2015 Annual Report

Leon Ressler

Leon Ressler

Our Mission

The mission of the Chester County Extension is to deliver outstanding and timely educational programs that benefit our agricultural producers, businesses and the quality of life among families and communities in our county. To do this, we will work with reciprocating agencies in the Southeast Region, in the State of Pennsylvania, and other bona fide entities.

Message from Leon Ressler, District Director

Dear Friends,

I am happy to report that Chester County Extension had another productive year in 2015. This report gives a glimpse of the many programs conducted by our staff to meet the needs of the citizens of Chester County. This year we are using slightly different format for the report, with our educators sharing more of a personal experience perspective on their activities. We welcome your thoughts on this approach to sharing our impact.

Our Penn State Extension Office provides a local link to the resources of one of the world’s leading research universities. Our educators now serve on statewide teams and all programs offered across the state are available to the citizens of Chester County. Our program catalogue describes all the courses and workshops available from Extension. Call our office to request a copy or go online to explore programs. Discover the countless ways we can help you meet your goals. We would welcome your feedback on programs you feel would be a priority to be delivered locally. Please contact any of our educators to share your thoughts.

Penn State Extension programs are enhanced and especially with our Master Gardener and 4-H programs are totally dependent on our strong volunteer base. In 2015 we had 189 4-H volunteer leaders and 61 Master Gardeners who provided essential leadership for our programs. Our Master Gardener volunteers contributed 2717 hours of time in 2015. Additionally our Extension Board Volunteers provide invaluable guidance to our programs.

Our 4-H programs are providing very varied youth development education for very diverse audiences. Our traditional livestock clubs featuring swine, cattle, sheep and goat projects are still a key part of our offerings. However now there are many other opportunities including robotics, cooking, and plant science to name a few. We also have after school programs and summer programs reaching diverse ethnic audiences. Additionally our Work Force Education programs include outreach to at risk youth including young people at the Chester County Youth Center.

In addition to our Agriculture production programs in livestock and field crops, our educators provide Food Safety Certification, support our local emergency management efforts, provide parenting education, and many other programs. Topics included in the parenting education included child growth and development, environment, family engagement and support, child assessment, professionalism, health, safety and nutrition.

I would like to thank our Chester County Commissioners for their continued strong support which makes our efforts possible. Additionally I would like to thank our State Senators and Representatives from Chester County for their critical support as well. Finally I would like to thank our Chester County Congressmen whose support provides the critical third partner in our Cooperative Funding formula. Additionally Federal funds are the sole support for our Nutrition Links program providing critical nutrition education for our low-income population.

Leon Ressler, District Director

Message from Harold H. Taylor, Extension Board President

HaroldDear Friends,

As I near the close of my first year as President of the Chester County Extension Board, it is with great pleasure to present the 2015 Annual Report. 2015 has been a very productive year in Extension. As you read through these reports, you will hear about the many diverse programs and educational opportunities supporting businesses and communities throughout our county.

Our experienced and dedicated staff continues to work in making our county stronger. I’m personally grateful to see the many programs focusing on the youth of Chester County. With the diverse, multi-educational programming, our educators are able to bring new experiences and skills to our youth throughout the county. With their efforts, Chester County continues to be on a cycle for success, offering positive impacts on the community year after year. To educate is to inspire! I am thankful to work with such a creative and caring staff; including the many volunteers who support and administer programs. They work diligently in building broad foundations for all, focusing on creating and preparing youth for the opportunities of the future.

Penn State provides extensive research data to the Extension Agency where it is shared and implemented throughout the state. With this help, Chester County's agri-business industries infuse $3 billion a year into the local economy. Through the many diverse extension programs, our county continues to flourish in many sectors of farming, by providing unbiased information to over 1500 farm operations. Through their research and programming, our farmers are able to learn about the latest technologies and efficiencies. Thus helping them to remain leading producers during competitive and environmentally challenging times. I am truly grateful for Penn State's ongoing commitment to the many County Extension based programs that support a large economic foundation for our community.

