Tag Archive: National

National Grandparents Day 2017: September 10


For nearly 40 years, National Grandparents Day has been celebrated as an opportunity to express gratitude for all that grandparents do for families and communities.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau Profile, America Facts for Features, in 1970, Marian McQuade initiated a campaign to establish a day to honor grandparents.  In 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed a federal proclamation, declaring the first Sunday after Labor Day to be National Grandparents Day.

Across the U.S., not only are grandparents appreciated for sharing their time, wisdom, and values, but they are currently stepping up to raise over 7.2 million children under the age of 18 whose biological parents are unable to do so, thus keeping the children out of the foster care system.  In Florida, 11% of children live in homes where householders are grandparents or other relatives.

Locally, in Leon County, there are more than 2,000 grandparent-headed families, where:

  • 13.1% of the grandparents are 60 years and older
  • 39.8% of these families live below the poverty level
  • Nearly 50% of these families have had the children for 5 or more years

The reasons as to why so many grandparents are raising grandchildren are many and varied.  Nationally, substance abuse causes more than one third of this type of placement.  Nevertheless, because of a grandparent’s selfless devotion and generosity to the needs of others, grandparents are, in fact, owed a great deal of thanks for their altruism.

As one grandmother exclaimed, “For my 50th birthday, I got a 2 year-old.  My story isn’t unique.”  In fact, grandparent roles in children’s lives are so significant that the Grandparents as Parents (GaP) Program of the Tallahassee Senior Foundation, funded by the Leon County Commission, grants, and donations, has a program and support group just for them!  According to Karen Boebinger, GaP Program Coordinator, “The GaP program provides moral support and resource assistance to these grandfamilies who are trying to navigate through their new lifestyle.”

AARP® has streamlined the gathering of relevant information pertinent to this nationwide dilemma.  The AARP® resource, Grand Families Fact Sheet, includes state-specific data and programs available, as well as information about public benefits, educational assistance, legal relationship options, and state laws.  This fact sheet also contains many other resource tools such as the National Council on Aging’s questionnaire that helps grandparent caregivers and/or the children they are raising determine if they qualify for certain programs that pay for food, an increase in income, and/or home and healthcare costs.  Once the questionnaire is completed, the website generates a list of eligible programs and contact information.  (www.aarp.org/quicklink)

Take a moment today and every day to give thanks and appreciation for the thousands of grandparents in our community and around the country for the service they do for children.  One thing is for certain:  grandparents are more valuable to their grandchildren and communities than ever.  Grandparents are indispensable and important people.

Want more information about supporting GaP or do you need support yourself?  Contact Karen Boebinger, GaP Program Coordinator, at 850-891-4027 or karen.boebinger@talgov.com.



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/2017/09/12/national-grandparents-day-2017-september-10/

Keep an Eye on Your Eye Health – August is National Eye Exam Month

Most of us are willing to go to the doctor or the dentist, which are both part of taking care of our health. However, do you go to the eye doctor? If not, you definitely should add it to your healthy lifestyle regime. Eye exams at every age and stage of life can help you keep your vision strong. August is National Eye Exam month; this is the perfect reminder to schedule a comprehensive eye exam.

The Vision Council of America reports that 12.2 million Americans require some sort of vision correction, but do not use any. Nearly 50% of parents with children under 12 have never taken their children to an eye-care professional.

Many people think their eyesight is just fine, but then they get that first pair of glasses or contact lenses and the world becomes much clearer – everything from fine print to street signs. Improving and/or maintaining your eyesight is important – about 11 million Americans over age 12 need vision correction, but that is just one of the reasons to get your eyes examined. Regular eye exams are also an important part of finding eye diseases early and preserving your vision.

Eye diseases are common and can go unnoticed for a long time. Some diseases have no symptoms at first. A comprehensive dilated eye exam by an optometrist (a medical professional with a focus on regular vision care who can prescribe eyeglasses and contacts) or ophthalmologist (a medical eye doctor with a focus on the complete eye health) is necessary to find eye diseases in the early stages when treatment to prevent vision loss is most effective. During the exam, visual acuity (sharpness), depth perception, eye alignment, and eye movement are tested. Eye drops are used to make your pupils larger so your eye doctor can see inside your eyes and check for signs of health problems.

