2015 News

Moving Forward...

December 2015


By Linda Seals, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Extension Director

2015 was another successful year. Through teaching, outreach, research, and teamwork we have created realistic and relevant responses to our community’s needs. Brevard County’s challenges require holistic and integrated solutions with regard to our youth, nutrition, food insecurity, local food systems, environmental, and evolving agricultural needs. We are dedicated to providing answers to satisfy those needs.

UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County educated over 70,700 participants on a variety of topics including healthy living, environmental issues, water quality and conservation, agricultural production, sustainability, money management, and many more. Of those participants, 60,544 attended classes via webinar or face-to-face, and over 10,100 were one-on-one consultations via site visits, office visits, telephone calls, or email.

Extension relies heavily on trained volunteers who dedicate their time, skills, talents and expertise under supervision or guidance by faculty. In 2015, our volunteers logged 29,661 hours, which represents $640.943 (based on the 2014 Florida data from the Independent Sector estimated dollar value at a rate of $21.61 per hour) in economic value. This is equivalent to 14 full time paid employees!

Faculty secured over $874,000 in grants, in-kind donations, and monetary contributions (sponsorships, fundraisers, and donations). These monies support our educational programs by providing supplies, equipment, curriculum, demonstrations, and much more.

We embrace the opportunity to present creative solutions, and we are excited by all of the possibilities as we work with you all to improve our community in the coming year!

Assisting Turf Managers to Stay In the Green

December 2015


By Matt Lenhardt, Commercial Horticulture Agent

Balancing the look and feel of sports fields against budget constraints while conserving water…and protecting water quality is always a challenge for sports turf managers.

John, a sports turf manager in Brevard County, was facing just such a balancing act when he stopped by the UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County office for some advice on new fertilizers he was compiling for a vendor bid list. As we spoke about the bid package, the conversation turned to his existing schedule. Were there areas of improvement? How could we help? This was a great opportunity to engage in one of the most productive facets of our job, one-on-one consultations. The value in these consultations is their ability to bring the needs of community partners into focus.

By working together and following UF/IFAS recommendations, we were able to modify John’s fertilization program on approximately ninety-four acres, and also on his spring grow-in fertilizer program for new/renovated fields. The changes implemented resulted in fertilizer reductions and costs of approximately $15,000.00 in his overall field budget.

We’ve built a good relationship and continue to evaluate his fields for any changes that might be needed with his fertilizer programs. In getting to know John, we’ve also been able to market our educational sports turf seminars to his colleagues, letting this section of the “green industry” know they can get the help they need from UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County.

What’s even better, in 2014, a total of 13 different companies received consultations. Based on the modifications implemented, nitrogen use was reduced by approximately 7,617 pounds, a 16.2% reduction, and phosphorous use was reduced by 1200 pounds, or 97%, in one year. Those reductions make a real difference in the amount of fertilizers released into our waterways, improving water quality and our environment. Those reductions also mean decreased expenditures for small businesses, which increases their revenue. We are dedicated to helping both our local economy and our environment through our programs and consultations.

Creating Culinary Kids' Classes

December 2015

By Elizabeth Shephard, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Family and Consumer Science Agent

Kid making pizzaDuring one of our afterschool culinary classes, Mary came to pick up her son Ben. Usually children cannot wait to leave school, but Ben didn’t want to leave because he didn’t want to miss the cooking exercise, so Mary agreed to stay until the class was over. The class taught children how to prepare raw vegetables and pair them with a yogurt based dip, which made them a lot more fun. As many parents will confirm, raw vegetables don’t usually illicit enthusiastic responses from their children, but Ben was very excited about this recipe. After the class, Mary expressed her excitement saying, “Ben never eats vegetables! Please give me the recipe. I can’t wait to tell his dad what I just saw.”

This nutrition class is offered through The Family Nutrition Program at a variety of venues throughout the county. This year we partnered with afterschool programs at a number of different schools. Once a week for seven weeks students learn about different foods and the nutritional benefits of those foods. The recipes focus on a different food group each week. The program keeps students engaged by teaching them hands-on how to cook and prepare their own food. After six weeks of learning nutrition and food preparation, students make a dish that includes all of the food groups, which they then share with parents or caretakers. In addition to sharing the dish, families are asked to sit down and talk about food, which reinforces the lessons learned during the class, and gives families time to be together and talk.

At one of the parent nights, Alice introduced Lisa, her mom, to the “cooking lady.” Lisa was excited about what her daughter was learning …especially about the new foods she had tried and liked such as the sun butter and bell peppers, which she had always thought were hot! Lisa said that she and her brother are chefs, but have never cooked with Alice. Since participating in the class, Alice has talked non-stop about cooking, and now they all cook together on the weekends! Mom gave an enthusiastic, “Thanks for introducing Alice to this program!”

Erica shared she had never tasted a fresh pineapple before. One lesson featured a demonstration on how to cut the fruit. Erica taught her mother how to cut a pineapple, and for Thanksgiving dinner, they sliced a fresh pineapple and used it to make stuffing for the turkey.

During our cooking classes students also learn life skills such as:

  • Math skills such as counting, fractions, sequencing (order of events), measuring, and shapes
  • Problem solving
  • Chemistry and science (how food changes while cooking)
  • Geography and where our food comes from
  • Cultural lessons about diets of people in other parts of the world
  • Creativity
  • Health lessons, understanding nutrition and food groups, as well as appreciating the importance of safety and cleanliness
  • Fine motor skills such as whisking, measuring, pouring, sifting, and rolling
  • Social skills such as responsibility, cooperation, sharing, and self esteem

"Children develop food preferences at a young age, yet tend to be really picky at this age, so it's important to sustain healthy habits which will persist into adulthood," Devina Wadhera, also a researcher at Arizona State University and the study's other author, told Reuters Health.

The stories never end, and it is evident that students are really learning about different foods. However, our students love it primarily because they are able to take the cooking skills they’ve learned, and truly enjoy, home to share with their parents. It’s also important to remember these classes are a catalyst for family lifestyle (food) choices. When we make learning about nutrition fun for our youth, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County helps to make our community a healthier one, saving healthcare dollars, and improving lives.

Growing Healthy Landscapes While Protecting Our Waterways

December 2015


By Sally Scalera, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Urban Horticulture Agent

Brevard County resident Don was having a bit of trouble with his lawn. He had a company fertilizing and caring for his lawn, but he was tired of paying money for poor results. That’s when he called us and requested a My Brevard Yard visit. The My Brevard Yard (MBY) Program was created to teach and assist residents in maintaining a healthy lawn and landscape while protecting our waterways through reductions in fertilizer applications and proper irrigation practices.

During our site visits, both soil and water samples are collected; the previous year’s fertilization records are reviewed; irrigation is calibrated; and all of a resident’s questions and concerns are addressed. After the site visit, both soil and water samples are tested. After the results are received, a fertilizer recommendation is created.

Don’s past fertilizer records from February 2015 noted a total of 350 pounds of fertilizer was applied to his 14,000 square foot lawn. When Don’s soil test results were received, they showed high levels of phosphorus but low levels of both potassium and magnesium. Why is this important? The Indian River Lagoon (IRL) is one of the most biologically diverse estuaries in the continental United States. Years of nutrient loading and pollution from septic systems, fertilizers, and stormwater run-off have contributed to the IRL’s impaired status. Stormwater is believed to be the largest threat to the IRL because it can transport nitrogen and phosphorus from turf to the nearest waterbody. In Don’s case, unnecessary phosphorus that could have potentially run into the IRL was being applied. While this may not seem like a significant impact in and of itself, think of how many additional lawns and turf areas there are in Brevard County. Each small victory adds to a larger positive impact on our environment.

Don received his soil test results and fertilizer recommendations in plenty of time to purchase his new spreader and to apply the proper amount of fertilizer to the right areas. In the process of solving Don’s fertilizer issues, we also assisted with recommendations to fix several other landscaping challenges. Don’s email reply after receiving his recommendations shows how we can help our homeowners to create beautiful landscapes while protecting the environment, “Thanks so much for this report...I'll get the prescribed fertilizer and apply next month. Some of the brown spots on the lawn have greened up as well…Best regards and thanks again, Don.”

Assisting residents with their fertilizing and irrigation needs can solve a variety of landscaping problems that occur in turf and ornamental plantings. MBY site visits can produce a win-win situation for both the homeowners and the Indian River Lagoon.

Saving Farmers Time and Money

December 2015


By Joe Walter, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Agriculture Agent

Carl grows oranges, strawberries, mustard greens, tomatoes, and many other vegetables on his family farm in Brevard County. To increase his profits, he juices some of his citrus crop and sells the fresh juice. He has been farming most of his life--growing crops for himself and others, and working seven days a week to earn enough money to raise his family.

One day Carl was visited by an inspector who identified himself as a compliance officer with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). Life changed for Carl when the inspector placed a seal on the juicing machine, rendering it inoperable. It failed to comply with FDACS rules and Carl would not be able to resume juicing fruit until he corrected the problems. The list of requirements was daunting, and the cost to meet the requirements exceeded his anticipated revenue. Freezes, drought, citrus greening, and canker had made citrus production challenging enough, but the addition of meeting food processing regulations left Carl feeling hopeless and frustrated.

Carl searched for solutions, and he did what most farmers do, he talked to other farmers. One farmer, John, offered to juice Carl‘s oranges until he could comply with the FDACS requirements. John also suggested that Carl contact UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Agriculture Agent, Joe Walter, who had helped him meet the requirements for his juicing operation.

Joe met Carl at the farm to discuss the steps to compliance. Joe invited the FDACS inspector to clarify requirements and facilitate compliance. A list of requirements was compiled. The cost was estimated at $20,000 for a new waste water disposal system, an enclosed juicing room with drains, three compartment sink, electrical work, and new restrooms. All of these items would need to be in place before Carl could produce juice.

Joe reviewed the requirements with FDACS and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), both of which had jurisdiction over the requirements. After reviewing the requirements, some much less costly alternatives were found. Better yet, these solutions would save water. The waste water could be used for citrus tree irrigation. The law did not require new restrooms because only family members would be juicing the fruit. The existing residential restrooms would suffice. The only improvement for the new enclosed juicing room was the ability to be washed. The waste water from this task would also be used for irrigation. A site plan was developed, sent to DEP, and approved. Carl made the required cost-effective changes to his operation. FDACS re-inspected the facility, and granted Carl the necessary permit to process and sell his locally grown juice to the public. The cost of improvements was less than $1000.00 under the new plan.

Working one-on-one with local agricultural producers allows UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County the opportunity to help producers retain and expand their businesses, preserve the historical integrity of agriculture in our County, and help to strengthen local food systems for Brevard County consumers.

Teaching Gardening and Improving Lives

December 2015


By Vanessa Spero-Swingle, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County 4-H Agent

Jane lives in Cocoa and has been going to Joe Lee after school for homework help with her grandmother for many years. When the garden program at the community center started, she and her grandmother started attending. Jane is quick to pick up her homework papers and listen attentively for the lesson when it’s meeting time.