Much of the work and efforts of the Chester County Extension could not come to fruition without the strong support of our Chester County Commissioners. As a resident of Chester County and Board President, I would like to thank you on behalf of the Extension staff and our community for your continued commitment.

Harold H. Taylor, Chester County Extension Board President


4-H Building a Better Future One Child at a Time

We have all heard of the proverb “It takes a village to raise a child”, each day I strive to be part of the “village” that is providing positive impact on our youth. As a youth development educator, I am fortunate to be able to help impact the lives of many local youth through direct interaction as a project leader and mentor for projects ranging from robotics to animal science, to sewing, cooking, teen leadership and more. I have the opportunity to work with nearly 100 volunteer leaders that spend countless hours working to provide non-formal educational opportunities for our 4-H members. I also interact and collaborate with many school teachers and community youth organizations to make 4-H educational opportunities available to their youth.

The 4-H program has a 100 year history of providing non-formal, community based education. We work to help youth learn about a particular area of study, but also want to help those youth learn skills for life. Communication skills, record keeping, decision making, and goal setting are among the life skills we try to provide to young people. The skills and activities need to be age appropriate and act as building blocks to help prepare the children for now and the future.

The best impact we can have on children is through long term involvement in our club program, but that doesn’t work for everyone. When I started 24 years ago I quickly learned that a one size fits all approach to youth development would not work. We needed to be creative and flexible to serve that needs of Chester County. I am proud of the flexibility of our program to stay current with the demographics of the county. As a team we continue to reach out to youth across the county providing ongoing and short term learning opportunities. We take pride in our traditional 4-H club programs and look for creative ways to expand.

4-H One Child at a Time

We follow the guiding principles of Positive Youth Development:

  • Youth develop positive relationship with adults and peer
  • Youth are physically and emotionally safe
  • Youth are actively engaged in their own development
  • Youth are participants rather than recipients in the learning process
  • Youth develop skills that help them succeed
  • Youth recognize, understand and accept multiculturalism
  • Youth grow and contribute as active citizens through service and leadership

~ Toni Stuetz, 4-H Educator/Coordinator

4-H Building Families

I love to sit back and watch the goings on at any 4-H Livestock or Horse Show. So many people think that it is only about winning and getting the big sale price but oh it is so much more! As I sit back and take a break from weighing animals at the scales or take a break away from the mounds of records I have to keep on the computer, I see a marvelous thing happening. At the PA Farm show in subzero temperatures I watch dad, mom and four young children walk a steer that will probably stand last in class up to the wash rack to prepare for the upcoming state show. They have all worked together to get to this point and are proud just to say they are there at the state show. They will learn so much, and the next year will probably come back with a class winner.

At our own 4-H Fair I watch a young person walk his 1350lb steer out to the wash rack with mom or dad, sister or brother walking right along with them. As some family members are out washing the steer those remaining at the stalling area are picking manure from the beds; mom may be stirring a pot of chili and another sibling may be helping to hang the sign above the animal. At the horse show mothers can be seen holding a pony while the child mounts, or brushing a tail out as the member goes into the ring. You can just imagine what goes on at home.& There is feeding to be done, stalls to be cleaned, fences to be mended and show clothes to be washed and ready for the next show. And most of these projects last all year long! So the 4-H Animal Science program does more than build work ethic and character in a young person; it also builds families. Without family involvement these animal projects could not be accomplished. It is usually a family decision on which animal to purchase and where the money comes from to pay for the animal! And as the school year approaches it is usually mom and dad who help the child with chores before and after school, pick up the load of feed from the feed mill, and many more things. In a time when we worry about dysfunctional families and families falling apart, we have a project right in our midst that brings families together by working towards a common goal, the completion of a 4-H Animal Science program.

4-H Build Family

With many other youth programs parents can drop their kids off and pick them back up two or three hours later but not with the animal science program! It takes the entire family to reach that goal of getting the animal to the 4-H Fair or State Show. As I turn back to my computer to complete the information input for the sale that will occur the next day I remember the importance of this entire event; to build families, character, and a work ethic in all youth involved in our animal science program.

