Author: wvsuextension

Holiday Favorites

We’re back with another week of Staff Pics, this time asking, “What is your favorite holiday book/song?”

Alex Phares, Extension Associate – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is my favorite Christmas book, and my favorite holiday song is “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays.”

NightBeforeXmasKaysha Jackson, Extension Agent – My favorite book would have to be The Night Before Christmas by Niroot Puttapipat. I love the illustrations. Favorite song, Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song.”

Crystal Bishop, STEM Education Coord. – My favorite holiday song is “White Christmas,” while my favorite book is The Night Before Christmas.

Matt Browning, Director of Communications – The traditionalist in me will say my favorite Christmas song is “Silent Night.” The 80s kid in me will say “Christmas Wrapping” by the Waitresses.

Annette Ericksen, Assistant Program Director for Agriculture and Natural Resources – My favorite Christmas song is “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” but only by Judy Garland.

Holiday Traditions

As another year comes to an end, we begin to reflect on what is important to us and give thanks for those around us. We had fun learning about some of our Extension and Communications staff’s holiday traditions last year, so we decided to ask again this year, “What is your favorite holiday tradition?”

Annette Ericksen, Assistant Program Director for Agriculture & Natural Resources – Making fattigmans. This is a secret Ericksen recipe for a Norwegian treat.

Ray Moeller, Extension Agent – Christmas Eve service followed by Chinese food with the full family.

Hannah Payne, Assistant Program Director for 4-H and Director of CASTEM – Time off = board games!

Stacy Ford, Extension Agent – Buying a new ornament every year and getting the old ones out from years past.

ChristmasPresentCarolyn Stuart, Interim Assistant Program Director for FCS & CED – Waking the children at 12:01 a.m. to open gifts!

Tabitha Surface, Extension Agent – My immediate family getting together on Christmas Eve. We exchange one gift, play games and have a really lovely evening.

Beckley Rings in the Holidays with Pop-Up Shops

By Christine Kinder, WVSU Extension Agent

Downtown Beckley is ringing in the holiday season with a variety of special events relating to Shop Small Saturday, the annual event to encourage shopping at local small businesses.

The Downtown Beckley Business Association (DBBA) is thrilled to once again host the Small Business Saturday Pop-Up Shops Nov. 25 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for Shop Small Saturday.

The event will strengthen the economic base of our local community by supporting small, independent businesses and property owners by creating pop-up shops in The Grant building on Neville St. and promoting retail businesses along Main St. and Neville St. downtown. This event allows business owners the opportunity to be exposed to hundreds of new customers and is also an opportunity for pop-up vendors to explore the possibilities of a downtown location.

Small Business Saturday, an annual national event sponsored by American Express, provides communities an opportunity to advertise their local businesses through “swag” containing promotional materials such as balloons, banners, stickers and the very popular Shop Small tote bag to entice customers to come out and shop.

To help promote our event this year, we partnered with Beckley Rocks! to plan a painted rock scavenger hunt throughout downtown. Beckley Rocks! and DBBA recently held a rock painting party, which provided the community a fun space to create painted rocks to use for the hunt. The rocks will be hidden around downtown and inside of participating retail shops to encourage people to get out and explore downtown Beckley.

Participating shops include: Dragon’s Den Comics and Games, On Point Acupuncture, Roma’s Pizza, Tickety Boo Mercantile, Melody’s, Grand Food Bazaar, Kilted Barber, Matt’s Main Street Barber Shop and Shave, Brown Dog Bottom, and The Consignment Company on Main. We hope this will attract even more customers and that they will discover new shops and spend money locally to support our independent businesses.

The holiday spirit will be flowing through the streets, as businesses will have decorated windows thanks to the Holiday Window Decorating Contest sponsored by the DBBA. We are encouraging businesses downtown to decorate their windows before the Nov. 25 event by holding a contest where the community will vote for their favorite window. The winning window will be awarded a trophy, and all participants will earn appreciation for helping to brighten up our downtown.

Check out the Small Business Saturday Pop-Up Shops flier here.

To learn more, contact WVSU Extension Agent Christine Kinder.

EFNEP Program Helping Recovering Addicts Improve Their Health

By Matt Browning, Director of Communications

A program led by West Virginia State University (WVSU) Extension Service is helping West Virginians struggling with substance use disorders to make smarter, healthier choices on their road to recovery.

