Food pantries don’t always offer the healthiest choice of food, which is especially challenging for individuals who have dietary needs related to chronic health conditions such as diabetes. In a partnership with the Creating Healthy Communities grant and the Sandusky County Health Department, eight volunteers received training to implement a Rainbow of Colors Choice System, enabling consumers of the pantry to choose healthy foods that align with MyPlate dietary guidelines. Specifically, volunteers were trained on pantry organization, how to promote nutrition and healthy choices, how to address chronic diseases like diabetes, and how to implement healthy food drives. As a result of the training, volunteers were more confident in their abilities to implement the model, promote nutrition and healthy choices, address chronic diseases, and procure healthier foods. The pantry serves 150 residents of Sandusky County each month.
The Growing Healthy Kids program was a family food and nutrition program made possible through a partnership with The Ohio State Medical Center and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center’s North Central Research Station. Six families participated in the program during which children and parents learned about MyPlate, growing their own food, and using fresh vegetables. Participants harvested vegetables on the farm, helped to prepare a meal using those vegetables, and took additional fresh vegetables home to serve to their families. At the conclusion of the program participants reported eating more vegetables and feeling more confident about trying new vegetables and recipes.
Home food production and preservation continues to be important to many families in Sandusky County. However, improperly canned or preserved food can pose serious health risks, and studies completed by the National Center for Home Food Preservation indicated that many home food processors are using practices which put them at higher risk for botulism and other foodborne illnesses. In 2016, 40 people participated in food preservation workshops, where they learned the principles of food preservation, including safe processing methods and general food safety practices.
This year, 29 teen leaders participated in the camp counselor education program and served as camp counselors for 4-H junior camp. Participants are selected, trained and evaluated using the CampWORKs model for workforce skill development. CampWORKS facilitates workforce skill building through formal training and practical experience, as well as post-performance evaluation. Teens completed a minimum of 24 hours of training, planned and led camp sessions, and supervised campers. Counselors built leadership skills and learned about child development, behavior management, handling emergencies, teaching effectively and dealing with stressful situations.
A total of 815 youth ages 5-18 took part in the 4-H community club program, where they had the opportunity to build leadership and communication skills, provide service to their community, and learn about topic areas of their choice. This year, 122 adult volunteers served as advisers for 33 different 4-H clubs. Community clubs include youths from ages 5-18 and are designed specifically to meet the age-related interests and abilities of members. Program evaluations indicated that the two most significant impacts for the youth participating in the 4-H program are building communication skills and developing a sense of responsibility for one’s own actions.
At 4-H junior camp on Kelleys Island, 137 youth campers and counselors participated in five days of outdoor educational activities led by OSU Extension staff, adult volunteers and teen counselors. Campers, ages 9-13, learned about environmental issues, healthy outdoor recreation, independence and communication.
4-H CARTEENS, a teen driving safety program provided through a partnership between OSU Extension, Sandusky County juvenile court, and the Ohio State Highway Patrol, reached 171 teens in 2016. Program participants complete hands-on and interactive activities where they learn about laws, the dangers of speeding, distracted driving and other driving-related topics. Program evaluations indicated 92.9 percent of the participants plan to change their driving habits to be more cautious, limit distractions or be more aware when they are behind the wheel as a result of attending CARTEENS.
“Exploring Your Backyard” Sandusky County Natural Resource Day was held for the 15th year in September. This two-day program is designed to introduce fourth-grade students to the different natural resources and agricultural resources present in Sandusky County. This year, 747 students from 18 different schools participated. The program is made possible through the help of more than 100 teen and adult volunteers who teach sessions, lead activities and serve as student guides. Evaluations from both teachers and presenters found the program to be an excellent teaching and learning experience for the students. This program is possible through collaboration between OSU Extension and the Sandusky County Soil and Water District.
Vegetable research and education has become a major focus, with more than $10,000 in outside funding secured for continuation of the Ohio Sweet Corn Variety trials, cabbage variety trials funded by The Fremont Company, and pepper variety trials funded by the Ohio Vegetable and Small Fruit Research and Development Program, and new grant funding was secured for a vegetable fertilizer trial through Widmer and Associates. Data is continually analyzed and presented at meetings around the county, state, country and internationally to help identify the future genetics of these crops that will provide the best combination of yield, profit, and nutrient value for growers and consumers. More than 30 varieties of sweet corn, 40 varieties of peppers, and 10 varieties of cabbage were analyzed in replicated plots, with more than 120 growers in the county attending at least one of the monthly workshops and learning which varieties and fertilizers are the most economical for use in their operations.
Livestock and forage production has been on the increase in the county with higher revenue opportunity in both areas, and individualized on farm instruction has been implemented to help many new producers develop detailed forage management and cost analysis plans, select forage varieties, and analyze budget sheets for long term capital investment decisions. Clientele has included zoos, wildlife parks, and metroparks from surrounding counties, and growers supplying hay for these same operations. Formalized livestock education material was presented to the Great Lakes Cattle Feeders Shortcourse, jointly hosted with Wood County and Michigan State University.
The Sandusky/Ottawa County Master Gardener Volunteer program continues to have a very strong presence in the community. The nearly 30 active members held their 10th Master Gardener Volunteer plant sale, offering low-cost but high-quality plants to the public while educating buyers on proper planting and care techniques. In cooperation with the Sandusky County Park District, multiple educational programs taught youth and adults new strategies for beautifying their yards and gardens, the need for and value of modern agricultural practices, and how to interact with and enjoy local wildlife.
Northern Ohio Crops Day is the largest agricultural program, and continued to address timely topics that impact grain producers’ bottom line and environmental impact. In all, 180 participants learned how new technologies and issues could be affecting their operations and management decisions for the coming crop year. Plus, 130 of the participants were trained on procedures and products for recertification of their pesticide applicator’s license, and 25 Certified Crop Advisers obtained continuing educational credits. All participants learned the new rules and regulations for Ohio’s fertilizer certification program, and have the proper resources and knowledge to apply properly and make a significant impact on the soil and water quality in the region. The program is sponsored by 17 local ag-businesses, and the Erie Basin EERA.