~ Cheryl Fairbairn, 4-H Livestock/Horse Program Educator

4-H Building Community Programs

Less than ten months into my position at Penn State Extension-Chester County, 4-H has incorporated three new sites in their outreach and educational programs. The Point Youth Center, Coatesville Kids to College, and the Jennersville YMCA afterschool programs have added hands-on STEM projects. The projects have ranged according to youth interests, including rocketry, plant science, embryology, and floriculture, robotics, and wood working. Chester County 4-H STEM provides youth direct access to tangible learning experiences.

I have been involved in coordinating the 4-H Embryology program reaching thirty-three schools and outreach site with approximately 1600 children.

4-H Build Community

I coordinate three of the four 4-H robotics clubs with steady contact with over 60 youth and 6 volunteers. The clubs are actively recruiting volunteers who are excited about engaging kids in math, science and programming skills through Robotics. The 4-H Robotics program was also a new venture for the Greater Brandywine YMCA with summer program in West Chester and a fall after-school program in Jennersville. Both adventures have been very well received and 4-H looks forward to future planning with both methods of delivery of science based curriculum at the YMCA.

I facilitated the 2015 National Science Experiment, “Motion Commotion”, provided a shocking “Ah-ha” moment for 32 youth enrolled in after-school programming. This year’s experiment combined a speeding car collision and a distracted driving demonstration in a simulated activity that investigates the physical and human factors of motion. The students used every day materials – including a toy car, modeling clay, ruler, calculator and cell phone – to explore physics in the real-world. The students used an indoor skate park and a wheelchair ramp as a runway to analyze the speed, momentum and kinetic energy of a car in motion, and explored the science behind the car’s collisions and to demonstrate the consequences of distracted driving.

~ Audrey Reith, 4-H Program Assistant

4-H Building Better Living

I was thinking about a comment I heard from a teacher pointing out the downside of extended school days, she stated, “children don’t learn much after 4:00 PM.” In 4-H outreach, I work in after-school programs with at risk and underserved youth residing in financially distressed communities throughout the school year. Kids walking into my programs can be tired, or full of bottled up energy; hungry or thirsty; upset over an experience at school or an incident on the bus; scared and mad because they are locked out of their homes; anxious over a family or peer situation. Any and all of the above can be typical, and no one walks through the door eager to participate in more school, so my task of providing an after-school educational program can seem daunting in the face of so many obstacles. And it’s not just the kids; adults can be tired, hungry and irritable too during the post lunch, glucose drop zone. So while most 9 to 5 workers are gearing down to head home, I am gearing up to inspire hungry, tired, cranky kids to learn something new and have fun while doing it. To add to this combination of participants in various emotional states, our programs are voluntary—the kids are not required to attend--they have to want to be there!

4-H Build Better Living

Typically, after organizing supplies, loading them into my car, and stopping for healthy snacks items on the way to a program, I plan my time to arrive early at the meeting area to set up the room, so my attention can be given to each child as they arrive. A friendly hello, a “how was your day,” even a hug or a pat on the shoulder can help to shake off the school day each child is emerging from. Our task as 4-H leaders facilitating after-school programs is to create a welcoming, respectful and safe space for youth to come home from school to. I know if they are hungry, they will not be in a place to listen, let alone learn; therefore a nutritional snack is first on the agenda. Snack usually encompasses 1/3 of the program time, but it is just as important as the educational activity part. It gives youth time to decompress, socialize, and recharge. Snack time also gives me the opportunity to offer new food experiences to the kids in my programs. Recently I brought apple cider to a program as an autumn treat and to my surprise, nobody knew what it was. In a time when juice boxes and sports drink reign as the most popular items for quenching kids’ thirst, apple cider was an unknown to the youth in this group. The sensory experience of fresh apple cider registered; everyone approved and asked for seconds. In my work I find there are many examples like this we adults take for granted. We assume a child has experienced what was typical in our own childhood, but what is revealed is the experience is far from typical in the life of children living in financially distressed communities.

