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Extension serves the community

By Staff | Feb 2, 2011


Staff Writer

Tyler County is fortunate to have caring, savvy, enthusiastic people in their County Extension Office. Christina Richmond, Julia Bolin and Polly Kemp are working hard for the community, and are excited about the services they will be implementing during the coming year.

The Tyler County Extension program is an informal education outreach designed to “help people help themselves” in acquiring knowledge to improve their quality of life. The Cooperative Extension Service provides programs in the area of 4-H and Youth, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Community Resources and Economic Development, Family Nutrition, and Family and Consumer Sciences. To meet and support the needs of local people and the community, county faculty and staff involve local residents in developing and leading specific programs and activities.

To effectively reach their audience, Extension educators offer a variety of educational programs through many methods and media, including workshops, meetings, exhibits and fairs, newsletters, telephone calls and individual consultations.

“Christy” Richmond, Extension Agent for Tyler County, is enthusiastic about her work. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Agriculture and a Master’s in Extension Education from West Virginia University. Christy has many plans for the upcoming year and says her focus this year will be on adult volunteer recruitment for 4-H. “So many people in Tyler County were involved in 4-H over the years, and we really want to include them as positive role models,” she explained. The agency is planning a recruitment dinner in February to encourage former 4-H’ers and others to consider donating their time and expertise to the 4-H program. Richmond, who was employed as Extension Agent last May, attended her first 4-H camp three weeks into her new job. “It was more fun than I could ever have imagined,” she said. “I love Tyler County. The people are so friendly here,” she added.

Planning for camp has already started, and the agency is currently preparing a public speaking contest for 4-H’ers. There is also a Stockman’s Judging coming up, and frozen food order forms will be in on February 11. The 4-H Adult Volunteer Recruitment Dinner is scheduled for February 24 at the Log Building at the Tyler County Fairgrounds. The agency is also working on grant funding to be used to repair the 4-H campgrounds.

Nutritionist Julia Bolin also is working hard for the community. She is a graduate of the West Virginia Northern Community College Culinary Arts program, but says her real passion is working with people. “My degree gave me the skills to teach nutrition, and my goal is to get people excited about it. My work gives me a chance to expose people to the pleasures of healthier living through better cooking and eating habits.” Bolin is director of the Tyler County Master Gardener’s progam, which is sponsored by the West Virginia University Cooperative Extension Service. The program provides gardeners with the opportunity to improve their horticultural knowledge and skills. Topics covered include botany, plant problem diagnosis, soils, ornamentals, pest management, fruits, vegetables, and plant propogation. The local Farmer’s Market is sponsored by this program, providing signs and canopies to vendors. Planning for the market begins next month. Anyone with produce can sell there, and crafts are also accepted, though they must be “juried in,” explained Ms. Bolin. “I hope to get more people involved next summer,” she commented. “Membership is increasing.” The Farmer’s Market operates the first and third Saturday of the month, starting in June. The location is not yet confirmed. Last year the market operated in the parking lot adjacent to Bogg’s Family Pizza and Grille.

In April and May the Master Gardener program is offering a series of classes including How to Plant a Vegetable Garden, How to Prune Fruit Trees, and Food Canning. The first planning meeting of the Master Gardener’s will be held March 1. There are over 1,200 active Master Gardeners across the state.

Office manager Polly Kemp completes the Extension Agency team. “She does a great job running the office,” said Christy. “All the data entry, registration and other information is handled by her.”

The agency now has a page on Facebook: WVU Tyler County Extension Service. “Sign up to be ‘friends’ of the agency,” encouraged Christy. “We are planning to post classes and activities on our Facebook page,” she added.

The Extension Agency recently hosted their annual Winter Dinner Meeting at the Log Building at the Tyler County Fairgrounds. The focus of the dinner was local foods and resources and how they add value and economic potential to the community. The menu featured many items produced locally, including products from the Middle Island Harvest Festival, Thistledown Farms in Proctor, Appalachian Mountain in Sandyville, and a specially decorated cake made by KrazyConfections in New Martinsville. Homemade chili and homemade potato soup, a wilted lettuce salad, freshly baked rolls and cornbread were served to the gathering. Each place setting featured a 2011 Extension Service Garden Calendar for guests to take home.

Brian Wickline, Monroe County ANR Extension Agent, was a speaker at the dinner. Wickline has been instrumental is organizing the wvfarm2u.org website, and also the Monroe Farm Market website, which are online markets where customers can view a list of available produce and order from multiple producers at one time. He gave a presentation on potential markets and expanding marketing options for local farmers.

Also contributing to the evening’s progam was Carrie See, Program Coordinator with the West Virginia Small Farm Center. She specializes in connecting farmers with a market and helping them sell their products. The Small Farm Center’s goal is to help the West Virginia farmer retain more of the food dollar.

“We are here to create awareness,” Carrie explained. “We want to make farmers realize the expanding market potential and support local growers.”

The meeting also heard from speakers from the National Resource Conservation Service and the APHIS Wildlife Service.

Other programs offered through the County Extension Office include Community Educational Outreach Service; Dining with Diabetes; and the Family Nutrition Program. The WVU Extension office also has programs in Community Resources and Economic Development, Fire Service training, Labor Studies, and Safety and Health.