The Joe Lee community center is located in Cocoa, Florida. According to Neighborhood Scout, “With a crime rate of 86 per one thousand residents, Cocoa has one of the highest crime rates in America compared to all communities of all sizes - from the smallest towns to the very largest cities. One’s chance of becoming a victim of either violent or property crime here is one in 12. Within Florida, more than 98% of the communities have a lower crime rate than Cocoa.”

The garden at Joe Lee maintains four 4 by 8 foot raised garden beds. They are 30 feet from a water source and utilize a rain barrel to help collect water. The garden at Joe Lee is one of few sites that produces year round. Participants start the 4-H year by planting tomatoes, lettuce, and herbs in the fall and as the weather gets colder they plant broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, etc. in the winter, followed by okra, beans, and hot peppers in the summer. In the most recent harvest in August 2015, okra accounted for about half the total amount of produce harvested from the garden, the rest consisted of beans and hot peppers. Almost all of the harvest goes home with the youth and families involved with the garden, along with some sampled on site for tasting!

4-H Youth Development Extension Agent, Vanessa Spero-Swingle of UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County started the garden with recreation aids in 2013. After attending an Afterschool Volunteer Training in 2012, the staff felt a garden would be an opportunity to teach youth science skills while showing them how to grow their own food. Vanessa targets afterschool sites for garden programs to help youth stay active, eat healthier, and to go outside to learn.

The 4-H members are on their fourth planting season, but every time they harvest they still say those magic words, “I’ve never tried that before.” Whether it is an entirely new vegetable, they have never eaten it in its raw form or a vegetable they have never prepared, Brevard’s 4-H Program Teaches Youth how to grow their own food.

Youth who participate in Vanessa’s 4-H gardening clubs, such as the one at Joe Lee, are learning important STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and healthy living skills. Not only do students have an opportunity to plant the garden, but they also learn the science behind growing vegetables and how to prepare the vegetables in a healthy way. Encouraging youth to become familiar with new foods is the best way to get them to eat them on a regular basis. Participants tell their parents the best part is bringing home the leftover vegetables, and sharing with their families.

During the planning phase, Vanessa Spero-Swingle, 4-H Agent at the UF/IFAS Brevard County Extension office, was initially concerned the garden may not have been able to withstand the pressures of a community that is known to have a considerable crime rate. So, with local donations and Parks and Recreation assistance, a chain link fence was put up around the garden. A few months later the inside of the center was vandalized but, remarkably, the garden was untouched.

To date, Brevard County 4-H has 11 garden clubs, with over 200 youth participating, representing more than half of the 4-H youth enrolled in 4-H clubs. Clubs are located at schools or parks and recreation community centers, with a majority of the gardens in low-income areas. Grants through sources such as Farm to School, Florida Department of Agriculture and Florida Agriculture in the Classroom and 21st Century Grants have provided more than $10,000 in funding to support these projects.

A digest review conducted by Yerkes and Haras found that, “involvement in outdoor activities stimulates interest in the outdoors, which in turn motivates students to learn about the natural environment (Matthew and Riley, 1995).” Furthermore, the digest found that a study done by Howe and Dissinger (1988) found that outdoor experiences, “made a significant impact on student attitudes and found that outdoor settings were effective in teaching awareness of environmental issues.”

The UF/IFAS, Brevard County Extension office, an equal opportunity institution, provides hundreds of educational opportunities that impact over 350 youth annually through hands-on learning that improves their communication, decision making, responsibility and leadership skills, and prepares them to be productive citizens of tomorrow.

Preparing Entrepreneurs for Success

December 2015


By Holly Abeels, Florida Sea Grant Extension Agent

When Brian, a budding fishing charter entrepreneur, registered at the last minute for the For-Hire Fishing Sector Workshop in Brevard County he wasn’t quite sure what we were offering. He thought “For-Hire” would mean there would be job opportunities for guides and people just starting out. As it happens, we could provide Brian with a bit more. Our workshop was designed to provide him with the tools to create his own opportunities.

Our workshop featured guest speakers covering business planning, social media marketing, local marketing opportunities, fisheries monitoring, and various opportunities for guides to participate in fisheries research and best practices. More importantly, we offered Brian the opportunity to make valuable business contacts that could help him in furthering his business planning such as Rebecca with a local marketing group. She offered tips on local marketing opportunities, but her assistance didn’t stop there. When Brian reached out to her, Rebecca helped him re-design his website and showed him where he could market his business. She also assisted Brian with a contact at Visit Space Coast. As a result, Brian’s rack cards for his business were displayed, and he was offered help to promote the business.

Now Brian has a better idea of the types of opportunities available to him in the community to help him with his business; the various ways he can promote his business; and he has revamped his website. He now feels better prepared to run a successful business right from the start. Brian even provided suggestions to improve further program offerings. He recommended providing a listing of places where guides can promote and market their businesses, free websites, places to list jobs for hire, and more information for guides who are just starting out. Small businesses are an integral part of our local economy, and we look forward to providing entrepreneurs like Brian with the tools to create successful enterprises.

For more information about our Sea Grant and Marine Science programs, contact Holly Abeels Sea Grant Agent, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County at habeels@ufl.edu or 321.633.1702.

Supporting Our Farmers and Promoting Healthy Living

December 2015

Chef Bearl

By Mel Morgan-Stowell, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Community Development Agent

Mary and her husband ran a small business for a number of years in Brevard County, until he was diagnosed with cancer. Although the disease could be treated, the independent business couple found themselves in dire financial straits after a series of crippling medical bills. Eventually, against all of their inclinations, they registered for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). “We never thought we’d be here,” Mary confided when she first visited the Brevard County Farmers Market, a joint program between UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County and Brevard Parks and Recreation. She seemed embarrassed, and almost unwilling to talk about her predicament, or to bring herself to use her SNAP benefits. As we spoke of other county residents…hardworking people who found they needed food assistance because of job loss, health problems, or other circumstances beyond their control…she began to relax. Our explanation of the Florida Organic Growers (FOG) Fresh Access Bucks program actually elicited a smile. She began to understand just how much we value her as a customer and a supporter of local agriculture.

Through the Fresh Access Bucks program grant supplied by FOG, patrons who receive SNAP benefits are provided with a dollar for dollar matched on the purchase of fresh Florida fruits and vegetables, effectively doubling their purchasing power, and providing additional revenue to our local farmers. Mary met our explanation of the program with enthusiasm…and a bit of disbelief, “This is the best! I can’t believe you’re doing this…do you know how expensive food is, even at Walmart? It’s so hard to eat healthy when funds are tight!”

Recently Mary also attended our first ever cooking demonstration by UF/IFAS Chef David Bearl, which was provided through Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grant funding. This demonstration and others like it aim to provide all of our patrons with simple, healthy recipes utilizing Fresh Florida produce. Changing perceptions as to the costs and benefits of purchasing local foods through educational programs creates a winning proposition for farmers, patrons, and our local economy. Keeping local dollars in the county is also important to our economic health. A recent economic study from a UF/IFAS found that in 2012-13 through local food channels in Florida, $1.26 was returned to local communities in valued added or GDP per each dollar spent, and $0.78 in labor income per each dollar sale was generated for the local economy. The same study suggested that providing better access to Farmer’s markets and providing education on how to prepare and store local foods would support greater purchasing of local foods (Local Food Systems in Florida: Consumer Characteristics and Economic Impacts. A.W. Hodges, Ph.D. and T. J. Stevens, Ph.D. February 6, 2013).

We view our programs at the Market as the means to educate and assist our patrons, our agricultural producers, and our community…but to put it in the most basics terms, to support valuable community members in their time of need. As another patron noted, “Our SNAP benefits were cut in half in the new Farm bill, and the Fresh Access Bucks program is the difference between having food and going without.” We are dedicated to making that precise difference in our community.

For more information contact Mel Morgan-Stowell, Community Development Agent, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County at mmorganstowell@ufl.edu or 321.633.1702.

Teaching Sound Financial Practices and Helping Families

December 2015


By Gayle Whitworth, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Family and Consumer Sciences Agent

Nicole, a single mother, entered the Resident Opportunities and Self-Sufficiency (ROSS) program in May of 2012. This federally funded program serves public housing and house choice voucher residents in an effort to increase their earned income and reduce their dependency on welfare assistance and rental subsidies. The program offers opportunities for education, job training, counseling, and other forms of social service assistance to help residents obtain skills needed for self-sufficiency. When Nicole entered the ROSS program, she was unemployed and attending school. Her goal was to move out of public housing and to own her own home, as well as to improve her employment situation, and in turn, to improve her income.

Through the ROSS program, Nicole was able to attend a budgeting class offered by the UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County office in January 2013. The class taught Nicole how to track her income and spending on a monthly basis to meet her current needs and the importance of saving to meet her goals. Nicole used her new budgeting skills and was able to pre-qualify with a lender and meet the conditions of home ownership though Habitat for Humanity. On December 6, 2014, Nicole was able to move into her new home and thus fulfill her dream of home ownership.

Quality financial literacy programs help individuals practice good financial behaviors which, over time, can result in positive changes in their financial lives. Tracking income and expenses (budgeting), saving, and practicing other sound financial behaviors can lead to improved financial outcomes. Changes made as a result of financial education can include an increase in assets, a decrease in liabilities, an increase in net worth, reduced financial distress, and improved financial (and overall) well-being. When made, these changes allow individuals to become better able to succeed financially, reach their financial goals, and have a more secure future.

For more information contact Gayle Whitworth, Family & Consumer Sciences Agent, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County at: gowhit@ufl.edu or 321.633.1702.

Holiday Spending and Keeping Finances Under Control

November 2015

Holiday spending

By Gayle Whitworth, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County FCS Agent

The season of giving is approaching quickly, leaving many feeling anxious as to how they will meet the added expenses of the holidays. Though the holidays can be stressful, they don’t have to be. With careful thought and planning, you can control your spending and move in to the New Year with money in your pockets.

Before you even begin shopping for holiday expenses, whether they involve gifts, decorations, food, etc., it is important to evaluate your motivations for spending. Do you feel everyone needs or expects a gift, or do you truly love to give? Do you love decorating and enjoy the added sparkle, or are you competing with friends and neighbors? Are you simply trying to impress others? Do you feel obligated to provide a meal for the family, or do you do it out of love? When we evaluate why we are spending, we may find that we are spending on things that we could eliminate, and use that money elsewhere. Spending should be done out of love, not out of obligation or a need to impress.

Once you have evaluated your reasons for spending, it is time to set a budget. Set a price limit for those expenses you decide to keep. An overall budget should be set, as well as an individual budget for each person for whom you are buying. Don’t forget to include non-gift-related expenses, such as wrapping paper, cards, decorations, food, etc. in your overall budget.

