Tag Archive: help

Arborists Help Maintain Healthy Trees

Trees are a valuable resource. They add beauty to our community, serve as food and shelter for animals, filter the air, and cool urban environments. Trees can also be a liability when poorly maintained, damaged, or diseased. There are often times when an arborist is needed to help determine the best course of action for the tree.

There are many individuals who are involved in the tree care and removal business. Not all of these people are certified in the care of trees. Arborists are people who receiving training in the planting, care, and maintenance of trees.

Professional arborists have specialized training to create safe, structurally sound trees, even when damaged by storms. Photo by Beth Bolles, UF IFAS Extension Escambia County

Certified arborists go through a voluntary certification process with the International Society of Arboriculture which means that they have at least three years experience and have passed a comprehensive examination developed by tree experts. A certified arborist maintains certification by attending regular training courses.

An arborist may also be a member of another organization which helps professionals stay up-to-date on tree care techniques and information. These include the National Arborist Association and the American Society of Consulting Arborists.

Hiring an arborist to work on your trees is important for several reasons. An arborist can evaluate the tree and determine the steps necessary to create a healthy specimen. In regards to pruning, the professional will determine what type of pruning is necessary and remove branches properly.

Professionals will also perform tree care practices that are recommended by University research.   A few practices that the arborist would not perform include topping trees, using climbing spikes on trees which are not being removed, and making flush cuts against the trunk.

Flush cuts are damaging to trees and can create a future hazard in your landscape. Photo by Beth Bolles, UF IFAS Extension Escambia County


Finally arborists have the skills and equipment to safely and efficiently prune or remove trees.  This includes personal and property damage insurance and workers compensation insurance.

Next time you need tree work or advice, hire a professional for the job. It will definitely be worth the investment.


Author: Beth Bolles – bbolles@ufl.edu

Horticulture Agent, Escambia County

Beth Bolles

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/09/09/arborists-help-maintain-healthy-trees/

It’s Sea Turtle Hatching Time… what you can do to help them

It’s Sea Turtle Hatching Time… what you can do to help them

It is August, we are just off another successful Sea Turtle Baby Shower event in the Pensacola area, and we are in peak season for sea turtle hatching. Those little guys have a tough road to follow trying to emerge from their nest to reach the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  Within the nest the young wait for cooler temperatures and no vibrations to begin their climb towards the surface.  Once they have emerged, they locate the shortwave light of the moon and stars reflecting off of the water and head for sea.  However, ghost crabs, fox, and coyotes, all excavate nests and consume hatchlings running across the sand.


This sea turtle frequents the nearshore snorkel reef at Park East in Escambia County.  Photo: Robert Turpin

This sea turtle frequents the nearshore snorkel reef at Park East in Escambia County.
Photo: Robert Turpin

But these predators are not alone on Pensacola Beach. Humans have moved onto the island in large numbers.  Vehicle tracks, large holes, tents, chairs, and our pets all are obstacles for the young in their journey to the sea.  One of the larger problem has been lighting.  Most of our buildings are well lit for safety. We tend to use shortwave lighting systems that produce bright white lights similar to what the moon and stars reflect off of the Gulf – many times brighter.  Because of this many of the hatchlings will disorient and travel towards the buildings and roads instead of the open Gulf… this certainly is not good.  Disoriented turtles will wonder onto road ways where they are hit by cars, and under or around buildings where they can become lost or come in contact with house pets and rats – not to mention the increase time on land will increase the chance of a native predator finding them.  If they make it until morning, there is the problem of shorebirds and the sun – the chances of the hatchlings surviving a disorientation are not good.

There are a variety of reasons why sea turtle populations are low enough to have them listed, but this is certain one of the larger problems. Data from Escambia County extending back to 1996 show that, on average, 48% of the sea turtle nests disorient – and it has been as high as 70%.


So What Can We Do to Help the 2017 hatchlings?


First, we are having a big year for nesting. Mark Nicholas, GINS and permit holder for sea turtle work here, indicated there were 101 nests in our area this year… we have a chance to have a really big and successful sea turtle nesting season – with a little help from you.

