Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education (SNAP-Ed) was added to Geauga County in 2016, with one program assistant hired. The goal of this nutrition education program is to provide low-income youth, adults, and seniors with the tools they need to make healthier food choices, increase physical activity, and stretch their food dollars. Locations where the program is presented include: one area school, two senior centers, two adult low-income apartment complexes, one early childhood development program, one domestic violence shelter, and one community center. Since SNAP-Ed programming began in March 2016, 107 adults, 52 seniors, and 444 youth (a total of 603 individuals combined) participated in 46 programs. After completing the SNAP-Ed adult and senior programs, 35 percent use food labels (a 15.4 percent increase), 45 percent drink water instead of soda (a 19.5 percent increase), and 63.2 percent made one positive change to their lifestyle (an 18 percent increase).
FCS has been offering training to new and veteran CASA volunteers since the beginning of the year. Our FCS educator is a trainer for the Supreme Court of Ohio and has been able to bring the Supreme Court’s approved training, as well as the resources of the court, to our county volunteers at no charge.
OSU Extension provides educational opportunities, under the direction of the youth leadership program coordinator, to all Geauga County 4-H members in the following areas: club officer training, public speaking and demonstration contest, Assuring Quality Care for Animals, camp counselor trainings, job interview preparations, Cloverbud Science Camp, Fashion Style Revue Show, Youth Fashion Board, livestock project judging, 25 miscellaneous projects judging, horse safety and ethics, and rabbit, poultry, and horse care clinics.
All developmental trainings for 4-H volunteers were organized and supported by OSU Extension – Geauga County and the Geauga County 4-H Advisory Committee. They offered the following opportunities: annual field-to-plate educational field trip for adults and youth, Assuring Quality Care for Animals certification for adults, Assuring Quality Care for Animals activity leader training, volunteer developmental training night programs, county awards training, child abuse and abuse recognition training for adult volunteers, and multiple scholarships for volunteers and 4-H members to attend the Ohio Volunteer Conference and Ohio Teen Conference, both presented by OSU Extension.
For 4-H residence camp this year, OSU Extension – Geauga County received a grant from the National 4-H Council and Monsanto to facilitate a STEM activity, namely, the Honeybee Challenge. STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) goals are to foster inquiring minds, logical reasoning, and collaboration skills through educational curriculum. More than 100 campers built foraging routes for honeybees (brushbots) to transport pollen to maximize agricultural production. Participants learned how pollinators are essential contributors to growing food and feeding the world. Four Geauga counselors traveled to Columbus for facilitator training to help conduct the activity.
The Totally Dogs 4-H Club held their annual benefit dinner and raised more than $6,500. These funds were then split among the Geauga County dog warden ($5,543) and the Geauga County sheriff’s K-9 unit ($1,000).
One Geauga 4-H club took its community service project a step further. Greener Fields 4-H Club challenged all other clubs to step up to help the hungry. A total of 12 clubs collected non-perishable food items and toiletries for the Geauga County Hunger Task Force. Dr. Augustine Kellis of Kellis Eye Center in Chardon joined forces with 4-H. Dr. Kellis matched the value amount of $0.25 per item collected by all 4-H clubs. More than $12,500 in donations and items were collected and distributed throughout the seven food pantries in Geauga County.
The Family-A-Fair effort provided an opportunity for selected low-income families to experience the Geauga County fair. Scholarships awards were donated by 20 different 4-H clubs, two Grange chapters, two church organizations and the Geauga Horse and Pony Association, totaling more than $4,000. The 4-H clubs and organization partners combined with Geauga Job and Family Services to select families. Each family received admission tickets for each family member, ride tickets for all children, concession vouchers ($20/adult, $15/child), junior leader milkshake tokens, and a $10 gas card for travel to and from the fair. This year, 37 families were selected (97 adults, 72 children).\, an increase of four families (seven adults, seven children) from 2015.