Once you know your spending limits, decide how you will track your spending. This part will be crucial in making sure you stay within your planned spending. When spending in cash, consider using an envelope for each individual or non-gift-related item. Once the envelope is empty, you are finished shopping. Be sure to keep receipts in each envelop in case you need to make returns. If you are using a credit card for purchases, consider using an index card to track spending. Write the total amount budgeted on the top of the card, then keep a running total of the amount spent on it. Once the total reaches the budgeted amount, you’re finished shopping. You can use a single envelop for all receipts, attaching receipts to the individual index cards.

Speaking of credit cards, it is extremely important to remember that the money borrowed must be repaid. If are you are going to use credit, make sure you have a plan to get the balance paid off as quickly as possible. If possible, limit charges to no more than you can pay off within 30 days. If not, aim for having them paid off within no more than 90 days. For tracking purposes, it’s best to use only one card. However, if multiple cards will be used, make sure you have a plan to have all of them paid off within no more than 90 days.

Finally, do some comparison shopping before hitting the stores. Look for sales featuring items of interest stores as well as online ones. Many sales happen before the holidays, so knowing what you’re shopping for early on can allow you to catch things at a great price before the big rush. Just be sure to check out return policies to know how long you have to return products should there be a problem.

Remember, that in the season of giving, the best thing you can give yourself is financial stablity. By evaluating why you’re spending, developing a budget and a plan to stick to it, and comparison shopping, you can come through the holidays with your finances under control and ready to face a new year!

The Holidays and Seven Signs of Stress

November 2015

Holiday Stress

By Melinda Morgan-Stowell UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Community Development Agent

With the holidays fast approaching many of us may contemplate diving into a quart of ice cream as a way to reduce stress…impractical as it happens…and hey, it’s hard to maintain a sense of dignity with dairy products driven up one’s snout.

Contemplating coping mechanisms begs the question, “How do we know we are under stress?” Yes, there are symptoms other than complete ice cream immersion, or that ever so subtle desire to crawl under the desk and scream.

The American Heart Association (AHA) identifies seven major symptoms of stress:

  • Unexplained physical symptoms, such as fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, teeth grinding, etc.
  • Anger, depression, irritability, or nervousness that's more than circumstances warrant.
  • Arguing more with family and friends.
  • Problems at work.
  • Lying awake at night worrying.
  • Increased drinking or smoking.

What are the suggested means to reduce stress (other than an intense personal relationship with a carton of pecan ripple fudge)?

First, the AHA suggests exercise. Why? Studies have shown that those who indulge in regular exercise show lower levels of stress hormones and reduced blood pressure.

Second, the Heart Association suggests types of low-impact exercise such as Yoga and Tai chi reduce stress through a body/mind connection. Remember, there are a number of types of Yoga…choose the form that is most comfortable for both body and mind. Do also keep in mind none of them is a competitive sport! The idea is to relax.

Third, they suggest relaxation techniques including meditation, listening to music, or massage as the means to unwind (in lieu of screaming under the desk).

Finally, if none of these techniques works, it may be wise to seek out some form of counseling…and that doesn’t necessarily mean years spent on a therapist’s couch. There are new areas of treatment such as the cognitive-behavioral strategies that pair appropriate mental strategies…yes that excludes mainlining Chunky Monkey…with specific stressful situations.

As always, the methods we choose to deal with stress are personal choices. What works for one of us may not work for another, so take the time to breathe…unclench the fists…drop that cookie or ice cream carton…and find what works for you!

A Few Key things to Remember for the Holidays

November 2015


Elizabeth Shephard, Family and Consumer Science Agent

Holidays are a time of food, fun, friends and families. Holiday foods, in particular, are steeped in tradition and remind us of the past. Enjoy the memories and friends and family, but skip the overeating. Some tips that might help are:

  1. Don’t skip meals prior to the celebration. This may lead to over-eating at special events.
  2. Choose small portions of favorite foods. You can always go back for more after you’ve given yourself time to see if you are really still hungry!
  3. Look for the healthier items, and add more of that to your plate.
  4. Choose your drink wisely, as drinks can supply a large amount of the calories consumed with little effort.
  5. Get up and move! If dinner is over, take time to walk or play a game with the family. This will create lasting memories of quality time spent during the holidays.

Fall Fowl Extravaganza!

October 2015

Buff Orpington

By Vanessa Spero-Swingle, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard 4-H Agent

Just reminding you…we’ve got eggciting news! The 2015 4-H Brevard County Social and Market Poultry Auction is coming on October 24, 2015. This year youth will be auctioning off Buff Orpington hens. We have increased to 60 youth participating and looking for local support to make the auction a success.

4-H teaches youth that there is more to winning than a blue ribbon that the hard work they put into their animal project helps them succeed, and they can tackle any obstacle after being a 4-H member. 4-H is the only program in Brevard that supports life skill development through raising animals. Each year our program continues to grow, illustrating we have found a niche and youth are interested in livestock and small animal husbandry.

Need to know more about this eggciting event? Contact Vanessa Spero-Swingle, 4-H Extension Agent, at 321-633-1702 ext 231. I hope to see you at the social and auction!

Fall and Fish…October is National Seafood Month!

October 2015

Florida seafood

By Holly Abeels, Florida Sea Grant Extension Agent

Have you had your 8 ounces of Seafood today? Seafood (which includes fish and shellfish) is good for you, and it’s recommended that we should eat about 8 ounces of a variety of seafood per week ("2010 Dietary Guidelines." health.gov. January 31, 2011. Web. 29 September, 2015). Here in Florida, we certainly don’t lack a variety of choices. Florida ranks among the top 12 states for fresh seafood production with over 80 varieties of both wild-caught and farm-raised seafood products. So celebrate National Seafood Month by purchasing and consuming Florida seafood!

There are many reasons to purchase Florida seafood.

  • First, it stimulates the local economy. Florida’s seafood industry has an economic impact of nearly $16.5 billion annually and employs approximately 82,000 people throughout the state ("NOAA Reports Show Strong Economic Gains from Fishing, Continued Improvement in Fish Stocks." noaa.gov. April 29, 2014. Web. 28 September, 2015). Buying local helps local jobs and also ensures that the ecological footprint, from catch to plate, is minimized.
  • Second, in many cases, local seafood will get to the consumer faster than imported seafood that needs to be transported by ship, plane, or rail.
  • Third, Florida fisheries are considered sustainable because of effective state and federal management. Florida fishermen have to follow local, state, and federal regulations to ensure its fisheries are and remain sustainable for future generations. Consumers should feel confident when purchasing Florida seafood because it is managed responsibly.

Here are some tips for buying Florida seafood in your area:

  • Make sure you buy from reputable dealers and talk to your retailer about where the seafood they have showcased comes from. All seafood is required by law to be labeled with country of origin, but you can ask specific questions as to whether the seafood was harvested in Florida.
  • Look for the “Fresh from Florida” logo, which by law requires the product be harvested or raised in Florida. It’s important to realize that it might not always be possible to buy local seafood. The product might be out of season, may be too expensive, or may be a type of seafood Florida doesn’t harvest.
  • If there is something you want that is not available, ask the retailer what local products are available that would be comparable to what you are looking for.

Look at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services website for information on Florida seafood recipes and the peak months of Florida seafood availability.

Also, check out the FREE Florida Seafood at Your Fingertips mobile app available for download at www.flseagrant.org/seafood. The mobile app provides a listing of popular Florida seafood species, recipes on how to cook them, where to find Florida seafood in your area, and Florida seafood events across the state.

Fall Fertilization after the Blackout Period

FertilizerIn Brevard County the fertilizer “blackout” period will end for the season this October 1st, 2015. The blackout calls for no nitrogen or phosphorous to be applied from June 1st through September 30th in an attempt to reduce nutrient leaching during heavy thunderstorms in the summer. So, when deciding what type of fertilizer to use, and when to apply it, take these UF/IFAS recommendations into consideration.

The last slow release nitrogen application should be applied before the weather cools and the grass growth begins to slow down. When grass growth declines during cooler weather, fewer nutrients are required for the turf, and less is being taken up by the plant. The fertilizer ordinance also calls for nitrogen to be at least 50% slow release. In addition, a soil test is also recommended once a year to find any nutrient imbalances. The ordinance also states that phosphorous should only be applied based on a soil test, and never applied during the summer blackout period. When planning fertilizer application, keep in mind most fertilizers with this amount of slow release nitrogen will release nutrients for about six to eight weeks under normal conditions.

It is also good to give the turf a little more potassium in the fall. Potassium helps convert sugars into starch in the roots giving the turf needed nutrients and letting it “harden off” for the winter months. Potassium also helps turf and ornamentals with cold tolerance, reduced diseases, and a quicker green-up in the spring. For most turf grasses, application of nitrogen to potassium at about a 2 to 1 ratio is needed for optimum growth. An easy way to add a little more potassium in the fall is to apply a pound of nitrogen and a pound of potassium per 1000 square feet for your fall fertilizer application, using a balanced analysis (for example, 15-0-15). You can also simply apply a high potassium fertilizer…just make sure the rate is correct.

To learn more about fertilizing your lawn, and protecting the Indian River Lagoon, visit Brevard.ifas.ufl.edu, and sign up for a My Brevard Yard workshop.

Local fertilizer ordinances can be found here.

Fall and Fresh Home Grown Vegetables

October 2015

By Sally Scalera, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard Urban Horticulture Agent

Fresh VegetablesVegetable gardening here in central Florida is very different from any other place in America, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. With the help of the Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide, you can learn when to plant different crops. Our main vegetable planting window is actually August through May. The good news is that some vegetables like eggplant, okra, cantaloupe, cucumbers, endive/escarole, peppers, sweet corn, tomatoes, and watermelon will continue to produce into the summer!

Vegetables can be divided into two groups, warm and cool season crops.

  • Warm season vegetables include beans, cantaloupes, sweet corn, cucumbers, eggplant, okra, peppers, pumpkin, summer squash, tomatoes, and watermelon.
  • Cool season vegetables include beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, Chinese cabbage, collards, endive/escarole, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, onions, peas, potatoes (both types), radish, spinach, winter squash, strawberry, and turnips.

There are also many choices as to where to grow vegetables at home. Crops can be grown in conventional plots in the ground, in raised beds, or in containers. When growing plants in containers, make sure that the containers have good drainage holes, and use a fast-draining potting mix. Also, place a tray underneath the container to assist with watering. For vegetable plants grown in the ground, add organic matter to our naturally sandy soil.

The key to growing healthy plants is to provide a good balance of nutrients to the plants and the soil microbes.. Nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and some of the minor elements are supplied by fertilizers. If you apply an organic fertilizer, it will be a food source for the soil microbes, which will slowly supply plants with nutrients. There are a number of trace elements that also support plants and soil microbes, and these can be supplied by using the following products.