  1. Clean the beach before you head in for the night. Most panhandle counties actually have a “Leave No Trace” ordinance which requires the removal of chairs, tents, etc. – but be sure the holes are filled in and the trash is removed as well.
  2. For inside lighting – turn down the lights and/or close the currents. Exterior lighting should be “turtle friendly” – meaning long wavelength – which means yellow/red. Most panhandle counties have an ordinance for exterior lighting. In Escambia County residents have until 2018 to comply – but we encourage you to make those changes as soon as you can to help the turtles hatching this season. “Turtle Friendly” would include the big three – KEEP IT LOW, KEEP IT LONG, AND KEEP IT SHIELDED.   Keep it low meaning as low to the ground as you can. If that is not possible, place a shield on the fixture to direct the light down to where you are walking and not out to the beach. Keep it long refers to the wavelength, longer than 560 nanometers, which is in the yellow/red range of color. Studies show that hatchlings are attracted to the shortwaves (white/blue) end of the spectrum. Having long wave lighting will increase the chances of the hatchling finding the shortwaves from stars off of the Gulf. You will want to keep the illumination down as well. We recommend 25W bulbs, which is bright enough to see and reduces the chance of attracting a young turtle.
  3. Keep a distance from the marked nests – remember that vibrations (even from your walking) can cause the hatchlings to wait – and waiting too long can cost them their lives. If you are lucky enough to see baby turtles crawling for the Gulf – do not use flash photography and do not use flash lights – unless they have a protective red film producing a low intensity red light.
  4. If you find a group of hatchlings that are obviously disoriented, contact the local authority in your area. In Escambia County we recommend calling the sheriff substation on the island or the Gulf Breeze dispatch – who will contact the National Park.

If you have questions about turtle lighting options, the current county ordinances designed to help island wildlife, or the Turtle Friendly Beaches program, contact your County Extension Sea Grant Agent.

Many counties in the panhandle have lighting and barrier ordinances to protect wildlife and workers.   Photo: Rick O'Connor

Many counties in the panhandle have lighting and barrier ordinances to protect wildlife and workers.
Photo: Rick O’Connor


Author: Rick O’Connor – roc1@ufl.edu

Sea Grant Extension Agent in Escambia County

Rick O’Connor

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/08/26/its-sea-turtle-hatching-time-what-you-can-do-to-help-them/

Free “Brace for the Storm” Workshops Help Homeowners Prepare for Disasters

Free “Brace for the Storm” Workshops Help Homeowners Prepare for Disasters

Aluminum shutters help protect windows from flying debris during windstorms.

Aluminum shutters help protect windows from flying debris during windstorms.

Here in the latter half of June, temperatures have heated up and summer thunderstorms have swept through on a regular basis. As we are reminded often,  hurricane season has begun. While we haven’t had a major storm in 11 years, northwest Florida is still a prime target.

Be Ready Florida is a statewide program dedicated to helping citizens and visitors to the state prepare their homes, businesses, and families for the onslaught of a major windstorm. In order to teach individuals how to best prepare, three free, two-hour online BRACE for the Storm workshops are scheduled for June 29. The workshops will be held from 10 am-noon, 2-4 pm, and 7-9 pm. Registration is online here.

According to their website, “During each workshop participants will gain valuable insight on how homeowners can undertake one or more windstorm mitigation projects on their homes to strengthen it against Florida’s next wind disaster. The importance of mitigating homes against the damage caused by a flood or wildfire will also introduced.” The workshops also discuss how mitigation techniques can save money on homeowner’s insurance.

Be Ready Florida also offers an online directory of contractors, suppliers, funding sources and inspectors that homeowners can access to find help with home projects. In Escambia and Santa Rosa County, homeowners can also contact Rebuild Northwest Florida, a nonprofit organization that uses FEMA funds to offset the cost of home wind mitigation.

