BROOKVILLE — Dozens of programs are available to county residents through Penn State Extension. An overview of some of the programs was presented last week at Jefferson County’s annual Extension banquet.

In welcoming those attending the dinner Robert Dickinson, client relationship manager, referred to last year’s dinner. He said, “I told you I wanted to hear your stories. It was the first step in me creating the relationship I need to work here in Jefferson County with Extension, the Extension staff and all the key players that play a role in this county. I needed to hear your story to help build my story.”

Introducing the Extension educators who presented the program, Dickinson said, “What impresses me most about these educators is their willingness to reach out across their respective disciplines and help one another with programming; not only with Extension, but with our volunteers and supporting partners.

Food SafetyRick Kralj, who has been with Extension in Jefferson County nearly 20 years, is the food safety and nutrition educator. He told the audience to “think about the chain from the farm to the table.” He said, “Extension helps:”

  • Farmers, with programs such as water safety, proper use of pesticides and farm market safety.
  • Food manufacturers, conducting programs on federal regulations, food safety in animal food and food processing basics for small businesses.
  • Retail food service, offering classes on Serv Safe, cooking for crowds and online food safety training.
  • Consumers with programs including home food preservation and a food safety hotline.

“I’m always available,” Kralj said. “It doesn’t matter where it is across the state; we have a toll-free number. Any time you have a question about food safety, don’t hesitate to call.”

Water ResourcesDanielle Rhea, who has been with Jefferson County Extension since November 2018, talked about water quality in the county.

She said 47 percent of Jefferson County’s residents have a private drinking water source, and 45 percent of this private wells have never been properly tested.

To help residents with private wells have safe drinking water, she conducts drinking and residential water clinics. “We offer free water testing and talk to people about ways they can protect their water,” she said.

Other programs include:

  • Pond management. “People have ponds for all different kinds of reasons,” she said, “so we get lots of questions, especially in the summer when the weather warms up and algae begins to grow.”
  • Storm water management. “We’ve been putting together a lot of resources from municipalities that are battling these issues, but we also work with homeowners,” she said.
  • Watershed management workshops are held to protect water resources.
  • Water for agriculture is a new area for the water educators.”It pairs nicely with other agricultural issues,” Rhea said.

She said two safe drinking water clinics will be held this year, on April 6 in Tionesta and June 2 in DuBois.

Master Gardeners

Cheryl Shenkle, coordinator for Jefferson County’s Master Gardeners program, assured the audience, “We are not a garden club. We are an educational group.”

She said that “ever since I was a kid I wanted to share gardening with somebody else.” The Master Gardeners program gives her that opportunity.

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Many of their projects are conducted at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds. Among the projects enjoyed by the Master Gardeners are:

  • A seed to supper program.
  • Building a handicap accessible raised garden.
  • Planting a demonstration garden.
  • Master gardener classes.
  • Manning a hotline to answer gardening questions. “We don’t guess at what we do, we research it to give a researched answer to your question,” she said.
  • Operating a booth under the grandstand each year during the Jefferson County Fair.

“We want to teach you how to grow healthy soil,” Shenkle said. “Healthy food comes from healthy soil. We are encouraging gardeners to get the plastic out of their gardens. Last we grew all of our plants in pots made from old newspapers.”

New this year is the 2020 Poison Prevention Program, which will be presented “in 25 schools, with well over 1,000 first-graders, in Jefferson County.”

There are currently 12 master gardeners in Jefferson County, and three apprentices.

Shenkle said the master gardeners do all their programs at their own expense. “They are reaping the rewards of what they sow by sharing them with other people.”

She invited everyone to visit their gardens at the fairgrounds this summer, to learn more about what they are doing.

4-HAmanda Kanouff, 4-H and youth educator, reviewed the activities and accomplishments of 4-H clubs and members during 2019.

Kanouff said there were 110 members enrolled in the nine active clubs. There are also two after-school programs. Kanouff said there are 41 active volunteers, with 14 adults and youth serving on the program development committee. “We are very blessed to have a very strong volunteer group here in the county. I would not have a program without my volunteers,” she said.

Jefferson County 4-H offers 21 different project areas, including animal science, STEM, finance, clothing and textiles, food and nutrition, shooting sports, health and fitness, engineering and leadership.

Kanouff said some of her goals for this year include continuing the Safety Day Program for second graders at the fairgrounds, sponsor members to attend regional and state events, and increase community service efforts.

Director of ExtensionSpeaking briefly during the program was Brent Hales, associate dean in the College of Agricultural Sciences and director of Penn State Extension. “There are things that I have to do on my job,” he said, “but there are things I get to do. 4-H taught us to be larger than who we are. When I think about the impact Extension has had on my life, I live and breathe it. That is why I have chosen this path; I have to give something back.

“My whole goal is to help you to help me to help each other,” he said. “Our goal is to build the capacity of Jefferson County. I want you to know you have a bunch of partners. I need to hear from you, what is working, what opportunities are there that we aren’t currently recognizing. My success is built on your success. Don’t tell me what I want to hear; tell me what I need to hear, and from that we can build on opportunities.”

Also recognized during the meeting were the Jefferson County Master Gardeners, 4-H volunteers and the Extension staff and council.

Highlighted as door prizes and snacks on the hot d’oeuvres table were products provided by Jefferson County businesses, including Stello Foods, The Dan Smith Candy Company, Windy Hill Farms and Dan Passmore.

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