Impact is hard to measure in these terms. Will they ask for apple cider over Gatorade one day? Will they choose carrots over cheese curls? Will they remember the value of sharing a snack and conversation at the end of a day? Most likely I will never know. What I do know is the kids keep coming week in and week out. Sometimes learning occurs when we’re not quantifying it, or recording it, or even looking for it, instead it comes out of a shared moment when the previously unknown quietly becomes the known.

~ Tracy Murdaugh, 4-H Program Assistant

4-H Building Life Skills

A day in the life of a 4-H Chester County Program Assistant during the summer can be extraordinarily hectic. There is a great deal of organization and work needed to keep the summer programs running smoothly and on track. Complete dedication and commitment to the 4-H program is absolutely necessary for anyone working with 4-H summer programs. I have been very fortunate for the past 3 years that my 4-H co-worker has been my daughter, Madeline, who grew up in the Chester County 4-H Program.

We start reviewing plans for programs the night before so we can work as a cohesive team. Our mornings start at the Oxford Library where 4-H programs include sewing, citizenship, public speaking, consumer science and art. Afternoons were at the Oxford Village mobile home community where would share foods, culture, gardening, sewing, and art with the kids at this site. The day would end at the Lighthouse Youth Center, a new collaboration for us in 2015.

4-H Build Life Skills

Madeline is a positive role model for the children in Oxford since she grew up in the area and graduated from the same high school that these children will attend. Madeline shares what she has learned through 4-H with the children in Oxford. She encourages the girls who attend our 4-H programs to learn science and math and to study hard to advance themselves.

~ Francine Joyce-Martin, 4-H Program Assistant

4-H By the Numbers

Summer Outreach Initiatives to Serve Underserved Youth

  • Lake Road 9
  • Elmwood Garden 11
  • Willow Street 18
  • Avondale Apartments  22
  • Migrant Education Summer Program  22
  • West Grove  24
  • Basciani Court  26
  • Gordon Center  34
  • Pemberton  35
  • Center Street  39
  • Chestnut Street  48
  • Park Spring Apartments  14
  • Oxford Village  10
  • LightHouse Youth Center  19
  • Oxford Library  23
  • Downingtown Academy - Robotics  25
  • The Pointe  18
  • Discovery Day Camp  7
  • 4-H Pony Partners - 3 outreach summer sites 73

Total: 477

4-H Membership October 2014-September 2015

  • Organized 4-H Clubs: 514
  • Overnight Camping: 53
  • Day Camp programs (environment theme): 288
  • Short-Term and Special Interest Programs:1769
  • School Enrichment 4-H Programs: 2083
  • Collaborator led After-School Programs: 73
  • Independent Study Members: 9

Total 4-H Youth Enrollment:  4789

Number of 4-H Projects Completed: 5245

  • Animal Science Projects: 2830
  • Technology and Engineering: 888
  • Plant Science: 352
  • Wildlife and Forestry: 191
  • Food and Nutrition: 178
  • Consumer and Textile Science: 129
  • Health: 82
  • Visual Arts: 61
  • All other project areas: 534

4-H Growing Science Initiatives for Middle School Youth

The Pennsylvania Growing 4-H Science program is focused in Berks and Chester Counties Funded by National 4-H Council through funds from the Altria Foundation, it began in September, 2012.  The program focuses on teaching youth to think like a scientist following the 4-H Science Core Competencies. Program contents meet the standards for 4-H high-quality positive youth development and includes positive youth/adult relationships, developing skills for life and leadership experiences for youth. The program utilizes several delivery methods to ensure that the program impacts the communities being served. Traditional club development, afterschool program collaboration and development, and day camp programming are all utilized to reach the middle school age youth.

  • Middle school youth with 20 or more hours of Science -176
  • Middle school youth with more than 6 but less than 20 hours of Science-147
  • Elementary youth served by the program -117

Total: 440
* 6 or more hours of 4-H education is a quality standard

Animal Sciences in Chester County

As I drive through Chester County I am constantly amazed by the progress Chester County producers have made in the face of an ever burgeoning population and development pressures.  Yet our farms both large and small continue to thrive in every nook and cranny of this county. Our large commercial farms continue to make strides in production efficiencies, increasing yields to feed an ever growing population with much less input of fuel and fertilizers. Today we can produce 300 bushels of corn on one acre of ground versus 20 years ago when it took 3 acres to produce that same amount. Corn, soybean, beef, and milk yields have doubled and tripled during the past 30 years due to concentrated breeding efforts in plants and animals selecting the best, and breeding to the best without increasing animal numbers or acres!