How often should you have an eye exam?

  • A child’s eyes should be checked regularly by an eye doctor or pediatrician. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends vision screening for all children at least once between age 3 and 5 years to detect amblyopia or risk factors for the disease. Amblyopia is when the vision in one of the eyes is reduced because the eye and the brain are not working together properly. The eye itself looks normal, but it is not being used normally because the brain is favoring the other eye. This condition is sometimes called lazy eye.
  • People with diabetes should have a dilated eye exam every year.
  • People with a family history of glaucoma should have an eye exam every year.
  • Adults with good health should have an eye exam at least every 2 years.

Some people are at higher risk for glaucoma and should have a dilated eye exam every 1 to 2 years:

  • African Americans, ages 40 years and older.
  • Everyone older than age 60, especially Mexican Americans.
  • People with a family history of glaucoma.

Early treatment is critically important to prevent some common eye diseases from causing permanent vision loss or blindness:

  •  Cataracts (clouding of the lens), the leading cause of vision loss in the United States.
  • Diabetic retinopathy (causes damage to blood vessels in the back of the eye), the leading cause of blindness in American adults.
  • Glaucoma (a group of diseases that damages the optic nerve).
  • Age-related macular degeneration (gradual breakdown of light-sensitive tissue in the eye).

Other reasons to see your eye doctor: If you have any of the following eye problems, do not wait for your next appointment, schedule your eye appointment as soon as possible:

  • Decreased vision
  • Draining or redness of the eye
  • Eye pain
  • Double vision
  • Diabetes
  • Floaters (tiny specks that appear to float before your eyes)
  • Halos around lights
  • Flashes of light.


Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 10 Tips to Protect Your Vision:

  1. Get a regular comprehensive dilated eye exam.
  2. Know your family’s eye health history.
  3. Eat right to protect your sight. You have heard that carrots are good for your eyes. But eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables—particularly dark leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, or collard greens—is important for keeping your eyes healthy, too.
  4. Maintain a healthy weight.
  5. Wear protective eyewear when playing sports or doing activities around the home. Protective eyewear includes safety glasses and goggles, safety shields, and eye guards specially designed to provide the correct protection.
  6. Be cool and wear your shades. Wear sunglasses that block out 99% to 100% of UV-A and UV-B radiation (the sun’s rays).
  7. Give your eyes a rest. If you spend a lot of time at the computer or focusing on any one thing, you sometimes forget to blink and your eyes can get fatigued. Try the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look away about 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds. This short exercise can help reduce eyestrain.
  8. Clean your hands and your contact lenses properly.
  9. Practice workplace eye safety.
  10. Quit smoking or never start.

Of the estimated 61 million US adults at high risk for vision loss, only half visited an eye doctor last year. Regular eye care can have a life-changing impact on preserving the vision of millions of people. Be sure to make your eye health a priority in your life. Healthy eyes lead to better vision and an overall better quality of life.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Sources: Vision Council of America  https://www.thevisioncouncil.org/      Center for Disease Control and Prevention    https://www.cdc.gov/



Author: Melanie Taylor – metaylor@ufl.edu

Melanie Taylor

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/08/05/keep-an-eye-on-your-eye-health-august-is-national-eye-exam-month/

NISAW 2017: National Invasive Species Awareness Week

Aliens are invading our forests, pastures, fields and lawns. Well, okay, not aliens but invasive species are invading our beautiful landscapes.  Invasive species are non-native or exotic species that do not naturally occur in an area, cause economic or environmental harm, or negatively impact human health.  These invasive species have become the number one threat to biodiversity on protected lands.  However, invasive species do not know boundaries, and as a result, public, private lands, natural and man-made water bodies, and associated watersheds are affected.   National Invasive Species Awareness Week (NISAW) is February 27-March 3, 2017.

It is estimated that Florida Agriculture loses $ 179 million annually from invasive pests (http://www.defenders.org/sites/default/files/publications/florida.pdf). Generally, eradication of an invasive species is difficult and expensive.  Most of the mitigation efforts focus on control rather than eradication.