To see examples of common wind mitigation building materials and techniques, such as storm shutters, insulated concrete forms, a wind-rated garage door and a tornado shelter, you can visit the Escambia County Extension office at 3740 Stefani Road in Cantonment. To schedule a tour or receive more information about the demonstrations found there, contact me at ctsteven@ufl.edu


Author: Carrie Stevenson – ctsteven@ufl.edu

Coastal Sustainability Agent, Escambia County Extension

Carrie Stevenson

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/06/17/free-brace-for-the-storm-workshops-help-homeowners-prepare-for-disasters/

UGA Decision Aids can Help Farmers Decide What Crops to Plant in 2016

2015 was a very challenging year for Panhandle row crop farmers with the double whammy of low commodity prices and unfavorable weather.  As a result, many farmers are uncertain as to what crops to plant for the coming year.

The University of Georgia has a nice tool or decision aid that provides estimated returns on investment for commonly grown crops in the southeast. The Crop Comparison Tool (CCT), which is an excel spreadsheet, comes pre-loaded with the most current estimates by UGA crop economists, but can be customized for a specific farm.  These comparisons are made in both conventional and strip-till cropping systems.  There is even a peanut price calculator to assist with partial production contracts to develop an overall average peanut price for true comparisons.  The example below is the summary from the strip-tillage crop comparison chart.  Use your mouse or touch screen to enlarge for a full screen view for easier reading.

16 Conventional Crop Comparison Tool

Use mouse or touch screen to enlarge for full screen view for easier reading. Source 2016 UGA Crop Comparison Tool

This tool also offers some charts that allow you to compare two crops and the price at which they provide equal returns. In this example you can see that a contract for cotton would need to be $ 0.73 per pound for dryland cotton and $ 0.69/lb. for irrigated cotton to be equal to a peanut contract of $ 370 per ton.  These prices are based on some assumptions for comparisons sake.  The Crop Comparison Tool has other crop combinations and can be adjusted based on the figures entered into the spreadsheet.

16 Cotton vs Peanuts Chart

Use mouse or touch screen to enlarge for full screen view for easier reading. Source 2016 UGA Crop Comparison Tool

Download the crop comparison tool using the following link:

Crop Comparison Tool (CCT)

The Crop Comparison Tool (CCT) allows users to compare expected net returns of alternative row crops side-by-side. These estimates and comparisons may be useful in acreage planting decisions.

The CCT in Excel format:

  • Allows users to make changes in yield, price, and costs to closer reflect their individual farm situation.
  • Features a peanut price calculator to estimate true peanut price received.
  • Contains charts to compare two competing row crops and aid in pricing decisions.


The University of Georgia also has crop specific budgets that can be used to develop a business plan for the coming year.  These budgets can be helpful to develop a more accurate estimate for an individual farm to use in conjunction with the Crop Comparison Tool.

UGA Crop Budgets

Download the crop budgets using the following links:



Author: Doug Mayo – demayo@ufl.edu

Lead Editor for Panhandle Ag e-news – Jackson County Extension Director – Livestock & Forages Agent. My true expertise is with beef cattle and pasture management, but I can assist with information on other livestock species, as well as recreational fish ponds.

Doug Mayo

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/01/30/uga-decision-aids-can-help-farmers-decide-what-crops-to-plant-in-2016/

4-H Teen Retreat: Growing Leaders with Help from Farm Credit

Teen retreat participants can earn credits towards their camp counselor certification.

Teen retreat participants can earn credits towards their camp counselor certification.

Each summer Florida 4-H camps are bustling with 4-H volunteers, staff, and youth enjoying their week long residential camping experience. As a significant delivery mode in experiential learning, residential camping annually is home to nearly 4000 youth participants and 250 volunteers and agents. Within this mixture are some very important teens that give up their week as a “camper” and graduate to the role of “Counselors” or “Counselors-in-Training (CIT).” These teens, ages 13-18 sacrifice alone time, electronics, and sometimes their sanity in order to fulfill their leadership role at camp and place their campers needs ahead of their own. We’ve seen them overcome struggles, we’ve seen their growth, and we want to pay them back for all the countless hours they have dedicated to the program!