Much of this is due to increases in technological advances fueled by scientific research done at land grant universities such as Penn State and brought to producers through Extension and industry. The vast amount of unbiased information made available to local producers from Penn State University has allowed them to flourish and remain in business in a county so heavily populated. They continue to protect the environment while contributing enough food to feed not only the county but the world, while keeping prices at a manageable level for all. Precision Agriculture, another example of the increased use of technology, is driven by satellite guided computers that allow equipment to apply precisely the correct amount of fertilizer needed to a specific area within a field instead of spreading the same amount across the entire field. Our small producers are using technologies such as high tunnels and improved insect control to provide our roadside stands with nutritious locally grown fruits and vegetables during the growing season. Our entrepreneurial farmers are making artesian cheeses, wines and coffees, growing herbs and other products to suit the wants and desires of Chester County residents. Combine both the large and small farms and you can see why Chester County is ranked number two in farm revenues!

Animal Science

As my drive ends I realize how lucky we are to live in a country that allows the entrepreneurial spirit to thrive and work for us all and how lucky I have been to be able to be part of an organization such as Penn State Extension that provides training and insight to residents on new research coming out of the College of Agriculture. When you encounter a farm implement on the road, stop and give them some leeway, and remember without producers large and small we would not have this abundance and choice of affordable food!

~ Cheryl Fairbairn, 4-H Livestock/Horse Program Educator

Agricultural Business

In a meadow on a mid October farm visit in West Goshen, I found the rolling fields and the changing fall color amazingly beautiful and inspiring. The focus of my farm visit—gain site information to help the landowner assemble a whole-farm business plan. While there, I started thinking of Penn State Extension Chester County’s agri-business programs and services, and how well they fit with the needs of the local producer. Also, I envisioned the overall importance of our business programs and workshops from the producer’s perspective. That is the kicker, from their perspective. Chester County Extension offers (and hosts) business programs that help producers manage resources; human, natural, economic, and so on. I thought, “Our programs help with more than Ag business, we help with changing lives.” I’d imagine many people enjoy filling their calendars with dates for family-friendly farm festivals and other Ag events held in the county. In general, I find autumn as a time to look ahead to next year, and reflect on the production and business aspects of agriculture of this year.

In response to increased interest in food source education, as well as folks leaving corporate careers and returning to, or starting farming operations, many local producers are seeking avenues to better engage with customers. I have spoken with several producers whom are choosing Internet advertising and using social media to their advantage to connect and inform people of what’s happening on the farm, what’s hot at the stand and what’s fresh, delicious and in season. A growing number of producers are hosting on-farm festivals and activities that educate, support, and promote their farms. Collective marketing initiatives are prevalent in Pennsylvania. The PA Preferred program is helpful, as is any one of the nine local chapters of the Pennsylvania Buy Fresh Buy Local program. Building reputation and brand recognition is essential in business. This concept is ubiquitous at local festivals such as the Mushroom Festival in Kennett Square, Sheep & Wool Days at Springton Manor, Chester County Days, and others around the commonwealth too numerous to mention, like Ag Progress Days and the Bloomsburg Fair. Here, patrons have the opportunity to talk with local farmers that grow their food about where it is grown, how the food is grown, and learn about nutritional information.

Ag Business

Chester County Extension implements several educational programs throughout the county, such as Ag Finance, Risk Management, Business Planning workshops and programs for Informed Decision-Making, Enterprise Budgeting and Internal & External resource assessments known as Strength Weakness Opportunity Threat (SWOT) exercises. Penn State does live here, in the office and throughout the county. I truly believe we are making significant contributions to the economic health of PA agriculture by developing and implementing relevant educational programs that benefit strong social responsibility and focus on the triple bottom line theory. Planning for this winter’s upcoming events and workshops gets me thinking a little deeper about how fundamental Extension’s contributions are, and how they impact the farm family and the family farm, while strengthening farm-to-community relationships.