EDDMaps (Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System), a web-based mapping system for reporting invasive species, currently has 667 different invasive plants reported in Florida. Many invasive insects, animals and diseases have also landed in Florida.  Some famous invasive species in Florida include cogongrass, wild hogs, red imported fire ants, Chinese tallow, and lionfish.

For National Invasive Species Awareness Week, the University of Florida IFAS Northwest Extension District will highlight new invasive species each day. There are a couple of ways to receive this information during NISAW:

You can help us control invasive species in several ways. First, always be cautious when bringing plants or plant materials into the state.  Plants or even dead plant material can harbor weeds, insects and diseases that can become invasive in our state.  Second, when you see something suspicious, contact your local extension agent for help identifying the weed, insect or disease.  Third, you can volunteer your time and effort.  Invasive species control is difficult and requires a cooperative effort for funding and manpower.  The state has several Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas (CISMA) in which public and private organizations work together to control invasive species in their area.  These CISMAs hold work days in which volunteers can help remove invasive species from the environment.

For more information about NISAW or invasive species, contact your local county extension agent.


Author: Jennifer Bearden – bearden@ufl.edu

Agriculture Agent Okaloosa County

Jennifer Bearden

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/02/27/nisaw-2017-national-invasive-species-awareness-week/

Soar with 4-H and the National Flight Academy

Kyle working the air traffic control booth at the National Flight Academy. Photo Credit: Prudence Caskey

4-H has joined forces with the National Flight academy to bring a unique and exciting aviation camp to our 4-Hers.  The National Flight Academy builds heart-pumping, adrenaline-filled story line, which brings life to a mission as if the students are in a real-world scenario. Students apply these skills by flying the high-performance X-12 Triad, the National Flight Academy’s experimental aircraft, offering them hands-on comprehension of the principles of flight thrust, hovering and target drops. Our 3-day cruise will be held on President’s Day Weekend, February 18th – February 20th 2017.  The event is open to 4-Hers across the Southeast and costs $ 375 per student which includes rooming, food, and a lot of fun and learning! This would be an awesome holiday or birthday gift for any special youth in your life.

Participation in the event can also help young people develop both life and workforce skills- not to mention academic achievement. Kyle Caskey, a Santa Rosa County 4-Her, attended a week-long cruise last summer and shared:

“Before I went to the National Flight Academy (NFA), I was really intimidated by math. I love science, but just didn’t get the math. At NFA, I was able to use math and see why it works. I brought my grade up to an A! Oh yeah, the food is really good too!”

Click Here for registration instructions: 4hregistrationletter-for-nfa. You must be registered before January 28th, 2017.

The National Flight Academy is located on the NAS base at 1 Fetterman Way, NAS Pensacola, FL 32508.  See more about the academy at http://www.nationalflightacademy.com.

If you have an interest in science, engineering, math, and/or technology (STEM), consider becoming a 4-H volunteer so that you can share your passion to spark the next generation of scientists, engineers and innovators.  Contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office or visit http://florida4h.org for more information.



Author: Prudence Caskey – prudencecaskey@ufl.edu

Prudence Caskey

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/01/06/soar-with-4-h-and-the-national-flight-academy/

Celebrating Choctawhatchee Bay – National Estuaries Week

Celebrating Choctawhatchee Bay – National Estuaries Week

Rocky Bayou Aquatic Preserve - Niceville, Florida

Rocky Bayou Aquatic Preserve – Choctawhatchee Bay, Niceville, Florida – Photo by Laura Tiu

September 17-24, 2016 was the nation’s 28th time to celebrate America’s coasts and estuaries during National Estuaries Week.  This week helps us to remember to appreciate the challenges these coastal ecosystems face, along with their beauty and utility.

Estuaries, semi-enclosed bodies of water with both fresh and saltwater, dot the Gulf Coast of the United States from Brownsville Texas to Key West, Florida. These estuaries are important as they serve as drainage basins for many of the large river systems, and play a significant role in the nation’s seafood industry.