An initiative of the USDA, the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) provides instruction on health, nutrition and physical activity but does not traditionally target recovering addicts. With West Virginia being labeled by some as “ground zero for the opioid epidemic,” WVSU is taking a unique approach to help people in need.

“EFNEP wasn’t actually designed to reach this population,” said Tammy Hauldren, a WVSU EFNEP extension associate, “but we have such a need in West Virginia that it only seemed fitting to bring this information to the people we serve.”

While the program traditionally targets low-income families, Hauldren began offering the EFNEP classes at sites such as Recovery Point in Charleston and Huntington to help people in recovery learn the basics of good health and nutrition. Through weekly classes, participants are learning to be more physically active, drink more water and spend wisely at the supermarket.

“Often, our participants know little about grocery shopping and how to spend their money on healthy items in the store, so we cover everything from how to make a list to buying lean protein and making three healthy meals from it,” Hauldren said.

Such information is proving invaluable, as Hauldren has seen firsthand.

“You have given me inspiration and support and some valuable classes in a short time,” said Craig Rhodes, a recent participant in one of Hauldren’s classes. After completing treatment, Rhodes has transitioned into being a full-time caregiver for his two grandchildren. “What I learned from your class has really helped me. I never would’ve dreamed I would be raising these children alone.”

Lessons on health-conscious spending, proper nutrition and serving sizes are supplemented with physical activity to get participants moving.

“In Huntington, for instance, we’ll go to Ritter Park and walk or jog three to four miles,” Hauldren said. “Many participants smoke and drink lots of soda, so while I’m with them, there is none of that. One of the first things I cover is the benefit of replacing sugary sodas and energy drinks with water.”

Another first, she said, is building trust. While EFNEP requires six lessons for each course, Hauldren has expanded that to 10 to help establish and nurture a relationship with participants.

“You have to build a relationship and let participants know you’re there to help, to sow seeds of hope as they move through their recovery process,” she said. “So those first couple of lessons, especially, are about building trust as we ease into the core of the program.”

The approach is paying off, as Hauldren has seen participants learn and benefit from making healthy choices by the end of her time with them.

“I had one man say to me, ‘Ms. Tammy, I’ve been shooting up heroin for 16 years. Why should I care about what I’m going to eat now?’’’ she said. “What I try to impart onto them is that what you eat has everything to do with your recovery.”

Hauldren is thankful, she said, because the need for programming like EFNEP is so great in West Virginia. The state has one of the nation’s highest rates of deaths from drug overdoses. As people move into recovery from addiction, understanding how nutrition and physical activity play a role in that process is vital.

Hauldren maintains a growing waiting list of organizations wanting EFNEP. In addition to Recovery Point Charleston and Huntington, she has brought EFNEP to such sites as Putnam County Drug Court and the Pregnancy Connections program at Thomas Memorial Hospital. She will soon begin offering courses at a site in Wayne County.

Developed by the USDA in 1969, EFNEP has successfully addressed critical societal concerns by employing paraprofessional staff and influencing nutrition and physical activity behaviors of low-income families, particularly those with young children. Through a community-based, relationship-driven, hands-on educational approach, EFNEP has directly impacted economic obesity and food insecurity challenges that hinder the health and wellbeing of the nation.

To learn more, contact Hauldren at (304) 552-0075 or hauldrta@wvstateu.edu.

WVSU Program Aims to Help Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

The concept of family has evolved in recent years, and one particular family dynamic is rapidly increasing. Grandparents are continuously stepping into the role of parent by becoming fulltime caregivers to their grandchildren, and West Virginia is among the most impacted states. According to U.S. Census data, West Virginia ranks fourth in the nation for grandparents raising one or more of their grandchildren.

To help meet the growing needs of this population, West Virginia State University (WVSU) launched Healthy Grandfamilies, a series of free informational sessions and resources, including follow-up support with a licensed social worker. The project seeks to help ease the transition many grandparents face as they once again become a parent, often to very young children and with issues that didn’t exist when they first were raising children.

Topics in the discussion sessions range from how to address social media to navigating the school system.

“Most of the issues dealt with in our sessions, I have been a part of firsthand,” said WVSU Extension Specialist Bonnie Dunn, who leads the sessions. Dunn herself is the product of a grandfamily, an experience she draws upon to connect with participants. “Social media wasn’t an issue back in the 50s and 60s, but everything else – stress, finances, legal issues, healthy living – it’s all timeless.”

In addition to the discussion sessions, which also focus on such topics as communication, technology, nutrition and stress management, participants are provided three months of free follow-up services with a licensed social worker that include assistance with locating community resources, confidential help in meeting family needs and advocacy services.

