Your Community, Your Health, Your Voice

Change Club Study is coming to Clifton and Meridian, and we’re looking for local residents to help improve community health.

A university-led, paid study called Change Club offers Clifton and Meridian residents an opportunity to engage their community by exploring ways to improve the health of its residents.

As part of the study, Change Club, led by Texas A&M AgriLife and Cornell University, will implement a new community-change project that attempts to make healthy eating and physical activity easier for Meridian and Clifton residents.

The Change Club study is recruiting members to join a committee, which will lead the charge by identifying prospective areas for healthy improvement across the environment — the places where town residents live, work and play.

Change Club members will receive limited funding to complete the projects selected for their communities.

“This infusion of money, solely focused on improving the built environment, is really a great opportunity for Clifton and Meridian to begin thinking about how it will improve the health of its residents in a measurable way, long-term” said County Extension Agent Chris Coon.

Change Club requests community support in the form of health data provided by residents like you. The information participants provide over three years would include physical activity tracked by an accelerometer, survey information, physical measurements and a finger-prick blood draw during a local visit once a year. Monetary compensation is available for participants.

Meridian and Clifton residents can find out more information and sign up by contacting Chris Coon, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Agent for Bosque County by calling 254-435-2331 or by emailing him at chris.coon@ag.tamu.edu .

Homeowner Maintenance of Aerobic Treatment Units

The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service is offering a homeowner education event discussing the operation and maintenance of aerobic treatment units.  The “Homeowner Maintenance of Aerobic Treatment Units” workshop will be held on Thursday, March 26 from 8:30am to 3:30 p.m. at the Meridian Civic Center, 309 W. River Street, Meridian, TX.

The workshop will be of interest to homeowners who want to learn more about the components and maintenance of an aerobic treatment unit and spray field. It is important for homeowners to properly maintain their onsite wastewater treatment systems to help protect public safety, public health and water quality.

The purpose of the course is to present information on the function, operation and maintenance of aerobic treatment units, and to provide hands-on demonstration of evaluation techniques to determine operational status of the treatment system. Topics will include the importance of maintaining the treatment system, health and safety considerations, basic concepts about the aerobic treatment processes, and treatment system testing and reporting. It also will address “care and feeding” of the aerobic treatment unit, system evaluation tools and supplies, and how effective wastewater treatment protects water resources.

The course fee is $100. Class attendance is limited to first 50, so attendees are required to pre-register to ensure adequate space. To register, please visit OSSF.TAMU.EDU. For additional information, contact Ryan Gerlich, Extension Program Specialist, 979-458-4185.

Soil Testing

February has brought into the Extension Office an increase in calls and visits with questions on how to collect soil samples and to get collection bags. With the warmer temperatures recently, and spring on the horizon, people are starting to think about fertilizing pastures and getting their gardens ready for planting.

The best thing a person can do prior to purchasing seeds, fertilizers, etc. is to take a soil sample. This is an easy process and can be used to estimate the kinds and amounts of soil nutrients available to plants. A soil test can also be used as an aid in determining fertilizer needs. Properly conducted soil sampling and testing can be cost-effective indicators of the types and amounts of fertilizer and lime needed to improve crop yield. The effects of adding a fertilizer often depend on the level of nutrients already present in the soil. If a soil is very low in a particular nutrient, yield will probably be increased if that nutrient is added. By comparison, if the soil has high initial nutrient levels, fertilization will result in little, if any, increase in yield.

There are three simple steps involved in collecting a soil sample:

1) Obtain a sample collection bag and submittal form.  Bags are free and available at any County Extension Office.

2) Collect your sample. To get a composited sample that represents the entire area roughly 6-10 cores or slices of soil should be taken at random points to a depth of 6 inches. This can be done using a spade, trowel or soil probe. The soil collected from each of the 10 collection sites in a sample site is then mixed together in a bucket and used to fill the collection bag.

3) Complete the submittal form and mail to the Soil, Water and Forage Testing Laboratory in College Station.  Turnaround time for results is roughly ten days to two weeks.

Once you have your results you will know what nutrients your soil is lacking in or in excess of. Your pH and salinity levels will also be reported, which will aid in selection of the appropriate plants and fertilizers for your sample area. When you receive your analysis report you can also contact your local County Extension Agent, Chelsea Dorward at 254-435-2331, for help interpreting the information.

