March 29, 2010

Don't get Fooled! Find Solutions for Your Life with Pinellas County Extension Programs

3/29/10 |
Attend Pinellas County Extension’s April Classes

Pinellas County Extension offers residents a wide variety of classes to help them make sustainable decisions.

Be sure to check out our lunch break on-line classes in April, “Solutions in 30.” Each week this month you will learn or rediscover all about caring for your landscape palms after the freezes we’ve had, how to attract butterflies, how to make your office greener and protecting your family from a large finance loss with insurance.

Solutions in 30:
April 7, 2010 - Care of Palms in the Landscape
April 14, 2010 - Introduction to GreenStar Office
April 21, 2010 - Insurance Basics
April 28, 2010 - The Wonderful World of Wings

Families and Consumers:
April 12 - Healthy Solutions : Eating Well with Diabetes

Commercial (Pesticide/FNGLA/ISA) CEUs:
April 14, 2010 - Best Management Practices
April 30, 2010 - Best Management Practices

Lawn & Garden:
April 10, 2010 - Palms – Keeping Them Healthy
April 14, 2010 - Common Landscape Mistakes at 2:00 pm
April 14, 2010 - Common Landscape Mistakes at 6:15 pm
April 17, 2010 - Rain Harvesting Workshop
April 28, 2010 - Florida-Friendly Lawn Care

Urban Wildlife:
April 10, 2010 - Wild Florida – Prehistoric Florida
April 13, 2010 - Florida Coyote: Safely Coexisting with a Predator

Sustainable Living:
April 8, 2010 - GreenStar BASICS – Waste Reduction
April 15, 2010 - GreenStar BASICS – Green Purchasing
April 20, 2010 - Pinellas County Green Business Partnership
April 22, 2010 - GreenStar BASICS – Chemical Reduction
April 24, 2010 - Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project
April 29, 2010 - GreenStar BASICS – Energy Efficiency

Pathways Adventure Series:
April 10, 2010 - Building Green – Yesterday and Today

You can register for classes on-line at Please look for the “Online Class Registration” button on the right hand side near the top of the page.

March 24, 2010

New Marine/Coastal Sustainability Agent joins Pinellas County Extension

Heather Hammers, Coastal Marine Sustainability Agent, Pinellas County Extension

Pinellas County offers incredible opportunities for coastal living through the 588 miles of coastline surrounding our community. As the new Marine Agent for Pinellas County, my role is to provide Pinellas County access to the resources and expertise of the University of Florida through educational programs, publications, activities, and events. As an extension agent, I will deliver unbiased, research-based info to help people improve their quality of life.

Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Heather Hammers. I joined the University of Florida/IFAS team here at the Pinellas County Extension office on March 5th as the Marine/Coastal Extension Agent with the Sea Grant Extension Program. I learned the ABC’s of fisheries and water quality while working with the Florida LAKEWATCH and Fishing for Success program as a graduate student at the University of Florida. I have a Master’s degree in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. Through various work experiences, I have been able to touch on some of the pressing issues facing our coastal communities and through my program at Pinellas County Extension, I will address impacts to our coastal environments.

My responsibilities at Pinellas County Extension will include planning, developing, and implementing comprehensive marine educational programs that focus on marine industries, fisheries, and habitat issues, including coastal hazards and climate change issues that impact areas predominately in Pinellas County. I will work closely with community leaders and decision-makers focusing on sustainable and resilient community planning and development. So, whether you are an avid fisherman, sea turtle tracker, seafood lover, or just simply interested in learning more about coastal resources, please stay tuned for my online articles at Thinking Green - as well as educational programs. You can send me questions on the new FAQ site – click on comments and type in your question.

March 22, 2010

April is Water Conservation Month

3/22/10 -
Dale Armstrong, Coordinator Florida Yards & Neighborhoods, Pinellas County Extension

Probably everyone knows and practices the obvious things we can do to conserve water around the house… like not leaving the water running while brushing your teeth or washing dishes in the sink., and waiting for a full load before running the dishwasher or clothes washer.

What may be not so apparent are the things you can do outside that will reduce your use of water. Here are some ideas to consider:

In-ground sprinkler systems need a periodic checkup to determine everything is working properly and efficiently. This includes:
1. Check time clock settings to ensure they are correct under the current watering restrictions.

