December 20, 2011

Dietary Supplements – Navigating the Unknown

Kimberly Andreola, Dietetic Intern at Bay Pines Veterans Administration
Health Care System

Every day we are being bombarded by messages from the media telling us what foods and supplements we need to stay healthy. It may be a “new miracle cure for cancer” or that essential ingredient that we need to “fight infections and boost the immune system”. The information can be confusing and leave you with lots of unanswered questions. To help you sort out the confusion and find helpful resources on the topic, read on.

What is a supplement?
Supplements contain one or more dietary ingredients such as vitamins, minerals, herbs or botanicals and are found in many different forms (usually pill, capsule, tablet or liquid form).  Supplements are not foods and are not food replacements – they are intended to “supplement” a healthy diet.

Dietary supplements are not intended to treat, diagnose, prevent or cure disease.   In some cases, supplements can even interact with your normal prescription medications, decreasing or altering the desired effects and rendering your medications ineffective or unsafe.  For example, the herbal supplement St. John’s Wort can speed the breakdown of many drugs including birth control pills, and antidepressants thereby reducing the drugs’ effectiveness.

In addition to these interactions, supplements may negatively interact with each other or cause undesired effects if consumed in excess of what your body needs.  Many foods are fortified with extra nutrients these days.  Supplementation beyond what is required along with intake of a normal diet and consumption of fortified foods could be overloading your body on certain nutrients. 

Should I consider using a supplement?
If you consume a varied diet rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and lean proteins, you probably do not need to add supplements to your diet.  People who might consider supplementation include those who have been diagnosed with a deficiency disease or those for whom vitamin and mineral intake may be inadequate.  People at risk for inadequate intake of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrate, protein, or fat include: pregnant women, people who lack access to healthy foods, alcohol-dependent individuals, strict vegetarians and those with increased or altered nutritional needs related to a health condition (such as those people who have a medical condition that alters how their body absorbs or uses nutrients).

If you are currently using supplements or are considering adding one to your diet, discuss the following with your doctor or dietitian first:

  1. What are the potential health benefits of the product for me? What works for your best friend or family member, may not work for you and could even be harmful to your health. Eating a variety of nutritious foods is the best way to maintain health and prevent chronic disease.  
  2. How does this supplement fit into my total diet? If you don’t eat a nutritious variety of foods, some supplements might help you get adequate amounts of essential nutrients.  Supplements cannot take the place of a varied diet, though.  
  3. Does this product have any safety risks? Always know your supplement and its risks, including interactions with medications, before adding it to your diet.  The National Institute of Health (NIH) provides fact sheets on many of the common supplements summarizing benefits and risks.  The Food and Drug Association (FDA) also posts reports of adverse events as they occur and makes recommendations for certain products.  
  4. What is the proper dose to take?  The FDA monitors supplements once they have been placed on the market.  It is the manufacturers’ responsibility to recommend serving sizes and doses based on research. Discuss your need for each supplement with your doctor to determine what dose may be appropriate for you.
  5. How, when, and for how long should I take it?  Each of these questions should be discussed with your doctor.  The answers will vary by individual and by supplement.  
  6. Does this product seem too good to be true?  More than likely the answer is yes. Read your label, research the product on the NIH and FDA websites and talk to your doctor before initiating any supplement regimen.

It is important to keep in mind that no supplement will replace the benefits of eating real food.  To decrease your risk of disease and stay healthy, your best bet is to consume a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains as well as lean protein and low fat dairy foods.  If you find it difficult to consume everything your body needs or think you may need more of a certain nutrient for medical reasons, consult your doctor before purchasing and using a supplement.  Your doctor or dietitian can help you navigate the supplement aisles of the grocery store and determine what your individual needs might be. 


National Institute of Health.  Dietary supplements: What you need to know. (2011, June 17). 

Federal Trade Commission. (2011, November). Dietary supplements.  

USFDA. (2011, October 06). Dietary supplements.

ADA (2009). Position of the american dietetic association: Nutrient supplementation. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 109, 2073-2085.

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. (2011, November). St. john's wort. 

December 5, 2011

What is Community Supported Agriculture?

Mary Campbell, Extension Director and Urban Sustainability Agent

One of the ways that we can directly support local food production is through a membership in a local Community Supported Agriculture farm. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has gained recognition as a way to buy local. Consumers also have shown a desire to reconnect with the farmers who grow the crops. The CSA movement began in Japan and Europe and  was  introduced in the United States in 1986. Currently, there are approximately 1000 CSAs in the United States. Indian Line Farm in Massachusetts and Temple-Wilton Community Farm in New Hampshire were the first CSAs in the United States, both beginning in 1986. 

CSA is a partnership between farmers and consumers. In conventional agriculture, the farmer bears all the risk of production, but CSA allows farmers to share farming’s risks—and its rewards—with consumers. CSA depends on  people who pledge their financial support to a farm. At the beginning of the growing season, members pay a fee to cover the cost of the farm’s operations and the farmer’s salary. In return, each member receives a weekly share of the farm’s produce—typically a box of fresh vegetables and herbs, though the box might also include fruit, honey, eggs, and even meat. For farmers, CSA offers a fair, steady source of income—and a way to continue the small family farm. Consumers get fresh, great-tasting produce by someone that is part of the local community. 

There are many reasons consumers join CSAs. One reason is that the consumer is able to get produce that has not been shipped. The produce is grown locally, reducing the price and damage of shipping. Since the produce is grown locally, the money paid for the produce is invested in locally owned and operated farms. Another reason to join a CSA is that a consumer is able to get items that are typically unavailable in the supermarket. Consumers join CSAs to support local farmers, have access to fresh, high quality produce, access to organic or pesticide-free produce, and to increase participation in community and environmental awareness programs. Not only can a CSA decrease costs for its members, it also gives consumers an inside view on the process of growing food.

Examples of Local CSA: (for informational purposes only) 

Gateway Organic Farm 
6000 150th Avenue North
Clearwater, FL

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm
Farm Office:  813-887-4066
Tampa, Fl

Geraldson Community Farm 
1401 99th St NW
Bradenton, FL 34209

Gamble Creek Farm
14950 Golf Course Rd 
Parrish, FL 34219


November 22, 2011

Throw Out Your Leftovers Day

Nan Jensen RD, LD/N Extension Agent, Family and Consumer Sciences, Pinellas County Extension

There are a number of “food, nutrition and health days, weeks and months” to celebrate throughout the year. There is a day for eating red apples, chocolates, guacamole, and cookies, a month for eating ice cream and one for bringing awareness about diabetes and heart disease. Mark November 29 on your calendar and get ready to recognize “Throw Out Your Leftovers Day”. That is the day you need to throw away whatever is left over in the frig from the Thanksgiving feast. And “some” leftovers should be eaten or thrown away even earlier than that. 