2020 Texas Custom Rates Survey

The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Department of Agricultural Economics is conducting the 2020 Texas Custom Rates Survey.  Each year our offices receive many requests for current custom rate information and the latest Custom Rates Publication.  The survey and publication are the only source to find the going rates paid for these types of services.  Questions in the survey include rates paid/charged for specific tillage, planting, application, harvesting, and other services or operations performed on a custom basis.  If you have knowledge of rates in your area, and appreciate the value of publishing this type of market information, please consider participating in the survey which can be found online at:  http://agecoext.tamu.edu/crs2020

The survey will ask that you only complete the questions that pertain to your operation, therefore most people should be able to complete the survey in 10-15 minutes or less.  The survey will be open from February through the end of April.  Your participation will help make sure the published information is the most accurate and reliable possible.  If you have any questions regarding the survey please contact Dr. Steven Klose (sklose@tamu.edu).

Lean, Mean Beans

The average American diet typically contains a high amount of protein, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Proteins play an important part in our daily life and in the function of our bodies. Proteins are responsible for muscle growth and maintenance, they act as enzymes in important chemical reactions, and they play the part of messenger when they’re turned into hormones.

While the quantity of protein we consume is important, it is just as important to look at the quality of those proteins. The United States Department of Agriculture recommends a variety of lean animal and plant proteins. Lean animal proteins include low fat beef, pork, poultry, and seafood and plant proteins include things like beans, lentils, nuts, soy products, and seeds.

These two categories of lean proteins will typically be low in saturated fats and sodium, both of which, when consumed regularly in high amounts, are correlated to increased risk of preventable diseases such as hypertension. Plant proteins will also typically contain higher amounts of unsaturated fats, which are linked to improved cholesterol levels, and fiber, an important player in bowel health.

These plant protein sources are also easy to sneak into any diet. Add beans to your favorite casserole, sunflower seeds to a salad, or top your morning oatmeal with walnuts or pecans!

However, remember when buying canned goods to look for reduced-, or low-sodium varieties. Salt is a great preservation tool and can greatly increase the shelf life of a canned good. The beans may be low sodium, but the liquid they’re packaged in may not. If you cannot find a low-sodium option, thoroughly rinse the product before use to reduce the amount of salt you’re consuming.

For more information on protein, health, and nutrition please contact County Extension Agent – Family and Community Health Chris Coon at 254-435-2331 or at chris.coon@ag.tamu.edu.

Step Up, Scale Down

Here at the end of January, it is not uncommon for those New Year’s Resolutions to start tapering off. Whether it is a lack of motivation, frustration with results, or just difficulty scheduling time for exercise and nutritious cooking, this is that time of year where some of us just fall off the horse. If you are having difficulty staying on your weight loss plan, or would like to start one, join Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service’s “Step Up, Scale Down” program starting on Friday, February 7th at noon. This 12-week program is designed to give you the knowledge and tools you need to live a healthier lifestyle.

Weekly weigh-ins, group discussions, health and wellness talks, and recipe demonstrations will happen every Friday in February, March and April at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service office at 104 South Fuller Street in Meridian. This program costs $40 per participant for the entirety of the 12 weeks. Each meeting will be come and go during the lunch hour to accommodate those on the move. Topics will include goal setting, reading food labels, menu planning, maintaining motivation, and the ins and outs of physical activity.

For more information please contact County Extension Agent – Family & Community Health Chris Coon at 254-435-2331 or at chris.coon@ag.tamu.edu.

AgriLife Extension Service Honors Superior Service Award Winners

By:  Blair Fannin, Associate Director for Communications, TAMU

The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service recently presented its Superior Service Awards, the highest employee honor conferred by the agency.

The awards recognize AgriLife Extension faculty and staff members who provide outstanding performance in Extension education or other outstanding service to the organization and to Texans.

“Whether its individuals, teams or partners, Superior Service is the hallmark of an organization in being recognized for continued exemplary work,” said Jeff Hyde, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service director. “The personnel receiving awards this year represent exactly what Extension is and does. They do their jobs with servitude and heart and go above and beyond providing Superior Service to Texas.”

We are proud to recognize Chelsea Dorward of Bosque County and honor her for the Superior Service that she provides as an Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Agent!

