West Virginia

Community Arts Continue to Thrive in Beckley

Our community arts initiative in downtown Beckley, which we first shared in this post, has continued throughout the summer with trail improvements and more Try This WV mini-grant projects along the McManus Rail Trail.

Extension Agent Christine Kinder led beautification projects with a team of scouts, volunteers and the Downtown Beckley Business Association (DBBA). The DBBA was awarded a second Try This WV mini-grant for public art that promotes a healthy community.

This summer’s Try This WV projects included painting a fun “fitness path” onto the trail with colorful flowers, stars, circles and waves encouraging kids to skip, hop, jump and twirl. There’s a colorful hopscotch game at the end of the path as well. With help from a local Boy Scout troop, two beautiful compass designs were painted on the trail. The Public Works department installed two new bike racks downtown, including one at a newly revitalized community center that offers after-school tutoring for students. Newly designed trail banners were also purchased and placed in visible locations along the trail. The ongoing efforts to improve and bring attention to McManus Trail through beautification have inspired new project ideas and collected additional partners.

With collaborative efforts from new partners including Piney Creek Watershed, plans are underway to develop an art park in a historic area of the McManus Rail Trail. This area of the trail was previously a railroad train depot. WVSU Extension Service, Piney Creek Watershed and the City of Beckley, along with plenty of volunteers, have plans to create a family-friendly atmosphere with colorful, interactive and educational additions. We hope to include musical playground equipment, colorful umbrellas for the existing picnic tables, purchase historical signage giving visitors a visual history of the area, and continue painting murals with help from local organizations. Currently, two murals are in process with design plans for more in spring 2019.

Since painting began this summer, we have received inquiries from businesses and organizations about how they can be a part of the projects. Community-based service organizations can sponsor a section of the wall that cover artist fees and supplies. We are currently working with the Kiwanis Club of Beckley on a mural sponsorship that will be incorporated into the art park mural plan.

Impacting West Virginia: Community Arts

Impact Spotlight: Community arts projects are paving the way to a healthier, happier Beckley.

Downtown Beckley, in Raleigh County, has long prided itself on its historic aesthetic appearance. In 2014, however, the town was in danger of losing its National Register of Historic Places designation by the State Historic Preservation Office due to demolition projects and alterations of historic properties. Preserving the historic integrity of the town, while also nurturing a welcoming atmosphere for new, creative ideas and projects, was imperative for community leaders looking to position Beckley as a business-friendly, vibrant destination for residents and visitors.

WVSU’s Raleigh County extension agent, Christine Kinder, began working in collaboration with the Downtown Beckley Business Association (DBBA), a non-profit organization whose mission is to serve local businesses, property owners, the City of Beckley and the community in revitalization of the downtown district through efforts relating to public art, streetscape improvement, design and entrepreneurship. Under the auspices of the DBBA, Kinder has hosted a variety of successful community events, seminars, volunteer activities and public arts projects, as well as received grant funding to support new initiatives. Mini-grants totaling nearly $3,000 from Try This West Virginia (the first time the organization funded such projects) were used in public art initiatives along a rail trail running through downtown, aiming to promote the trail as a bike- and pedestrian-friendly offering. A ftness-themed mural, bike arch, signage, three bike racks and 15 bike art projects were installed along the trail. In addition, trellises were constructed and added to community garden sites. Truly a community effort, all art projects were created, painted and constructed with the assistance of local middle school students, a Boy Scout troop and a kids camp group. A local nonprofit organization donated used bike wheels for the art installation, while the City of Beckley Public Works department provided labor.

The initiative has resulted in overwhelmingly positive feedback from community members. Comments include:

• “It brightens up Beckley!”

• “This is great for our city.”

• “What a difference a mural makes!”

• “It is phenomenal, and thank you one and all for the beauty you have bestowed upon Beckley.”

Community development professionals from throughout the state have reached out to Kinder to learn how the projects were accomplished in hopes of facilitating their own such initiatives. Additional funding totaling $10,000 through personal donations, community foundation grants and matching dollars has been provided by community members hoping to see such work continue.

This summer, the DBBA and partners are working to further enhance the rail trail with painted fitness paths for kids and nature inspired murals along a section of the trail designated for an “arts park”. The DBBA was awarded a second Try This WV mini grant to inspire a healthy lifestyle through beautification and public art.

To learn about more ways WVSU Extension Service is working in your community, check out Impacting West Virginia.

