IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/IFAS Extension program trains inmates for green industry careers

Topic(s): Extension, IFAS, Lawn & Garden

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — At Avon Park Correctional Institution, some inmates are getting a new kind of vocational training, thanks to faculty and volunteers with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension Highlands County.

The UF/IFAS Extension program prepares inmates for a career in Florida’s nursery and landscaping industries, said David Austin, horticulture agent and Master Gardener coordinator for UF/IFAS Extension Highlands County. For the past two years, Austin and Master Gardener volunteer Charlie Reynolds have helped inmates master the practical horticultural skills they’ll need to pass the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association’s certification exam.

“The FNGLA certification is a widely respected credential for green industry professionals in Florida, and it is mandatory for anyone working in a Florida nursery,” Reynolds explained.

“This kind of training is different than the kind of apprenticeship other inmates get in a woodworking or welding class, for example,” Austin said. “Now they have proof of formal training that will mean a lot to those in the business.”

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UF/IFAS Extension Peanut Butter Challenge tackles hunger in the Panhandle

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Nutrition

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Thanks to a partnership of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension and the Florida Peanut Producers Association, food pantries from Pensacola to Monticello will receive thousands of jars of donated peanut butter this December.

“The Peanut Butter Challenge not only raises awareness about the important contribution of north Florida’s peanut growers to the state peanut industry, but also helps provide a healthy, locally produced product to food-insecure families in northwest Florida,” said Libbie Johnson, agriculture agent for UF/IFAS Extension Escambia County and co-organizer of the Challenge.

Since 2012, the Peanut Butter Challenge has collected jars of peanut butter from residents, volunteer groups and businesses in 16 northwest Florida counties, Johnson said. This year, UF/IFAS Extension county offices received 3236 jars of peanut butter.

In addition to these donations, the Florida Peanut Producers Association also contributes, supplying more than 3000 jars each Challenge, Johnson said.

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UF/IFAS Extension offers way to avoid post-holiday shopping ‘sticker shock’

Topic(s): Economics, Extension, Families and Consumers, Finances

January 2007 calendar, During the excitement of the holiday season, many people overspend. Bring this and other debt uder control often seems like a daunting task. IFAS Extension family economics programs are helping people regain control of their finances by providing money management tips for reducing debt. UF/IFAS Photo by: Thomas Wright.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — You want to buy those perfect gifts for your loved ones, but you want to avoid experiencing the post-holiday sticker shock when you get your credit card bills. University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension faculty offer words of wisdom.

Michael Gutter, an associate dean of UF/IFAS Extension and a family financial expert, gives several tips to avoid holiday shopping pitfalls:

  • Make a list, and set a budget. Ask yourself: How much can you afford to spend? Prioritize gifts and sometimes even people. For example, consider spending more on your immediate family than on your extended family.
  • Consider a family giving circle. Buy for your own kids, then draw a name of someone from your extended family. Instead of getting gifts for all nieces, nephews, you might just buy one or two gifts.As an aside, Gutter said: “My family and I are focusing on what gifts contribute to shared experiences, for my son and I, it is some scuba equipment because it is something we do together. In this way, it is not just a gift — something one person benefits from — but it is instead something that contributes to family experiences.”
  • If your friends have children of varying ages, consider toy swaps instead of buying toys, more like passing them down, and the one receiving it still has a new toy.
  • Avoid giving gifts with many follow-up or add-on expenses, unless you have discussed it with the parents. It can be frustrating to get something that is only really fun if you have the other accompanying items.
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    UF/IFAS Extension agent: Baking blunders to avoid this holiday

    Topic(s): Extension, Families and Consumers, Food Safety, IFAS

    GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The way people get cooking advice has changed a lot over the years, due in no small part to the Internet, said Heidi Copeland, family and consumer sciences agent with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension Leon County.

    “Before the Internet, people often took to calling their local Extension office for culinary advice, especially during the frenzy of holiday cooking,” Copeland said. “Fortunately, people still come to family and consumer sciences agents like myself to get answers to their culinary questions.”

    “Folks are frequently concerned about baking,” Copeland said. “Many often wonder why their product isn’t turning out.”

    Copeland has these tips for avoiding common baking blunders:

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    Consumers to choose from more than 100 varieties at annual UF/IFAS poinsettia sale

    Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Cultivars, Families and Consumers, IFAS

    2012 Horticulture Club's Poinsettia Show and Sale on Thursday, December 6th.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

    GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When people shop at this year’s 20th annual poinsettia sale at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, they may be surprised that not all poinsettias are red.

    The sale, held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 8 and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 9, takes place at the greenhouses behind Fifield Hall, 2550 Hull Road, Gainesville, Florida, on the UF campus. For more information on this year’s UF/IFAS poinsettia sale, click here.

    Traditionally, consumers prefer red poinsettias, said Jim Barrett, a UF/IFAS professor emeritus of environmental horticulture who still plays a large role in UF/IFAS poinsettia trials. But as a result of breeding, the bright red poinsettia is now available in burgundy, pink, peach, white, yellow and marbled colors.

    In fact, this year, a new, popular poinsettia is the ‘Love You Pink,’ Barrett said. “It’s not a traditional Christmas red,” Barrett said. “But it’s so popular, you’ll find it in retail outlets this year.”