Leftovers can become dangerous to eat if they are not handled and stored properly. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that more than a half million cases of foodborne illness are caused each year just from improperly handled turkey leftovers. Foodborne illness (food poisoning) can strike anyone but young children, pregnant women and their unborn babies, older adults, and persons with weak immune systems are especially vilnerable. Handling leftovers safely is one way to prevent bacteria from multiplying and causing foodborne illness. 

To begin, put all leftovers away promptly. Remember the 2-Hour Rule Bacteria grow rapidly between 40 and 140 °F. Discard all perishable foods such as meat, poultry, eggs, and casseroles, left at room temperature longer than 2 hours; 1 hour in temperatures above 90 °F. Cool any leftovers quickly in small shallow, airtight containers. Hot food left in larger, deeper containers can take a long time to cool. Putting leftovers in small, shallow containers allows the cold air to circulate around the containers to cool all of it more quickly. Again, the longer food remains warm, the greater the growth of potentially harmful bacteria. 

The following is a list of selected cooked leftovers and recommended refrigerator storage time. Consider freezing these foods if you want to keep them longer. 
  • Gravy and meat broth- 1 to 2 days 
  •  Cooked meat and meat dishes- 3 to 4 days 
  •  Cooked turkey and poultry dishes- 3 to 4 days 
  •  Cooked vegetables- 3 to 4 days 
Other food safety tips

  • Always wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food.
  • Remove turkey from the bone and store it separately from the stuffing and gravy. Sliced breast meat, legs and wings can be left whole.
  • Use an appliance thermometer to ensure that your refrigerator is always 40° F or below.
  • Leftovers should be reheated to an internal temperature of at least 165° F.  Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature.  Sauces, soups, and gravies should be reheated by bringing them to a boil.

November 17, 2011

Give Us Your Input Today

Your opinion counts! We need your help to do the best job possible. Pinellas County Extension strives to deliver the most current information on topics that are important to you. Each year we evaluate our efforts to provide up-to-date, research-based information to our community. To help us deliver what is valuable to you as our reader, we would like you to take a short survey. Please select the link below to access the online survey. Your feedback is greatly appreciated and your responses will be anonymous. Please take the survey today!

Thank you for your time and continued support.

November 16, 2011

Gopher Weedon 7 Km Trail Run

Gopher Weedon 7 Km Trail Run Benefits the Friends of Weedon Island Saturday, November 19th, 2011; 8:00 AM 
Tired of pounding the pavement on the same ole’ 5K race course? Go-pher something different and enjoy 7 kilometers (4.35 miles) of natural trails through one of Tampa Bay’s hidden gems! 
The Gopher Weedon 7 Km Trail Run will wind runners and walkers along well-maintained dirt and boardwalk trails through mangrove forest and scrub habitat, including gorgeous water views. This unique, professionally-timed race will be held on Saturday, November 19th at Weedon Island Preserve - a 3,700 acre preserve nestled along Tampa Bay in northeast St. Petersburg. Space is limited, register online today.
Proceeds will benefit the Friends of Weedon Island, Inc., a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to supporting environmental preservation and education at Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center, 1800 Weedon Drive NE, St. Petersburg, FL 33702. 
Registration ($30) includes a 1-year membership to the Friends of Weedon Island, Inc. (FOWI) and a race T-shirt. Special thanks to our sponsors: Publix, Farese Physical Therapy, Road ID, The Fresh Market, and Progress Energy.

November 14, 2011

Decorating With Holiday Plants, Inside and Out

Theresa Badurek, Urban Horticulture Extension Agent, UF/IFAS Pinellas County Extension Service

Did you know that there are live Christmas tree farms here in Florida? To find one near you please visit the Florida Christmas Tree Association website. Buying a Florida tree supports local farmers and can provide you and your family a more traditional holiday experience. Christmas tree farms are “green” too- they provide green space preservation that also consumes carbon dioxide and releases oxygen into the environment. Many farms even have areas where you can choose and cut your own live tree. Not only will you create memories, but your fresh cut tree will last longer than one cut weeks before and shipped long distances. 

 The types of trees grown in Florida are different than those available on your typical Christmas tree lot full of northern varieties. The most common trees grown in Florida on Christmas tree farms are: Red Cedar, Virginia Pine, Sand Pine, Spruce Pine, Arizona Cypress and Leyland Cypress. I can tell you from personal experience that the sand pine makes a great traditional looking Christmas tree that will last long after Christmas is over. When your celebrations are done and the decorations put away, please remember to recycle your tree.
Sand pine grown in Florida on a Christmas tree farm.

Another great “green” choice for Christmas trees are living trees that you can plant in your landscape after the tinsel and ornaments have all been taken down.  One example is a small rosemary tree for tabletops.  For more info on their care, click here

If you are interested in something larger, you might consider one of the species listed above that are grown on Christmas tree farms.  Be sure that you have the appropriate growing conditions and ample space for the mature size of the tree you choose.  Once the holidays are over you can plant the tree in your yard, and this is a great time to do so because January is the best time of the year to plant trees in Florida.  Be sure to purchase your tree from a nursery.  Do not dig up a wild tree as it is likely that transplant shock will kill the tree.  They are also not as likely to have that traditional Christmas tree shape most people are looking for.   While the tree is inside you need to keep the soil moist to ensure that the tree keeps growing.  For all kinds of information about Christmas trees, both living and artificial, please visit UF's Solutions For Your Life
Rosemary Tree

Other Popular Holiday Plants

There are several popular options for indoor plants for the holidays, ranging from the traditional to some more modern choices.  Poinsettia is a traditional holiday favorite.  These plants come in a variety of colors to suit your holiday decorating needs.  If your holiday Poinsettia comes in a container wrapped in a foil outer cover, be sure to remove it or punch holes in the bottom to allow excess water to drain.  Keep the soil around your poinsettia slightly moist, but not soggy, and place the plant in a bright window out of direct sunlight.  Contrary to popular belief, poinsettias are non-poisonous and non-toxic, however, some people may be sensitive to the latex in poinsettia sap.  Even though eating even a large number of leaves will not result in illness, the plant is not considered edible.  If brought indoors it should be kept out of reach of children and pets.  After the holidays these can be planted in your landscape.   These plants are photo (light) sensitive and uninterrupted periods of dark (starting in early September) initiate the bloom.  Artificial light at night from a porch, street, or window light will offset the flowering. Click here for more information on poinsettias and planting in the landscape.