Therefore, the 2016 4-H Teen Retreat is scheduled for February 19th-21st at Camp Cherry Lake for ages 13 to 18! This is no ordinary camping experience for Counselor and CIT age teens. There will be no responsibility of campers but definitely the responsibility of having fun while teambuilding with other teens across the Northwest District. In doing so, teens will participate in workshops, fun-shops, listen to a key note speaker to inspire the leader within them, and then finish up the weekend with dancing, fun activities, and more. All camp rules and dress codes apply for the weekend. This fun-packed weekend costs $ 90 (scholarships may be available) and you can send payment and registration forms to your local 4-H Agent at the county Extension Office. This program would not be possible without the generous support of Farm Credit of Northwest Florida.  Teen Retreat is just one of the ways that Farm Credit is helping 4-H grow future leaders.  NWFL-BLACK LARGE with Tagline

Furthermore, within the 4-H Teen Retreat mini camping experience, teens will have the opportunity to discover the spark within themselves, ignite that spark, and see personal growth with the guidance of 4-H through activities that foster Leadership, Confidence, Compassion, Curiosity, and Creativity. Teens will gain leadership skills and confidence in their abilities as leaders and productive members of their community through workshops focusing on teamwork and personal goal setting. Next, teens will experience growth in compassion as they work together to complete a service project by contributing to “Sole Hope,” an organization that helps place closed toed shoes on the feet of children in third world countries. Lastly, teens will express and grow their curiosity and creativity in “fun-shops” offering projects in photography, videography, nine-square, and para cord bracelet making.

Teens that participate in the 4-H Teen Retreat will leave camp with an arsenal of leadership skills, problem solving strategies, community service ideas and much more to take back to their counties. Teens may also expand their leadership potential by participating in some of UF/IFAS 4-H Priority Programs such as community clubs by becoming an officer or enhancing their current position; participation in citizenship and leadership through 4-H Legislature (June 27-July 1) participation in county events and attending 4-H University (July 25-29th.) Below are links to the State Events page where youth can customize their 4-H experience and tailor participation in events to fit their own personal leadership goals.

MorgancabinBy participating in 4-H, youth are reported over twice as likely not to participate in risky behavior and are over 3 times more likely to contribute to their communities as compared to non-4Her’s (Florida 4-H: Facts & Impacts.) In the 2014 4-H Common Measures Statewide Survey of 4-H Seniors, 92% reported they know how to deal with stress in positive ways, 84% agree they learned things that helped them make a difference in their communities, 98% agreed they respect people from other cultures, and 95% agreed they can apply knowledge in ways that solve real-life problems through community service. These statistics show that through participating in 4-H activities and events, youth are becoming more competent, productive citizens in their communities. This in turn leads 4-H youth to be better prepared for leadership roles within the workplace.

Take advantage of everything 4-H has to offer by kick-starting 2016 with the 4-H Teen Retreat! For more information on how to sign up for the 2016 4-H Teen Retreat contact your local 4-H Agent and complete the registration form below. For resources on leadership please visit these EDIS publications referenced in this article.

  • Teen Retreat Registration & Medication Forms:



  • Florida 4-H Camping Facts & Impacts:


  • Florida 4-H Facts & Impacts:


  • 4-H Common Measures Statewide Survey:



Author: Jena Brooks – brooks15@ufl.edu

Jena Brooks

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/01/29/4-h-teen-retreat-growing-leaders-with-help-from-farm-credit/

3 Ways You Can Help Keep Our Bays Healthy

3 Ways You Can Help Keep Our Bays Healthy

Following a previous article on the number of ways you can help sea turtles, this week we will look at ways that local residents can help keep our waterways clean. Poor water quality is a concern all over the country, and so it is locally as well. When we have heavy rain all sorts of products wash off into streams, rivers, bays, and bayous. The amount and impact of these products vary but most environmental scientists will agree that one of biggest problems is excessive nutrients.