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    Applications open for 2017 UF/IFAS Plant Camp for educators

    Topic(s): Announcements, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Invasive Species

    GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Are you a teacher who has always wanted to incorporate lessons on plants in your classroom? The University of Florida/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants is hosting its free Plant Camp, a five-day workshop, from June 12 to 16, 2017.

    Applications will be accepted from Dec. 14th to Feb. 19, 2017. To apply, click here.

    The workshop is designed for teachers—4th through 12th grade—interested in learning more about the 130-plus invasive plant species invading Florida’s natural areas and neighborhoods, as well as the native flora and fauna that make our state so unique.

    “Invasive plants cost Florida taxpayers more than $80 million a year. They can block flood control devices and bridges, harbor mosquitoes, and cover valuable fish and wildlife habitats,” said Dehlia Albrecht, education initiative coordinator at the UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants. “Prevention and education are needed to protect our waters and natural areas.”

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    UF/IFAS citizen scientists find microplastics have big presence in coastal waters

    Topic(s): Environment, Extension, IFAS, Pollution

    A Sea Grant Microplastics training to teach volunteers how to sample water for microplastics in New Smyrna Beach on Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015.

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    GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Each time you do a load of laundry, you may inadvertently send tiny pieces of plastic to a nearby lake or ocean, according to Maia McGuire, Florida Sea Grant agent with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension.

    That’s because when we wash synthetic fabrics, such as rayon and spandex, plastic threads get washed out with the rinse cycle and sent to a wastewater treatment plant, McGuire said. These threads are a kind of microplastic called microfiber. Like all microplastic, microfibers are less than 5 millimeters in size—less than the width of a pencil eraser. Because they are so small, microfibers pass through many filters used in treatment plants and end up in lakes and oceans.

    A little over a year ago, McGuire began the Florida Microplastic Awareness Project, a citizen science project that has trained volunteers throughout Florida to gather data about microplastics in coastal waters. So far, volunteers have collected and analyzed 770 water samples at 256 locations, McGuire said.

    These citizen scientists found an average of eight piece of plastic per sample. 82 percent of plastic found was microfiber, McGuire said.

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    UF/IFAS environmental horticulture faculty and CALS students win awards at international conference

    Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, CALS, Honors and Appointments, IFAS, RECs

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    GAINESVILLE, Fla. – University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) students and UF/IFAS faculty recently took home several awards at the 41st International Plant Propagators’ Society (IPPS) southern region conference. IPPS is a global network of plant production professionals involved in horticulture research and education.

    “It’s important for our students to attend and participate in professional conferences, such as IPPS, because they learn from top experts in the horticulture fields,” said Sandra Wilson, UF/IFAS environmental horticulture professor. “Our students engage in important experiential learning opportunities such as conversing with professors and other experts who have written these students’ college textbooks.”

    The following students, faculty and staff received awards at the conference:

    Sidney B. Meadows Award of Merit

    • Mack Thetford, environmental horticulture associate professor at UF/IFAS West Florida Research and Education Center.

     

    The award recognizes an outstanding individual for his or her contributions to the nursery industry and plant propagation in the Southern region of North America; it is the highest honor bestowed upon a member.

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    UF CALS student speaks at the 12th UN Conference of Youth in Morocco

    Topic(s): Agriculture, CALS, Conservation, Environment, IFAS

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    GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Rock Aboujaoude Jr., a University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) undergraduate student, presented to more than 2,000 colleagues from around the world at the 12th U.N. Conference of Youth in Marrakesh, Morocco. This international event was held as part of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change in November.

    As part of his presentation, the third-year international food and resource economics major discussed his involvement with the nonprofit organization, Campus Climate Corps. Aboujaoude specifically addressed global economic development in regard to climate change. He stressed the importance of being an informed citizen who works with others to impact local and state government.

    “I’m very passionate about the subject of climate change, and I believe this is where my future career will be,” said Aboujaoude. “Involvement in opportunities like this is in the interest of making society a better place in which to live.”

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    UF/IFAS survey shows homeowners want incentives to conserve more water

    Topic(s): Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Lawn & Garden, RECs, Research

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    GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Homeowners with irrigation systems would use less water if they were offered more incentives, according to a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences report.

    Most will even pay more for better water quality.

    Respondents to a UF/IFAS online survey of 3,000 such homeowners in Florida, Texas and California said reducing the price of water-efficient equipment would be the most effective strategy. That was followed by more practical information on household water conservation, easier identification of water-efficient appliances and better landscape irrigation ordinances.

    Additionally, respondents liked the idea of a real-time water use mobile app and more information on the environmental impacts of water conservation.

    “We know that informed homeowners are aware and concerned about the environmental consequences of excessive irrigation water use. However, awareness and concern are necessary, but not sufficient, conditions for resource and water conservation.” said Hayk Khachatryan, an assistant professor of food and resource economics and the lead investigator in the survey. “Efforts in promoting the adoption of water-saving irrigation systems and practices will be more successful when environmental conservation measures are combined with economic incentives such as utility or manufacturer rebates on smart irrigation equipment.”

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