Another traditional holiday plant is the flowering holiday cactus, the Christmas cactus and the Easter cactus.  The Christmas cactus, Schlumbergera truncata, usually flowers from Thanksgiving to Christmas and its leaves have pointed lobes.  The Easter cactus, Schlumbergera bridgesii, has wider leaves, which are rounded, flowers from Christmas to Easter.  Allow soil to dry out between watering and keep the plant in bright light while in bloom.  These are long-lived plants and can be kept outside in the shade during most of the year.  These plants are also photo (light) sensitive and uninterrupted periods of dark (starting in early September) initiate the bloom.  Artificial light at night from a porch, street, or window light will offset the flowering.  They do need to be protected from frost and freezing temperatures.  All parts of this plant are poisonous, so keep out of reach of pets and children.  Click here for more information on Christmas cactus.

Photo courtesy Okeechobee County Extension

Kalanchoe, a winter blooming succulent, has become popular as a more modern holiday plant.  The showy flowers are in terminal clusters and last for several weeks.  Flower colors are yellow, pink, red, and various shades of orange.  Since this is a succulent plant, let the soil dry out between watering.  If grown in the landscape, kalanchoe prefers light, sandy, open, well-drained soils and is moderately salt tolerant.  These plants are also photo (light) sensitive and uninterrupted periods of dark (starting in early September) initiate the bloom.  Artificial light at night from a porch, street, or window light will offset the flowering.  They are well suited to a rock garden or container garden.  Here in Pinellas County they may be cold tender and will require cold protection during frost or freeze conditions.   Click here for more information on kalanchoe.

Happy Holidays!

October 24, 2011

Energy Vampires Will Bleed You Dry

Suzanne Grant, APR, Spokesperson/Lead Communications Specialist,  
Progress Energy Florida

Everyone knows a leaky faucet requires immediate attention because a leak wastes water and costs money. Yet lurking undetected in nearly every home, there are other leaks – energy vampires – that constantly drink from your electrical outlets, wasting energy and running up your power bill. These tiny gremlins with the glowing green eyes that peek out at us in the dark of night from every corner of your house need immediate attention, too.

Vampire loads, also called phantom loads or standby power, refer to the electric power consumed by electronic appliances while they are switched off or in a standby mode.

Here’s a scary thought: U.S. households spend rough $100 per year to power home electronics like clock displays and remote controls left in standby mode. According to the Department of Energy (DOE), vampire loads are ghoulishly responsible for approximately five percent of the energy consumed in the United States, costing more than $3 billion each year.

“Energy vampires haunt every room in your house,” said Malcolm Barnes, energy efficiency manager for Progress Energy Florida. “Unlike fictional vampires, they don’t sleep during the day. They draw power 24 hours a day, which quickly adds dollars to your power bill.”

Vampire loads on electronic equipment generally fall into three categories:
  • Clocks and other always-on components. Devices that use internal clocks or other modules that remain operational even in off mode. For example, a desktop computer keeps a clock and other functions operating even when it’s off. 
  • Direct-current (DC) power: Pick your poison here; laptop and cell phone chargers, cordless phones, electric toothbrushes, etc., all rely on DC power and draws electricity all the time. If you leave your cell phone charger plugged in, it will still draw power even if fully charged or the phone is disconnected from the charger. 
  • Electronic Controls: Appliances with remote controls or electronic power switches require a sensor to remain alert all the time – ready for someone to hit the on button. 
Vampires are everywhere: microwaves; wireless power tools; coffee makers; DVR, DVD, and VCR players; cable and satellite boxes; MP3 players; digital TV converters and video game consoles. The DOE reports that in a typical U.S. home, eliminating energy vampires could save you two percent on your electric bill each month.

“There are a few tricks to kill energy vampires,” said Barnes. “The easiest way is to plug electronics into a power strip; then turn the strip off when not in use. Smart power strips do the work for you by automatically cutting off power when devices are not in use.”

Other ways to reduce phantom load include:
  • Turning off the computer monitor when it is not in use for more than 20 minutes, and turning off both the CPU and monitor if the computer will not be used for more than 2 hours. 
  • Looking for the ENERGY STAR® label when purchasing new appliances. ENERGY STAR® appliances use less energy, sometimes half as much, to perform their normal duties. 
  • Keeping it simple—avoid buying products that include ―bells and whistles‖ you don’t need. Some of these extra features might waste energy. 
  • Watching out for the cube shaped- transformers that plug into the wall. These vampires are 60-80% inefficient when plugged in, so it is especially important that these are on power strips. 
You can use an energy monitor to detect which devices are consuming this phantom energy in your home.  Your local library may have these devices to check-out.  Join Pinellas County Extension for classes on how to use these monitors, and borrow a monitor that day.  We will be in libraries throughout the county in the coming months.

For a more thorough assessment, contact Progress Energy Florida for a no-cost Home Energy Check. Through the Progress Energy service – which can be performed online, over the phone or in person – a highly-trained Energy Advisor will provide customized, energy-saving advice and determine your eligibility for company rebates toward energy-efficient home improvements. A Home Energy Check is a prerequisite to all Progress Energy rebates for energy-efficient home improvements.
To sign up for a no-cost Home Energy Check or to learn more than 100 energy-saving tips, visit or call 1.877.364.9003.

Progress Energy Florida, a subsidiary of Progress Energy (NYSE: PGN), provides electricity and related services to more than 1.6 million customers in Florida. The company is headquartered in St. Petersburg, Fla., and serves a territory encompassing more than 20,000 square miles including the cities of St. Petersburg and Clearwater, as well as the Central Florida area surrounding Orlando. Progress Energy Florida is pursuing a balanced approach to meeting the future energy needs of the region. That balance includes increased energy-efficiency programs, investments in renewable energy technologies and a state-of-the-art electricity system. Click here for more information about Progress Energy.

October 19, 2011

Fruits and Vegetables: Handle with Care

Nan Jensen, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Pinellas County Extension

In the last couple of months, there have been 2 recalls on fruits and vegetables. The first is for cantaloupes from Jensen Farms in Colorado and most recently bags of shredded lettuce. The Food and Drug Administration informed Giant Eagle of the presence of listeria monocytogenes in a routine random sample test of Giant Eagle Farmer's Market 8-ounce package of Shredded Iceberg Lettuce, produced by River Ranch Fresh Foods LLC, of Salinas, Calif., with a use-by date of October 14, 2011.

