According to the Robert Wood Johnson County Health Rankings in 2016, Mercer County had a 29 percent adult obesity rate and a 29 percent inactivity rate. The Grand Health Challenge promoted healthy lifestyles with an increase of fruit and vegetable consumption, increase of physical activity, and weight loss through healthy eating. This year, 345 adults participated in the multi-county challenge. As a result of the five-month challenge, a total of 2,450.2 pounds were lost.
Key behaviors showed consumption of fruit increased from 22.7 percent every day before the challenge to 40.3 percent at the end of the challenge. Vegetable consumption increased from 16.2 percent every day before to 35.8 percent every day after the challenge. Physical activity increased from 9.63 percent every day before to 31.3 percent every day at the end of the challenge. Participants reported positive behavioral changes toward a healthier lifestyle.
The number of establishments serving food to the community has increased, along with the potential risk of pathogens harming the food supply and making people sick. The Ohio Department of Health has made food safety a priority and ruled that establishments preparing food need to have approved food safety training. In all, 167 food service managers and supervisors in five counties received 15 hours of ServSafe Manager Certification training, and 44 employees received four hours of basic food safety training from the Family and Consumer Sciences educator. The average Manager Certification test passing score received was 85.93 percent. Participants reported learning new information and improving the quality of food safety in their establishments.
This year, 50 local youth increased their knowledge of how occupation affects income, how to use a checking account, and making real-world financial choices. Volunteer community partners assisted with the programs. Participants in the Real Money. Real World. program were asked what is one thing they plan to change as a result of participating in this program; and they said, “save more money,” “work on making a budget,” and “watch how much I spend on a daily basis.”
A total of 244 area youth attended the local 4-H camp, where they had the opportunity to experience new things such as crafts, archery, and fishing while making new friendships. This experience was enhanced by the 54 teen counselors. The local teen counselors gained leaderships skills by conducting the activities and supervising campers. Camp counselors attended training in youth development, leadership, program planning, teaching, risk management and communication skills.
Leadership in action could be witnessed in the 12 departments comprising the junior fair. This year, 46 Junior Fair Board members and 12 Food and Fashion Design Board members planned and conducted a variety of events during the annual junior fair. These teens are exposed to life skills related to conflict management, organization and communication.
At least 791 special interest 4-H projects were exhibited in the junior fair. Members explored many areas of interest and hands-on experiences that will carry into adulthood careers, activities and hobbies. In addition, 15 percent were chosen to attend the Ohio State Fair for their outstanding performance and demonstration of knowledge and skill.
Vegetable gardening is increasing in popularity in the county. A series of six classes was held for 161 participants, emphasizing practices to improve gardening success and satisfaction. Class topics covered plant selection, pollinator habitat, herbs, shrub and tree care, vegetable preservation, and lawn care. This was an 84 percent increase over last year in the number of participants served.
Workshops on climate change, entomology, soil health, bed bugs, and plant pest identification were completed by the educator to assist in responding to more than 127 inquiries and concerns pertaining to gardening and home horticulture. This was a 39 percent increase over last year in home horticulture inquiries and customers served.
There were 425 4-H members enrolled in livestock projects who completed their annual quality assurance training. Members either attended the program or met the testing requirements. After completing the program, youth have a better understanding how to produce safe food, protect and promote animal well-being, and contribute to a better quality of life in our communities. Certified volunteers conduct the program, teaching good production practices for youth livestock producers.
The 15-member Agriculture and Natural Resources Advisory Committee held two meetings. Progress on department goals was evaluated, with 100 percent of planned goals met and new goals established to continue meeting the agriculture and natural resources program mission.
Providing educational requirements for farmers to meet Ohio Department of Agriculture licensing and certification requirements is a major focus for the county. In all, 165 farmers were recertified for their private pesticide license, and 189 people completed Fertilizer Applicator Certification Training. As a result of the training, 80 percent agreed or strongly agreed that farm field phosphorous loss is a significant problem to our water resources. Also, 88 percent strongly agreed they improved their knowledge about nutrient management, and 59 percent agreed or strongly agreed to change their nutrient management practices as a result of what was learned during the certification training. A private pesticide license testing workshop helped 18 individuals prepare for testing in the core, grain and cereal crops, and forage and livestock categories, with 99 percent passing each testing category.
Surface and ground water quality issues are a county concern. At least 60 percent of the county’s land area is under water quality regulations for nutrient application, and 19 percent of the land area is declared a distressed watershed requiring additional regulations. An Our Land – Our Water event was held to address wetland development to filter surface drainage water sediment and nutrient loading that can cause harmful algae blooms in Grand Lake. This event also addressed the water treatment and purification process to remove 100 percent of the micro toxin levels in drinking water drawn from Grand Lake. A program on a manure composting process that reduces liquid concentration of the manure nutrients by 70 percent was held. A spray technology program and a weed management class addressing application accuracy for reducing the potential of runoff, drift or misapplication were also held. These programs informed 57 individuals on practices to improve water quality and the quality of the environment in Mercer County.
A survey of weeds found in 110 soybean fields constituting 4,370 acres across the county was conducted. There were 39.35 percent of the fields that were weed free. Waterhemp was found in 28 percent of the fields, 22 percent had giant ragweed, and 20 percent had marestail present in the fields. To address these weeds of concern, spray technology and weed management classes were held, addressing application accuracy for reducing the potential of runoff, drift, or misapplication. These programs informed 78 individuals about management practices to improve weed management.