Homeowner Maintenance of Aerobic Treatment Units

The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service is offering a homeowner education event discussing the operation and maintenance of aerobic treatment units.  The “Homeowner Maintenance of Aerobic Treatment Units” workshop will be held on Thursday, February 6 from 8:30am to 3:30 p.m. at the Meridian Civic Center, 309 W. River Street, Meridian, TX.

The workshop will be of interest to homeowners who want to learn more about the components and maintenance of an aerobic treatment unit and spray field. It is important for homeowners to properly maintain their onsite wastewater treatment systems to help protect public safety, public health and water quality.

The purpose of the course is to present information on the function, operation and maintenance of aerobic treatment units, and to provide hands-on demonstration of evaluation techniques to determine operational status of the treatment system. Topics will include the importance of maintaining the treatment system, health and safety considerations, basic concepts about the aerobic treatment processes, and treatment system testing and reporting. It also will address “care and feeding” of the aerobic treatment unit, system evaluation tools and supplies, and how effective wastewater treatment protects water resources.

The course fee is $100. Class attendance is limited, so attendees are required to pre-register to ensure adequate space. To register, please visit OSSF.TAMU.EDU. For additional information, contact Ryan Gerlich, Extension Program Specialist, 979-458-4185.

Private Applicators Pesticide Training

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in Bosque County, will be hosting a Private Applicators Pesticide training on Friday, January 31 located at 104 S Fuller in Meridian. Registration will begin at 8:15 a.m. with the training starting at 8:30 a.m. and continue until noon.

The training is open to the public. The cost of the class is $75.00. A Laws and Regulation Manual and a Private Applicator Study guide is mandatory, and included in the class cost. It is recommended that the manuals and study guide be picked up at the Bosque County Extension Office, 104 S Fuller, Meridian, Texas, prior to the training.

Registration is full for out class – Call the office if you would like to get on a waiting list for our next class.

Individuals with disabilities who require an auxiliary aid, service or other accommodations in order to participate in Extension sponsored events are encouraged to contact the County Extension office a week prior to the class to determine how reasonable accommodations may be made.

Realistic New Year Weight Loss Plan

It is OK…. everyone breath; it is here again; the beginning of a New Year and countless resolutions to lose weight.  Remember that our weight loss journeys are noble pursuits…and a tremendous way to care for our health and ourselves.

How much do I need to lose?

We know that even as little as 5% of body weight loss is shown to reduce risks of chronic disease like Type II Diabetes and Heart Disease. For someone that is 200 pounds…that’s 10 pounds of weight loss. That amount is realistic, it is attainable, and very likely to improve your health. More importantly, you show yourself that you are capable of weight loss, that those changes you made to your lifestyle, like avoiding high calorie beverages and upping your fruits and veggies, can make a difference.

Resolve to be Specific

Everyone is, in fact different, but we know that extra calories will cause anyone to gain weight. Therefore, finding a way to reduce your calorie intake should be specific to your habits and taste preferences.  Replacing high calorie drinks with water, cutting restaurant portions in half, and avoiding sides like fries or chips are specific and can help if these are part of your everyday routine, but they might apply to everyone. In that case, take a good and honest look at your food habits and make some substitutions or reductions. If skipping fries is a non-starter then you can reduce the portion size or plan to balance them out throughout the day.

Be Patient…This is a Long Game

Half a pound of weight loss a week is fantastic progress, but especially appropriate for those that are small in stature or older. Half a pound a week might not seem like a lot, but that amounts to 2 pounds of weight loss each month.  In 5 months, that will turn into 10 pounds of body weight loss. Think about that. If someone had told me at the beginning of August that I could lose 10 pounds by the beginning of the year, I would have been thrilled.

That slow, realistic, and consistent change is the reason that “Step Up Scale Down” lasts 12 weeks. “Step Up Scale Down” is a New Year Weight Loss Program provided by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. It covers the basics of a balanced and portioned plan of eating that encourages fruits and vegetables and personal physical activity goals. The program also provides encouragement and accountability in a group setting for the community or worksites.

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service – Bosque County will be holding a “Step Up Scale Down” program starting on February 7th at noon at the Extension office in Meridian. For more information, or to sign up, please contact County Extension Agent – Family and Community Health Chris Coon at 254-435-2331 or at chris.coon@ag.tamu.edu