Listeriosis, a serious infection usually caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, is an important public health problem in the United States. It is linked primarily with meat and animal products, as well as with dairy products such as soft or surface-ripened cheeses such as brie and feta but fruits and vegetables have been implicated as well.

The disease primarily affects older adults, pregnant women, newborns, and adults with weakened immune systems. However, rarely, persons without these risk factors can also be affected. The risk may be reduced by recommendations for safe food preparation, consumption, and storage.

To minimize your risk, follow these guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control when selecting and preparing fruits and vegetables.

Carefully select fresh fruits and vegetables. When shopping, look for produce that is not damaged or bruised and make sure that pre-cut produce is refrigerated or surrounded by ice.

Rinse all fruits and vegetables before eating. This recommendation also applies to produce with rinds or skins that are not eaten. Rinse produce just before preparing or eating to avoid premature spoilage.
  • Clean all surfaces and utensils with soap and hot water, including cutting boards, peelers, counter tops, and knives that will touch fresh produce. Wash hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables, including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten, under clean running water and avoid using detergents or bleach.
  • Remove the outer leaves of leafy vegetables such as lettuce and cabbage before washing.
  • Produce with firm skin, such as potatoes, may require rubbing with a vegetable brush while rinsing under clean running water to remove all soil.
  • Dry fruits and vegetables with a clean paper towel and prepare, cook, or eat.
  • Packaged produce labeled "ready to eat," "pre-washed," or "triple washed" can be used without further washing.
Keep produce separate from raw foods like meat, poultry, and seafood, in your shopping cart, grocery bags and in your refrigerator. Throw away any produce that will not be cooked if it has touched raw meat, poultry, seafood or eggs. Do not use the same cutting board without cleaning with hot water and soap before and after preparing fresh fruits and vegetables.

Refrigerate all cut, peeled, or cooked produce within 2 hours. After a certain time, harmful bacteria may grow on produce and increase the risk of foodborne illness.

Follow this general FDA advice for melon safety:
  • Consumers and food preparers should wash their hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling any whole melon, such as cantaloupe, watermelon, or honeydew.
  • Scrub the surface of melons, such as cantaloupes, with a clean produce brush and dry them with a clean cloth or paper towel before cutting.
  • Promptly consume cut melon or refrigerate promptly. Keep your cut melon refrigerated at, or less than 40 degrees F (32-34 degrees F is best), for no more than 7 days.
  • Discard cut melons left at room temperature for more than 4 hours.

Click here for more information on listeria, how to reduce your risk from listeria and food recalls.

The FDA-recall alerts can be found here.

October 13, 2011

Keeping Holidays Happy

Jean Rogalsky, 4-H Youth Development Agent

Holidays are a wonderful happy time, but they can also be very stressful for families, especially children, because of the changes; the increase of social events, less time with parents, changes in schedule, and the tons of sweets and holiday treats. As the holiday season approaches, here are some tips on holiday spending and stress to ensure that you and your family have a happy holiday season.

Holiday Spending
Overspending finds you in debt afterwards. During tough economic times it is more important than ever to stick to a budget. You don't have to spend lots of money to have holiday spirit. Many people overspend because they feel trapped by holiday traditions and expectations. So make it your goal this year to not get trapped. Just because you have always done something one way, does not mean you cannot make changes. Have an honest talk with family members that you need to reduce spending this year. Let your children know what the holidays are really about and that gifts are something extra. Consider the following to cut down on holiday costs:
  • Set a limit on an amount to spend on each other and make sure the amount is something all can afford.
  • Draw names so each person only needs to purchase one gift.
  • Exchange gifts of service. Give someone with kids 4 hours of babysitting. A handyman can offer to make a number of repairs. You may have a skill you could pass on to someone else with lessons.
  • Be creative and make something versus buying something. A gift with your personal touch has more meaning.
  • Let children know that they cannot get everything they want, and help them prioritize their wishes.
  • Have potluck holiday parties. Don’t take on all the time and the expense.
Holiday Stress
Prepare yourself and your children for the emotions and stress that come before, during, and after the holiday. We get so busy with all that needs to be done and sometimes forget that our stress causes children’s stress.
  • Limit the number of social gatherings and events. While we hate to disappoint anyone, remember that too much change in a child’s schedule can cause behavioral issues.
  • Have the whole family get involved in preparing for the holidays. Make a list together and delegate tasks. Kids feel a part of the holiday when involved, and it lessens the stress on the parents.
  • Make decorations as a family. A child’s handiwork on display is a great source of pride.
  • Volunteer as a family to help another family in need or visit. Helping others in need puts the holidays in perspective.
  • Traditions are important to kids because it emphasizes the family. Everyone looks forward to traditions because it gives them a sense of security. It is never too late to start a new tradition in your home.
Here is a bit of research to keep in mind as you plan for the holidays. When elementary and middle school students were surveyed about their best holiday memory, the vast majority of the responses had to do with family time rather than gifts.

September 26, 2011

Have You Ordered Your 4-H Apples and Pecans?

Jean Rogalsky, 4-H Youth Development Agent

Time is running out to order your 4-H apples and pecans. The last day to order is October 4.

This fund raiser of the Pinellas County 4-H Foundation benefits those who purchase the apples and pecans as well as the Pinellas County 4-H program. The buyers of the delicious apples receive a nutritious product fresh from the tree. The pecan buyers receive a versatile nutritious product guaranteed to be this year's crop. Did you know that store pecans are sometimes stored from the year before?

Benefiting from the purchase of the apples and pecans are the 4-H members. Each year $6,000.00 is allocated to assist 4-H members to attend Camp Ocala, 4-H Congress, weekend leadership workshops, compete at regional and national level, and other educational opportunities. As one 4-H member wrote, "At camp I made the best new friends and learned how important communication and respect is. Without the scholarship, my parents couldn't afford to send me and I wouldn't have had these great friends or learned so much!"

There are two kinds of apples offered in full or half bushels. A bushel of apples, in case you've forgotten, is approximately 40-42 pounds.

EMPIRE - This is a cross between a Red Delicious and McIntosh. They are medium sized fruit with dark red skin with a sweet tangy flavor that resembles McIntosh though with better color, flavor and keeping ability.

CRISPIN/MUTSU- This apple is a cross between Golden Delicious and Indo made in 1930 in Japan and introduced in 1948. It was renamed Crispin in England, a name that still persists in the US. The large to extra-large fruit has a yellow green skin with flesh similar to Golden Delicious though, slightly coarser in texture and tarter in flavor. This is an excellent all-purpose apple (baking, freezing, apple jelly/apple butter) that keeps well.

