Category Archives: Feature

Commit to “Dining In” on Family & Consumer Sciences Day, December 3, 2015!

imdininginIt is well known that in the United States we are faced with an obesity epidemic, especially in children and teens. This epidemic is related to unhealthy eating and lack of food preparation skills. Research has shown that the whole family benefits from family mealtime by having better nutrition, improving family communication, fostering family traditions, and teaching life skills, such as meal planning, budgeting, and food preparation.

Encouraging families to prepare simple, healthy meals and eat together supports the essence of family and consumer sciences: “Creating Healthy and Sustainable Families.” The goal of the Commit to “Dining In” campaign is to have 200,000 families take the pledge to make and eat a healthy meal together on December 3rd. You can take the pledge at the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences website

An even more in-depth study on overall emotional well-being as it relates to family meals found that family meals can nurture assets and life skills that contribute to overall emotional well-being of children. According to a research study by Dr. William Doherty, when asked which activities they could do on weekday afternoons would do the best job at helping them with these various skills and assets, children report that family dinners would help with the most. Empowerment and coping with stress were two assets that children hoped they had more of. In Dr. Doherty’s study there was a striking finding that children believe family dinners at home trump sports lessons, music/arts/dance and scouts/clubs as a way to help them with many life skills. Unfortunately family dinners are often missed to accommodate these other activities. Children ranked other activities a distant second to family dinners as a way to help them with most of these skills.

Here are some goals to aim for-

  • Set a goal to have regular family meals at least three times per week, if possible. If not dinner it could be breakfast, lunch on weekends, or even a healthy evening snack.
  • Keep mealtimes consistent. Even if mealtimes seem hectic or disorganized, the simple act of regular mealtimes can provide your child with stability.
  • Turn off the TV and cell phones and ask Mealtimes have been noted as one of the most common times children communicate with parents, so guard your mealtimes from outside distractions. Ask your children about their day, school, friends, goals, etc.

What should the meals look like? The time crunch for families can make the idea of family meals seem like an impossible goal. Children don’t expect a gourmet meal.

  • Have you thought about breakfast for dinner? Serve your favorite breakfast foods in the evening. Or conjure up fun breakfast foods you don’t have very often like toaster waffles spread with yogurt and fruit or breakfast burritos made of scrambled eggs, green or red pepper chunks and ham bits in a tortilla.
  • Choose a meal that’s quick. Be creative with tasty box meals for your family. Start with a box of macaroni and cheese, rice or other grain mix. Add a little precooked chicken or leftover beef , beans or canned tuna. Or try tuna or salmon from a can. Be generous with adding fresh, frozen or canned vegetables. Sandwiches, cold milk and fruit may not be the gourmet meal you see in magazines, but it works for families who want to spend more time together. The key is make it quickly, but eat it slowly.
  • Choose a made-ahead meal. A slow cooker is a family mealtime friend when life is busy. It smells great when you walk in and sets the mood for a comfort food meal. In the morning, sprinkle a beef or pork roast with lots of steak seasoning and put it over a bed of vegetables like potatoes, carrots and celery. By evening, the meal is ready! Serve with a green salad, and plan the next slow cooker combination with the family.
  • Cook once, eat twice meals have become a staple of some busy families. Some cooks double every recipe that is freezable. Families enjoy lasagna or homemade soup one day, and the other half is wrapped, marked and dated for the freezer in individual or family size packages. On a particularly busy day, the family cook can defrost one or more of the meals, and reheat in the microwave.

By committing to eat together as a family and registering for the “Dine In” nationwide initiative you will be committing to lifelong habits that will benefit your family.

Working with webinars

Bill Brown webinarBill Brown relishes the one-on-one interaction that his role as state extension poultry agent affords. Talking with a family farmer on site and helping them solve an issue is a setting that puts Brown “in his glory” where he can immediately sense he’s making an impact.

Brown finds working with groups similarly rewarding. With in-person workshops and seminars, large and small, Brown enjoys working a room. It’s not easy to keep him behind a lectern as he presents to his grower constituency. Moving about, Brown gauges his audience’s attention, changing his delivery as warranted. As Brown will freely admit, feedback is the fuel a presenter craves.