Florida’s six major Panhandle estuaries, which includes Perdido Bay, Pensacola Bay (including Escambia Bay), Choctawhatchee Bay, St. Andrew Bay, St. Joseph Bay and Apalachicola Bay, are unique ecosystems teeming with life and diversity. Critical habitat includes important seagrass beds that support both the larval and adult stages of fish and invertebrates. In Choctawhatchee Bay, there is also critical foraging habitat for the federally protected Gulf sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus desotoi) and stream habitat for the endangered Okaloosa darter.

Choctawhatchee Bay is in Okaloosa and Walton counties in the Florida Panhandle. It is approximately 30 miles long and from three and a half to six miles wide, with a total area of 129 square miles. It is relatively shallow varying from 10 to 40 feet deep. Large portions of the western half of Choctawhatchee Bay are militarily restricted (Eglin Airforce Base).  The Bay is fed by the Choctawhatchee River and numerous small creeks that feed into several bayous.  The only opening to the Gulf of Mexico is the East Pass, which ironically is at the Western end of the Bay in Destin, Florida.  This is where the saltwater and freshwater mix.

Continued industrial and residential development in the watershed regions that drain into many of these estuaries has impacted them in a number of ways. Pollution comes from storm water runoff, lawns, industry and farms. The shorelines are impacted by development, which causes sedimentation and in turn loss of vegetation.  This reduces water clarity and habitat for wildlife.

Many organizations work to protect this estuary and reach out to others through education, restoration, and recreation events. Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance (CBA) is one such organization committed to ensuring sustainable utilization of the Choctawhatchee River and Bay.  They, working with their partners, provide leadership for the stewardship of the Bay. Alison McDowell, director of the CBA, notes that 75-85% of commercially and recreationally important species that are caught in the Gulf spend part of their lifecycle in the Bay. McDowell says a key factor in the Bay’s health is monitoring the water quality and reducing erosion, and the Oyster Reef Restoration program started in 2006 does just that.

There are often opportunities for the general public to join in some of the conservation efforts taking place in the Bay. For more information, like the Okaloosa or Walton County Extension Facebook page.

Kayaking Choctawhatchee Bay

Kayaking Choctawhatchee Bay – Photo by Laura Tiu




Author: Laura Tiu – lgtiu@ufl.edu

Sea Grant Extension Agent – Okaloosa and Walton Counties

Laura Tiu

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/09/23/celebrating-choctawhatchee-bay-national-estuaries-week/

Panhandle Estuaries – National Estuaries Week

Panhandle Estuaries – National Estuaries Week

Humans have been settling on, and around, coastal estuaries since they first arrived in the panhandle over 10,000 years ago. These bodies of water have provided food and recreation as long as anyone can remember.  They are a magnet for those looking to build homes or businesses – and we continue to be attracted to them today.

Black Needlerush is one of the species of marsh grasses that live in brackish conditions.

Black Needlerush is one of the species of marsh grasses that live in brackish conditions.

Estuaries are defined as semi-enclosed bodies of water where fresh and sea water mix.  The point where the freshwater enters is called the head of the bay; the point where seawater enters is called the mouth. Seawater is denser than freshwater so during incoming tides the saline water tends to “wedge” it’s way into the upper estuary along the bottom.  Under certain conditions, it is possible to catch freshwater fish near the surface and marine species on the bottom at the same location.  The mixture of fresh and seawater makes for an interesting cocktail of salinities termed brackish water – which is required for the development of almost 90% of the commercially valuable seafood species we enjoy.  This ecosystem supports stands of vegetation which are also important in the development of some species – some of these systems are the most biologically productive on the planet.


We are lucky to have several large estuaries along the Florida panhandle. All of our bays are what are called drowned river valleys.  Most are very wide and pretty shallow, with the highest average depth being 17 feet in Choctawhatchee Bay.  The rivers that feed these estuaries begin in states north of us and bring with them needed freshwater and nutrients.  Each of the panhandle estuaries is unique and provides different resources for their neighboring communities.  Below is a breakdown of some of these characteristics.  This information was provided by GulfBase.org.