Whichever type of apple you buy, you will be purchasing one of the most nutritious fundraising items. While an apple a day may not keep the doctor away, apples are one of the best snack choices to make.

A medium sized apple contains 81 calories and zero grams of fat. Eating one apple will supply you with 3 grams of dietary fiber (12% of Daily Value) and surprisingly, 13% of the Daily Value of vitamin C. (National Dairy Council)
A full bushel of apples sells for $34.00 and half bushel for $20.00.
The plain Georgia pecans are sold in 16 ounce bags in halves or pieces. They sell for $10.00 a bag.

The chocolate covered, cinnamon glazed, and cluster pecans come in a decorative 12 ounce bag. They also sell for $10.00.

A one-ounce serving of plain pecans (approximately 20 halves) contains 196 calories, 20.4 grams total fat (1.8 saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 2.7 grams dietary fiber and over 19 vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, vitamin E, calcium, potassium and zinc. One ounce of pecans provides 10 percent of the recommended Daily Value for fiber. Pecans are also a natural, high-quality source of protein. Pecans are also naturally sodium-free.

The apples and pecans are due to arrive the last week of October. Pickup dates for the apples and pecans are Oct. 26, 27, 28 and 29th at the Chester Ochs 4-H Educational Center better known as the Ochs 4-H Garden located at 14644 113th Ave. N. Largo. The parking lot is located off of 146th Street (Hamlin).

What better way to start your holiday shopping than to order plain pecans for holiday recipes and beautiful bags of covered pecans for gifts?
For more information on the apples and pecans, and to order, click here.

September 19, 2011

A Global Food Crisis

Ramona Madhosingh-Hector, Urban Sustainability Agent, Pinellas County Extension

On October 16 2011, the United Nations will recognize World Food Day under the theme of Food Prices – From crisis to Stability. Since 1979, the United Nations has celebrated World Food Day as an opportunity to build awareness of the problem of hunger in the world encourage technological and economic cooperation amongst countries strengthen international and national agricultural efforts, and focus attention on food security.

In the past, we may have thought that only developing countries were facing food shortages, increased food prices and food safety concerns. The new reality is that global trade has left many nations struggling with food production and distribution issues. Food prices are continuously increasing caused either by climatic events that affect crop production or spurred by higher food transportation costs caused by increases in other commodities e.g. petroleum. Given these circumstances, it’s easy to understand how food security becomes a national security issue.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) refers to the increased food price phenomenon as food price volatility. According to FAO, food price volatility is here to stay and presents a major threat to food security. Population increases, biofuel fervor, and protectionary agriculture measures contribute to the difficulty of stable food prices. The FAO Food Price Index was 231 points in August 2011, a 26 percent increase for the same period last year. Cereal, oils/fats, dairy and sugar price indices all reflected increases compared with the same period last year. Only the price of meat appeared to be stable with a 1% total increase over July 2011. To combat food price volatility, the FAO supports increased investment in agriculture. Investment options include infrastructure upgrades, marketing systems, extension and communication services, education, and research and development.

At home in the United States, we are well aware that food security is an important issue. Local food movements like community gardens and urban farms are one mechanism by which residents are taking hold of food production and distribution and minimizing food safety concerns. These new food ventures are likely here to stay as consumer concerns revolve not just around the price of the agricultural commodity and its point of origin but also around the inputs that are used in the production process and the food safety laws that govern international products. The nutritional value of our agricultural goods is also at stake.

With one billion hungry people worldwide, it is important to remember the definition of sustainability which pledges to “meet the needs of the present”. As we celebrate World Food Day in October, let us all do our part to ensure that the residents in our communities have access to food in sufficient quantities and of a high nutritional value.

Overview World Food Day 2011
Food and Agricultural Organization
Get Involved – World Food Day
EDIS factsheets on Food Safety
Pinellas County Food Donations

September 12, 2011

Streamline Your Finances

Nan Jensen RD, LD/N Extension Agent, Family and Consumer Sciences, Pinellas County Extension

Do you ever feel like there are too many things to do and never enough time? Most of us could probably answer yes to this question. By investing some time and effort into organizing your financial life, you can save many hours and even a significant amount of money. The Financial Deposit Insurance Corporation offers some tips to help

1. Use direct deposit. Make sure to have your pay, pension or Social Security benefits automatically deposited into your bank account. It is easy, convenient and a much safer option. It may even help you avoid bank fees. Direct deposit also gives you access to your money sooner than with a paper check.

2. Automate recurring bills. Often merchants like insurance companies, or utilities, will allow you to pay recurring bills with an automatic withdrawal from your checking account or through a charge to your credit card. However, be sure to record these transactions in your check register to avoid overdrawing your account. And if you charge the bills to a credit card, pay the balance in full by the due date to avoid interest charges.

3. Consider online banking. This service allows you to review deposits and withdrawals, keep track of your balance, and move funds between accounts.

4. Save money automatically. Arrange with your bank or employer to automatically transfer a certain amount into savings accounts or investments on a regular schedule.

5. Consolidate accounts. By consolidating accounts you can reduce mail and paperwork, avoid certain fees and may even get better deals. This step makes it easier to monitor your entire portfolio and ensure that your money is properly diversified. If you plan to consolidate your deposits at one institution make sure the combined funds don't exceed the FDIC's deposit insurance limitations.

6. Look into money-management tools. Software that you download to your computer or Web services managed by your bank or another third-party can give you an updated snapshot of all your account information from multiple institutions, in one place. The programs also can help you organize your finances, understand how you spend your money, and spot a potential fraud or theft.
Do your homework and choose a known and trusted organization, as most of these services collect account numbers and passwords along with other confidential and personally identifiable information

7. Update your legal documents. In addition to reviewing your will, check the beneficiaries listed on life insurance policies and retirement accounts. Update documents that would enable someone to handle your finances or other personal matters if you lose the ability to do so. Be sure to let loved ones know where copies of all legal documents can be found.

8. Get your papers under control. Set up a central filing system at home for your financial records and designate one place for gathering your bills.

9. Don't let a disaster catch you off guard. If an emergency were to occur and you had only few moments to evacuate your home, perhaps for several days or even weeks, would you have access to cash, banking services and the personal identification you need to conduct your day-to-day financial life? Make sure you have all your family's records and valuable documents in one place so you can easily pick them up and take them with you. For information on what types of records to take, check out Disaster Planning: Important Papers and Documents.

10. Learn more about managing your finances. There are many on-line resources and classes to help you learn more about managing your financial life. Pinellas County Extension is offering a Focus on Your Finances series October 11, 18 and 25. To register go to Pinellas County Extension and click on the registration button.