So when Penn State University extension educator Sarah Wurzbacher invited Brown to present as a guest lecturer for their NewBio Webinar Series, Brown felt a small measure of trepidation. Speaking on behalf of a multi-agency research project evaluating native switchgrass as an alternative bedding material in poultry houses was one thing but delivering that information through a computer screen was another.

Brown felt concerned that he’d be out of his element. Nevertheless, he accepted the new experience and his inaugural webinar, recorded for public viewing, is available on YouTube below.

Though that was Brown’s first time presenting as a lecturer for a webinar, web-conferencing technology is not new for Brown, nor is its value as an outreach tool lost on the extension educator. Brown frequently offers webinars taught by colleagues at the University of Georgia on poultry topics such as tunnel ventilation and winter ventilation, and invites his poultry farmer constituents to the Carvel Research and Education Center in Georgetown where the presentations are projected on large dual screens.

Brown can reach a lot of people this way, especially farmers who might not have access to the technology. In these sessions, Brown is able to move about, fielding and moderating questions from his audience back to the webinar host in Georgia.

Brown understands the times are changing. “With budgets and pressures to do more with less, webinars serve a needed purpose, but it is a compromise,” said Brown, conceding that a recorded archive provides a lasting benefit and the ability to reach a potentially wider audience.

A technological trade-off

While webinars can never replace in-person contact, implementing the technology in select situations can reap many benefits.

In addition to savings on time, mileage and fuel, web-conferencing facilitates the availability of guest experts who might not otherwise be able to participate due to distance. The ability to record, archive and share once the session is completed, is also beneficial.

What is lost with personal contact is offset by convenience. Each extension professional must weigh the pros and cons of incorporating some level of distance learning into their program delivery.

Delaware Cooperative Extension began staff training with Adobe Connect software in 2012, implementing and test driving the application for internal staff meetings and professional development opportunities. Connection to other extension offices soon followed and ultimately, was integrated into programs that allowed staff to collaborate and deliver extension curriculum, such as 4-H Leader workshops, Master Food Educator training, and the six-week Annie’s Project program, to name a few. In addition, two members of the college’s communications team regularly contribute tech and communication webinars to the Mid-Atlantic Women In Ag Wednesday Webinar Series.

In 2015, Extension added Zoom as a web-conferencing application and adapted Zoom as a component of statewide Master Gardener training. When distance learning technology is incorporated into a program, care is placed to rotate audiences and instructors so that everyone is exposed to both live and remote instruction.

Doing things differently is something Bill Brown gets. As researchers began to look seriously at switchgrass as an alternative poultry bedding, Brown summarized that the proof of concept behind the new poultry idea was a solid one.

“We know that properly grown, stored, processed and spread and managed on the farm, it is a cost effective alternative to traditional bedding materials,” Brown said. He added, “We really need an entrepreneur to make some capital investments in order to get the product to farmers.”

Trying new technologies in programmatic delivery is also moving forward, with inevitable kinks and glitches to be worked out.

“I am an old fashioned guy, but I know this is important outreach tool. It was my first attempt, and I told my wife afterward, it was favorable experience,” said Brown.


Article & photo by Michele Walfred
YouTube courtesy of PSUEnergyExtension

Ornamental and Turf Workshop coming up in November

Fall is here and so is UD Cooperative Extension and the Delaware Nursery and Landscape Association’s Ornamental and Turf Workshop on November 18th  at Hockessin Memorial Hall in Hockessin.  Discussions at the event include pruning, organic fertilizer sources, and controlling troublesome turf weeds.  Pesticide, Nutrient Management and International Society of Arboriculture continuing education credits will be awarded.  Register here or visit the DNLA for more information.

Healthy Living Challenge is off to a Good Start!

Lucy Williams welcomes participants of the Yes You Can Healthy Living Challenge in Dover.
Lucy Williams welcomes participants of the Yes You Can Healthy Living Challenge in Dover.