Marine science students monitoring nutrient levels in a local waterway.  Photo: Ed Bauer

Marine science students monitoring nutrient levels in a local waterway. Photo: Ed Bauer

Nutrient runoff comes in many forms. Most think of fertilizers we use on our lawns but it also includes grass clippings, leaf litter, and animal waste. These organic products contain nitrogen and phosphorus which, in excess, can trigger algal blooms in the bay. These algal blooms could contain toxic forms of microscopic plants that cause red tide but more often they are nontoxic and cause the water to become turbid (murky) which can reduce sunlight reaching the bottom, stressing seagrasses. When these algal blooms eventually die they are consumed by bacteria which require oxygen to complete the process. This can cause the dissolved oxygen concentrations to drop low enough to trigger fish kills. This process is called eutrophication. In addition to this, animal waste from birds and mammals contain fecal coliform bacteria. These bacteria are used as indicators of animal waste levels and can be high enough to require health advisories to be issued.


So what we can do about this?


  1. We can start with landscaping with native plants to your area. Our barrier islands are xeric environments (desert-like). Most of our native plants can tolerate low levels of rain and high levels of salt spray. If used in your yard they will require less watering and fertilizing, which saves the homeowner money. It also reduces the amount of fertilizer that can reach the bay.
  2. If you choose to use nonnative plants you should have your soil tested to determine which fertilizer, and how much, should be applied. You can have your soil tested at your county Extension Office for a small fee. Knowing your soil composition will ensure that the correct fertilizer, and the correct amount, will be used. Again, this reduces the amount reaching the bay and saving the home owner money.
  3. Where ever water is discharged into the bay you can plant what is called a Living Shoreline. A Living Shoreline is a buffer of native marsh grasses that can consume the nutrients before they reach the bay and also reducing the amount of sediment that washes off as well, reducing the turbidity problem many of our seagrasses are facing.

These three practices will help reduce nutrient runoff. In addition to lowering the nutrient level in the bays it will also reduce the amount of freshwater that enters. Decrease salinity and increase turbidity may be the cause of the decline of several species once common here; such as scallops and horseshoe crabs. Florida Sea Grant is currently working with local volunteers to monitor terrapins, horseshoe crabs, and scallops in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. We are also posting weekly water quality data on our website every weekend. You can find each week’s numbers at http://escambia.ifas.ufl.edu. If you have any questions about soil testing, landscaping, living shorelines, or wildlife monitoring contact Rick O’Connor at roc1@ufl.edu. Help us improve water quality in our local waters.


Author: Rick O’Connor – roc1@ufl.edu

Sea Grant Extension Agent in Escambia County

Rick O’Connor

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/05/15/3-ways-you-can-help-keep-our-bays-healthy/

5 Things You Can Do to Help Sea Turtles During Nesting Season

5 Things You Can Do to Help Sea Turtles During Nesting Season

It is May and this is the official beginning of the sea turtle nesting season. These ancient creatures have followed this nesting cycle for centuries traveling the open ocean, feeding and resting on reefs, then returning to shore in the spring and summer to breed and lay their eggs on beaches and barrier islands. What is neat is that Dr. Archie Carr discovered they return to the same beaches near where they were born. So those visiting our beaches are in a sense, “our” turtles. Another interesting fact about panhandle sea turtles is that a significant number of male turtles are produced here. Gender in most turtles is determined by the temperature of the egg during incubation in the sand; colder temperatures producing males. Since the panhandle has cooler temperatures than the lower peninsula of Florida, we produce the majority of the males for our populations. This is also why we have fewer nests than south Florida, since it is the females who return to shore.


Tracks left by a nesting Green Sea Turtle.  Courtesy of Gulf Islands National Seashore.

Tracks left by a nesting Green Sea Turtle. Courtesy of Gulf Islands National Seashore.