Bay Surface Area (km2) Drainage Area (km2) Avg. Daily Inflow (m3/sec) Avg. Depth (m) Avg. Salinity (ppt) Area of Wetlands (km2) Area of Submerged Vegetation (km2)
Perdido 130 3,100 62 3.0 15 688 ND
Pensacola 370 18,100 328 4.0 23 991 32
Choctawhatchee 334 14,000 241 5.0 25 1,133 12
St. Andrews 243 2,800 127 4.0 31 1,016 53
St. Joseph    ND
Apalachicola 554 53,100 824 3.0 22 2,396 36
Apalachee 412 11,900 150 3.0 30 2,813 130


You can see some of our estuaries have large areas and tremendous amounts of freshwater inflow. Others not so much, the bays with less freshwater inflow have higher salinities – and support a different ecology than the others.  Is one better than the other?… no… certainly our ancestors understood this.  Higher salinities meant more seagrass, scallops, and urchins – certain species of fish and maybe even marine turtles could be found here.  Lower salinities meant a different group of fish, oysters, and crabs.  It’s all good!  Residents should benefit from what the bay provides – and not try to make “your bay” more like “another bay”.


They have suffered some over the years – discharge containing organic and inorganic chemicals have tainted some drinking water supplies as well as reduce valuable aquatic resources. Increased sediments from development have darkened the waters reducing light and reducing submerged plants.  Heavily fishing and recreation have impacted both the habitats and the species that inhabit them.  Through the efforts of universities, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and private citizens many of the problems have been addressed – and recovery is occurring… but there is still more to do.


National Estuaries Week is a chance for all who live in the panhandle to realize how important these bodies of water are to our locally economy and to our quality of life. We hope you will appreciate them and do your part to help protect them. HAPPY NATIONAL ESTUARIES WEEK!


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/2016/09/23/panhandle-estuaries-national-estuaries-week/

Celebrate National Blueberry Month!

blueberry-monthDid you know that July is National Blueberry Month? Blueberries are in season now, and reasonably priced at grocery stores, fruit stands, and farmers’ markets.  Many growers also offer a “pick your own” service which can be a fun family outing.  The good news is that this delicious treat has many health benefits.  Blueberries are low in calories- only 80 calories per cup but are packed with nutrients.  A handful of blueberries satisfy the recommended intake of dietary fiber.  They are also high in vitamin C- one serving provides 25% of your daily requirement.  Blueberries are also high in manganese, which helps the body process cholesterol and nutrients such as carbohydrates and protein.

Blueberries are a native North American plant, and it was only within the last 100 years that we have been able to grow them commercially.  All thanks to Elizabeth White, the daughter of a New Jersey farmer, teamed up with USDA botanist Frederick Coville to domesticate the blueberry.  They spent years identifying blueberry plants with desirable qualities for cultivation.  They harvested and sold the first cultivated crop of blueberries in 1916- exactly 100 years ago!  Until 20 years ago, blueberries could only be grown in northern climates like New Jersey, Maine, and Michigan.  Thanks to the University of Florida, southern blueberry cultivars were developed through research that don’t require as many chilling hours and bear more fruit.  Although Florida is not currently the leading producer of blueberries, we are quickly catching up with 25 million pounds produced annually!

Fun Facts about Blueberries:

  • Blueberries are relatives of the rhododendron family
  • The perfect blueberry should have a “dusty’ appearance
  • Don’t wash your blueberries until you are ready to eat them (washing speeds up the spoiling process).
  • To freeze blueberries, place them unwashed, on a cookie sheet and flash freeze.  Then place them in quart-size freezer bags to use later in smoothies, crumbles, cobblers, or ice cream.
  • Recent studies show that blueberries may have the potential to aid in memory loss, vision loss and even slow down the aging process
  • Native Americans recognized the nutritional value of blueberries and used them for medicinal purposes as well as flavorings
  • Early American Colonists used blueberries to dye fabric and also to color paint

This month, celebrate the blueberry by planting a bush, visiting a U-pick farm, or making a tasty home-made blueberry treat.  Fresh From Florida (a division of the Florida Department of Ag) has lots of free and delicious recipes.  Try Florida Blueberry Parfait, Blueberry Breakfast Casserole, Blueberry and Blue Cheese Salad  or even Blueberry Barbecue Sauce!