Wild, Wonderful (and Cheap!) WV Outdoor Adventures

By Chris Zeto, Extension Agent

West Virginia is widely known for its many “Wild, Wonderful” outdoor adventures. Since spring has officially sprung, it’s time to get outside and have some fun. Whether you are interested in taking a leisurely stroll through one of the many state parks or hitting some challenging off-road ATV trails, West Virginia has something for everyone. Listed below are some free or inexpensive outdoor adventures that are a must for 2016:

For more information on these and other outdoor adventures, please visit GoToWV.com or call 1-800-CALL-WVA. Go outside and play in Wild, Wonderful West Virginia.

Preparing Your Vehicle for Winter

By Krista Farley Raines, Regional Communications & Marketing Director, American Red Cross – West Virginia Region

Winter weather has finally arrived in the Mountain State, blanketing the region in beautiful – but potentially hazardous – snow. To help you better prepare yourself for winter emergencies, our friends from the American Red Cross West Virginia Region are guest blogging a two-part series about winter weather safety procedures for your home and your car.

Winter storms and cold temperatures can be hazardous, but if you plan ahead, you can keep your family safe. Minimize travel outdoors, but if you have to go out dress in several layers of lightweight clothing, wear mittens and a hat that covers your ears. Don’t forget to leave water running to help prevent pipes from freezing when you leave your house.

If you have to travel, having a preparedness kit in your vehicle at all times is essential. A Vehicle Winter Preparedness Kit should include:

  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Cell phone car charger
  • Blanket and/or emergency mylar blanket
  • Fleece hat, gloves, scarf
  • Flares
  • Folding shovel
  • Sand or cat Litter
  • Ice scraper and snow brush
  • First-aid kit
  • Small battery-operated radio
  • Emergency contact card with names and phone numbers
  • Extra prescription medications
  • Bottled water
  • High protein snacks
  • Maps
  • Whistle

If driving is unavoidable, safety should be your number one priority. Make sure your vehicle has plenty of gas, and pay attention to the weather forecast for your travel route and destination. Buckle up, be alert and drive slowly with caution. In the event your vehicle becomes disabled, keep the car running, make sure the exhaust pipe is clear and leave the window open a crack until help arrives. Additionally, know the differences between winter storm outlooks, advisories, watches and warnings.

To learn more about to prepare for, respond to and recover from a disaster, visit redcross.orgAnd don’t miss our first post on winter safety for your home.

#WVSUExtensionStories: The Garden Path to Success

Like a lot of little girls, Emily Moore wasn’t a fan of creepy, crawly insects and worms. But she helped her fourth grade class at Buffalo Elementary in Putnam County construct a school garden anyway, with the help of WVSU Extension Service. Along the way, several seeds were planted, one of which was a love of gardening that is leading Emily to a potential career as a researcher and Extension educator.

Now a college sophomore, majoring in biology at WVSU, Emily has been reunited with the Extension program that introduced her to the world of agriculture and the very garden that started it all.

During the summer of 2014, Emily worked as an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) for Melissa Stewart, assistant program director for WVSU Extension Service’s agriculture department. One of her tasks was to revamp the garden at Buffalo Elementary and introduce agriculture education to the school’s preschool students.

“It was so much fun and a good experience for me,” Emily says of her early exposure to gardening through WVSU. “I want little kids now to have the same experience I did.”

Using the Junior Master Gardener (JMG) curriculum, Emily adapted activities to the preschool age level, including picket fence design, garden building and container garden development.

“It’s great to see someone who experienced this program as a kid return and teach it to the next generation,” says Melissa. “That experience is helping her revamp the program to an even younger audience.”

While JMG is traditionally designed for students beginning in third grade, Melissa, West Virginia’s state coordinator for the program, is leading efforts to adapt it to the preschool level. Emily’s work at Buffalo was among the first JMG interactions at that age group across the nation.

Reuniting with Melissa in the garden helped ease Emily’s transition to WVSU, where she currently resides on campus after transferring from another university.

“I’m happier at State,” says Emily, who balances her biology coursework with outreach opportunities through WVSU Extension Service.

Melissa looks forward to working with Emily on additional projects during her academic career and attributes that childhood interaction to helping guide her to WVSU as a young adult.

“Such lifelong connections are what Extension is all about,” Melissa says. “I’m thrilled Emily is with us again, planting those seeds in what could be the Yellow Jackets of tomorrow.”

That Sounds Like Fungus! A how-to guide for growing your own mushrooms

Full article appears in the summer 2013 edition of Extension Matters magazine.