In New Castle and Kent County the Yes We Can healthy living challenge has begun. The challenge will focus on encouraging adults ages 18 and older to make better food choices, to move more and to support others in their healthy living. Interested participants can form teams of 4-8 people for some friendly competition. Each month a team member will use a log sheet to monitor their choices and will earn points for good choices. Individuals will log their progress but team points will be aggregated and submitted. There will be incentives each month for high points for teams and individuals. The challenge will run from October 2015 through May 2016. Participants will also earn points for attending some Cooperative Extension programs like Dining with Diabetes and Foodskills. These programs will be held at the New Castle and Kent County offices and also be hosted at sites that have agreed to be partners in the program. A Dining with Diabetes program will be beginning in November in Dover. CLICK HERE FOR REGISTRATION INFORMATION

yes we can eatIn Kent County the partners are key churches where the pastors have agreed this initiative will benefit their parishioners. In New Castle County partners include churches, the Latin American Community Center and Head Start.

Kick off events were held in Kent and New Castle Counties in October. Each event had Cooperative Extension educational displays like Puzzled by Protein and Spin into Fall with Healthy Fruits and Vegetables, samples of healthy recipes , information about the challenge, and activities for the whole family. It’s not too late to sign up for the challenge. If you would like to form a team in Kent County contact Lucy Williams, 730-4000 in New Castle County contact Carlos Dipres 831-8965

Fall is for Mulching

This landscape bed in Westover Hills is mulched with shredded leaf mulch.
This landscape bed in Westover Hills is mulched with shredded leaf mulch.
OK, “fall is for planting” is the accepted slogan, but fall is also for mulching. Fall is a great time to mulch because that is when fallen leaves are available. Most people think of the spring as the time to buy several yards of hardwood bark mulch and take heavy wheelbarrow load after heavy wheelbarrow load to each landscape bed. Why purchase hardwood bark mulch when you have free leaves available in the fall?

Leaf mulch is great for landscape plants because it allows for the natural nutrient cycling that occurs when leaves decompose, returning their nutrients to the soil to be taken up by plant roots. Leaf mulch is also lighter weight than bark mulch. It is easier to transport around your garden beds. The simplest strategy is to rake leaves from your lawn into nearby landscape beds. Some people prefer to mow up the leaves in a mulching mower, bag them, and then use the mower bag to transport shredded leaves to the beds. You can also rake leaves into piles once you have stopped mowing for the season and mow over the leaves several times to shred them to a consistency you like for mulch. A tarp is also a good way to move large piles of leaves to landscape beds or garden beds that need mulch.

If you do not have large trees on your property, you can get leaf mulch from several municipalities. The city of Newark maintains a leaf mulch pile on 896, north of town. If you have a landscaper mow your lawn, ask him or her to bring you leaves from other properties.

When it is time to put your vegetable garden to bed for the season, spread leaf mulch over the entire surface to reduce the winter annual weeds present next spring. When mulching the vegetable garden, it is better to use shredded leaves. If you have large, sturdy leaves, like oaks, they might not decompose by spring and it will be harder to till the soil for planting next year.

They don’t need leaf mulch on this bed because the groundcover (Mazus reptans) has completely filled in around the shrubs.
They don’t need leaf mulch on this bed because the groundcover (Mazus reptans) has completely filled in around the shrubs.
Leaves can also be used to protect tender plants. Last year, I filled a chicken wire cylinder with leaves around a fig tree in my garden. It didn’t prevent the fig from dying back with the cold winter we had last year, but the tree bounced back quickly and it looks like it will ripen some figs this year before our first frost.

When mulching trees and shrubs, do not pile leaf or bark mulch up against the trunk. These “mulch mounds” that are so prevalent, are harmful to trees and shrubs because keep the bark moist and promote decay along the trunk. Decaying bark provides an opening for disease organisms and insects to enter the tree or shrub.

If you spread bark mulch on your landscape beds in spring, it is probably not necessary to re-mulch with more bark. Bark mulch forms a crust that becomes hydrophobic. To allow water to penetrate and refresh the look of your mulch, simply rake the old mulch with a hard rake. Then add a layer of leaf mulch, which will decompose quickly and bring much needed nutrients to the soil.

Remember, any kind of mulch is a tool to help control weeds and maintain moisture until plants become fully established and grow together in your landscape beds. Distinct shrubs separated by large expanses of mulch, have become a popular landscape aesthetic, but this is not the way plants grow normally, and shouldn’t be the desired effect around your home. Create communities of plants in your landscape beds that will thrive together, attracting pollinators, promoting water infiltration and competing with incoming weeds.