Additional UF/IFAS Resources about Blueberries:



Author: Heather Kent – hckent@ufl.edu

Heather Kent is the Regional Specialized 4-H Agent in the Northwest Extension District.

Heather Kent

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/07/08/celebrate-national-blueberry-month/

National Beekeeper Reports Reveal a Significant Decline in Colonies, Production, and Income

National Beekeeper Reports Reveal a Significant Decline in Colonies, Production, and Income

Bees and Brood. Photo by Judy Biss

Bees and Brood. Photo by Judy Biss

It has been a tough year for beekeepers.  Two recent national reports revealed that beekeepers suffered the triple whammy of colony loss, reduced honey production, and lower prices, all of which ultimately reduced income over this past production year.

The Bee Informed Partnership, in collaboration with the Apiary Inspectors of America (AIA), and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), conducted their tenth annual national survey of honey bee colony losses.  The survey is part of a larger effort to understand why honey bee colonies are declining, and what can be done to manage the situation.

Estimates of the total economic value of honey bee pollination services range between $ 10 and $ 15 billion annually, and according to the recently released UF/IFAS publication Minimizing Honey Bee Exposure to Pesticides,

“The western honey bee is conceivably the most important pollinator in American agricultural landscapes. The honey bee is credited with approximately 85% of the pollinating activity necessary to supply about one-quarter to one-third of the nation’s food supply. Over 50 major crops in the United States and at least 13 in Florida either depend on honey bees for pollination or produce more abundantly when honey bees are plentiful. Rental of honey bee colonies for pollination purposes is a highly demanded service and a viable component of commercial beekeeping and agriculture. Bee colonies are moved extensively across the country for use in multiple crops every year. There are also over 3,000 registered beekeepers in Florida, managing a total of more than 400,000 honey bee colonies and producing between 10–20 million pounds of honey annually.”

According to preliminary results as reported in the Bee Informed collaborative annual nationwide survey and Colony Loss 2015 – 2016: Preliminary Results:

  • Beekeepers across the United States lost 44 percent of their honey bee colonies during the year April 2015 to April 2016.
  • Rates of both winter loss and summer loss—and consequently, total annual losses—worsened compared with last year.
  • Over 5,700 beekeepers completed the survey providing valuable information about honey bee colony numbers and health for the 2015/2016 winter season.
  • All told, these beekeepers are responsible for about 15 percent of the nation’s estimated 2.66 million managed honey bee colonies.
  • Collectively, responding beekeepers managed 389,083 colonies in October 2015, representing about 15% of the country’s estimated 2.66 million managed honey producing colonies
  • An estimated 28.1% of the colonies managed in the United States were lost over the 2015-2016 winter.
  • This represents an increase in losses of 5.8 percentage points compared to the previous 2014-2015 winter, but is close to the 10-year average total winter loss of 28.6% (see figure 1).
  • Just over half of the survey respondents (59%) experienced winter colony loss rates greater than the average self-reported acceptable winter mortality rate of 16.9%.
  • In 2015, summer losses, at 28.1%, were the same as winter losses.
  • When all results were combined, beekeepers lost 44.1% of their colonies between April 2015 and March 2016.
  • This high rate of loss is close to the highest annual loss rate over the 6 years we have collected annual colony loss numbers.

Figure 1: Summary of the total overwinter colony losses (October 1 – April 1) of managed honey bee colonies in the United States across nine annual national surveys. The acceptable range is the average percentage of acceptable colony losses declared by the survey participants in each of the survey. https://beeinformed.org/2016/05/10/nations-beekeepers-lost-44-percent-of-bees-in-2015-16/

In their report, researchers indicate that colony losses are likely due to a number of factors.  Pesticides, poor nutrition, and changing land use resulting in loss of foraging habitats are likely causing stress to honey bee health and survival.   One of the greatest factors at this point, however, is the varroa mite (Varroa destructor), a devastating bee parasite that easily spreads between colonies.  Based on current research, the varroa mite is more numerous than previous estimates have shown, and they are also implicated in being vectors of several bee viruses.