  • Liquid seaweed has been found to produce healthy plants in addition to helping them survive environmental stresses like flood, drought, and cold temperatures. It is especially helpful for plants that produce fruit such as vegetable plants and fruit producing trees, shrubs, vines, etc. Liquid seaweed contains over 60 trace elements plus growth hormones. To use liquid seaweed simply mix it with water in a hand pump-up sprayer and then spray the plants’ foliage (or use a hose end sprayer if applying to the lawn). Be sure to spray both sides of the foliage with a fine mist and do this on a regular basis. Spray vegetable plants, citrus, and avocado trees weekly with liquid seaweed.
  • Re-mineralize the soil, because our soil is extremely weathered and considered to be poor in nutrient content. The addition of sea minerals (i.e. SEA-90) and rock powders (i.e. Azomite) can add missing elements that are beneficial for plants and the organisms that live in the soil. The addition of these trace elements is an easy way to stimulate the soil’s food web. Often, the lack of trace minerals can be the weakest link in obtaining optimal plant growth. There are over 90 naturally occurring elements in healthy soil where the microbes can make micronutrients available from rock, sand, clay, and silt as a result of their enzymatic activity.

Here are an additional couple of pointers on things to do when gardening:

  • Try not to disturb the soil by tilling because that will harm soil microbes and soil structure.
  • When your vegetable plants are done producing, don’t rip them out of the ground, simply cut them off at the soil line instead. If plants are disease and insect free, simply cut them up into smaller pieces and lay them on the ground to decompose. This “chop and drop” practice can also help with the next suggestion.
  • Keep the soil covered. This can be done by mulching the plants with grass clippings (that haven’t had any pesticides applied to them), dead leaves, pine needles, straw, or wood chip mulch. Bare soil is a food desert for soil microbes, so it is important to keep the soil covered. Mulch will also help to conserve moisture and suppress weeds too.

Growing your own vegetables at home is the ultimate way to harvest and eat the most nutritious food. Not only that, but you also get the added benefits of gardening, which includes stress relief, exercise, fresh air, and observing nature. Why not try to grow your own food, even if you just start by growing one tomato plant! Doesn’t that sound delicious?

Find Out What’s Cooking at the Brevard County Farmers Market!

September 2015

Cooking at the Farmers Market

By Melinda Morgan-Stowell UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Community Development Agent

Join UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County and Parks and Recreation for a cooking demonstration by Chef David Bearl at the Brevard County Farmers Market on October 1st, 2015 from 3pm to 6pm. He will be creating delicious, healthy, and thrifty dishes from our fresh produce! Chef Bearl, who is extremely involved in Farm to School and Farm to Table, offers lectures on these topics in his new role. He has been certified as a culinary educator for over 20 years and was inducted into the American Academy of Chefs in 2010.

During his 35-year professional career, Chef Bearl has earned the American Culinary Federation’s Certified Culinary Educator and Certified Chef de Cuisine credentials. He currently is employed by UF/IFAS and Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) Florida Farm to School Partnership as the Statewide Coordinator for Culinary Education. The chef is visiting our market as part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Education Program (SNAP-Ed), but all of our friends and patrons are welcome to come out and enjoy the demonstration!

One quick word about SNAP and the importance of the program…a quote from a U.S. Agriculture, Economic Research Service study says it best…

For 50 years, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has served as the foundation of America’s safety net. SNAP is the nation’s first line of defense against hunger and a powerful tool to improve nutrition among low income people. SNAP is effective in its mission to mitigate the effects of poverty on food insecurity.
A recent USDA study found that participating in SNAP for 6 months is associated with a significant decrease in food insecurity. The SNAP benefit increase in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 increased the food expenditures of low income households by more than 5 percent and improved food security by more than 2 percent (Nord, M and Prell, M. “Food Security Improved Following the ARRA Increase in SNAP Benefits in 2009.” Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, April 2011).

SNAP-Ed supports SNAP’s role in addressing food insecurity through efforts to improve nutrition and prevent or reduce obesity among SNAP recipients.

For more information on the event, contact Mel Morgan-Stowell at 321-633-1702, or at mmorganstowell@ufl.edu.

Join Brevard County 4-H As We Kick off Our New Year!

September 2015

By Andy Thompson, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County 4-H Agent

On Friday, September 11, Brevard County 4-H will hold an Open House at the UF/IFAS Extension office in Cocoa from 6- 8 PM. Join us at our 4-H Open House which provides an opportunity for the general public to interact with the county 4-H clubs and leaders and learn more about 4-H programs in Brevard County! 4-H is open to Brevard County youth between the ages of 5- 18. There is no cost to attend the Open House and participants may come any time between 6- 8 PM.

Who are we? 4-H is a youth development organization that aims to teach life skills to youth through experiential learning. 4-H has its roots in agricultural education and is part of the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Extension.

Do you have a special interest or hobby? Come and see all that we have to offer! In Brevard County there are clubs and programs in the areas of shooting sports, horses, poultry, rabbits, leadership, beekeeping, environmental and outdoor education, sewing, cooking, vocational and career preparation…as well as STEM and general 4-H programs. For more information, call 321-633-1702.

Eventbrite - 4-H Open House

Poultry Preservation

September 2015


By Melinda Morgan-Stowell, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Community Development Agent

Every week at the Farmers Market I have the pleasure of looking across at the 4-H Community Coop and seeing a variety of poultry I never knew existed…Pilgrim geese, Silver Wyandotte, Ancona ducks, and more. Why all of the excitement? These breeds are among those identified by the Livestock Conservancy as Heritage breeds.

For those of you who have heard of heirloom seeds, think of these breeds as the avian version of Cherokee black or Mortgage Lifter tomato seeds--varieties which were one part of the extremely genetically diverse farms of the past.

Unfortunately as larger forms of agriculture emerged in the United States, monoculture, or the practice of relying on a very small number of cultivars (genetic variants) or breeds became the norm. Genetic diversity became less important, and many of the plants and animals that were once common on the family farm began to disappear.

This is where organizations such as the Livestock Conservancy have become so important. This non-profit organization began work in 1977, protecting nearly 200 breeds of poultry and livestock from extinction…and it is the leading organization of its kind in the United States.

Ah, I can hear it now, “Wait…it’s not as if were speaking of a Polar bear or panda here... There are plenty of chickens and pigs out there…why should I care if a Silver Wynadotte continues to exist?

Here’s the why of the matter. These endangered breeds are important to genetic diversity within the food system. Why? They provide valuable genetic traits such as disease resistance, survival, and self-sufficiency. Why is this important? Think of a single, old power receptacle…imagine it’s the only source of power within the house, and it is where every appliance is plugged. Everything is just fine…until that plug fails…a single point of failure. The lack of diverse genetic traits could indicate a dangerous, single point of failure in the food chain. Currently, 21% of the world’s 8,000 livestock breeds are in danger of extinction (livestockconservancy.org. “What We Do.” August 11, 2015). Without conservation, our ability to buffer these weak spots is more limited.

In addition, Heritage breed conservation is geared to helping small farmers make the right choices for raising the right breeds for local food systems. The Conservancy’s goal is to assist in maintaining breeds of animals that are well-suited for sustainable, grass-based, and organic systems. These practices are particularly useful for small producers in niche markets, giving them a better competitive edge. The Livestock Conservancy works directly with farmers to bridge the gap between conservation theory and hands-on farm practice.

Finally, the loss of these breeds represents losses to our agricultural history…the heritage of the American farm. The Conservancy provides research, education, outreach, marketing, and genetic rescues to preserve historic breeds for future generations. Consider which is the more attractive choice, to look at yet another breed in photograph that we have lost (having failed to act) or to look into a coop with the actual birds and relish a small victory for conservation!


September 2015


Our 4-H Club has the following items for sale. Please email rogerika@earthlink.net for more info. All proceeds go to care for the animals at the Wickham Park 4-H Cooperative Coop.

  • Fertile Chicken and Duck Eggs for Hatching (Mixed Breed) - $10 per dozen
  • 15 Two week old mixed breed chicks – Langshan/Leghorn/Americana/Black Sex Link - $5 each
  • 5 one week old mixed breed ducklings – Fawn and White Runner/Ancona/Khaki Campbell - $5 each
  • 19 Four month old roosters – including purebred Welsummer, New Hampshire Red and Silver Wyandotte. Purebred roosters $15, Mixed breed roosters $5.

All healthy, happy animals hatched and raised with plenty of love, sunshine and fresh food by our 4-H Members.

Back to School Lunches

August 2015

Back to School Lunches

By Beth Shephard, Family & Consumer Sciences Agent

It’s “Back to School Time,” and that means school lunches. Whether a student is eating a packed lunch or a school lunch prepared by someone else, one of the best things to remind children to do is to start with clean hands before eating. Due to time constraints, not all students will have the chance to wash their hands before lunch…but if they do, now is the time to remind them how important it is to wash hands well.

When washing hands, use soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and ensure all the tough areas have been reached. After teaching hand washing for many years, I have found that some of the neglected areas are those between fingers, thumbs, and the back of the hand. Include these areas in any discussions or demonstrations. If a student doesn’t have the chance to wash his hands encourage him to use sanitizer before eating lunch. Some schools have sanitizers set up by the lunch line. If that’s not the case, parents can send some in with students or to teachers…they may be happy to encourage handwashing practices for all students before they head to lunch!

If parents decide to pack lunches there are additional ways to keep students safe. The Partnership for Food Safety Education has some great reminders and publications to help make packed lunches safe.

Have a great School Year!

Have a great School Year!

Preparing Your Wallet for Back-to-School

August 2015

By Gayle Whitworth, Family & Consumer Sciences Agent

My how time flies! It seems summer just arrived, and now we’re already planning for back-to-school. As the reality of this hits us, so does the realization that our budgets willsoon be taking a hit as we pay for supplies and clothing for the new school year. But don’t fear! There are steps you can take to help rein in costs and to keep your budget on track.

The most important step is to shop with a list. Each child should have a list of those things that they need, including items such as clothing, classroom supplies, Preparing Your Wallet for Back-to-Schoolindividual supplies, etc.

To avoid purchasing items you already have, take an inventory. Are there supplies from last year that can be used again this year, or are there supplies that previously purchased and forgotten? Go through your child’s clothes and see what is really needed. Replace outgrown or worn out items. If your child complains about not having the latest fashions, allow one or two new items, but don’t feel compelled to buy a whole new wardrobe.

If your child must wear a school uniform or other required clothing, check to see if the school has a shop where used items can be bought and sold. If not, check with children who may be leaving the school and see if they would be willing to sell their items at a reduced price.

It’s also important to set an amount to be spent on each child…and to stick to it. Many items, such as clothing and basic supplies, can be purchased throughout the year. Take advantage of sales and discounts, and compare prices across several stores. Consider online shopping. Good deals can often be found there…and take advantage of consignment and thrift stores, as well as garage sales. Talk with children about the difference between and a want and a need. Let them know their purchasing limits, and tell them that needed items will be purchased first. If good deals result in savings and there is extra money, allow them to indulge in a want.