2. Manually turn on each zone monthly and check each nozzle for correct operation and coverage. Adjust or replace as needed.

3. Consider calibrating each zone to apply an average of ¾” of water. This is a one-time process, so if you have never done it this is an excellent way to know that you have each zone running for the correct length of time. Instructions for calibrating may be found

4. If a sprinkler zone covers just a plant bed and no turf grass, consider retrofitting that zone to low volume micro-irrigation for a water savings of 25 to 50 percent.
During our dry spring period (March through May) plan to water only when landscape plants and grass indicate they need water. This time of year the region’s water resources may be impacted by over-watering or unnecessary watering of the landscape.

Rain Barrels are an excellent way to capture and store rain water that runs off your roof. The water can be used to supplement potable (drinking) water that you may currently be using in the landscape. Even if you do not have a gutter system around the edge of the roof you may still have an area with heavy water flow that a barrel may be positioned under.

Pinellas County Extension offers free classes on making and setting-up rain barrels. We usually have rain barrels for sale at these classes. For a list of classes and dates please see our calendar at . You may also buy a complete rain barrel or just a plastic barrel to make your own rain barrel from one of these sources.

March 17, 2010

From the Ground Up…Celebrating Health Eating All Year Long

3/17/10 -
Nan Jensen, Extension Agent, Pinellas County Extension

March is the month for putting on the green for St. Patrick’s Day, welcoming the warmer weather of spring and celebrating National Nutrition Month. This year’s theme “From the ground up.” reminds everyone that an easy way to focus on eating better is to start with the basics: build your nutritional health from the ground up. The idea is to build a good foundation and gradually work your way toward better health. Small lasting changes are better than those that are too general and unrealistic.

Make it nutrient rich - Focus on foods that give you the most nutrients for the calories. Think about the vibrant colors of the rainbow when you choose fruits and vegetables. Fresh, frozen or canned without the sugar and salt are all great choices. Whole grains and fiber-rich foods like oatmeal, whole grain breads and beans are rich in the nutrients we need to support good health. Fat free milk and lean meats, chicken and fish can figure into your plan as well. The less processed the better.

Buy local - Try if you can to buy fresh fruits, vegetables, and other food items through local farmer’s markets and community-supported agriculture opportunities through near-by farmers. Purchasing locally helps support the local economy, lets you take advantage of the freshest produce since the travel time from the field is shorter and helps keep the environment healthier too.

Track your choices - Tracking your calorie and nutrient intake is as easy as going to and entering your age, height, weight, gender, and physical activity level into the appropriate boxes. You will receive a recommended plan including the number of servings from each of the five food groups and see how your food intake compares to what you should be eating.

Enjoy family meals - Shared family meals are a great way to teach your kids about healthy eating. Research shows us that kids who eat regularly with their families are less likely to snack on unhealthy foods and more likely to eat fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
For more tips on building a healthy diet from the ground up, visit the American Dietetic Association Web site at

March 15, 2010

Sustainability – what exactly does it mean?

3/15/10 -
Ramona Madhosingh-Hector, Urban Sustainability Agent, Pinellas County Extension

Have you heard the term sustainability? Do you know what it means? What makes sustainability something that we should be interested in?

In this article, we will explore
(1) The origins of sustainability
(2) The primary ways to measure our success, and
(3) How we can be more sustainable.

Birth of sustainability
Defined in 1987 by the United Nations’ World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), sustainability is described as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. In many respects, sustainability is related to environmental equity and more specifically intergenerational equity. What exactly does that mean? Intergenerational environmental equity refers to the concept that we should not raid the environment for our own benefit; we should consider what will be left behind for our children and grandchildren. Future generations will be affected by the decisions we make now. The concept of equity ensures that fairness will guide our use of resources.

More than two decades ago, the United Nations commissioned the WCED to develop a “global agenda for change” because even then the organization recognized that environmental problems were global in nature and it was in the common interest of all nations to establish policies for sustainable development.

From sustainability to sustainable development
The WCED identified that the “strategy for sustainable development aims to promote harmony among human brings and between humanity and nature.” Success in whole is based on success in part. Each individual part of the system must work in unity with the others to ensure sustainable development.