A female Varroa destructor Anderson & Trueman, feeds on the hemolymph of a worker bee. The mite is the oval, orange spot on the bee's abdomen. Credit: James Castner, University of Florida

A female Varroa destructor Anderson & Trueman, feeds on the hemolymph of a worker bee. The mite is the oval, orange spot on the bee’s abdomen. Credit: James Castner, University of Florida

For more information on the Varroa mite and other bee diseases, please see the following press release about a new study of honey bee pests:  First Multi-year Study of Honey Bee Parasites and Disease Reveals Troubling Trends and view the video on varroa mites from UF/IFAS Honey Bee Research and Extension Lab.

Coupled with this report of colony loss is the decline in national honey production reported in 2015.  The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), Agricultural Statistics Board, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), has released their annual Honey Production Report which describes a 12 percent decrease for operations with five or more colonies.

NASS HOney ProdThe NASS report states that United States honey production in 2015 from producers with five or more colonies totaled 157 million pounds, down 12 percent from 2014. There were 2.66 million colonies from which honey was harvested in 2015, down 3 percent from 2014. Yield of honey harvested per colony averaged 58.9 pounds, down 10 percent from the 65.1 pounds in 2014.  United States honey prices also decreased during 2015 to 209.0 cents per pound, down 4 percent from a record high of 217.3 cents per pound in 2014.

Just as with managing any livestock commodity, beekeepers must manage their bee colonies based on ever changing environmental, biological, and economic variables.  The good news is that the importance of pollinating insects to our food supply is receiving greater attention on a national scale, resulting in increased recognition and research into the factors causing bee colony declines.

For more information, please see the following resources used for this article:




Author: Judy Biss – judy.ludlow@ufl.edu

Judy Ludlow is the Agriculture and Natural Resource Agent in Calhoun County, Florida

Judy Biss

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/06/17/national-beekeeper-reports-reveal-a-significant-decline-in-colonies-production-and-income/

Red Hills Small Farm Alliance Recognized by National Farm Credit for Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Red Hills Small Farm Alliance Recognized by National Farm Credit for Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Buy your plants through the Red Hills Online Market. Photo by Cassie Dillman.

Customers can buy plants through the Red Hills Online Market. Photo by Cassie Dillman.

Announced at the National Ag Day in Washington, D.C., the Red Hills Small Farm Alliance (RHSFA) became one of the Top 100 Honorees recognized by the National Farm Credit System for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. The Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspectives honorees include leaders and visionaries from across the country. The RHSFA was selected by a distinguished panel of agricultural industry representatives from a pool of 1,100 nominees. The farms and organizations highlighted through this program are creating the future of agriculture and rural America through their dedication and innovation.

RHSFA was formed by east Florida Panhandle farmers, Louise Divine of Turkey Hill Farm and Katie Harris of Full Earth Farm, in 2010 as a means to strengthen our small farm community and expand our local food market to more citizens within our region. The RHSFA allows farmers – who may otherwise only see one another as competitors – to work together, share insights and ideas, and mentor new farmers, as they promote local agriculture.

Red Hills Online Market sign. Photo by Cassie Dillman.

Red Hills Online Market sign. Photo by Cassie Dillman.

One of the innovative components of the RHSFA that contributed to this agricultural distinction is the Red Hills Online Market (RHO Market). The RHO Market, which opened in 2011, allows farmers and producers within 100 miles of Tallahassee to join the RHSFA and apply to list their products on the online platform. It also allows customers the convenience of ordering and paying for local produce online, with the ability to pick up their orders at one of several convenient locations each week or have them delivered directly to their doorsteps for a small fee.

The RHO Market gives local farmers the ability to harvest only what has been sold and the flexibility to deliver the produce to one distribution center, freeing them from hours at a traditional farmers’ market. Increasing efficiency for farmers and convenience for customers has allowed the RHO Market to grow 30 percent annually, with over 400 customers purchasing from 41 local farmers. In 2015, this earned RHSFA farmers $ 85,000.