The program is also proving to be a haven for emotional support. Dunn quickly discovered that participants are overwhelmingly raising grandchildren because of a substance abuse issue with the biological parent. While providing such information isn’t a requirement, it is coming to light anyway – along with the guilt associated with it.

“It became very obvious that many of these grandparents feel like they have failed – that their children wouldn’t be in the situation they are in if they had been better parents,” Dunn said. “That simply isn’t true, but it’s an issue we try and help them work through as best we can.”

To date, the program has reached approximately 80 grandparents raising more than 150 grandchildren – and counting. After a strong launch in Kanawha County, W.Va., the program has expanded into two additional counties, with hopes of graduating 100 participants by the end of 2017. Plans are underway to expand into three more counties in 2018.

To learn more, visit www.HealthyGrandfamilies.com.

Healthy Grandfamilies is funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Capacity Building Grants Program, Award No. 2015-38821-24374.

Alternative Vegetable Growing System Helps Feed McDowell County Residents

An alternative growing method for fresh vegetables is helping feed the citizens of Welch, W.Va., thanks to an initiative led by West Virginia State University (WVSU) Extension Service. The University’s aquaponics system, installed at the Welch Armory, recently produced 150 pounds of fresh lettuce that was donated to residents of a local housing community.

Aquaponics refers to a system in which fish waste supplies nutrients for plant growth. The armory’s system, consisting of three 1,200-gallon tanks filled with tilapia inside a high tunnel structure, is connected to a recirculating hydroponic growing system, which allows plants to grow in the absence of soil in a raised-bed environment. Part of a research project led by WVSU Biology Professor Dr. Jonathan Eya, waste from the fish is used to feed the plants through the recirculating water system. Varying levels of nutrients are provided to the fish in each tank to study the effects of differing feed levels on both fish and plant growth, which, in the initial pilot phase, consisted of lettuce and kale varieties. The project’s first lettuce harvest was donated to residents at Elkhorn Terrace in Welch.

Such aquaponics systems could provide a more sustainable, environmentally friendly alternative growing method for West Virginia farmers on land that isn’t well suited to traditional agriculture.

“Systems such as this give us a way to move onto a piece of land that perhaps has been developed and abandoned, is formerly mined, or vacant lots with soils not suitable for vegetable production,” said WVSU Extension Agent John Bombardiere. “The raised-bed construction also helps in areas prone to high waters from flooding. These systems can be put just about anywhere.”

The Welch Armory is located at 600 Stewart St. in Welch.

What Do I Pack for an Off-Road Trail Ride?

By Chris Zeto, WVSU Extension Agent

In my last post, I talked a little about the many off-road trail options that exist in West Virginia. This time, we’ll discuss the items you’ll need to bring along on your next adventure. Before you venture out, even if you are an experienced rider, be sure you have the necessary equipment and gear you need to hit the trails.

For starters, remember to always wear an approved helmet and protective eyewear. Over-the-ankle footwear and gloves are also strongly encouraged for ATV riding. These basic items, along with a jersey and riding pants or water-resistant pants, not only offer greater protection than ‘everyday’ clothes, but also make riding much more comfortable. After all, what you wear on the trail is as important as what you wear off the trail!

Riding gear is encouraged because it protects you from the elements—including branches, bugs, mud and dust that may come your way. And should you crash your ATV, you’ll be glad your head, eyes and body are protected.

Below is a checklist of everything you need to make your next off-road trip a success.

On-The-Trail Checklist

  • Helmet
  • Protective eyewear – Goggles are preferred, but sunglasses or safety glasses are acceptable.
  • Over-the-ankle footwear – Boots are preferred, but high-top sneakers are acceptable.
  • Long, water-resistant pants are suggested – Shorts are accepted, but not encouraged.
  • Earplugs
  • Snacks
  • Water (and plenty of it)
  • Bug spray
  • Cell phone
  • Maps, because you cannot always count on GPS along the trails.

Off-the-Trail Checklist

  • Fresh T-shirt
  • Dry, clean pants
  • Change of shoes and socks
  • Toiletry bag to freshen up
  • Towel

Having these items along with you will ensure you’re ready to conquer any off-road trails that you encounter. Have fun but be safe!

Happy trails!

Chris Zeto is a WVSU Extension Agent for Community Resource and Economic Development in Logan County, working with Hatfield-McCoy Trails. Photo courtesy of Hatfield-McCoy Trails.