However, in the last 50 years more and more people have moved to the beaches and barrier islands of the panhandle and the sea turtles have run into problems continuing their ancient cycle. Four of the five species of sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico are currently listed as endangered; the loggerhead is listed as a threatened species. Though they have issues with natural predators much of their trouble is due to human activities. HERE ARE FIVE THINGS YOU CAN DO TO HELP SEA TURTLE NESTING THIS SEASON.


  1. Offshore, more and more turtles are being struck by boats. These are air breathing reptiles and need to surface. Unfortunately nesting season is also during the height of fishing and diving season. Many boaters must follow no wake zones to reach open waters and want to open up the throttle when they do. As with manatees in our rivers we ask that you keep a lookout for the surfacing heads as you are heading to and from your destination.
  2. Both offshore and inshore sea turtles are encountering more plastics in the marine environment. Turtles become entangled in discarded fishing line and actually consume many forms of plastic debris drifting in the water column. One loggerhead found on Dauphin Island had 11 pounds of plastic lodged in its esophagus, which obviously kept it from feeding properly. When you go boating please develop some method of storing plastics and fishing line until you reach shore. Once you return to the boat ramp please use the fishing line recycle bins to discard your fishing line. Fishing line placed in these are recycled into new fishing line. If there is not a fishing line recycle bin at your boat ramp contact your County Sea Grant Agent to see if one can be placed there. If you are enjoying the beach from shore please discard of all solid waste in trash or recycle cans before leaving.
  3. On the beach many residents and visitors spend the day playing in the sand and building sand castles. This time long activity is great fun but leaving large holes in the sand when you leave has not only entrapped turtles but have been problems for turtle watch and safety vehicles using the beach. Please fill in your holes before you leave for the day.
  4. Another issue on the beach are chairs and tents left over night. Many residents and visitors staying on the beach for a week or longer like to keep their chairs and tents set up for the duration. However this has caused barrier, and sometimes entrapment, issues for the turtles. We ask all to remove these from the beach at the end of the day.
  5. And finally, the lights. 40-50% of our turtle nests in Escambia County are disoriented by artificial lighting. Most panhandle counties do have beach lighting ordinances. We ask both residents and visitors to become familiar with their ordinances and abide by them. Exterior lighting should be low to the ground, long in wavelength (yellow or red), and shielded to direct the light down. Interior lighting can be blocked by closing the shades, moving the light source away from the window, or simply turning them off. All counties’ ordinances have some version of these basic ideas.

With a little help from us, our sea turtles can continue their ancient cycle. These animals are fascinating to see and for many, the highlight of their trip to the beach. If you have questions about sea turtle biology or the local lighting ordinances contact your Sea Grant Agent at the county extension office.


Author: Rick O’Connor – roc1@ufl.edu

Sea Grant Extension Agent in Escambia County

Rick O’Connor

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/05/10/5-things-you-can-do-to-help-sea-turtles-during-nesting-season/

UF/IFAS Extension to Help Farm Families Secure their Financial Future

The Barton Family.  Photo by Shepard Eubanks, UF/IFAS

The Barton Family. Photo by Shepard Eubanks, UF/IFAS

Kimberly Moore Wilmoth, UF/IFAS Communications Services & Michael Gutter, UF/IFAS Finical Management Specialist

For Bonifay farmer and rancher Ken Barton, business and family is more than just a balancing act – it is his livelihood.

Barton is 10 years away from retirement, and concerned about how he will hand over the reins of the family business he established in 1979 to his son and son-in-law.

“I think one of the things that kind of sticks out in my mind – what will I need to do to make sure that when I’m ready to retire – or simply have a smaller share and smaller responsibility – how do I leave that to my children without a huge tax burden on them or me?” Barton asked recently. He owns 260 acres and leases another 1,500 to grow row crops and raise cattle. “That’s my concern  ─ that we can transfer that farm and those assets to the next generation without hidden things – things that we’re not aware of that could cause us the most problems.”