Alliance Co-director Katie Harris, as quoted in the online description of the Farm Credit 100 Honorees, said, “I hope to achieve steady growth in the farming community, whether that be fostering new farmers or helping existing farms expand. I hope to do this through providing a reliable and innovative economic outlet for farmers that is convenient to both farmers and consumers alike.”

The RHSFA also offers educational opportunities, including the Seven Days of Local Delights. This is a week-long campaign event held annually, directly following the New Leaf Farm Tour, offering over 20 workshops about supporting, using, and growing local food.

Red Hills Online Market vegetable collage. Photo by Cassie Dillman.

Local vegetables. Photos by Cassie Dillman.

As the RHSFA and RHO Market expand, so does the appreciation for locally grown produce. This growth contributes to the ability of farmers to increase production, encourages new farmers to begin farming, and also connects people to the food they are consuming and to local agricultural production.

According to a Civic Economics Andersonville Study of Retail Economics, for every $ 100 that is spent at an independent business, $ 68 returns to the local economy. By comparison, only $ 43 returns to the local economy when spent at a national chain. This means that if every family spent $ 10 per month at locally owned businesses instead of national chains, over $ 9.3 billion would return directly to local economies.

Buying local will also keep the Florida Panhandle unique, support community groups, reduce environmental impacts, create jobs, and will encourage local prosperity overall. For 2011-2012, the total value of local foods purchased in Florida was estimated at $ 8.3 billion, generating an estimated 183,625 jobs, $ 6.5 billion in labor income, and $ 10.5 billion in value-added contributions to the Gross State Product.

Visit the Red Hills Small Farm Alliance website at to find out more about the alliance, or the farmers and the Red Hills Online Farmers Market to see innovative way this group is marketing locally produced foods.

For more information on buying local produce, please see the following publications:



Author: Molly Jameson – mjameson@ufl.edu

Molly Jameson

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/04/16/red-hills-small-farm-alliance-recognized-by-national-farm-credit-for-entrepreneurship-and-innovation/

Happy National Volunteer Appreciation Week!

Our volunteers help make clubs, camps, and other educational programs possible so that we can Grow 4-H in Florida!

Our volunteers help make clubs, camps, and other educational programs possible so that we can Grow 4-H in Florida!  Photo credit: National 4-H Council

Sunday, April 10th, marks the beginning of National Volunteer Week.  A recent study found that volunteers are directly responsible for teaching as much as 50% of the life skills a youth learns through the 4-H program (Fogarty et al).  Volunteers are essential to the delivery of the 4-H program, and starting on Sunday, we want to share some of their stories with you.

Our volunteers come to us with a variety of expertise.  Some volunteer a little, some volunteer a lot, but every single one of them makes a difference.  And they all have one thing in common: to ignite that spark in the next generation by sharing their passion, knowledge and skills.  4-H is delivered in several different ways; our most traditional way is through community clubs.  We also have clubs that are centered around a particular project or subject such as robotics, fishing, sewing, etc.  Some clubs event meet during or after school.  There are also short-term programs that are delivered through the schools such as embryology, 4-H/Tropicana Public Speaking, gardening, and agricultural awareness.  Another popular way we deliver 4-H is through our residential and day camping programs.  4-H volunteers help make all of this possible under the leadership and direction of their local 4-H Extension Agent.

Each day, we will highlight a different type of 4-H volunteer to give you an overview of the different roles our volunteers serve.  We hope this series will not only inspire you, but create more awareness of our volunteer programs.  Most importantly, we want to recognize the wonderful contributions that each of these volunteers is making.  If you are not already a volunteer, think about sharing your talents with us!  You can fuel the extraordinary efforts of our youth by joining us as a volunteer.   To find out more, contact your local UF IFAS Extension Office or visit http://florida4h.org/volunteers.  Happy National Volunteer Appreciation Week- we hope you will enjoy our series as much as we enjoy working with our incredible volunteers!


Author: Heather Kent – hckent@ufl.edu

Heather Kent is the Regional Specialized 4-H Agent in the Northwest Extension District.

Heather Kent

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/04/08/happy-national-volunteer-appreciation-week/

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