Buy only what is needed in the first few weeks of school. Many good sales happen after school has begun. Consider purchasing classroom supplies at a later time as the classroom stock begins to be depleted. Many teachers don’t have a lot of room for storage, so providing the items as they become needed helps both the teacher and your pocketbook. Remember to inform the teacher you will be providing your supplies later in the year.

Unless you can pay off the full balance of a credit card when the bill for purchases comes due, pay with cash. This will not only help you stay within your spending limits, but will also help you to avoid making frivolous purchases. If you must use credit cards to pay for purchases, have a plan to pay them off quickly. Any cost savings gained through sales can be lost through interest charges if credit cards are not paid off within a short period of time.

Once you’ve made your purchases, make sure your children take care of their items. Teach them the value of money…and that when items are damaged and must be replaced, it takes away from your ability to provide other things they may need or want. Also, consider setting aside a small amount of money each month…when next year comes along, and it’s once again time to get ready for back-to-school, you’ll have the money required at hand!

Is The “Extra” Worth It For Extracurricular Activities?

August 2015

Are Extracurricular activities worth it?

Vanessa Spero-Swingle, 4-H & Youth Development Agent

The school year is starting with homework, meetings, school lunches, etc. At the same time most families start to pencil in all the extracurricular activities (sports, music, clubs, volunteering, etc.). Are all the extra driving around, extra finances, and extra time worth it for your child? The answer to that question is a resounding yes…in moderation of course!

Extracurricular activities provide opportunities for youth to “develop competencies that are largely neglected by schools… Organized activities in which some youth participate in during these hours are important contexts of emotional, social, and civic development (Larson, R. et al, 2005).” Not all extracurricular activities are alike though. Some are more beneficial than others and those that have been found to be the most successful, “provide integration between a youth’s family, school, and community experiences, engage youth in relationships with caring adults, and provide many other positive features (Eccles and Gothman, 2005).”

So how do you find programs that meet the needs of your family?

  • Follow the lead of your children by knowing their interests. If children are not engaged in an extracurricular activity it won’t serve any purpose. Be careful about jumping in full-force though. If a child wants to play the piano, don’t buy a keyboard until he has taken some lessons and is ready to make the commitment.
  • Determine the resources available for the activity. What is the cost, time commitment or location, for example? If your family can handle activity needs, then go for it! If something prohibits the family from being able to participate, look for alternatives…are there scholarships available, other venues that do something similar for less or that are closer, or one day workshops?
  • Find a balance. The structure of having a schedule is important to youth, but overscheduling can be detrimental. There is just as much benefit in youth having free and active play time with the neighborhood kids. So, picking one or two extracurricular activities (depending on how often they meet) may be the best fit for your family.

Of Children and Chickens

August 2015

Market Poultry Project

Vanessa Spero-Swingle, 4-H & Youth Development Agent

We’ve got eggciting news! The 2015 4-H Brevard County Social and Market Poultry Auction is coming on October 24, 2015. This year youth will be auctioning off Buff Orpington hens. We have increased to 60 youth participating and looking for local support to make the auction a success.

4-H teaches youth that there is more to winning than a blue ribbon that the hard work they put into their animal project helps them succeed, and they can tackle any obstacle after being a 4-H member. 4-H is the only program in Brevard that supports life skill development through raising animals. Each year our program continues to grow, illustrating we have found a niche and youth are interested in livestock and small animal husbandry.

We are reaching out to local businesses for support. With over 200 chickens to sell this year we’d like to extend to local businesses the option to be a part of the auction through pre-bid donations.

Here’s how it works…pledge your amount (egg, chick, pullet, hen, flock), send in your donation, and you will either be the high bidder or part of a cooperative in purchasing a youth member’s chicken. Unless requested, you will not be responsible to take the chicken home.

You will also receive an invitation to the social and auction where you will be able to meet and greet with 4-H youth and ask them about their project. If you know a youth member and would like to bid for his or her chicken just let us know and we’ll make sure to honor your request.

Need to know more about this eggciting event? Contact Vanessa Spero-Swingle, 4-H Extension Agent, at 321-633-1702 ext 231 or Vspero@ufl.edu. I hope to see you at the social and auction!

Summer Swimming...and Shark Safety Tips!

July 2015

Shark Safety Tuos

By Andy Thompson, 4-H & Youth Development Agent

Enjoying warm weather at the beach and in the ocean is part of what makes living in Florida great. Many people visit Florida to fish, snorkel, dive, surf, and swim in the ocean. This means there are frequently lots of people in the water. We hear about a person who has been bitten by a shark…and it seems like it is something that happens often. There have been three reports in the news this year, including one out of Cocoa Beach. It’s not impossible, but coming face-to-face with a shark is actually highly unlikely, and there is even less chance of being bitten by one. Florida has an average population of around 20 million, and about 100 million tourists visit each year…so with an average of five shark bites per year in Florida, the odds are heavily in the favor of the swimmers!

Though shark bites are very rare, here are 10 tips to make them even more unlikely:

  • Do not wear jewelry in the ocean. Sharks and other fish are attracted to shiny things.
  • Sharks can see differences between colors really well, so avoid bright swimwear.
  • Use the buddy system when swimming. Sharks are more likely to target lone swimmers
  • Keep away from areas where people are fishing. Bait is meant to attract fish, including sharks.
  • Stay out of the ocean if you are bleeding or have a bad wound or cut. Sharks have an incredible sense of smell and the smell of blood can make them curious.
  • Avoid activities in the ocean early in the morning and throughout the night. Dusk, dawn, and night are times when sharks are most active and likely to feed.
  • Avoid swimming and playing far from shore and on/around sandbars.
  • Try not to splash! Like shiny things and blood, splashing and loud noises attract sharks.
  • Swim and play in areas where there are lifeguards.
  • Pay attention to the flags at the lifeguard stations. Two red flags mean stay out of the water, and a purple flag means there are dangerous sea animals in the water.

For more information about sharks and beach safety, visit the following web sites: http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/Sharks/sharks.htm http://www.brevardcounty.us/FireRescue/Education/BeachSafetyTips#q1

Summer Sun Safety

July 2015

Summer Sun Safety

By Gayle Whitworth, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard FCS Agent

It’s hot out there! Yes, it’s that time of year again. Temperatures are up, the sun is high, and people are heading outdoors for fun. If you’re one of those folks who enjoys spending these warm months outside, it’s important that you take steps to protect both your skin and your eyes.

Most of us know that sunburns early in life can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer later on. Protecting skin from the sun is important for everyone in helping reduce this risk. To keep your skin healthy while in the sun, practice the following tips:

  • Plan outdoor activities early in the day, or later in the afternoon. The hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. are the times when ultraviolet rays are at their strongest and do the most damage. If you must be out during these times, try to stay in the shade as much as possible.
  • Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. Make sure it contains protection from both UVA and UVB rays. Apply liberally, re-applying every two hours, or more frequently after sweating or being in the water.
  • Apply sunscreen on as much of your skin as you can. Areas such as the scalp, the backs of the hands and neck, and the ears, as well as lips are often forgotten. Lip balms with an SPF 30+ are available to help protect lips.
  • Cover as much of the body as possible. Shirts and other protective clothing as well as hats that shade the face, neck and ears, are all important in helping to protect against the sun. There are even clothing pieces available that have built-in UV protection. Look for an item’s UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor). A UPF of 50+ is the highest rating.

In addition to the damage the sun can do to our skins, the sun’s rays can also cause damage to our eyes. Cataracts, a clouding of the eye’s lens, can occur from over-exposure to the sun…as well as a condition known as photokeratitis, a reversible sunburn of the cornea that can result in temporary loss of vision. Photokeratitis occurs in people who spend long hours on the beach without eye protection, due to the reflection of the sun off the sand and water.

As with skin exposure, the greatest risk for damage to the eyes occurs between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and is associated with people who spend extended periods of time outside (fishermen, farmers, construction workers, beach-goers, and others). The risk for eye damage is increased as people spend longer and more frequent hours out-of-doors.

Here are some tips to help protect your eyes while outside:

  • Purchase sunglasses that are labeled as protecting against UV radiation (both UVA and UVB). Glasses should offer 99 to 100 percent UV protection. Everyone in the family who spends time outdoors should wear sunglasses.
  • Choose sunglasses that are dark enough to reduce glare, but not so dark that they distort colors. Prevent Blindness America recommends lenses that are neutral gray, amber, brown, or green to help with color perception.
  • Choose sunglasses that wrap all the way around the temples, or wear hats with a three-inch brim to help prevent light from coming in the side or above the glasses.

By taking time to prepare, and arming yourself and your family with the tools necessary to protect your skin and eyes, you can enjoy being outside. So, what are you waiting for? Get out there!!

Adapted from: Fun in the Sun Safety, Gayle Whitworth, Our County Newsletter, 2013.

H2 0 and Vibrio in Florida - Know the Facts!

July 2015

By Holly Abeels, Florida Sea Grant Agent Gabby Barbarite, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, FL Atlantic University


Although you can’t see them, a group of marine bacteria, known as Vibrio are common throughout Florida waters. As natural inhabitants, they play an important role in environmental processes and are associated with many aquatic organisms.

However, under certain conditions, these bacteria are responsible for diseases such as wound infections and seafood sickness. Vibrio can be encountered through activities like fishing and swimming, or by eating raw oysters and fish. Despite some of the things you’ve heard, infections are rare and easy to prevent! Don’t let vibrio concerns keep you from your favorite activities. Awareness of hazards and adherence to a few safety guidelines can ensure your time on the water is as safe and enjoyable as possible!

What are Vibrio?

The name Vibrio refers to a large and diverse group of marine bacteria that are part of the natural microflora of many marine animals. Some strains produce harmful toxins and are capable of causing a disease known as “vibriosis”. About 15 species are known to infect humans, two of particular concern are Vibrio vulnificus and Vibrio parahaemolyticus. The presence of these pathogens cannot be detected by the naked eye, and specific laboratory techniques are necessary to confirm their identity.

Where and when are they found?

Vibrio naturally occur in coastal waters world-wide. They do not result from pollution and can be present in any bodies of water in Florida and the United States. Species that infect humans are most common in brackish environments, which are areas where freshwater and saltwater mix. Contrary to popular belief, Vibrio vulnificus and Vibrio parahaemolyticus are typically found in estuaries and bays rather than the beach or ocean due to their inability to tolerate high salt levels. Though present in Florida waters year-round, Vibrio are most abundant from April to November, when temperatures are the warmest. These natural peaks correspond with an increase in human infections, which are usually highest during the summer months.

Who is at risk for infection?