Off-Road Options for a West Virginia Summer Vacation

By Chris Zeto, WVSU Extension Agent

It’s summertime!

Are you still considering vacation destination options? Perhaps the beach? The zoo? An amusement park? Off-road trails?

Wait…off-road trails? What?

Yes, off-road trails can be one of the best family vacations you’ll find, especially right here in the Mountain State. Take time to explore the options in southern West Virginia by visiting the Hatfield-McCoy Trails. This off-road park offers more than 600 miles of thrill-seeking ATV, UTV, dirt bike and Jeep trails that will keep you coming back for more.

While traveling along these exciting trails, you will learn about West Virginia’s history by visiting the different ATV-friendly towns. Visit the town of Matewan to learn about the Hatfield-McCoy Feud and the infamous Matewan Massacre. Visit the town of Gilbert to learn how moonshine is made. Visit the town of Bramwell to tour some magnificent mansions. Visit the city of Logan and take a trip down the river in a kayak or canoe. While you are in town, don’t forget to stop by one or two of the wonderful local restaurants for some down-home southern cooking. With over 600 miles of trails, you won’t see the same spot twice and will fill your day with some lovely, scenic views. After a day full of exploring the trails and history, relax by the campfire while nibbling on a hot “s’more” and listening to some local bluegrass music.

Exciting vacation destinations are available all over West Virginia, even closer to home than you might think. It’s time to make your reservations and make memories that will last a lifetime. Next week on the blog, look for my checklist of items to ensure you’ve got everything you’ll need on your next trail adventure!

Happy trails!

Chris Zeto is a WVSU Extension Agent for Community Resource and Economic Development in Logan County, working with Hatfield-McCoy Trails. Photo courtesy of Hatfield-McCoy Trails.

Hour of Code

hour-of-code-logoGot an Hour? Code Away!

In this age of technology and innovation, our daily activities have become heavily dependent upon electronic devices and machines, such as computers, smartphones, tablets, advanced automobiles, airplanes, space shuttles and so on. Without machines, we would not be able to create a better quality of life and find solutions to real-life problems. Computer programming, or coding, plays a significant role in making our day-to-day devices function. Coding make it possible for us to create computer software, mobile applications, websites, automobile interface and cyber security platforms. Coding is an excellent way to learn about critical thinking and step-by-step logical thought processing, and to teach kids about how to make their devices and machines work!

Since 2012, Hour of Code has become a global movement to promote the importance of coding among kids and adults. Well-known celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher and Jessica Alba, tech leaders Sheryl Sandberg, Bill Gates and Jack Dorsey, and even world leaders such as President Barack Obama have joined this spectacular initiative to create awareness regarding the exciting world of computer programming. Currently, there are 146,275 Hour of Code events across the globe.

With over 200 tutorials and lesson plans, Hour of Code provides resources for teachers to incorporate coding into their classrooms, ongoing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) programs, robotics clubs and much more. Available in over 45 languages and compatible with all electronic devices, Hour of Code allows anyone, including students, teachers and parents, to pick a grade level, topic, activity or language, and learn the basics of coding in a fun, interactive and easy way!

Learn more about Hour of Code and its impact here and visit Hour of Code to start coding right away!

Warm Up with this Tomato Soup Recipe

By Alex Phares, EFNEP Extension Associate

Summer seemed to hang on well into the fall months this year, but by December winter temps finally hit the Mountain State and early January is bringing about our first accumulating snow. It’s the perfect time of year to warm yourself with a hot bowl of homemade soup, and one of my favorites is good ol’ tomato soup.

This recipe is adapted from the Runner’s World Cook Book 2013 and is a healthy, delicious remake of classic tomato soup that adds chickpeas. Chickpeas are a great source of fiber and protein, and tomatoes are full of cancer-fighting antioxidants. To round out the meal, try topping with a tablespoon of cheese and serve with a side salad.

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (28 ounces) fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas

  1. Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion and cook until soft, around 4 minutes (stirring frequently).
  3. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.
  4. Add the tomatoes and broth, raise heat and bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Add sugar and black pepper.
  6. Add the chickpeas and simmer for 10 minutes.
  7. Carefully transfer to a blender (work in small batches, or the steam will build up in the blender. Only fill 1/2 – 2/3 of the way full).
  8. Blend ½ of the soup until mostly smooth, you may see bits of tomato and chickpea.
  9. Return to remaining soup in the pot and serve.