The key focus areas for sustainability are the environment, the economy and society, but there are other systems that provide the supporting framework for measuring success in these areas. They include the
~ Political system that provides opportunities for citizen input
~ Production system that allows development while protecting ecosystems
~ Administrative system that is flexible and adaptable
~ International system that supports sustainable patterns of trade and finance
~ Technological system that is committed to finding new solutions (adapted from WECD, 1987)
Many times, sustainability is viewed using the economy, environment and society as the indicators, since these areas measure a communities’ quality of life. They are usually drawn as overlapping circles to indicate that each area is linked to another. Sustainability isn’t just about our quality of life; it’s also about understanding, respecting and balancing the links between all of these areas within the community.

This is a sample of some of the issues that communities face in these categories:

Economy - availability of jobs, job pay rate,availability of affordable housing

Environment - quality of air and water, open areas for recreation, disease

Social - crime rates, social capital, lifestyle
Moving ahead
A global agenda for change has been established by the United Nations but success cannot be achieved unless all levels of government participate. What is the recipe for success? National, regional and local strategies must be mixed together to achieve sustainability. This means that member countries, such as the United States, should establish national policy to achieve sustainability. States within the United States should create policy that sets the stage for counties to meet sustainability goals. Counties should draft policy to assist local governments within their borders to be sustainable.

The sum total of all of these efforts will assist with creating sustainable communities which will achieve the global goal of sustainable development.

In my next article, we will look at how the United States supports the global sustainability goal.

United Nations
World Commission on Environment and Development

March 4, 2010

Youth and the Arts: More than a Pretty Picture

3/4/10 -
Melissa Sharp & Andrew Yuan, 4-H Youth Mentors, Pinellas County Extension

Should American youth be involved in the Arts? According to the Americans for the Arts Organization, being involved in the arts dramatically increases a youth’s ability to succeed in school and decreases the dropout rate and tardy frequency. They stated that youth in the Arts are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement and join a science and/or math fair, and three times more likely to be voted into a class office position. The Arts have been found to improve a youth’s self-esteem, work ethic, and raise test scores, as found in studies conducted by the Arts Education Partnership. The Arts also act as a liaison between the school and the community, positively bonding the two together.

4-H is well aware of the importance of the arts and its ability to teach its youth important life skills. Youth are encouraged to “Do, Reflect, and Apply” which are the three steps of the 4-H learning process. The youth “Do” an activity or performance, “Reflect” on what they learned, and then “Apply” it to the real-world. In order to support the Arts, 4-H has expanded its curriculum over the years to accommodate many different tastes and talents, from theater to painting and many others.

On February 26th 2010 Pinellas County 4-H held its annual Night of the Arts and Share the Fun Competition where 4-H youth took to the stage for a night of fun and spotlights. There were nearly twenty different acts, with performers ranging in age from eight to eighteen. They had the chance to display their various talents from dancing to singing, and acting to playing instruments. Some of the youth even chose to perform multiple times. The winners have the opportunity to compete at the District level Share the Fun and if they win, the seniors are eligible to compete at State Share the Fun.

In addition to performing live, Florida 4-H also conducts the 4-H Poster and Photo Exhibit contests. Here, youth who may not want to appear on stage may express themselves by creating a poster reflecting a theme or a photo exhibit of one or more photos. The photos may be from film or digital cameras. There are separate categories for photos that are computer enhanced.

To the performers at Share the Fun, this event offers a great opportunity for the youth because even if they don’t win they gain the experience (Do) of being on stage, which will give them the strength to accomplish their goals. They can think critically (Reflect) about their performance and gain positive feedback from friends, family, and peers which will boost their self-esteem. Through this process, the youth gain the necessary tools and courage to go out and change the world (Apply.)

4-H curricula generally come in many different levels from beginner to mastery. Here is some of the Arts-related curricula that 4-H offers:
Adventures with Your Camera
Focus on Photography
Controlling the Image
Mastering Photography
Theatre Arts
Play the Role
Become a Puppeteer
Set the Stage
2-D and 3-D Art
Sketchbook Crossroads
Portfolio Pathways
Measuring Up
Making the Cut
Nailing it Together
Finishing Up

Americans for the Arts Organization
National Arts Education Public Awareness
Arts Education Partnership