Most people are NOT at risk for developing illness. If encountered, a healthy immune system will combat infection, and may result only in mild symptoms. However, people with weakened immune systems can develop life-threatening infections. Some high risk conditions that increase susceptibility include liver disease, alcoholism, diabetes, hepatitis, hemochromatosis (iron overload), stomach disorders, HIV/AIDS, cancer, and long-term steroid use. Severe illness almost exclusively occurs in individuals with these risk conditions. These patients are 80 times more likely to become ill and 200 times more likely to die. Though these cases are rare, they can be very serious and progress rapidly. Seek medical treatment immediately if you suspect infection.

How can people become infected?

In order for infection to occur, pathogenic Vibrio strains must enter the body of a susceptible individual. This is usually a result of consuming raw and contaminated seafood or through the prolonged exposure of a wound to areas where they are present. Activities that may result in contact with these bacteria include fishing, wading, and swimming…as well as cleaning and eating seafood…especially during summer months. Recently, the term “flesh eating bacteria” has been used to refer to Vibrio. This description is false and misleading. These bacteria do NOT decompose healthy, intact skin, even in contact for long periods of time. Infections are acquired when Vibrio encounter broken skin and open wounds, or are consumed in large quantities. Only after entering the body through these processes are they capable of causing disease in certain individuals.

Looking locally: Florida Cases

Sixty seven percent of cases in the U.S. are reported from the Gulf and Atlantic coastal regions. This is due to water parameters suitable for Vibrio, as well as activities like seafood harvest and marine recreation. This is especially true for Florida, which has the highest national incidence of vibriosis. Over the last decade, the state reported an average of 133 cases a year. Most recently, in 2014, there were a total of 167 reports of vibriosis; Vibrio vulnificus was responsible for 32 infections and 7 deaths, Vibrio parahaemolyticus caused 30 infections and 1 death.
This may seem alarming at first, but infections are actually quite rare considering the millions of people who participate in water activities and consume local seafood each year. In fact, only a small percent of the population is actually classified as high risk for developing infection. The good news is that these infections are very easy to prevent.

Wound Infections

Hazards associated with Vibrio-related wound infections are greatest:

  • In stagnant, inshore waters during warm, rainy months due to high natural abundances
  • When a wound is submerged for a long period of time, or an injury goes untreated
  • For individuals with weakened immune systems or underlying diseas


Infections typically begin with swelling and redness of skin, followed by severe pain, blistering, and discharge at the site of the wound. As the infection progresses, tissue necrosis, fever, chills, low blood pressure, shock, and death may occur, especially if it spreads to the bloodstream. Symptoms may arise within 1-3 days, but usually occur a few hours after exposure. Disease can progress rapidly and recovery is greatest when diagnosed early. Infections can not heal on their own and require medical treatment.

Recommendations for Avoiding Wound Infections

It is important to understand your personal risk for developing infection, which may be different from others around you. Be prepared and bring a first aid kit when spending a day on the water. Remember, the best way to avoid infection is to prevent exposure in the first place!

First Aid and Wound Care:

  • Wash the wound thoroughly with soapy water and remove any foreign material
  • Follow with rubbing alcohol or peroxide, antibiotic ointment, and cover with a bandage
  • Avoid further contact with the environment and keep the area clean until it has healed

Seafood Sickness

Hazards associated with Vibrio-relatedseafood sickness are greatest:

  • During the summer months, especially in coastal areas due to high natural abundances
  • When consuming raw, undercooked, or contaminated cooked seafood--especially shellfish and specifically raw oysters
  • For Individuals with weakened immune systems or underlying disease

Symptoms and Disease:

Anyone who eats raw or improperly cooked seafood is susceptible to infection by Vibrio. The severity of disease depends on the amount of pathogenic bacteria consumed as well as the individual’s health. Symptoms include watery and/or bloody diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, headache, fever, and chills. Symptoms can occur anywhere from 4 to 36 hours after consumption but generally start after about 15 hours. Illnesses typically last for 2 to 6 days; some are self-limiting and heal on their own over time, while those that are more severe can be treated with antibiotics. Most healthy people are not at risk of serious infection and will generally have mild symptoms. In individuals with weakened immune systems disease can be severe or fatal if the infection spreads to the blood (causing septicemia or sepsis). Seek medical attention immediately if you have consumed raw shellfish and have any of these symptoms, especially if you are in a high risk group.

Recommendations for Avoiding Infections

Infections can be prevented by cooking seafood properly; avoiding cross contamination of raw seafood and juices with cookware, utensils, or other food; and by consuming cooked seafood. Food should be heated to at least 145°F (internal temperature) for at least 15 seconds. Keep raw foods from coming into contact with cooked foods and surfaces that are used for eating. Thoroughly wash utensils, dishes, surfaces, hands, etc. that contact raw food with hot water and soap before they are used again. Keep food refrigerated at or below 40°F and quickly refrigerate cooked food if it’s to be stored for later.

Helpful Resources and Links:

Florida Health Department

Centers for Disease Control

Summer Snacking with the Air Potato Leaf Beetle

July 2015

Air potato leaf beetle

By Melinda Morgan-Stowell, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard Community Development Agent

Air potatoes in Brevard beware! Last Friday, the University of Florida/IFAS Extension Brevard County Director, Linda Seals, coordinated a release of air potato beetles on the Florida Institute of Technology campus in Melbourne with representatives of the college and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS).

As part of a collaboration between the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), FDACS, and the University of Florida (UF), the air potato leaf beetle, Lilioceris cheni, is being released throughout Florida to eradicate this voracious exotic vine.

What is the air potato (Dioscorea bulbifera), and why should we care about controlling it? It was introduced into Florida in 1905, and has since escaped cultivation and become extremely aggressive. What does extremely aggressive mean? Does the vine bully other plants? In a way it does. Since air potato is a vine, it has no ability to support its own weight. In order to access the necessary amount of sunlight, it uses other plants as props, growing over them, and eventually smothering them. The plant is responsible for killing and displacing native species which disrupts natural processes.

Enter the air potato vine beetles. What’s so special about them? Extensive host range testing by scientists at the USDA/ARS Invasive Plant Research Laboratory in Fort Lauderdale demonstrated that the air potato leaf beetle is a specialist feeder on air potato. It will not complete development on any other plant found in Florida and is only known to feed on Dioscorea bulbifera in its native range (Pemberton and Witkus. 2010). This means these voracious little guys are extremely picky about their diets, and will only eat the air potato vine…not one’s prized begonias, for example.

This is one of the good insects it would appear…especially when we take into consideration the over 600 species of beneficial insects that have been introduced into the United States since the early 1900's. Of these, only about 20% have been outright successes as biological control agents; another 35% have been partially successful; and the other 45% never became established or failed to have any significant effect on pest populations (J. Meyer. 2003).

What’s even more impressive is that the public is invited to participate in releases! USDA and FDACS are concentrating releases on public lands, while UF is rearing beetles for release on private lands. The rearing facilities are located in Fort Lauderdale (USDA), Gainesville (FDACS) and Fort Pierce, (FDACS and UF). Releases are made between May and October when air potato plants are actively growing. For more information on obtaining the beetles, please visit UF’s Air Potato Biological Control website.

Pemberton, R. W. and Witkus, G. L. 2010. Laboratory host range testing of Lilioceris sp. near impressa (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) – a potential biological control agent of air potato, Dioscorea bulbifera (Dioscoreaceae). Biocontrol Science and Technology, 20: 567–587.

Myer, J. Pest Control Tactics. Department of Entomology North Carolina State University Entomology webpage. June 2015.

Avoiding a Shocking Situation…Lightning Safety Tips

June 2015

Lightning Safety

By Mel Morgan-Stowell, Community Development Agent

Florida has often been called the lightning capital of the world, and while that distinction actually belongs to Rwanda, we are most definitely the state with the highest number of lightning storms…and related fatalities. Central Florida from Tampa to Titusville is known as "Lightning Alley,” and for good reason, since we experience lightning storms an average of 100 days each year.

Here are some lighting safety tips from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):

What You Need to Know

  • NO PLACE outside is safe when thunderstorms are in the area!!
  • If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you. Lightning often strikes more than three miles from the center of the thunderstorm, far outside the rain or thunderstorm cloud. “Bolts from the blue” can strike 10-15 miles from the thunderstorm.
  • When you hear thunder, immediately move to safe shelter: a substantial building with electricity or plumbing or an enclosed, metal-topped vehicle with windows up. Remember, when lightning strikes a vehicle, it goes through the metal frame into the ground. Don't lean on doors during a thunderstorm.
  • Stay in safe shelter at least 30 minutes after you hear the last sound of thunder. Many lightning casualties occur because people do not seek shelter soon enough or leave it too early.

Indoor Lightning Safety

  • Stay off corded phones, computers and other electrical equipment that put you in direct contact with electricity.
  • Avoid plumbing…including sinks, baths and faucets…they can conduct electricity.
  • Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches. Windows are hazardous for two reasons. First, wind generated during a thunderstorm can blow objects into the window, breaking it and causing glass to shatter. Second (in rare instances) in older homes, lightning can enter through cracks in the sides of windows.
  • Do not lie on concrete floors, and do not lean against concrete walls.

Last Resort Outdoor Risk Reduction Tips

If caught outside with no safe shelter anywhere nearby the following actions may reduce your risk:

  • Immediately get off elevated areas such as hills, mountain ridges or peaks
  • Never lie flat on the ground. Lying flat increases your chance of being affected by potentially deadly ground current. If you are caught outside in a thunderstorm, you keep moving toward a safe shelter.
  • Never shelter under an isolated tree
  • Never use a cliff or rocky overhang for shelter
  • Immediately get out and away from ponds, lakes and other bodies of water
  • Stay away from objects that conduct electricity (barbed wire fences, power lines, windmills, etc.)

Additional Information

Pro-Active Hurricane Preparation for Trees

June 2015

By Sally Scalera, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard Urban Horticulture Agent

Over pruning
Figure 1. Example of a queen palm that has been over pruned.

Now that June is here, we can’t escape the fact that hurricane season has begun.  Though I don’t expect a bad hurricane season (blame it on optimism or denial) it is always best to be prepared – just in case.  If you own one or more large trees, I’m thinking 50 feet or taller, that are planted close enough to fall on any target (house, car, shed, etc.) complete this checklist soon!