In a recent article on the PennAg website a moment of clarity was born. The article stated “There are 2.1 million farms in the USA (63,200 in PA alone!)” according to a May 2009 report on the structure and finances of U.S. farms.” The 2009 report also found, “The vast majority of these farms (98%) are family farms.” The 63,000 farms have needs and the families of the farms have needs. This is where Extension shines. The Agriculture Entrepreneurship Team contributes to both, the family farm and the farm family. As a Penn State Educator, I believe we directly impact the family farm and we affect the needs of the farm family. By offering programs that provide the family-farm tools to stay in business, the Farm Business Management team offers services, programs, and activities to help folks raise crops and livestock, build soil health, and more. Plus, we host business skill development workshops and seminars to help empower producers with the right knowledge to excel at what they do best.

~ John Wodehouse, Agricultural Business Educator

Teach Soft for the School of Hard Knocks

It’s September and school is back in session. As I drive to my first class of the day in a non-traditional educational setting, I see our young people boarding buses or walking to their respective schools to once again prepare for their future. By the nature of my vocation I can’t help but wonder if these young people are truly being adequately educated and prepared to address and fulfill the needs of the 21st Century workforce. Are we as parents, educators and institutions raising a 21st Century workforce?

Our schools are diverse with students that “have and have not”, students that are under served, students that have special needs, and students that are adjudicated just to name a few. What do we know and what should we do as a society in order to best prepare future generations for the changing workplace? The workplace and employer expectations have changed over time, swaying the skills necessary for success. Workforce Development as a discipline is hard to simplify due to its many different providers, approaches, and target populations. They range from community organizations providing basic literacy skills, to out-of-school youth to post-secondary institutions educating highly-skilled personnel.

The skills necessary for success in the 21st Century workplace are different from those in the 20th century. Historically, workforce development focused primarily on building technical skills required for a given trade; “hard skills”. However, most programs including Penn State Extension’s workforce project, “Skills for Taking Control of Your Future” recognizes the importance of the “soft skills” and instructs life skills, work-readiness skills, diversity, social and business etiquette, customer service and job conduct. If these skills are lacking, it will make the ability to function in the workplace and learn more specialized professional or vocational skills very weak.

In addition to specialized skills, employers are looking for:

  • Digital-age literacy - technology, basic literacy and global awareness
  • Inventive thinking - risk taking, self-direction, curiosity, flexibility and creativity
  • Effective communication - communicate positively with individuals and groups
  • Productivity - managing time and resources, problem solving and leadership

The workplace is changing and evolving; what, where and how we teach determines who flourishes and who flounders.

~ Brenda J. Brown Williams, Workforce/Career Development Educator. Recipient of the 2015 County Commissioner Association of Pennsylvania’s – Partners Award

Family Living Programs

Dining with Diabetes

In 2015, five Dining with Diabetes 4-week sessions were taught in Chester County. Participants learned about monitoring their blood sugar and blood pressure, information about carbohydrates and how to balance eating these throughout the day, how to follow a heart healthy diet and why exercise is important in managing diabetes. The best part of the class was preparing and tasting diabetes friendly recipes! The classes were supported with funding from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and Joslin Diabetes Center and attended by 56 participants (280 contacts). Two classes were taught in Spanish. Dining with Diabetes is a statewide Extension program. Several participants said that they became more aware of portion sizes and were trying to make half of their plate vegetables to control their carbohydrate and fat intake and lose weight.

Family Living

Statewide Impact

  • 56% of participants who had baseline and follow-up A1C measurements experienced a decline in their A1C test result at follow-up
  • Upon exiting the program, returning participants increase their frequency of days exercised per week from 3.0 - 3.4 days per week, a 43% increase
  • 88% of participants increased their knowledge and skill based ability to explain their A1C and blood pressure outcomes
  • An increase to 63% of participants (compared to 50% at baseline) felt confident that they could keep their diabetes under control
  • 57% of participants increased the number of days on which they ate a variety of fruit and vegetables
  • Four out of five participants (87%) were confident they could explain their A1C results “somewhat well” or “very well” compared to three out of five (70%) at baseline.

Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program

Our two Nutrition Education Advisers (NEAs) worked with 354 participants in 2015 in low income communities, impacting 1, 259 family members, 99% who benefited from improved food choices, 81% from better use of food resources (budgeting), and 54% from improved food safety practices. Our two NEAs also worked with 6 youth groups, including 142 children who showed improvement in their knowledge of good food choices and increased exercise. EFNEP is federally funded but could not function without partnerships with churches, social service agencies, libraries, Head Start and others where programming is held. Partners recruit participants, market the program, provide space and sometimes, food money, and encourage the participants to complete evaluations that prove that EFNEP participants improve their health and that of their families because of their participation in the program. About $2,500 was provided to EFNEP in 2015 from partners for food, participant graduation gifts and supplies.

~ Frances Alloway, Educator, Nutrition Links Supervisor

Nutrition Links

A Day in the Life of an NEA

Many of my days start with preparing food for a cooking demonstration later that day, as well as packing food and kitchen equipment safely into my car. On my way into the Extension office I stop at the grocery store to pick up an unusual fruit or vegetable like papaya or bok choy for participants to sample. My goal each day is to encourage, educate or motivate at least one person to make a positive healthy change, like including more physical activity into their day, switching to whole grain foods, or making half their plate fruits and vegetables.

Day in the Life: NEA

Since the majority of my work is out in the Chester County community I may stop at a church or homeless shelter to discuss partnering with the agency to conduct the Penn State Nutrition Links Eat Smart Move More program. Next, I might stop at a community meeting to hear what is going on with other agencies and to recruit for upcoming classes. At a recent meeting in Coatesville, a local politician explained to the community partners about the problems getting the PA budget passed.

Once at the site of a program I set up all the equipment and create a welcoming, colorful display of materials. As participants stream in, I greet them and start the program. I review last week’s topic on food safety and ask if anyone did things differently throughout the week. Several people share that they remembered how to defrost meat correctly, or used a food thermometer to check for correct temperatures of meats, or remembered to wash fruits and vegetables first. This leads us into the program’s topic and I demonstrate how to wash, peel, and cut a papaya. As I pass out a small taste of the sweet fruit I explain the nutritional benefits of fruits and vegetables.

Later during class we gather around the electric skillet and make a vegetable stir fry. The aromas, sounds and sights get participants eager to try the dish and share about their favorite fruits and vegetables. We connect through the preparing and sharing of the food. People get excited at trying something different they thought they would not like, only to discover it is delicious. When someone says I really like this, or I can’t wait to make that I smile and feel a deep sense of satisfaction at knowing impact has been made.

~ Cindy Seigafuse, Nutrition Education Adviser

NEAs Reaching and Teaching in the Latino Community

I teach general nutrition, food safety, meal planning and much more in a series of lessons. In addition to the lesson, we also prepare delicious and healthy recipes giving the participants hands-on experience.  We also give them some tips on how to make their recipes more nutritious and stretch their food dollars.

Every Tuesday morning I prepare the lessons to go to the CYWA, Samara House Rehabilitation Center. I grab all the materials and utensils that I will use in the class, including certificates of participation for participants and the incentives that go with it. Many of the participants are eager to learn and change their eating habits, try new vegetables and cook new healthy recipes. These programs for residents develop life skills that promote healthy life style choices. The women work very hard to rebuild their lives and the Penn State Nutrition Links Program teaches women food preparation, food safety, and food budgeting to gain knowledge and learn how to feed their families.

Nutrition - Latino Community

I recruit from many of the Chester County organizations who serve the Spanish speaking population such as the Salvation Army, the Maternal and Child Health Consortium, Healthy Start Program, CCIU Head Start in Coatesville, West Chester, Kennett Square, West Grove, and Oxford, Literacy Centers in Coatesville and West Grove and Oxford; the Garage in Kennett Square, and West Grove, La Comunidad Hispana in Kennett Square, local libraries and churches. I also do individual visits.

