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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    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 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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    UF/IFAS, agencies collaborate to help landowners fight invasive species

    Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Extension, Forestry, IFAS, Invasive Species, Livestock, Pests

    North Florida cattle rancher . UF/IFAS Photo: Josh Wickham.

    GAINESVILLE, Fla. — It took a few years for Buzz Eaves to notice that tropical soda apple shrubs were overtaking his 1,200-acre cattle ranch near Fort Pierce, Florida. The prickly plant, with fruit the size of a golf ball and the color of unripen watermelon, was creating a barrier to the cattle’s grazing ground and displacing native plants.

    “I was spending close to $6,000 a year on fertilizer and it wasn’t working that well,” Eaves said. “Then I heard about a program through the University of Florida that helps get rid of invasive species, so I turned to the school for help,” Eaves said. “It was the best thing I ever did.”

    The UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences joined a dozen other organizations to form the Florida Invasive Species Partnership (FISP). The members work across boundaries to address invasive species challenges across the state, said Chris Demers, UF/IFAS Extension statewide program manager.

    FISP began as a working group to address invasive species on state and federal land. The program expanded to include privately owned land, Demers said. “UF/IFAS Extension faculty provide various resources on invasive species, control and prevention,” he said. “We work across all species, plants, animals and fungus.”

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    UF/IFAS researchers train Southeast growers on new federal food safety act requirements

    Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Departments, Extension, IFAS, RECs, Safety

    Horacio Alvardo, left, and Troy Rumore load 200 boxes of oranges and grapefruit, Thursday DEC-6, 2001,  being shipped from the University of Florida to the families of those who lost their lives in rescue efforts in New York after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Students in the Gator Citrus Club at UF's College of Agricultural and Life Sciences started the holiday gift drive. Citrus packers from around the state are donating fruit, and members of the public can contribute to the cost of shipping and handling. Gift boxes can be sent to the fire or police department in New York. For additional information, contact the Gator Citrus Club at (352) 392-5653.

    GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers and Extension agents are fanning across the state and the Southeast region to help growers and packers meet new federal food safety guidelines.

    Driving across the state to packinghouses, farms and training centers, scientists such as Michelle Danyluk, Keith Schneider and Renee Goodrich are training growers in the latest regulations. “The state is massive, and we are not only tasked with helping Florida farmers meet new safety guidelines, but also are tasked with training educators in the Southeast so they can help growers in their states,” said Schneider, who with his colleagues is in the UF/IFAS department of food science and human nutrition.

    Last fall, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released several major rules that comprise the new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The federal government has recognized the role of Extension specialists in training programs for key sections such as the Produce Safety Rule and the Preventive Controls for Human Foods Rule, Schneider said.

    The University of Florida is one of two institutions that was awarded a $1.2 million grant by USDA in 2015 to help lead such training, Danyluk said. The Southern Training, Education, Extension, Outreach, and Technical Assistance Center to Enhance Produce Safety at UF, led by Danyluk, is one of two regional programs that play a leading role in coordinating and implementing FSMA-related training, education, and outreach programs for small and medium-sized farms, beginning farmers, socially disadvantaged farmers, small processors, and/or small fresh fruit and vegetable merchant wholesalers.

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    Hardee County 4-H alumna: Attitude, perseverance are the keys to success

    Topic(s): 4-H, Agriculture, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Livestock

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    GAINESVILLE, Fla. — One of the most important lessons Destiny McCauley ever learned happened in the show ring: “Never give up, even when you think you’ve lost,” she says.

    After the first round of a cattle showmanship competition, McCauley, a long-time Hardee County 4-H member, was put last in the line of contestants, which usually signals a low score, she explained. Thinking she had already lost, McCauley just went through the motions in the second round.

    She later found out the judges were testing her resolve. Her placement in the line-up had nothing to do with her score. After the first round, McCauley was in first place, but, after her lackluster second round, she had dropped to third.

    Now, as she gets ready to graduate from the University of Western Kentucky with a double major in animal science and communications, that experience in the show ring still impacts the way she faces challenges.

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