Go Ahead, Ask Them Anything

Posted: September 6, 2013

Where can your child learn about how to hatch (and then care for) a chicken? How do you find out if your soil is safe to grow vegetables? What do you do if you suspect bedbugs? How do you learn more about feeding your children a healthy, balanced diet? Who knows if you can sell homemade pies at market? Answers can be found with your local Penn State Extension.

 by Anna Herman, for the Shuttle (article link here)

Penn State Extension is an educational network that gives people in Pennsylvania’s 67 counties access to the Penn State University’s resources and expertise. With a goal to improve the health, well-being and security of youth, families and communities; conserve and enhance natural resources; and strengthen agriculture and food systems across the Commonwealth and beyond, extension resources are useful and available to all of us

Many of you know me as a cook, gardener and food writer. In April, I also started working part-time as the coordinator of the Penn State Extension’s Master Gardener program. Since then, I’ve come to learn about many programs and projects of the Philadelphia extension office that deserve to be more widely known.

Master Gardeners. Penn State Extension Master Gardeners are people with a demonstrated interest in volunteering in the community and a willingness to educate audiences about horticultural and environmental stewardship practices. Master Gardeners are involved in programs in adult and childhood education, in directly educating and advising the public about horticultural topics and problems, organizing and maintaining demonstration gardens and communicating research-based horticultural information through a variety of media and with multiple project partners. For more information about the Philadelphia Master Gardener Program (which is currently recruiting new members) contact me at

4-H. If you’ve been to the Mt. Airy Village Fair and met the sheep, goats and calves, you’ve had some experience with Penn State Extension 4-H. 4-H offers students in dozens of schools and camps a chance to learn about embryology, animal husbandry, archery and more. For more info, contact Jackie Simon,

Nutrition. Penn State Extension Nutrition Links offers parents and caretakers of school-age children free nutrition classes. This program’s core lessons focus on achieving the maximum nutrition on a limited budget. Participants learn to read and understand nutritional labels and how to prepare fresh produce in easy-to-replicate recipes. A core of dedicated staff help families in every neighborhood with hands-on healthy meal strategies. For more info, contact Suzanne Weltman

Horticulture. Penn State Extension Horticulture works with after-school, special-interest or summer-camp programs on a variety of topics, including soil health, seed germination, plant biology, plant propagation, transplanting seedlings and garden design. The program is also the home of the Penn State Extension High Tunnel Alliance, whose member organizations count 15 Penn State sponsored high tunnels — the greenhouse-like structures that extend the growing season for community groups and urban farms. Penn State works closely with Weavers Way Farms.

Healthy Homes. Penn State Integrated Pest Management’s Healthy Homes program highlights the connection between health and housing, and how to take a holistic approach to identifying and resolving pest problems. Through their work with day-care centers and schools, the IPM team helps keep many Philadelphia children safe from both pests and pesticides.

Penn State Extension is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as well as state and county governments. Over the last decade, budgets have been reduced and research and outreach curtailed. But despite our small staff, the Philadelphia team is eager to be a useful resource and welcomes feedback, ideas and advice.