UF/IFAS Extension Manatee County is Still Here for You

Coconut Telegraph

BY CRYSTAL SNODGRASS, COUNTY EXTENSION DIRECTOR SRQ DAILY WEDNESDAY PHILANTHROPY EDITION WEDNESDAY APR 29, 2020

What is Extension, anyway? Most folks know Extension through experiences with 4-H, our popular Master Gardener Volunteer program or our services to our county’s agriculturalists. However, Extension is always expanding to meet the needs of our ever-changing community, and this is especially true now when social distancing is so important. UF/IFAS Extension is a partnership between federal, state and county governments to provide research-based education to citizens in each of Florida’s 67 counties. Here in Manatee County, we are a division of Manatee County’s Parks and Natural Resources Department.

So, what do we do? We solve local problems, provide educational opportunities, promote economic enhancement and strive to improve the quality of life of citizens. Examples of educational programs cover a wide range of topics, including school and community garden development, environmental sustainability, red tide and harmful algal blooms, sustainable fisheries, 4-H Youth Development, Florida-Friendly LandscapingTM, water conservation, the Master Gardener Volunteer program, relationships and financial management, Agricultural Best Management practices – and many more.

Just last month our world was turned upside down. People have had to change the way they work and play, and Extension is meeting the challenge to continue providing much needed services. Here are just a few ways we have been meeting the needs of citizens during this unprecedented time.

Our commercial agriculture agents are working to make farm to consumer connections. Sustainable Food Systems Agent, Lisa Hickey, is working on two projects with input from marine, livestock and horticulture agents. The first is a joint project with Sarasota County Extension and Transition Sarasota that lists local farm products available directly to the public. That list can be found here: http://www.transitionsrq.org/ Hickey is also working with the Bradenton Farmers’ Market to set up a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) where people buy shares of produce. Products can be selected for purchase Monday 4 pm to Wednesday at 9 pm and picked up in Bradenton. Check out the online store here: https://shop.realizebradenton.com/ Remember, you can also find producers that are selling directly to the public by checking out this site: https://www.fdacs.gov/Agriculture-Industry/Florida-Farm-To-You.

Our Sea Grant (Marine) Agent, Dr. Angela Collins, is working to connect commercial seafood producers with local consumers, and she is collaborating with other Sea Grant agents to provide, “Bite-sized Science” on topics such as living shorelines, marine fisheries, seagrass, manatees, safe boating and more. Check out this page to view recorded seminars and for additional information: http://bit.ly/bite-sizedscience. Florida Sea Grant has also developed a list of resources to assist stakeholders during the COVID-19 event: https://www.flseagrant.org/disaster-assistance/.

Our Residential Horticulture Agent, Alyssa Vinson, oversees our Master Gardener Volunteer and Master Naturalist programs. As one of our most tech savy agents, she has jumped right on the virtual education train blogging on topics like “Peace in Gardening” (found here: https://bit.ly/3eVr6Ei ) and webinars like Benefits of Trees and mangrove trimming. She has also developed webinars specifically designed to keep her 94 volunteers engaged[VA1] . Master Gardener Volunteers are hard at work answering the public’s questions via our “Ask an MG” email service: email gardening questions to manateemg@gmail.com. They also are keeping their green thumbs in action in their home landscapes, growing plants for the educational gardens and the annual fundraising plant sale the first weekend in October.

Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Nelly Nelson, is educating her audience on topics such as spending your stimulus money wisely, working from home with children, safe grocery shopping and managing stress and anxiety. She worked with a team of faculty to translate general COVID-19 resources (https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_spa_covid19) and COVID-19 for the pest management industry resources (https://pestmanagementuniversity.org/covid-19/) to Spanish.

Together with our partners at UF/IFAS Extension in Sarasota County, we are providing monthly sustainability webinars that started as a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and have focused on issues including microplastics, sustainable seafood, backyards for birds and more. To register for these free webinars visit: https://www.eventbrite.com/o/ufifas-extension-sarasota-county-422952084

For more upcoming programs and virtual events.

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