Agriculture and horticulture constitute some of the largest industries of Geauga County, consisting of 959 farms. The total yearly revenue generated from Geauga County farms is ~$43.6 million. Of the $43.6 million, more than $28.4 million is generated by small dairy, nursery, greenhouse, and fresh produce farms. In Geauga County, there are 40 individual dairy farms shipping milk, the most of any county in northeastern Ohio, many Amish-owned. Unique to Geauga County, this revenue is generated on small farms, most averaging 70 acres.
Geauga Growers Auction sold more than $1.33 million of wholesale goods to retail buyers in 2016. The auction in Middlefield is the major venue by which most of Geauga County's commercial fruit and vegetable growers sell their produce and crops. Extension provided many group teaching and individual consultations to Geauga growers to aid in achieving high-quality, high-yield crops.
Annual Ohio maple syrup production is worth a conservative estimate of $6 million; and 27 percent of that syrup is produced in Geauga County and is worth ~$1.62 million. This figure represents only the liquid product and does not include any other maple sugar products or sales! Our maple industry and its subsequent tourism dollars, attracted by maple products, is a major contributor to many local economies. OSU Extension has one of the few state specialists in maple syrup, and Geauga County benefited from this knowledge and the expertise of the local Extension office around production efficacy and awareness of regulations.
OSU Extension provided more than 500 individual on-farm consultations to producers this year. These expert consultations provide timely advice regarding insects, diseases, nutrient usage, irrigation timing and fungicide applications to ensure success, profitability, and the perpetuation of Geauga's farming communities.
Currently, 71 certified Master Gardener Volunteers donated approximately 5,525 hours of time and service. The Independent Sector organization estimates the 2015 value of volunteer time in Ohio at $22.06 per hour. Therefore, these Master Gardener Volunteers donated approximately $121,882 worth of time and effort back to Geauga’s communities on behalf of OSU Extension.
FCS has partnered with the Bridges to Work program, a collaboration between United Way, Geauga Growth Partnership, Geauga Credit Union, and Catholic Charities to help Geauga County’s small businesses recruit and retain good employees. When surveyed, the employees noted that financial worries were one of their most pressing concerns. Budgeting, credit repair, and paying their bills were mentioned as topics they needed more information about. OSU Extension has been providing classes and individual assistance for those employees, both in the community and at employer-based locations.
Financial literacy starts at an early age and the Real Money. Real World. program allows middle and high school students to begin to understand the basics of personal finance through a real-life simulation. The program brings in volunteers from Geauga County’s businesses to work with the students on budgeting and spending wisely. The objectives of the program help students learn how what they do today will affect their opportunities as adults.
The Geauga County Horse Committee awarded one $500 and two $250 scholarships to Geauga County 4-H horse members pursing higher education.
The Geauga County 4-H Advisory Committee provided 16 Camp Whitewood camperships totaling $2,400; covered fees for 18 older youth camp counselors totaling $3,615; and sponsored the annual 4-H recognition ceremony, while also providing monetary support to clubs for educational kits and guest speakers for members and volunteers to pursue continuing educational opportunities.
Ongoing concerns about harmful algal blooms and pesticides impacting Lake Erie has resulted in required certification trainings. To this point, the certification training has impacted 338 individuals not only on the safe and productive use of pesticides, but also on how to correctly read soil nutrient tests. This training helps producers determine factual and realistic needs of their crops, while providing science-based facts about when and how to best apply fertilizers. This effort is critical to maintain the pristine nature of Geauga County, especially because it contains three major watersheds; namely the Chagrin River, the Cuyahoga River, and the Grand River.
OSU Extension – Geauga County is also taking the lead in presenting a series of programs on woodland management. The series will include programs on timber management, invasive species, and maple syrup production. Included in the maple production programing will be sessions on how to evaluate the quality and grade of maple syrup, with the specific goal to improve overall maple syrup production practices.