September 6, 2011

First Annual Pinellas Home Energy Symposium September 24th

On September 24th UF/IFAS Pinellas County Extension will host the first annual Pinellas Home Energy Symposium. This year’s theme is retro-fitting your older Pinellas County home.

Pinellas County was developed most extensively in the 50s-70s and the homes built then did not have the energy efficient components that today’s homes have. As a result, most residents live in homes that can waste electricity— creating higher power bills and putting a greater demand on the power company to produce more energy. Register today for this free, 3-hour symposium online at

A keynote address and a panel discussion will answer participants’ questions on what the best retro-fits are for Pinellas County homes, and what incentives/financing is available for making those improvements.

The keynote address will be from Dr. Jennifer Languell, Founder and President of Trifecta Construction Solutions. Dr. Languell has been a champion for green building and sustainable design for nearly two decades. Dr. Languell is one of the country’s leading sustainability consultants and is currently on the National Governors Association Policy Academy on Advanced Energy Solutions. Dr. Languell is based in Ft. Meyers Florida, and certainly knows the challenges of energy efficiency in a hot, humid climate.

Confirmed panelists include:

Dr. Randall Cantrell, University of Florida Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist in Housing and Community Development. Dr. Cantrell has recently completed a 7-year stint at the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Research Center where he served as Manager of Innovation Research. His appointment at UF is 60 percent extension education and 40 percent research. His main area of focus is on educating homeowners about how to increase the performance of their home.

John Ferrari, LEED AP, BD+C, Vice President of Business Development at EcoAsset Solutions, a subsidiary of Lykes Bros. With over 20 years of global business development experience, John most recently served as a co-founder and CEO of DwellGreen, a leading franchisor in the building performance management sector. John is also a LEED Accredited Professional and a Licensed Florida Real Estate Broker. John currently serves on the boards of DwellGreen, the US Green Building Council’s Gulf Coast Chapter, Myakka River Branch, and the Florida House Institute.

Gary Cook, Account Executive for Progress Energy-Florida. Gary oversees Progress Energy’s “Home Advantage” program in the Pinellas County area. The “Home Advantage” program is an incentive program designed to encourage builders to build up to the ENERGYSTAR level. After serving twenty-one years in the United States Marine Corps, Gary began his career with Progress Energy in 1997. He worked in the Energy Management department until 2002. Gary transferred into the “Energy Efficiency” department where he works today with several builders in the Tampa Bay area.

Jeremiah Rohr, Lead Instructor, Solar Source Institute, Largo. Jeremiah took his background in industrial technology and construction management and married that with his interest in solar technology and today provides education in solar thermal and photo-voltaic principles at the Solar Source Institute. Jeremiah’s interest in solar dates back to the energy crisis in the ‘70s. Jeremiah’s vast knowledge of manufacturing, engineering, construction and project management makes him a valuable “one-stop-shop” for questions about solar devices for saving energy.

Richard Duncan, Pinellas homeowner, recent Sustainable Floridian Graduate and alternative energy practitioner. Richard has installed both solar water heating and solar photovoltaic energy production systems at his home. Richard will be able to address the ins-and-outs of pursuing and obtaining alternative energy upgrades to the home. Would he do it all over again? Ask him on the 24th!

Other panelists will cover financing for energy efficiency upgrades.

Registration for this free symposium is available online Space is limited, so sign-up today. Registered participants will receive a free LED replacement light bulb. This lighting-for-the-future today replaces a traditional 60 watt incandescent light bulb, but uses 80% less energy and lasts 50 times longer. These LEDs were made in Florida, and are being provided by a grant from the US Department of Energy.

Refreshments will be provided by Solar Source Institute.

What: Pinellas Home Energy Symposium

When: Saturday, September 24, 9:00 am – noon

Where: UF/IFAS Pinellas County Extension, 12520 Ulmerton Road, Largo, 33774

How register: visit and select the Extension Service under the Registration tab on the main page. Follow the easy instructions and you are in!

See you on the 24th.

August 30, 2011

Organic Vegetable Gardening Toolbox

Theresa Badurek, Urban Horticulture Extension Agent, Pinellas County Extension

As we approach the fall vegetable garden season here in Central Florida we need to take a look at the tools we have to help build a successful organic garden. The intention here is not to achieve organic certification, but to grow healthy food for our families and use healthy practices for our planet. If you are starting a new garden or going organic for the first time, you should understand that it may take time to build a healthy garden. The soil structure must be built and you must hone your practices to watch for pests and diseases.

Soil Preparation
Organic matter and any organic fertilizers should be worked into your soil at least three weeks ahead of planting. If you are using compost and mulches be sure that there are no large clumps of unrotted organic material. These can harbor disease problems as well as hinder seedlings or their growth. When your conditions are right, these organic materials will be processed by microorganisms like fungi, algae, bacteria, molds, and earthworms. As they do this they make important nutrients available to your plants. This is one reason why it is important to NOT use pesticides in your garden. Pesticides destroy these critical organisms that work so hard for your garden. For detailed information on the various soil amendments, please refer to the publication link at the end of this article.

Seeds and Transplants
While it may seem obvious to buy organic seeds and starts, or transplants, there is much more to your plant material than that if you want a successful organic garden. The most important thing you can do is select the right crops and varieties for our area and plant them at the right time. We are often tempted to plant crops or varieties that we know and love from some other geographic location, but these are often not suited to our unique subtropical climate. How do you know what and when to plant? Print the following publication, Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide. Use this to plan your garden layout and bring it with you when shopping for seeds and plants. Pay special attention to Table 4, “Suggested Varieties for Florida Gardens” and Table 3 “Planting Guide for Florida Vegetables”.

A good organic soil will be full of organic materials that help the soil retain water, as will good garden mulch. There is more you can do to use water wisely in an organic garden, though. To begin, a good soaking once a week throughout the root zone will be necessary unless there is sufficient rainfall. Drip or trickle irrigation will help you conserve water while avoiding wetting the leaves. Wet leaves can encourage disease, and disease prevention is an important tool in the organic gardener’s toolbox. If you use overhead irrigation, be sure to water in the early morning hours, not in the evening. Always follow local watering restrictions.