Full article appears in the summer 2013 edition of Extension Matters magazine.

By Brad Cochran, Extension Agent for Agriculture & Natural Resources, bcochran2@wvstateu.edu

No matter how you slice or dice them, mushrooms can be a healthy and delicious addition to your dinner menu. Whether you are a fan of button mushrooms on your pizza, oyster and shiitake in your stir-fry, or portabellas stuffed with different cheeses, they all come with their own health benefits to go along with their amazing flavor. What most people don’t realize is how easy these fungi can be to grow either inside the comfort of your own home or as part of your landscape.

Mushroom cultivation has increased leaps and bounds since the 1960s. In 1965, total worldwide mushroom production was at 350,000 metric tons (Royse, 2003). This number increased to 6.2 million metric tons in 1997, a nearly 18-fold increase in total production (Royse, 2003). These production totals have continued to increase in the years since 1997. Of the mushroom species mentioned above, the button mushroom (Agaricus spp.) is the most commonly produced worldwide, followed by the oyster (Pleurotus spp.) and then the shiitake (Lentinula edodes).

Two of the easier mushrooms to produce in West Virginia, or the Appalachian region in general, are oyster and shiitake mushrooms. Oyster mushrooms can be grown on a variety of substrates, including coffee grounds, straw, shredded paper or logs. Of these different substrates, growing oyster mushrooms on coffee grounds is the easiest and least time consuming of the methods. The only materials you need are a five-gallon bucket with four to six holes drilled in the bottom for drainage, about half of that bucket filled with used coffee grounds, and oyster mushroom sawdust spawn. Once you have enough coffee grounds, mix the sawdust spawn and grounds together with your hands. After this is completed, cover the bucket with a clear plastic bag, punching some airflow holes into it. You will also want to spray the coffee grounds with water once a day to keep them moist. In six to eight weeks, you will be enjoying oyster mushrooms in your dinner dishes!

Producing shiitake mushrooms is a more intensive process at the beginning, but involves very little time and labor when it comes to production and harvesting. The modern method of shiitake mushroom inoculation has been used since the early 1940s and involves drilling a hole into a log and introducing the laboratory produced spawn via these holes. During the winter months, begin finding and cutting the logs for inoculation. Species to consider are white and red oak, sugar maple (cut before January), ironwood or gum. Oak is the best; oak logs have enough bark thickness to hold in moisture but not so much thickness that you cannot drill into the logs for inoculation. Next, find a location that has approximately 70 percent shade throughout the summer months.

Now that you have found your site and logs, you are ready to inoculate. Shiitake spawn comes in three forms: sawdust, dowel and thimble. If you choose dowel spawn, use a 5/16” drill bit to drill into the log about one inch deep and six inches apart. Using a rubber mallet, drive the dowels into the log and seal with beeswax or a soy-based wax, like cheese wax. If you use sawdust or thimble spawn you will want to use a 7/16” drill bit and again drill about one inch deep and four to six inches apart. The sawdust spawn will need sealed with the wax again, but the thimble spawn does not need to be sealed. Once your log has been inoculated, lean the log against a tree or fence for one summer. Then you will begin to see the mycelium on the top part of the log to tell you that the log is ready to fruit. Once this happens, submerge the log under water for about 12 hours then place the log back in its growing location. Harvesting will occur in about seven days. Then you can enjoy your delicious shiitake mushrooms. These harvests will occur during the summer months every six to eight weeks for three to four years.

For a demonstration of the inoculation process, watch our video:

The best thing about growing your own cultivated mushrooms is that you know exactly what you are getting when you make your harvests. There is no questioning whether the mushroom is poisonous or safe to eat. Cultivated mushrooms are also a great way to get your family involved in the production process. If you are growing oyster mushrooms on coffee grounds, let the kids be responsible for watering the bucket. If you are inoculating logs, let the kids put the spawn in the logs before the adults put the hot wax in the holes. Kids love to watch the mushrooms grow when they can monitor the change in the buckets every day. It becomes a research project outside of school hours.

Mushroom production in West Virginia is currently showing a four million pound gap between mushrooms demanded and mushrooms produced (Hartz, 2012). This suggests a huge need for added mushroom production in the state and shows market potential for someone interested in commercial production. However, mushroom production just for your household alone can be a fun new project and a way to utilize shady areas of your property that don’t allow for other crops to thrive. Cultivated mushrooms are a very hands-off production crop that can make for a delicious addition to any meal.