Many Florida farming and ranching families face that same question, and that’s where the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ Extension program, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Florida Department of Financial Services, are stepping up with a new take on the 6-year-old Florida Saves program. It’s called Agriculture Saves ─  or AgSave$ ─ and it is designed to help farmers and ranchers make that transition from one generation to the next.

It is so important that Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and state agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam are issuing a proclamation on Feb. 5, declaring February 23 – 28, 2015, as Florida Saves week.

“Whereas, 80 percent of surveyed farmers plan to transfer their operation to the next generation, but only 20 percent feel confident their succession plan will achieve that goal,” the proclamation reads.  The Florida cabinet is set that morning to sign the proclamation, which also encourages military families to save money.

“Personal and household savings are fundamental to financial stability, yet it is estimated that 50 percent of Americans currently live paycheck-to-paycheck,” said CFO Atwater. “By sponsoring this resolution, we can help to ensure that Florida has a more secure economic future through education efforts and by encouraging smart, responsible financial decisions.”

On Feb. 23 in Marianna, Jay, and Monticello, Northwest Florida Extension offices will host a Summit with presentations designed to help farmers and ranchers plan for their futures.

“Building wealth in general is an important part of people securing their longtime financial futures,” said Michael Gutter, a family financial management state specialist and interim program leader in the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences. “In fact, most business owners, especially farmers, are tying up a lot of their income, a lot of their wealth, in that family business.  So it’s important to diversify and make sure that they have other sources of revenue available to them for later on in life, as well as being able to reach some of their goals ─ including sending their children to college to learn even better ways to run the family business.”

Some questions ranching and farming families should ask include:

  • Are you interested in participating in the family operation? How?
  • Are you prepared to assume that responsibility? If no, what would it take to prepare?
  • Should family members, not active in the operation, attain or retain an ownership interest? If no, how should family assets be distributed?
  • If you want to be included in the operation, are you willing to invest in an ownership interest?
  • What is your biggest question, or unanswered concern, regarding succession intentions?
  • Are there any other succession-related topics you would like to add to the agenda for an upcoming meeting?

Ag Saves logoAnyone in the agriculture industry can attend the Extension’s AgSave$ Summit in Marianna and Jay, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. CST and Monticello, 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. EST.  Lunch will be provided thanks to Farm Credit of Northwest Florida.   This session will  focus on retirement and succession planning.

To register online: bit.ly/AgSavesSummit

A more in-depth, four session course will be follow and be held on Tuesday evenings:  March 24, June 23, July 21 and August 18, at Panhandle Extension Offices. The Ag Save$ Course registration is $ 55 per family and each family will receive the Farm Journal Legacy Project Workbook.



Author: admin – webmaster@ifas.ufl.edu


Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/02/07/ufifas-extension-to-help-farm-families-secure-their-financial-future/

Wood ducks could use your help this time of year

Wood ducks could use your help this time of year

Wood ducks are one of the most colorful ducks in North America. Breeding males showcase an unbelievable combination of colors including a red bill and eyes, a metallic purplish-green crested head, black cheeks with thick white stripes, a maroon chest and rump, black and blue wings, dark yellow sides, and a white belly. The drab grayish-brown females are most easily recognized by their white eye ring and crested head.


A brightly colored male wood duck. Photo: USFWS National Digital Library

A brightly colored male wood duck. Photo: USFWS National Digital Library


A pair of wood ducks with the more drably colored female in the foreground.  Photo: USFWS National Digital Library

A pair of wood ducks with the more drably colored female in the foreground. Photo: USFWS National Digital Library


Another distinguishing characteristic of wood ducks is their habit of nesting in Florida. Few species of ducks do this.

In Florida, wood ducks begin laying eggs in cavities during late January. They prefer cavities located within a half mile of permanent water bodies. They like cavities in large trees that have clear access to a large entry hole, and shrubs nearby to offer protection for newly-hatched ducklings.

