According to the County Health Rankings and Roadmaps, Meigs County ranks 86th of 88 Ohio counties in healthy behaviors, which includes healthy eating and physical activity, making this an important area to provide education and resources to community members. The Meigs County Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) had a total of 2378 direct contacts in 205 programs conducted with youth and adults in the county. Adult surveys indicated a 25 percent increase in confidence in their ability to buy healthy foods on a budget and a 39 percent increase in confidence in their capacity to make a positive change in their household. Overall, 93 percent of participants were confident that they could make at least one positive change in lifestyle as a result of the program.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that “one in four children aged 2 to 5 years are overweight or have obesity” and “community efforts should focus on supporting healthy eating and active living.” Youth programming focused on preschool and Head Start students with activities that covered physical activity, MyPlate, healthy snacks, vegetables and fruits, and drinking water. In 2016, 150 programs were conducted for more than 1600 youth in Meigs County to provide early, and fun, education about the importance of moving more and eating better. If a fraction of these youth improve their habits at an early age, they will experience increased health and decreased costs related to preventable disease.
Through the support of the Ohio 4-H Foundation, Meigs County 4-H was able to partner with the two agriculture education programs in the county to increase awareness of careers in the agriculture industry and opportunities that are available for county youth. The 4-H educator provided fun, interactive education about career options in the agriculture field and worked with local schools to organize a final field trip to visit Ohio State’s Agricultural Technical Institute to allow youth the opportunity to visit a college that may not normally be a destination site for them. As a result of the program, 187 youth were educated about careers in the local agricultural industry. Pre- and post-tests showed a 20 percent gain in knowledge about local careers available and the education/training required to hold them. Following the campus tour of ATI, 87 percent of participants indicated that they would explore going into a career in the agriculture field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers with an Associate’s degree make more than $6000 more a year than workers with a high school diploma. If just one student is inspired to pursue additional education as a result of this program, then more than $150,000 in additional income could be earned over a 25 year career. An earned Bachelor’s degree jumps the wage difference to nearly $600,000 difference when compared to a high school education over the course of a career.
Building skills that are needed in today’s workforce is vital for the southern Ohio region. In Meigs County, the 4-H educator focuses on workforce skill development and building STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) capacity in youth to ensure they are ready for future employment. According to the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, “Between 1995 and 2005, the United States lost 3 million manufacturing jobs... In that same 10-year period, 17 million service-sector jobs were created.” This has led to a need to develop new skills in our future workforce, including creativity, critical thinking, communication, flexibility, initiative and responsibility. More than 600 youth were reached with innovative programming stressing the importance of or practicing the use of these skills that our youth will need to get and hold quality careers in 2016. According to US 2020, a White House backed organization created to help further STEM education, “By 2018, there will be 1.2 million US job openings in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, with a significant shortage of qualified applicants to fill them.” In 2016, the 4-H educator reached more than 700 youth in Meigs County and the surrounding areas with STEM concepts from engineering new tractor seats and hay kicker designs to learning about the science behind everyday items.
In 2016, Meigs County 4-H reached more than 1,000 youth in Meigs County through traditional clubs, camps, and school enrichment programs. A 2016 graduate stated that through their 4-H involvement, “I have made lifelong friends, discovered my passions, learned leadership skills, realized my love of community service and helping others, and most importantly; become a better individual with the drive to always improve.” Research from Tufts University supports this young woman, reporting that 4-H members are four times more likely to make contributions to their communities and two times more likely to be civically active than their counterparts. An important part of 4-H club work is a relationship with a screened, trained and caring adult. The same Tufts University report stated that, “in grade 11, 4-H youth reported that they had more mentors than did comparison youth.” In Meigs County, more than 115 volunteers work with the program as mentors to help youth develop into caring, competent, contributing members of society.
Camp offers youth a safe place to make new friends, try new things and have lots of fun. In 2016, 63 campers and five counselors from Meigs County attended Canter’s Cave 4-H Camp, enjoying nature hikes, canoeing, swimming, crafts, line dancing, campfire ceremonies and candle-lighting ceremonies at the conclusion of camp. As part of her position, Michelle Stumbo, the Meigs County 4-H educator, now serves as program director for the state 4-H Special Needs Camp. This program was recognized by the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents for a Regional Diversity and Inclusion Award. As one camp parent stated, “The youth have the time of their lives and have a social activity that their parents want for their children. There is so much hope, faith and knowledge provided at this camp that, ‘I think I can,’ is the best way to explain the experience.” Training camp staff in how to work with these youth is an integral part of making this event work, and is evidenced by the relationships built at camp. At one point during camp, a new staff member stated, "I never thought anything bad about people with special needs, but I never knew they were so fun! This has changed the way I think about people who are different than I am."
In partnership with Community Food Initiatives, OSU Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources educator Kevin Fletcher taught a workshop for local community gardeners on the basics of how to use low-cost small-scale season-extension technology to significantly increase the length of their vegetable gardens’ growing season.
At a twice-annual plant exchange put on by local gardeners from around the area, OSU Extension – Meigs County taught a workshop on fall landscape maintenance and perennial landscape plant health and propagation. The event was well-attended and was an excellent opportunity for local gardeners to learn and meet and network with each other and exchange bulbs and plant divisions from their home gardens to further beautify the county landscape.
Nineteen residents participated in Pesticide Recertification Training and successfully renewed their pesticide licenses. The training allows local farmers, producers and business people to increase knowledge of safe, efficient and effective use of pesticides.
OSU Extension – Meigs County provided local residents with 47 different fertilizer recommendations based on soil test analyses’ results between January and October 2016. The proper interpretation of soil test results and recommended fertilizer applications will increase the overall fertility, health, and productivity of our native soils, while minimizing the extent or likelihood of environmentally damaging nutrient runoff in our waterways.
Along with educational programs, OSU Extension – Meigs County assisted nearly 90 residents with questions one-on-one concerning subjects including agriculture, horticulture, entomology, forestry, pest/disease control, fertilizers, and pesticides. Several house and farm visits were conducted to help area residents diagnose issues and develop plans to solve problems as well.