Pests and Diseases
So, how do you keep uninvited guests from eating all of your hard work in the garden? Well, you must have a regular scouting routine for pests. At every step of your gardening adventure you should be looking for signs of pests. Hopefully you selected resistant varieties from the “Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide” publication (see link above) and inspected your plants for pests and diseases before purchase and planting. Learn to recognize the beneficial insects that help control the “bad guys” that cause damage. Not using pesticides will help preserve the “army” of beneficial insects in your garden. A great guide to start learning about beneficial insects is “Natural Enemies and Biological Control”:

There are more things you can do to help prevent and control pests and diseases, though. Here is a sampling from the “Organic Vegetable Gardening” publication whose link you will find at the end of this article:
  • Use a mulch; vegetables touching the soil may rot.
  • A good garden mulch tends to reduce damage caused by nematodes.
  • Keep out weeds which harbor insects and diseases.
  • Water in morning so plants are not wet at night.
  • Dispose of severely diseased plants before they contaminate others.
  • Hand-pick insects.
  • For cutworms, place a cardboard or tinfoil collar around plant stems at ground level.
  • Clean up crop refuse early.
  • Rotate garden areas.
There is so much to be gained from a beautiful organic garden- fresh healthy produce, a safe environment for the gardener, and a balanced ecosystem that allows nature to do some of the work for you. For more information and tools for your organic garden, please see this Organic Vegetable Gardening publication

August 26, 2011

Family Money- The Coupon Craze

Nan Jensen, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Pinellas County Extension

Consumers across the country are increasingly looking for ways to save money to deal with the higher costs of goods and services and the effects of the slow economic recovery. “Couponing” has become increasingly popular and a common strategy to reduce expenses in the family budget.

Coupons typically are found in magazines or newspapers or distributed by stores that print their own coupons. Grocery stores and companies frequently offer special deals and coupons on-line. Printing coupons from the Internet and obtaining them digitally from online coupon aggregators has become common. Sites include,,, and others. Some sites such as offer free samples and product updates. Twitter accounts such as @freestuffrocks and @freenology provide updates and news feeds on free goods.

While couponing can save money, think about the time you invest. What we often don’t see with extreme coupon users is the amount of time spent researching and collecting coupons, money spent joining coupon sites or time spent researching store policies on redeeming them.

To help you get the most out of your couponing experience consider the following tips:
  • Save time by organizing your coupons in an envelope, coupon file, or even a zipper-style plastic bag---anything that is small enough to take with you to the grocery store. Arrange them in alphabetical order, by categories or the aisles in your grocery store or how often you buy the product.
  • Don’t buy something just because you have a coupon. Buy only what you need to stay on budget.
  • When it comes to food, consider the nutritional value of the item. Many times food coupons are for snack foods and other packaged items that have limited nutritional value.
  • Read coupons carefully for requirements and restrictions.
  • Match up weekly sale items with coupons to get the best deal. Stock up on nonperishable items for your pantry when they are on sale. Stores usually repeat the sale price on different categories on a 12-week cycle, so buy enough staples to last until it is on sale again.
  • Trade coupons with friends and family, and even involve your children. Couponing can be a great way to teach children about money.
  • Compare prices. Another brand may be cheaper than the item with the coupon. Check unit pricing for the best deals.
Also check coupons for expiration dates, product sizes and amounts you can buy. If it doesn’t fit your needs, save your money.

Some stores will accept expired coupons. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

After checking out, read your receipt to be sure your coupons were properly credited.

If you use on-line coupon sites, consider how much personal information you have to give up in order to get them. Some websites require consumers to download software and agree to individual licensing agreements. Read the fine print.

For more information on other financial topics visit

August 23, 2011

Buy Green Products and Save

Mary Campbell, Extension Director and Urban Sustainability Agent

There are many reasons why more and people are buying green products. Recent studies show that even during the recent recession, more people are still interested in green products. Sales of green products, such as organic foods and natural personal care items, have jumped 15 % since 2006, according to research firm Mintel International. Green products have less of an impact on the environment than comparable non-green products. This may mean that the product can be recycled or is made of recycled products, and it may save natural resources, energy and water. It may also have less packaging to save paper or plastic or be a locally produced and sourced product. Local products are considered greener since they do not have to be transported long distances. Green products can also have less of an impact on people since they contain fewer toxic components or are non-polluting. A less toxic environment supports healthier communities.

Partner environmentally friendly products with cost savings and that is a win-win we all love. Compact fluorescent light bulbs use 75% less energy and last 10 times longer than standard incandescent bulbs. If every American home replaced just one light bulb with an ENERGY STAR qualified bulb, we would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year, more than $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of more than 800,000 cars. That sounds pretty green, but what does Energy Star mean?

According to the Energy Star website, ENERGY STAR is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy helping us all save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices. Americans, with the help of ENERGY STAR, saved enough energy in 2009 alone to avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 30 million cars, while saving nearly $17 billion on utility bills.

Energy Star is a third party certifier that uses standard criteria to qualify a product as energy efficient. There are third party certifiers for many different products. There is no one certifier for all green products. The best way to know if the product you are considering to purchase is really green, look for a third party certifier. Check out some of the more common certifiers from the US Small Business Administration. Green Seal sets product standards and awards its label to a wide variety of products .
If the product you are considering is not certified, check the label yourself and look for these things:
  1. Non-toxic (no Caution, Warning or Danger on the label)
  2. Can be recycled or has recycled content (example: 30% post consumer content recycled paper)
  3. Saves energy or water
  4. Durable and reusable
  5. Made from natural or renewable materials
  6. Produced locally
  7. Healthier for people
Be wise about how you spend your money and look for the win-win combinations of “saves money”, saves the planet, and protects people.

July 2, 2011

Safety of Sprouts

Nan Jensen RD, LD/N Extension Agent, Family and Consumer Sciences, Pinellas County Extension

Sprouts have long been considered a healthy food low in calories, sodium and fat and filled with fiber, vitamins and health-promoting phytochemicals. Recently though they have come under fire because of the recent foodborne illness outbreaks in Germany. Since 1996, there have been at least 30 reported outbreaks of foodborne illness associated with different types of raw sprouts. The seed is typically the source of the bacteria in outbreaks associated with sprouts. Sprouts are produced by soaking the seeds in water and then putting them in a warm, moist environment for 3 to 7 days to encourage them to germinate and grow. These conditions are also ideal for the growth of bacteria, including Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli.

June 29, 2011

Thinking Coastal

Ramona Madosingh-Hector, Urban Environmental Sustainability, Pinellas County Extension

I am sure you’ve been asked the famous Monday morning question many times – what did you do this weekend? Maybe you went swimming, boating or fishing and if you did, you are ONE of the many millions of Florida residents who enjoy the coastal lifestyle.

In a nation with 35 states that border oceans, coasts or Great Lakes including the territories of the United States Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, the opportunities for coastal recreation are limitless. Coastal states border 95,531 miles of ocean and Great Lakes coastline and represent about 99 percent of the total United States coastline1 – that’s a lot of fishing line!