If you want to read more about landscape strategies and find out about training opportunities, visit my blog at You can also follow me on Instagram at sbartonhort.

Delaware Gardener
September 23, 2015
Susan Barton

Delaware Woman inducted into National 4-H Hall of Fame

Ruth Ann Messick - headshotRuth Ann Messick of Greenwood, Delaware was posthumously inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame on October 9 for her lifetime achievements and contributions to 4-H.

Honored by the Delaware 4-H Youth Development Program, Messick represented one one of 16 people inducted during the ceremony at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

The National 4-H Hall of Fame honorees are nominated by their home states, National 4-H Council, the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents or 4-H National Headquarters based upon their exceptional leadership at the local, state, national and international levels.

Honorees were presented with a National 4-H Hall of Fame medallion, plaque and memory book during the ceremony. The National 4-H Hall of Fame was established in 2002 as part of the Centennial Project of the NAE4-HA in partnership with National 4-H Council and National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA. For more information about the National 4-H Hall of Fame event and past recipients, visit

“We are proud to acknowledge the outstanding 2015 National 4-H Hall of Fame honorees for the passion, dedication, vision and leadership they’ve shown toward our young people during their many years of service to 4-H,” says Jeannette Rea Keywood, National 4-H Hall of Fame Committee Chair.  

For over 40 years Ruth Ann Messick served as the anchor for the Delaware 4-H Program in central Delaware. In 1963, she organized the Peach Blossom 4-H Club in rural Farmington, Delaware. From the day the club started, her home was open to youth from all over central Delaware to explore the many opportunities that 4-H had to offer. Her club focused on citizenship and community service, along with leadership and a variety of 4-H projects that she offered through active 4-H project groups. This 50+ member club has produced nearly 1,500 Delaware 4-H alumni that read like a litany of Who’s Who in Delaware. The success those 4-H members enjoyed were unparalleled. In her time as a 4-H leader, 27 members of her club were named state winners in various projects, and all attended National 4-H Club Congress. Six of those youth became National Winners and four were Alternate National Winners. This attests to the quality experiences these youth enjoyed under her tutelage. Many of these youth came from very modest means, and Ruth Ann made sure that when they attended National 4-H Congress, they were dressed like other Congress delegates, so she went out and bought them the clothes. This is just one example of the compassionate and caring person that Ruth Ann was.

Ruth Ann served the Delaware 4-H Program in every way imaginable. She was one of the most active members of her County Leader’s Association during all the years she was a leader, and served in various leadership roles and on numerous county and state committees on an annual basis. She maintained a notebook, that even to this day, continues to be referred to in her respective county as the “4-H Bible.” She was always able to report what happened, the number of participants, what decisions were made, changes or improvements needed for the next year, etc. on any given event in any given year when she was called upon for this information. In particular, she was a founding member of the Kent County 4-H Basket Auction, which in 16 years has raised over $225,000 for the Delaware 4-H Foundation. She attended numerous Regional 4-H Leader Forums and was an instrumental committee member for Delaware during the several times our state hosted this regional event. She was also incredibly active in her community, serving as a member and in various leadership roles over a period of 50+ years in the local Fire Company Auxiliary, her church, and High School Alumni Association. When you get Ruth Ann as a volunteer, you get all of her. As a 4-H alumni and retired from active club leadership, she continued to serve 4-H. She served with the Kent County 4-H Links (All-Stars) that support 4-H activities and raise funds to support 4-H, as well as serving on many other county and state communities. She loved to watch 4-H members participate, encouraging them along the way, as they grow and develop important life skills for the future.

As impressive as these accomplishments are, there is another facet of Ruth Ann’s life that has impacted the entire Delaware 4-H Program enormously. She was actively involved in Delaware politics for many years and is well known to every political figure of note. During campaign season, her home served as a friendly rest stop and changing room for politicians of every stripe. And while there, each visitor gets an opportunity to visit the 4-H museum in her basement that promotes and creates an awareness of the Delaware 4-H program while showcasing 4-H history, activities, programs and memorabilia. As a direct result of her efforts, two new line items supporting 4-H were added to the University of Delaware budget–the State 4-H volunteer Coordinator and the State 4-H Educator positions. As a result of these new positions, tens of thousands of 4-H members have been added to the Delaware 4-H Program. In addition, since 2001 over $10 million new dollars in grants and gifts have come to Delaware 4-H. Her nomination as a Salute to Excellence “Lifetime 4-H Volunteer” in 2001 was supported with letters from the Governor and current Vice-President Joseph Biden. Ruth Ann was recently inducted as a 2014 Laureate to the Delaware 4-H Hall of Fame.

