate all those who wanted to attend.

“We’ll change the venue for next year,” Brown said.

Brown and Norris reported that the Shelby County Master Gardener program has more than 50 participants and is “very sustainable.” There were not enough applicants to support a new class in 2015, but a class is planned for next year. And current volunteers maintained a consumer hotline, hosted a diagnostic workshop and a landscape design class, maintained gardens at the fairgrounds, assisted with Conservation Day Camp and worked with Agape Distribution to create a community garden there.

Cordonnier said that her nutrition classes cover diet quality, food safety and food resource management. She presents the classes regularly at S&H Products, Agape Distribution, the Alpha Center and several Sidney elementary schools.

Cheryl Long, of S&H Products, and Jeff McAtee, of Agape Distribution, both commended their partnerships with the program.

“It has had a tremendous impact,” Long said. “Our people didn’t know how to cook. Now they go to the grocery and show me their lunches.”

“We serve a large portion of the community. SNAP-Ed serves people who need it most. It’s entirely voluntary and people come in an hour early for the class,” McAtee said.

Junior Leaders is a club for teens, not all of whom belong to 4-H, according to Rinehart. In 2014, the members, who come from throughout Shelby County, volunteered at the Shelby County Historical Society’s Pioneer Day, made 11 fleece blankets for the women’s center, helped children connected to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Shelby and Darke County make ornaments and collected thousands of plastic bags to be woven into mats for homeless people.

Norris said that 4-H is growing, especially in Sidney, and that there also has been a “steady increase in advisers.” There are now 117 adult 4-H volunteers.

The new year will see the start of a new partnership among the Shelby County Juvenile Court, the Ohio State Highway Patrol and the extension office: Carteens, which exists in 67 other Ohio counties, will permit teens who get traffic tickets to get their driver’s licenses returned by attending safe-driving workshops.

Norris hopes to “bring back premier exhibitor” options at the junior fair in 2016. In the past, young exhibitors could complete skillathons and program books and participate in interviews about their projects in order to win premier exhibitor ribbons and recognition. The program has not been in operation in Shelby County for at least three years.

She also plans to help local kids take advantage of some opportunities for 4-H members that are available at the state and national levels, opportunities that Shelby County members haven’t yet explored.

OSU Extension talks achievements, plans

By Patricia Ann Speelman

[email protected]

Reach the writer at 937-538-4824. Follow her on Twitter @PASpeelmanSDN.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4824. Follow her on Twitter @PASpeelmanSDN.