IFAS Extension: 2011 Central District
Featured Story: Marion County Master Gardener Spring Festival
Norma Samuels, Urban Horticulture Agent, Marion County Extension:
"The UF/IFAS Marion County Master Gardener Spring Festival--this is our seventeenth year. Our theme this year is Best Practices for Being Green, and so we try and have our talks focused around that theme."
"I think it's very important, especially in a time when people want to know, 'Well, what are you doing for the community?' And so, they can come out here on site and see all our demonstration gardens and walk around and get ideas to take back home that they can implement."
"We make sure that we're visible at the events so that people will know who are and can interact with us and ask us questions to get their problems resolved. We also have an Extension table where we expose all the different areas that we offer here at the office."
"Last year we had 9,285 people. I'd like to see it continue to increase in the number of people that we're attracting, and also maybe to integrate the other programs areas some more. So maybe we could branch off into classes on nutrition."
In the Central District, agents continue to work to keep their communities up to date on the latest information in a variety of topic areas.
In Lake County, Jennifer Hodges is using the 4-H nutrition curriculum to educate at-risk youth about healthy eating and food safety. The program helped to establish a partnership between Lake County 4-H and a local church and has lead to securing a three year, 30,000 dollar grant. This grant will help build a greenhouse where kids can grow their own healthy food.
In Orange County, the fourth-annual Economic Living Expo educated residents on sustainable living techniques for their homes, landscapes, and farms. The free expo included workshops and information booths on topics like managing family finances, alternative energy, and square-foot gardening. The goal is to show people how they can improve their lives while saving water, energy, and also help the county become more sustainable.
And in St. Johns County, the Alternative Agriculture program is helping farmers find new ways to stay profitable by diversifying with high value crops. The program team is experimenting with different varieties of blueberries, blackberries, and peaches. And team leader Jacque Breman says the goal is to determine which varieties grow best in Northwest Florida and how to produce them efficiently.
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