The Belmont County Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) program continues to work within the community to increase awareness of wellness practices, including food safety, better nutrition choices and increased physical activity.
Funding was secured from a $2500 Smith Goshen/Rice Energy Fund grant to implement a walking program in the rural village of Belmont. The funds paid for signage and road markings as well as the installation of 10 benches along a one-mile course through the village. An eight-week walking challenge encouraged residents - even those with limited physical abilities or impairments - to participate and rest when necessary on the strategically placed benches. Sixty people signed up for the program and more than 30 came to each regularly scheduled event throughout the eight weeks.
A $750 Virginia Gasaway grant from the American Cancer Society funded Project College in its second year. This program promotes enrollment in nutrition/cooking 4-H projects and provided hands-on cooking classes for 4-H members enrolled. Over a two-year period, enrollment in the targeted projects quadrupled, with 90 percent of children enrolled in nutrition/cooking projects completing and participating in county judging.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education (SNAP-Ed) continues to be funded by a federal grant in Belmont County. Basic nutrition, food safety and food security skills are taught to food stamp-eligible audiences throughout the county. In 2015, 2,645 participants attended 235 direct programs, 95.2 percent of which were held in a series. A total of 64 percent of participants reported “some or a lot of new information learned,” while 48 percent planned to make changes due to knowledge gained.
A collaboration with the Ohio Food Bank allowed the opportunity to train 34 food pantry volunteers at two sessions on food safety using the Occasional Quantity Cook curriculum.
This year, 30 teens completed approximately 40 hours of 4-H camp counselor camp and training. They learned about responsibly caring for children and planning and coordinating camp activities and educational sessions. The training helped these teens gain useful employment skills.
A total of 134 youth ages 9-13 participated in Belmont County 4-H junior camp. The camp program gave youth an opportunity to learn valuable life skills during their four-day stay. They also learned about and participated in natural resources lessons, athletics, boating, swimming, crafts and other educational activities. Another 39 youth, ages 5-8, participated in Cloverbud day-camp programs.
Divorce education programming reached more than 200 adults, teaching parents to help children cope with divorce. This 2.5-hour multimedia, cost-recovery program is court-mandated and contracted by the Belmont County magistrate. Participants indicate that most learned something new and/or useful and will utilize suggested strategies in dealing with difficult interpersonal situations arising from their divorce.
A total of 87 youth campers, teen counselors, and adult staff from throughout Ohio participated in the 2016 Piedmont 4-H Shooting Sports Camp. Afterward, 88 percent of participants strongly agreed they learned safe use of shooting sports equipment, whereas 84 percent strongly agreed they learned range safety. In addition to learning specific skills related to shooting sports, youth participants were given an opportunity to meet others and make new friends from outside their counties.
Designed to use positive peer pressure to elicit positive change in the driving habits of first-time juvenile traffic offenders, 4-H CARTEENS continues to operate in Belmont County in cooperation with the Belmont County juvenile court. This year, approximately 142 teens attended with a parent, learning about the dangers of texting while driving, driving too fast and distracted driving. Nine teens serve as instructors of this program.
The Impact of Shale Development on Families in Appalachia Ohio is a continuing research project based in Belmont County in collaboration with Jim Bates, Extension field specialist, family wellness. The project investigates the perceptions of landowners and residents with regard to the impact of sudden wealth from shale development on family relationships, identity and interpersonal relationships within communities. Original interviews included 30 Belmont County residents in winter 2014. The research continued in 2016 with 28 of the original 30 participants completing follow-up phone interviews. Data compilation and results will be forthcoming.
Three quality assurance training sessions were offered, reaching 221 4-H and FFA members. This program teaches youth how to use best practices that ensure producing quality and safe animal products for consumers, as well as responsible animal handling and care and welfare in farm animal production. Additionally, 16 older youth tested out of the program, indicating that they have mastered the program content.
Belmont County is home to many volunteer groups that enjoy service to the local community. The Belmont Master Gardener Volunteer group, comprised of 18 active members, accumulated more than 500 hours of community service to the county. A new project that they developed was a butterfly garden in Bellaire, Ohio that was recognized by the state senator upon its completion in April 2016. Last year, a different volunteer group was introduced to the county, the Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalists. This was the first active year for the five-membered group; they accumulated 200 of community service projects consisting of bird habitats, water quality, and public outreach.
A total of 1,012 elementary school students attended Fair Field Days at the Belmont County Fair. Participants learned about agriculture, history and safety by touring exhibits and workshops throughout the fairgrounds. Ohio 4-H members, Master Gardener Volunteers and other volunteers served as resource people, teaching youth at the various stops along the self-guided tour of the fairgrounds.
In February, 13 producers attended a pesticide recertification course that is required every three years. The class resulted in all private categories being recertified in the county. In addition, labels were utilizing for an exercise involving the three most widely purchased products in the local ag co-op. The result was a direct utilization of safety requirements and environmental concern awareness for chemicals being sprayed in Belmont County. Participants stated that they enjoyed learning about the products they used. In addition, fifteen people took the new applicators pesticide test, indicating growth in the interest of agriculture to the area.
Eastern Ohio is known for its vast amount of natural resources such as forests, ponds, and water sources. Many of these natural resources are incorporated into the agricultural use of the area. Belmont County hosted a soil health workshop for landowners, a pond clinic for maintaining and stocking ponds, a timber management workshop with the service forester and Extension, and was part of a pasture walk series that involved a multi-state component. Farmers are also land stewards, incorporation of natural resource management into agricultural practices has helped balance the environmental and economic impact of agriculture in the area.
Belmont County is one of the fastest shale development areas in the state. With the rapid development of the land; citizens of the county are faced with rapid change and potential opportunities. Early in the summer of 2016, OSU Extension – Belmont County, Soil and Water, and the local Farm Bureau office developed bus tours for Farm Bureau policy leaders to see the development firsthand and ask questions to the local farmers/landowners that were impacted by shale development. The result was that more than 100 Farm Bureau policy makers now have a better understanding of the shale development in the county and are now able to take that into account when making statewide policies.