In areas with few large cavity trees, nest boxes can provide alternative locations to nest. Nest boxes intended for wood ducks should be made of natural wood: cedar is a good option because it weathers well. Boxes should be mounted with the entrance hole 6 or more feet above the ground or the surface of the water (if placed over a pond or swamp). Nesting hens will appreciate you placing some cedar wood shavings in the bottom of the box to serve as nesting material. Adding a predator guard below the nest box will greatly increase the chances the hen and her eggs/ducklings don’t get eaten by snakes or raccoons.

It’s best to have nest boxes in place before egg laying begins, which is right about now: late January. However, it’s never too late in the year to put up a new nest box. A box put out later in the year may be useful for a late-nesting hen. Many females have more than one brood during the long nesting long season which won’t end until late summer, so opportunities exist for a nest box installed later in the year to get used.

Wood ducks were given their name because they spend much of their time in wooded swamps, ponds, creeks, rivers, and freshwater wetlands. They prefer bodies of water that have 25-50% open water with 50-75% vegetative cover (a mix of shrubs, emergent plants, and trees) where they can hide and feed.

Wood ducks are sometimes called the “acorn duck” because of their fondness for these treats that fall from oak trees. They have a special preference for acorns from water oaks, laurel oaks, and shumard oaks. They also enjoy duck weed, smartweed, waterlily, seeds from many sedges, rushes, and grasses, as well as fruits from native trees and shrubs and occasionally invertebrates (spiders, insects, snails, crawfish).

Several adaptations differentiate wood ducks from other waterfowl and equip them for life in both woods and water. Well-developed toes and claws allow them to grab onto tree branches while perching. The placement of their legs near the center of their bodies allows them to walk on land more gracefully than most other ducks. Their broad wings and long wide tail increase maneuverability while flying to their cavity nest.

To learn more about wood ducks and what you can do to provide habitat for them, see this publication from UF/IFAS Extension.

Author: Holly Ober – holly.ober@ufl.edu

I am an Associate Professor and Extension Specialist in the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation. My research covers wildlife ecology, habitat management, and identifying creative ways to cope with nuisance wildlife.


Author: Rick O’Connor – roc1@ufl.edu

Sea Grant Extension Agent in Escambia County

Rick O’Connor

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/01/31/wood-ducks-could-use-your-help-this-time-of-year/

Get Free Tax Prep Help

VITAIn the early ’70s, Gary Iskowitz was doing graduate work as well as teaching tax law while working for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Mr. Iskowitz saw a growing problem with questionable tax preparers who were scamming low-income people in his area. He did not like what he saw! Consequently, he proposed training a few like-minded student volunteers to go into the community to prepare free tax returns for under-served residents.
The rest, they say, is history! Starting with this volunteer effort, 40 years later, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program is still going strong.

VITA still is designed to promote and support free tax preparation service for the under-served in both urban and non-urban locations. Service is targeted to low-to moderate- income individuals, persons with disabilities, the elderly, and limited English-speaking individuals.

Why? Just as in Gary Iskowitz’ time, this program is an effort to provide both a valuable community service and a powerful learning experience for the participants. Not only does a tax payer get their taxes done for free, the local community benefits from the monies spent by the tax payer. Plus, the IRS is pleased because citizens are in compliance with federal law.

Check out your local VITA sites this year. Around North Florida, there are numerous volunteer sites being readied for the 2014 tax year. Some of these sites are traditional, where taxes are done in person; some sites prepare taxes via SKYPE – the telecommunications application software that specializes in providing video chat and voice calls from computers. Using SKYPE as an application to accessing VITA has been well received, especially in rural locations.

If you plan to take advantage of any of the VITA programs this year, be sure to bring the proper documentation. A return cannot be prepared without the appropriate documentation. For a complete list of documentation needed for a VITA-prepared tax return, contact your local VITA tax preparation site. Where are these sites? Call your local helpline 2-1-1 or visit http://irs.treasury.gov/freetaxprep/.



Author: Heidi Copeland – hbc@ufl.edu

Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Agent, Leon County Florida Educational Program Focus: •Food, Nutrition and Wellness •Child Development and Parenting

Heidi Copeland

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/01/30/get-free-tax-prep-help/

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