Ruth Ann, an excellent role model for 4-H members, but she set the bar very high for other 4-H volunteers in Delaware. She always went well beyond what was expected, and the standards in her 4-H life and personal life remain a beacon for all who knew her.

Small Ruminant Health Workshop

ANSStudentLab_317The Small Ruminant Health Program is a project developed by University of Delaware extension professionals Susan Garey and Dan Severson in response to a deficiency of veterinarians in the region with the desire to treat small ruminants. As a result, producers need to further develop their skills in assessing animal health and treating common diseases.

The event’s featured key speaker is Dr. Wendy Freeman, VM. Dr. Freeman is one of the most experienced small ruminant specialists in the United States and sees both large and small animal patients at Longwood Veterinary Center in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania on a full-time basis.

A Risk Management Grant Proposal was funded by the Northeast Extension for Risk Management Education Center to develop the project. A needs assessment was completed to determine needs for technical training and skill development. If producers can develop knowledge and skills in assessing animal health, recognizing disease symptoms, determining treatment and performing treatment skills, producers can ultimately reduce mortality rates increase productivity of their flocks and herds. This is the first in a series of workshops.

For questions or to register for this free workshop please contact:

Susan Garey,
Extension Agent Animal Science,
(302)730-4000 or


Dan Severson,
New Castle County Extension Agricultural Agent,
(302)831-8860 or

Holiday Meals-Preparing Them Safely

Thanksgiving Turkey At this time of year when families and friends gather, it is important to use care in food preparation.

UD Cooperative Extension family and consumer science experts have these fact sheets to help:

Let’s Talk Turkey: Highlights methods for thawing a turkey, turkey cooking times and temperatures, keeping the meat safe after cooking, using stuffing and leftovers, partial cooking, and more.

Keep Food Safe – It’s In Your Hands: Discusses how to avoid food poisoning and provides 50 ways to keep food safe.

Keep Food Safe – Guide to Refrigerator Storage Periods: Use this guide to keep leftovers and prepared food safe in the fridge both before and after the holidays


Mid-Atlantic Crop Management School

What is bugging your fields class on insect ID MACMS Nov 14 2012 DSC_0028
What is bugging your fields?

Mid-Atlantic Crop Management School: Come Experience Great Speakers From All Over the Country

The program for the 2015 Mid-Atlantic Crop Management School has now been set and the online registration is on going. Everyone is welcome to attend. Local and regional farmers, independent consultants, certified crop advisers, nutrient management consultants, and agency and university professionals join together to learn the latest on a wide range of topics from local, regional, and even national speakers. The Mid-Atlantic Crop Management School (MACMS) will be held from November 17 to 19, 2015 at the Princess Royale in Ocean City Maryland. Some of the notable speakers include Dr. Bob Nielsen (Mr. King Corn) from Purdue University, Dr. Dewey Lee from the University of Georgia, Dr. Randy Taylor from Oklahoma State University, Dr. Gordon Johnson from University of Delaware, Dr. Jarrod Miller from University of Maryland Extension, Mr. Mark Dubin from University of Maryland Extension and U.S. EPA Chesapeake Bay Program Office, Dr. Scott Bretthauer from the University of Illinois, and many others.

What is bugging your fields class on insect ID MACMS Nov 14 2012 DSC_0026Sessions on pest management, crop management, soil and water management, fertility management and some interactive sessions will be offered. Certified Crop Adviser (CCA), Nutrient Management, and Pesticide credits are available. Continuing education credits are available from a number of states in the region including Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. There are 43 different talks to choose from over the 2.5 day school.

Register for MACMS registration online at:  If you prefer a pdf version of the MACMS brochure or need more information, please email Richard Taylor at