  • Check to see if any large trees are planted less than 12 feet from a sidewalk, driveway or house.  The recommendation is to plant large growing trees at least 12 feet away from sidewalks, driveways, etc. because they can cause damage by lifting and cracking the cement.
  •  If you do have some large trees planted too close, consider consulting a certified arborist to determine if the tree needs the canopy thinned due to a lack of proper rooting area.
  • Walk around your trees to see if there are any girdling roots visible.  A girdling root will be growing close to and around the trunk and often growing over the top of another root.  A girdling root eventually strangles the root or roots on one side of the tree.  If a girdling root is present consult a certified arborist.
  • Does your large tree have more then one main trunk?  If yes, do the two trunks form a pronounced “V” where they come together?  If yes, you will want to contact a certified arborist.
  • Has there been any construction activity within approximately 20 feet of the tree trunk within the last 10 years?  If roots have been cut for a sidewalk, utilities, etc. the tree may be prone to falling in the opposite direction from where the roots were cut!
  • If you have an old (40-50 years old) laurel or water oak tree, you may want to consider getting it removed now!  After studying the last 11 hurricanes that have hit Florida since Andrew, the tree that has done the most damage has been the laurel oak.  Both the laurel and water oaks begin to exhibit root rot when they reach around 40-50 years old!
  • Do you have a tree that has failed (lost a major limb or trunk) in a previous storm? If so, it will most likely fail again.  This is another finding from studies of the last 11 hurricanes.  Trees that lost limbs or had been blown over in a past storm are likely to do it again.  You may want to consider removing the tree and planting a new one if it has failed before.
  • Here is an important thing NOT TO DO to your palms before storm season – or any time for that matter!  Do not let anyone do a “hurricane cut” (Figure 1.) on your palms to protect them from being blown over during a hurricane.  Palms, in general, fair well through hurricanes, but the practice of removing all but a few of the fronds can actually make the palm more vulnerable during a wind storm or hurricane.  When a palm has a large canopy the bud is actually protected more, but when the majority of the fronds are removed the bud is more easily snapped by the wind.  Once the bud is snapped the entire palm will die. Do not let anyone remove any green or yellow fronds from your palms!  Only the brown fronds should be removed from a palm.

If you are in need of a certified arborist, the easiest way to find the most updated list for Brevard County is to go to http://www.floridaisa.org/. In the third heading from the left on the green menu bar, hover the mouse over Tree Care Info. Click on, “Find an Arborist” in the pull down menu.  Next, under “Search by Location,” click the down arrow, scroll down, and click on the United States.  Now just enter your zip code (they call it postal code), choose the number of miles you want the search to cover, and then click the search button. You should have some certified arborist to call, so get started!

Mosquito Madness…Safety Tips for Summer

June 2015

By Joe Walter, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard Agriculture Agent

MosquitoesMusketas, the bloodsucking insects that prevented Spanish Conquistadors from sleeping in the 1500’s as they camped near what is now Miami are known to us as mosquitoes. The name mosquito is Spanish for “little gnat,” and is a derivative of mosca, the Spanish word for fly. Any member of the insect family Culicidae, a group that includes some 3,000 species and subspecies ranging over most of the earth is a mosquito by nature, if not by name.

The first recorded attempt at mosquito control was to dig holes in the beach, lie in them, and cover individuals to prevent aerial attacks. Mosquitos remain a problem, but control methods have evolved making life a bit more comfortable and safe.

There are 80 different species of mosquitoes in Florida, but only five that transmit pathogens that cause disease. Mosquito-borne diseases found in Florida include Chikungunya, Dengue, Eastern equine encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis, West Nile fever, and Dog heartworms. As of this writing there are no vaccines for any of these diseases available for humans. Dog heartworms only affect dogs, although there is no vaccine for heartworms, preventative medications are available.

Only adult female mosquitoes bite. The adult female in most species of mosquitoes requires a meal of blood to produce eggs. All mosquitoes live part of their life in an aquatic environment such as floodwater, permanent water, or container. The habitat selected by a female mosquito to lay her eggs is species dependent. Mosquitoes develop through four different stages during their life cycle…egg including, larval, pupal, and adult. They eat primarily during the larvae and adult stages.

Mosquitoes are aquatic until they become adults, at which time they become terrestrial. If at any time water is removed before the adult emerges, the mosquito will die. Mosquitoes do not breed in running water.

There are a number of ways to control mosquito populations. The best way is the removal or modification of water sources.

The second best alternative is to control the larvae, as they are concentrated in large numbers in water. A naturally occurring larvicide, Bacillus thuriengensis israelensis (Bti), is toxic to mosquito larvae, but does not affect non-target species. This product is commercially available in the form of granules.

Another natural method that can be employed for reducing adults is augmenting the native small fish populations that eat mosquito larvae and pupa. These can be used to kill large number of mosquito larvae before they have an opportunity to emerge as pesky, breeding adults.

When mosquito numbers reach a predetermined number and/or virus activity is present in the local area, we resort to use of chemicals to kill adult mosquitoes called adulticiding. Products used to kill adult mosquitoes (adulticides) provide immediate, but temporary relief and are toxic to many non-target species. Because of this, Brevard County Mosquito Control District only applies adulticides no earlier than 30 minutes after sun down and stops well before sun rise, while most pollinators are in the protection of their habitats or hives.

Homeowners can play an important role in controlling mosquito populations by controlling habitat around their homes. Emptying containers that hold water, changing water weekly in needed water containers, placing fish in animal water tanks, draining low areas in the yard, fixing leaky faucets, and clearing dense vegetation are all ways to reduce habitat and mosquito populations.

Attempts to control mosquitoes that have been shown to have no effect are bug zappers, Mosquito plants, repellent bracelets, ultrasonic devices, Dragonfly mimics…or the consumption of garlic, vitamin B, or bananas.

Personal prevention from disease-bearing mosquitoes should include avoiding being outside at dawn and dusk; wearing long sleeve shirts, long pants, and socks; and applying insect repellant. The University of Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory has tested and published the results of the many mosquito repellents. For longest protection duration (4 to 5 hours) the repellent should have 20% to 50% DEET.

For more information on mosquitoes go to Florida Resident’s Guide to Mosquito Control.

Family Living...Artistically

May 2015

By DIana Sagesar, Brevard Botanical Garden, Inc.

Art in the LobbyMembers of the Brevard Botanical Garden will hold their Fourth Annual Art-in-the-Lobby reception and fundraiser on Saturday, May 16th from 6 to 8 p.m. at UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County located at 3695 Lake Drive in Cocoa. Art-in-the-Lobby presents an evening of wine, music, hors d’oeuvres, local art, and a peek at Brevard County’s newest garden creation. Several local artists will be demonstrating their skill, and will also have works for sale. A portion of these sales will be donated back to the garden. In addition, the garden will be open for a peek at its progress.

Guests may walk the paths and observe a botanical garden in its infancy. The deck overlooking the pond is another way to help fund the garden…as visitors may join the Sponsor-a-Plank campaign. Tickets are $10 and may be purchased at the door or by calling UF/IFAS Extension Brevard at 321-633-1702 extension 0.

The Brevard Botanical Garden (BBG) was formed in May 2010 as a 501 (c)(3) by University of Florida/IFAS Extension agents, garden enthusiasts, and environmentally concerned citizens who want to improve the quality of life in Brevard County by opening a research-based botanical garden for demonstrations, collections, and displays. Its mission is to promote an increased appreciation of the environment. All donations support planting, research, and upkeep of the garden. To find out more about the garden, visit www.brevardbotanicalgarden.org.

Are You Financially Fit?

May 2015

Are you financially fit?

By Gayle Whitworth

Hurricane season is upon us. As you begin to check your supplies and do all the other necessary steps to make sure you are ready in case of a storm, don’t forget to check to make sure you are financially ready as well. Financial preparedness is essential to being able to weather a storm, whether a hurricane or manmade storm.

So what can you do now to make sure you are financially fit and able to weather any storm? Take time to put together a Financial First Aid Kid. The time spent in putting this kit together is time well spent and will help you should you face any storm, big or little.

  • Gather information for your Financial First Aid Kit – Information needed includes a list of all personal household items, professional advisors, health care providers, important legal documents and financial statements, and private security or access information. The Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) provides a great resource for helping create your list.
  • Review all supporting documentation – Because documentation is so important to receiving services and recovering losses, it’s important to make sure that your financial documents are accurate and that any coverages you are have are still in effect. When reviewing property coverage for your home or other property, make sure coverage amounts are adequate to cover all losses, and know what is covered (and what is not). Taking photos or videos of personal property can help when settling claims. Also, be sure to keep backup copies of any financial records that may be stored on a computer and update when necessary. If you are missing any documents, take steps to obtain them. Check out Financial Recordkeeping: Organizing Your Financial Life for a list of important financial documents and when and how long to keep them.
  • Make a copy of your Financial First Aid Kit, including forms and all supporting documentation. It’s always a good practice to keep at least one copy of important documents. You might consider having one paper copy and one (or more) electronic copies.
  • Keep your Financial First Aid Kit and supporting documentation in a safe place. The original list and documentation is safest if kept in an off-site safety deposit box or other safe place. The key to access the kit should be kept in a secure, easily accessible area. A copy of the kit and documentation should also be kept at home in a fireproof and waterproof metal box or safe. You might also consider having a copy kept with a family member who lives in another county or state.
  • Finally, make sure you update the information in your kit when necessary. At a minimum, information in the kit should be updated once yearly. Information should also be updated any time there is a change in status.

World's Greatest Baby Shower

May 2015

By Gayle Whitworth

World's Greatest Baby ShowerAre you an expectant or adoptive parent, a parent of a child under the age of two, or are you planning on starting or adding to your family soon? If so, it’s time to celebrate the joys of parenthood and prepare for all the wonderful challenges that lie ahead by attending the World’s Greatest Baby Shower.

The World’s Greatest Baby Shower offers educational exhibits and helpful presentations by medical and other experts, plus plenty of light refreshments and door prizes! Various community organizations and business will be on hand to share their expertise and information about services that can help you be the best Mom or Dad possible. Admission to the event is free and reservations are not required. Just come and join the fun.

Mini-seminars will be presented throughout the event offering information and advice on a variety of topics including Child Passenger Safety, SIDS Prevention, Postpartum Depression, and Ask a Doc.

The World’s Greatest Baby Shower will take place on Saturday, May 9 from 9am – 1pm at the Gibson Youth Center,835 Sycamore St. in Titusville.

For more information on being a vendor or a guest, please call 633-1702, ext. 228 or ext. 230.

Off to the Show!

Off to the show!

May 2015

By Vanessa Spero-Swingle

Brevard County 4-H has 33 riders attending the 4-H Area D Horse Show May 1-3, 2015 at Clarcona Horseman’s Park. These riders have worked hard all year working their horses and participating in a variety of facets of 4-H programming. Youth must qualify for the show by achieving the Silver Standards of Excellence Award and Red ribbon quality project book. The Standards of Excellence requires youth to exhibit leadership, public speaking, participation, and community service skills. Brevard 4-H is proud to qualify these 33 riders and excited to have them represent the county. Good luck to all those that will be attending!

Poultry In Motion

April 2015

By Vanessa Spero-Swingle

4-H Poultry ProjectCheep, cheep, cheep…the start the next season of the Brevard County Fair 4-H Market Poultry Project will begin as chicks arrive at Extension Brevar d on or around April 9th, 2015 to. This year our program sold out in a few short weeks! The 400 chicks purchased for the program have been spoken for with more than 60 youth raising them this year (up from 40 last year).