I’ve participated in some outreach events like “Vive tu Vida” at Anson B. Nixon park in Kennett Square and the “Get it Done Day” at the Charles A. Melton Arts & Education Center in West Chester.

~ Delmy Orellana-Baires, Nutrition Education Adviser

More Than Just Plants; Creating a Better World for Everyone

Driving to a Master Gardener event to teach 3rd graders about starting vegetable seedlings at the local elementary school I think: Master Gardeners are often viewed as, “Oh just those people that pot and prune plants.” Hardly. We are too busy teaching environmental stewardship to a society that is increasing distant from the natural world.

This morning there were at least a dozen emails and voice mails to our hotline on what to do about the declining bee population. That was followed by request for speakers on rain gardens and storm water basin plantings. People stopped by our demo garden and the Master Gardener tending the garden spent an hour explaining proper shrub maintenance to reduce winter storm damage, plus gave advice on how to mulch to prevent rodent issues.

Later this evening it is onto communication training for our speaker’s bureau members, so they can hone their skills to capture the attention of an audience that is used to short dynamic messages. The seniors at the senior center had a fantastic time for the annual tomato tasting, and this helps them engage in the community and keep active.

Oh! Tomorrow is the presentation and start of the Monarch Waystation Garden. An energetic group of volunteers is working with the community to establish corridors for this butterfly that is nearly at the brink of extinction due to loss of habitat for the larvae. Then there are the pollinator gardens … without pollinators none of us will have food –another outreach program that a group of Master Gardeners will be teaching about over the weekend. Which reminds me – I need to go and pick up the brochures for them before heading home to log onto to our on-line volunteer management system and send out the schedules and events postings for next week to all of our members!

Hmm let me just check my phone to make sure I have all our commitments in order…

  • Wednesday, September 02, 2015: Master Gardener Training
  • Monday, September 07, 2015: DEMO Garden Maintenance
  • Tuesday, September 08, 2015: Master Gardener Trip to Trial Gardens!
  • Tuesday, September 08, 2015: Tom Bare - Whitford Hills Gardenn. Club – 7PM – Deer damage protect
  • Wednesday, September 09, 2015: Master Gardener Training
  • Saturday, September 12, 2015: 30th Annual Mushroom Festival Notes Available
  • Monday, September 14, 2015: Barbara Rinehart - WC Senior Center - 12:45PM - Flower arrange/September grasses
  • Wednesday, September 16, 2015: Master Gardener Training
  • Wednesday, September 16, 2015: September Master Gardener Meeting
  • Saturday, September 19, 2015: Make a Difference Community Day Notes Available
  • Saturday, September 19, 2015: Monarch Butterfly Garden Prep Work
  • Monday, September 21, 2015: DEMO Garden Maintenance
  • Wednesday, September 23, 2015: Master Gardener Training
  • Sunday, September 27, 2015: Fall Workshop: Fall into Spring Notes Available
  • Monday, September 28, 2015: DEMO Garden Maintenance
  • Wednesday, September 30, 2015: Master Gardener Training
  • Thusday, October 01, 2015: Newsletter Article/Photo Submission Deadline Notes Available
  • Saturday, October 03, 2015: Monarch Butterfly Garden Prep Work - Continued
  • Wednesday, October 07, 2015: Master Gardener Training Notes Available
  • Saturday, October 10, 2015: Historical Herb Garden Planting Notes Available
  • Sunday, October 11, 2015: Master Gardener Display Table
  • Tuesday, October 13, 2015: October Master Gardener Meeting
  • Tuesday, October 13, 2015: David Jones – Wayne garden club – 7:30 PM – Pollinator gardens

Master Gardeners

Ok – good for now – will have to check in with everyone tomorrow AM. Just another typical Master Gardener day!

~ Liz Alazky, Master Gardener Coordinator

Visit our office at the Government Services Center, 601 Westtown Rd., Suite 370, West Chester, PA 19380.

Our hours are Monday-Friday 8:30 AM-4:30 PM. For more information on programs and events in Chester County call 610-696-3500.