June 27, 2011

Greasy Spot

By Theresa Badurek, UF/IFAS Extension Agent, Pinellas County Extension
Greasy spot is not that new burger joint in town- we’re talking about a citrus problem called “Greasy Spot”. This unsightly disease is caused by a fungus called Mycosphaerella citri. While the symptoms for this disease are usually evident during the fall and winter, now is the time to treat a diseased tree. So, when you chomp down on the greasy burger at the 4th of July picnic, remember “greasy spot” and you will remember to care for your infected citrus.

May 28, 2011

Summer Fertilizer Ban Starts June 1

By Jane Morse, UF/IFAS Extension Agent, Pinellas County Extension

June 1 is the beginning of the summertime fertilizer blackout. During this time you cannot apply any fertilizers containing nitrogen or phosphorus to your lawn or landscape until October. The County’s strict fertilizer ordinance – aimed at improving water quality - prohibits using these products from June 1 through Sept. 30 or at any time of year the National Weather Service forecasts heavy rains to occur within 24 hours.

During the time of year when you are allowed to fertilize, you still must keep in mind that no more than four pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per year can be applied, and that granular fertilizers containing nitrogen must be at least 50 percent slow release nitrogen. Also that phosphorus is not allowed unless a soil test documents a phosphorus deficiency.

Knowing what’s in the fertilizer can help you decide what is best for your lawn and how to apply it correctly. You can check out the three numbers on a fertilizer bag to learn the percentage of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium it contains. (The rest is filler that allows uniform application of the nutrients and helps prevent over-or-under fertilizing of certain areas.)

There are other fertilizer “rules” for protecting the environment as well as public health: Use a deflector shield when applying. Don’t apply within 10 feet of a wetland or water body. Fertilizer or grass clippings that get on sidewalks, driveways, streets, etc. must be returned to the landscape areas or swept up immediately. Nitrogen should not be applied to any newly-installed plants for the first 30 days. If you use reclaimed water you may not need any extra nitrogen fertilizer because the reclaimed water contains nitrogen.

Pinellas County’s fertilizer ordinance also requires all lawn and landscape personnel to pass a best management practices class. You should hire only those who display the decal and carry a certification card.

We all want clean water. An important way to protect water quality is to make sure nothing but pure water flows into storm drains. Our storm drains are a direct conduit to our creeks, lakes and marine waters and aren’t treated in any way. All hard surfaces such as driveways, sidewalks and streets drain to storm drains so it is very important to keep these areas clean.

Some easy things we can do to keep our water clean are to keep all grass clippings, leaves, fertilizer, household or vehicle chemicals or anything that isn’t plain water from going down the storm drain. Sweep grass clippings back into the landscape or put them into a compost bin. Use leaves as mulch in plant beds, compost them, or put them in the trash. Keep all chemicals in a secondary container so if the original container springs a leak the secondary one will catch it and keep the leak contained. (One quart of oil creates an oil slick the size of two football fields!) Pick up pet waste and dispose of it in the trash. Wash vehicles over grass or gravel to prevent runoff. Never drain chlorinated water to the street or storm drain. Reclaimed water contains nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus so make sure it isn’t spraying onto any hard surfaces or draining off your property into the street.

Always remember - nothing but rain down the drain.

For any questions on disposal of waste, including fertilizer, pesticides and weed control products, contact the Pinellas County Department of Solid Waste Operations at (727) 464-7500.

For information or to report illegal dumping, you can reach the Pinellas County Watershed Management Division at (727) 464-4425 ext.5 or There is a 24-hour hotline at (727) 464-5060 (non-emergency spills only). Emergencies: Please call your local fire department.

The information for this article came from the Division’s brochure entitled “A Guide to the Fertilizer Ordinance.” All regulatory questions should be directed to the Watershed Division at (727) 464-4425.

May 26, 2011

Let’s get ready for June!

Ramona Madhosingh-Hector, Regional Specialized Agent, Urban Environmental Sustainability, Pinellas County Extension

Florida residents and visitors agree that the beauty of our state lies in our natural resources – warm climate, celebrated parks and preserves, and world famous beaches. Our access to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean is an important recreational and economic asset but when hurricane season approaches, we are quickly reminded that natural disasters are possible.

June 1 marks the beginning of hurricane season and to help us get prepared, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recognizes May 22 through May 28 as National Hurricane Preparedness Week. According to NOAA, you should be able to answer these three simple questions before a hurricane threatens:
• What are the hurricane hazards

• What does it mean to you?

• What actions should you take to be prepared?

With 825 miles of sandy beaches and over 8400 miles of tidal coastline, Florida’s coastline is second only to Alaska and is an extremely large area to manage in the event of a storm. Since the entire state of Florida is considered the coastal zone and each Florida resident lives within 70 miles of the coast, it is important that you
• know your evacuation zone,

• develop a family plan for evacuation,

• create a disaster supply kit, and

• stay informed.
The 2011 NOAA hurricane outlook predicts 12 to 18 storms in the Atlantic with three to six becoming major hurricanes so it is important to understand the Saffir Simpson scale. The scale provides a measure of storm intensity and the chart below describes some possible impacts.

Category Wind Speed Possible Impacts
CategoryWind SpeedPossible Impacts
Category One 74-95 mphGenerally, no substantial damage to building structures; potential damage primarily to unanchored mobile homes, shrubbery and trees.
Category Two 96-110 mphPossible damage to roofs, doors and windows; expect considerable damage to vegetation, mobile homes and piers; potential flooding in low-lying areas
Category Three 111-130 mphSome structural damage to small residences expected; destruction of mobile homes; coastal and inland flooding.
Category Four131-155 mphSome complete roof structure failure on small residences; beach erosion; major damage to lower floors in coastal homes.
Category Five Greater than 155 mphComplete roof failure on many residences and industrial buildings; some complete building failures; major damage to coastal homes; possible mandatory evacuations issued.

With over 18 million residents in 67 coastal counties, Florida is no stranger to hurricanes. The annual Governor’s Hurricane Conference was held May 15 – 20 in Fort Lauderdale under the theme “25 years: Learning from the Past, Preparing for the Future”. Preparation, teamwork and communication are the keys to increasing Florida’s response effectiveness when disaster strikes.

Do your part by becoming hurricane aware – be prepared for the 2011 hurricane season!


National Hurricane Center

Florida Division of Emergency Management

Florida Coastal Management Program

Pinellas County Emergency Management

University of Florida/EDIS/Hurricanes

University of Florida/EDIS/Disasters