Youth will be raising Buff Orpingtons for the project this year. Originally from England, Buff Orpingtons have a golden hue, lay brown eggs, and have a docile temperament.

These hens support the 4-H’ers who raise them to be auctioned off to the highest bidders at the at the Brevard County Fair’s October auction. Last year, over $10,000.00 in premiums were paid to participating 4-H’ers. Youth will be responsible for the care and maintenance of the animals, as well as the sale and marketing of their birds for the Fair. Participants either raise the chickens at home or at one of two cooperative coops in the county (UF/IFAS Extension Brevard in Cocoa or Wickham Park in Melbourne).

One of the most important features of this project is that youth learn about real world agriculture while developing social relationships, character skills, and learning how to take care of livestock (Hodgin, 2012). The project allows youth to learn from others who are more experienced, while giving them a connection with caring adults other than their parents or guardians.

For more information about the auction, contact Vanessa Spero-Swingle or call 321-633-1702.

It's Easter Time!

April 2015

Easter Eggstravaganza

By Beth Shephard

It’s Easter time, and colored eggs are everywhere…but what are you going to do with them after all of the hunts and rolls are over? Can you use them? First, determine the length of time the eggs have been left at room temperature. If they have been left out for over 4 hours, the rule is to throw them out, even if they are hard boiled. If you determine the eggs are safe to use, now decide what to do with them. Don’t worry, there are several options for using all those eggs!

If you love a good deviled egg, there are plenty of ways they can be prepared. The temptation is to make a traditional deviled egg, but there are other options. Consider adding an unexpected twist, by adding items such as shrimp, guacamole, or even Sriracha or Wasabi for an extra kick!

Hardboiled eggs can also be peeled and eaten as is, or cut up and added as salad toppings…a great way to start getting in shape for summer!

Try adding a little international flavor by using your eggs in empanadas for a little more exotic meal….or create Salad Niçoise…a classic French composed salad with hard-boiled eggs, baby red potatoes, olives and tuna. It’s the perfect entrée for a ladies' lunch or light dinner.

Egg salad is another great way to use those leftover eggs. Think outside of the box and look for recipes with “new-to-you” ingredients, such as red onion, lemon, and dill. An open faced sandwich with bacon, egg, and watercress is another great, fresh choice.

As you can see, there are many ways to incorporate eggs into meals. Try the recipe below from the Food Network website as a start!

Garlic and Herb Dip with Hard-Boiled Eggs


4 ounces goat cheese 3/4 cup sour cream 3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives 2 teaspoons minced fresh cilantro 2 teaspoons minced fresh dill 1 lemon, zested and juiced Salt and freshly ground black pepper Spring vegetables, for serving


Combine the goat cheese and sour cream, and whisk until smooth. Finely mince the hard-boiled eggs or push through a strainer or French tamis until finely chopped, and add to the cheese mixture. Add the chives, cilantro, dill, lemon zest, and juice. Stir to incorporate. Season with salt and pepper, and serve with spring vegetable crudité (cut vegetables).

Recipe courtesy of The Kitchen

Read more.

Building a Backyard Flock...from Scratch

April 2015

Building a Backyard Flock

By Joe Walter, Agriculture Agent and Melinda Morgan-Stowell, Community Development Agent

COCOA, FL - Backyard chickens have become very popular across the United States, from the country to the urban environments, people are re-discovering the joy of raising chickens. A few of these fowl in the backyard can provide entertainment, companionship, color, and organic fertilizer…while providing a supply of fresh eggs for your family. A pet that pays it way!

Before deciding to add chickens to the backyard landscape there are two major questions to settle. First, is the property properly zoned for chickens? Rules governing keeping of chickens are enforced by local our land planning office. Determine if the site is located in a local municipality or in unincorporated County boundaries? The Minicode Corporation website provides free database access regarding Zoning Ordinance information for any city at: http://www.municode.com/. Second, is the community governed by a Home Owners Association, and if so, does it have rules prohibiting chickens? While checking the local ordinances, also check for setback requirements. A discussion with neighbors about the possibility of poultry joining the neighborhood is also a good move…it may save later heartache.

Also before jumping into the chicken business it’s best to clearly understand all of the animals’ requirements. Chickens, like other animals, require daily attention. They need to have a constant supply of formulated feed and cool clean water. If hens are out of feed for several hours, a decline in egg production will probably occur. The amount of decline will be related to the time without feed. Be sure that all the birds have access to an adequate supply of a complete feed which meets all their nutritional requirements (Jacob,Wilson,Miles,Butcher, & Mather, 1998).

Water is often taken for granted, and yet it is probably the most essential nutrient. Water is by far the single greatest constituent of the body, and, in general, represents about 70 percent of total body weight. Access to water is very important, and a lack of water for several hours will probably cause a decline in egg production. Hens are more sensitive to a lack of water than a lack of feed (Jacob,Wilson,Miles,Butcher, & Mather, 1998).

Egg collection is another requirement. Eggs should be gathered at least once a day, washed, and refrigerated at a temperature of 40 degrees F or less (USDA, 2008). Remember, when dealing with animals in any situation, personal hygiene is important. Always wash hands with soap and hot water after handling chickens or equipment that has been exposed to chickens. If soap and water is not available, a hand sanitizer can be used to prevent the spread of bacteria.

Chickens also need clean, dry housing that will protect them from predators i.e. dogs, cats, raccoons, opossums, hawks, eagles, bobcats, fox, and any other animals that like chickens (to eat that is). Provide a minimum of three square feet of confinement per hen, the more the better. Also provide overhead coverage to prevent winged predators from feeding on the flock, and bury wire at least six inches below the ground surface to repel digging predators.

Finally, decide what breed, variety, and age to purchase. Breeds of chickens categorized (by use) as meat birds, production egg layers, dual purpose, and exhibition birds. Backyard birds are not generally meat breeds nor are they the production egg layers. Exhibition and dual purpose breeds are most often seen in backyard flocks. Breeds that may work well for dual purpose include the Rhode Island Red, Plymouth Rock, New Hampshire, Wyandotte, and Orpington (Barber, 2010). When determining the breed of bird to purchase for the backyard, natural temperament should be considered. As to variety when, “Starting a flock together, of the same age, they will grow up and get along with each other fine, despite their breed differences.” according to Murray McMurry Hatchery. When considering age, be aware that purchasing pullet chicks means there is the chance of getting a male in the mix, since gender selection at hatching is only 95-98 percent accurate.

For additional information on raising backyard chickens contact Joe Walter at jwalter@ufl.edu or visit our webpage brevard.ifas.ufl.edu.

Additional Resources

J.P. Jacob, H.R. Wilson, R.D. Miles, G. D. Butcher, and F.B. Mather. April 1998. Reviewed April 2014. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

USDA. The Kitchen Companion: Your Safe Handbook. USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. March 2014.

Derek L. Barber. EDIS publication, “Basic Guide for the Backyard Chicken Flock.” April, 2010.

Spring Fertilization for Your Brevard Yard

March 2015

solutions for your life

By Matt Lenhardt, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County

COCOA, FL - Research shows that applying nitrogen, phosphorous and other fertilizers above recommended rates can make stress lawns by forcing too much leaf growth, stretching out cell walls, and making them more susceptible to environmental damage.

Nutrient storage in the roots is also affected, making turf more susceptible to disease, drought, and cold. Turf with thick, healthy root systems can take in more nutrients when fertilized, which reduces the amount of fertilizer that simply seeps into the soil. What’s worse, improperly applied nitrogen (especially quick release nitrogen) and phosphorous, can result in these nutrients seeping past the turf’s root zone…and into our waterways, adding to algae and bacteria growth.

Over fertilization can also increase the chance of disease and insect attacks. This may increase the need for additional fungicide or pesticide applications, meaning extra attacks on the wallet!

In the spring months, apply fertilizers when turf is actively growing, maximizing nutrient absorption. Fertilizer ordinances also require a 50% slow release nitrogen fertilizer and limited application of phosphorous based on UF/IFAS soil test results. A ‘blackout’ period extends through summer months when application of nitrogen or phosphorous is not permitted.

For more information, homeowners are encouraged to visit the UF/IFAS Extension Brevard website at http://brevard.ifas.ufl.edu/ to sign up for a new, in-depth fertilizer and irrigation training with a site visit called My Brevard Yard – Creating Beautiful Lawns and Protecting our Waterways.

Growing Picture Perfect Palms

March 2015

Picture Perfect Palms

By Sally Scalera, Urban Horticulture Agent

COCOA, FL - Palms are popular landscape plants that can add value and beauty to the home when they receive proper care. For those who own palms, or are interested in adding some to landscapes, check out these tips to help you grow the healthiest palms in the neighborhood.

When determining the desired number and type of palms consider the fact that Florida’s sandy soils will not match the nutritional needs of non-native palms. To grow non-native palms that are healthy with a large number of deep green fronds, be aware they may require multiple applications of a high quality fertilizer for the life of the palm..

Choose palms for the hardiness zone in which they will be planted. The mainland portion of Brevard County, and north Merritt Island, are located in the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Plant Hardiness zone 9B. The central and southern portion of Merritt Island, along with the barrier islands are zone 10A.

Palms may be susceptible to disease. Here are a few examples:

Remember diversity in the landscape is beneficial! We recommend planting no more than 5% of a particular species to reduce the likelihood that insects or diseases will damage a significant portion of the landscape.

Additional Resources

Farm-To-Table Event puts a spring in Foodies' Step!

March 2015

Farm to table event

By Melinda Morgan-Stowell, Community Development Agent

COCOA, FL - It’s spring in Brevard County, and time to taste the best the Space Coast has to offer! In our fourth Farm-to-table offering, the UF/IFAS Brevard County Extension and the Brevard County Farmers Market will once again partner with the wonderful folks at The Farm at Rockledge Gardens for our spring Farm-To-Table dinner.

We are extremely excited to announce that the Foy Family of Crush Eleven and The Fat Snook will be crafting the meal as our featured chefs.

With the help of their 2 children John and Mona opened The Fat Snook in 2007. The restaurant is based on “Floribean” cuisine that has gained rave reviews from locals and visitors alike. This family owned and operated business defines itself by this simple, but eloquent statement, “The Fat Snook has been dedicated to supporting local purveyors; which has enabled us to showcase some of the finest ingredients Florida has to offer.”

Join us Sunday April 19th from 5pm to 8pm at The Farm at Rockledge Gardens for a magical candlelit evening celebrating our community's connection to local farmers, producers, and chefs who appreciate the benefits of local food. Our featured chefs will transform local farm produce into a variety of culinary delights that will thrill out guest’s taste buds. The evening will include music and a variety of libations for our diners’ pleasure!

Tickets will be posted to our Eventbrite website within the very, very near future…so stay tuned…or contact Mel Morgan-Stowell at mmorganstowell@ufl.edu for updates!