University of Florida

UF Faculty Receive Top USDA Awards For Research And Education

Topic(s): Uncategorized

Chuck Woods (352) 392-1773 x 281

Dan Canfield decan@ufl.edu, (352) 392-9617 ext. 246
Chuck Cichra fish@mail.ifas.ufl.edu, (352) 392-9617 ext. 249
Carol Lehtola cjlehtola@mail.ifas.ufl.edu, (352) 392-1864 ext. 223
Jan Shearer jks@ifas.ufl.edu, (352) 3920- 4700 ext. 4112

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Five faculty members in the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences received the Secretary’s Honor Awards from the U.S. Department of Agriculture during recent ceremonies in Washington, D.C.

The USDA’s highest recognition for outstanding contributions to agriculture and the consumer were presented to Dan Canfield, Chuck Cichra, Carol Lehtola, Jan Shearer and Nayda Torres by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman in ceremonies at the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center.

Canfield and Cichra, professors in the fisheries and aquatic sciences department, were recognized for developing the Fishing for Success program. The popular extension education program introduces at-risk youth and other young people to aquatic systems, environmental stewardship and aquaculture. Fishing for Success also hosts monthly Family Fishing Days, which are open to the entire community.

Established in 1998, the program was initially designed as a mentoring and career-counseling program for underprivileged youth. However, a growing demand from teachers, parents and local youth groups resulted in an expansion of activities.

Fishing for Success provides education, recreation and rehabilitation therapy to a highly diverse group of participants. The program includes tours, demonstrations, hands-on activities and community events at the UF department’s off-campus facilities in northwest Gainesville.

“The response has been phenomenal,” Cichra said. “To date, about 25,000 children from more than half the counties in Florida have been involved in the program. Last year, more than 13,000 kids participated, and we expect that figure to grow this year.”

Youth groups such as Head Start, 4-H, YMCA and scout troops participate in activities tailored for their ages and interests. They learn about the identification and biology of fish, including threatened Gulf of Mexico sturgeon. The program also includes sessions on aquatic invertebrates and plants in which participants use dipnets to collect their own specimens from ponds, Canfield said.

In addition to Canfield and Cichra, the Fishing for Success program team includes Amy Richard, public relations director; Sharon Fitz-Coy, coordinator of education programs; and Steve Caton and Thomas Glancy, coordinators of community events. For more information, visit the Fishing for Success Web site:http://fishweb.ifas.ufl.edu

Carol Lehtola, an associate professor in UF’s agricultural and biological engineering department and state extension agricultural safety specialist, was recognized for her role in the national Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN). She is extension’s point person for the IFAS Disaster Information Program and Florida’s primary point of contact for EDEN.

Lehtola and other EDEN delegates received the USDA Honor Award in the category of heroism and emergency response. The award recognizes the growing role EDEN is playing as a nationwide network in disaster situations.

She said EDEN is a nationwide organization of extension professionals concerned with disaster. The organization is only a few years old, yet over 40 states are members, and EDEN has been recognized with major grants from USDA.

“EDEN is a very active group,” Lehtola said. “Requests for information or support come from many parts of the country wherever there might be a situation like the recent tornadoes in the Midwest. In addition to ‘real time’ support, EDEN delegates meet annually to share experiences and educational materials.”

With the help of a USDA grant, UF is currently working on a project to develop training materials related to agro-security. According to Lehtola, the materials will help agricultural producers understand their responsibilities in the secure handling of agricultural chemicals.

Lehtola serves on the EDEN executive committee and as chair of one of the group’s standing committees. Lehtola’s assistant in the agricultural safety program, Charles Brown, also serves as an EDEN point of contact for Florida and chair of an EDEN committee.

Shearer, a professor of veterinary medicine, was recognized for starting the nation’s first dairy employee training program to treat and prevent lameness and other crippling foot disorders of dairy cows that cause more than $800 million in losses each year.

“Lameness has become the most costly clinical disease in the dairy cattle industry, particularly on large-scale farms where prolonged standing on concrete floors has aggravated the problem,” he said.

Shearer, who started the Master Hoof Care Technician Program in 1997, said reducing losses from lameness and other foot diseases is saving the industry millions of dollars and providing prompt relief to suffering animals. More than 300 dairy employees, private trimmers, veterinarians and others from around the world have completed the four-day extension education program, which is offered in English and Spanish at UF’s College of Veterinary Medicine and participating dairies.

He said most foot care and claw trimming is now conducted by private trimmers or on-farm employees, most of whom have had little or no formal training in foot care. Cows that become lame between visits are put into a lot or pen and held until the next visit by the trimmer.

“The time lag from original injury to examination and treatment permits even minor lameness conditions to progress to a point of irreparable damage, leading to premature culling of affected animals,” he said. “This is costly and inhumane.”

The program includes hands-on instruction in the care and treatment of foot problems. After the formal training, participants continue their study at home and practice the techniques learned. After three-to-six months of practice, participants take written and hands-on examinations. Those who successfully complete the tests receive a certificate along with the title of “master trimmer,” he said.

“For most dairy farm workers, particularly those from Latin American countries, the course offers a real opportunity for professional development,” Shearer said. “The program not only improves their self-esteem and morale, but also enhances their marketability as dairy employees.”

Torres, a professor and chair of UF’s family, youth and community sciences department, was recognized for her role in the Children, Youth and Families Education and Research Network (CYFERnet).

The USDA Honor Award was presented to CYFERnet participants for building a cost- effective, multi-university, human and technology network with more than 3,000 high quality resources.

CYFERnet is a national network of land-grant university faculty and county extension educators working to support community-based educational programs for children, youth, parents and families,” Torres said. UF and other partnering institutions merge resources into a national network of expertise to help communities.

She said CYFERnet, created in 1992, provides information on topics such as child care, family resiliency, health, science and technology. CYFERnet materials are available through national conferences, publications and a Web site: http://www.cyfernet.org.

In Florida, the network is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the UF/IFAS Cooperative Extension Service, which has offices in every county.


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