Upcoming Food Manager and Food Handlers Certification Courses

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service to Offer Professional Food Manager Certification & Food Handlers Certification Courses

Statistics indicate that foodborne illness continues to be a health issue in the United States.  Each year, 1 in 6 Americans will become sick, 128,000 will become hospitalized, and 3,000 will die due to a foodborne illness.

Under the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) jurisdiction each food establishment is required to have one certified food manager on site.

 Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in Bosque & Hill Counties, is offering a professional food manager certification training course.  This program will be offered for $125 on March 27-28, 2018 at the Hill County Extension Office.  Cost includes training, materials, and a national food manager certification examination. The food manager’s certification will be valid for five years.   The deadline to register is March 9, 2018.

This program is designed to not only prepare food service managers to pass the certification examination; it will provide valuable education regarding the safe handling of food.  Almost 50 cents of every dollar Americans spend on food is spent on meals prepared away from home.  Therefore, careful attention to food safety will help keep customers safe and satisfied.

The Bosque County Extension Office will also offer a Food Handlers Certification Course on Monday, March 19, at 9:00am at the Meridian Civic Center.  The cost for the course is $20.

Foodborne illnesses are estimated to cost thousands of dollars in lost wages, insurance, and medical bills.  With these statistics, knowledge of how to prevent foodborne illness is essential.  The benefits of improved food safety include:

  • Increased customer satisfaction
  • Improved relationships with health officials
  • Prevention of bad publicity and law suits due to foodborne illness

For more information about the courses or to register, contact County Extension Agent, Kate Whitney, at the Extension Office at 254-435-2331.

Household Landscape Watering

As winter starts to wind down and the weather warms up, people naturally start moving outdoors and thinking about their gardens. There are a few things to check prior to planting those new plants.

Your watering system should be one of the first items to check. The EPA estimates that in dry climates like that of Texas, a household’s outdoor water use can exceed the amount of water used for all other residential purposes! In some households, during summer, as much as 60% of a total water budget could be spent on landscape irrigation.

By incorporating irrigation best management practices, and by selecting the right plant material for your specific needs, you have the potential to drastically reduce water and chemical use in your landscape.

Remember, irrigation systems are designed to supplement the lack of rainfall.  Your system might just consist of you and a hose-end sprinkler and soaker hose, or it might include an automated controller with permanent irrigation heads.  In either case, to transition towards a more sustainable lawn and landscape, you should irrigate less often but deeply, as opposed to more often and in shorter intervals.

An automated type of irrigation system is designed to maintain soil moisture and ultimately to protect the overall health of your landscape.  In times of sufficient or excessive rainfall, irrigation systems should be in the off position.  When supplemental water is needed, the delivery systems should precisely deliver the water without waste.  Accurately calculating plant water needs, and taking into consideration soil type as well as slopes in the terrain (which might influence water flow), will help determine the best delivery system to avoid water waste.

  • Sprinkler heads should be adjusted properly to avoid misting, or over-spraying sidewalks, driveways and streets.
  • Turf areas may require water more frequently than beds with native and adapted perennial plants or shrubs. Areas with mature trees may require watering deeper and more infrequently than the rest of your landscape.
  • Fix any missing spray nozzle and check for blockage or damage to heads.

Spending a few minutes in the beginning of your growing season could save you time and money in the long run – so plan ahead. Information for this article was taken from TAMU Water University.  For more information please contact Chelsea Dorward at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service – Bosque County at 254-435-2331.

WARNING: Dangerous Sugar Overload

I need to start with an apology.  Reading this article may cause distress.  I’m going to recommend that you slow down your sugar intake, and that might mean giving up any Valentine’s candy you just received from your sweetheart.

Sugar is already known as a culprit for the increased risk of diabetes and obesity.  Research continues to link sugar to heart disease, hypertension, strokes, gout, periodontal disease, fatty liver disease, and many other health problems.  Laura Schmidt, Ph.D., professor of Health Policy at UC San Francisco, indicates that we are in the middle of a paradigm shift in research on the health effects of sugar because our culture is eating way too much added sugar.  The problem with so much added sugar is not just a concern about obesity, sugar is making us sick.

Nutritionists are not concerned about naturally occurring sugars that are found foods such as milk and fruit.  Milk, fruit, and vegetables are nutrient-dense foods that contain a wealth of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and water that our bodies need to function properly.  The troubling sugars are added sugars such as white sugar and corn syrup that are found in three-quarters of the packaged food we eat in the United States.  You might be surprised to find added sugar in packaged foods that you don’t think of as “sweet” such as pasta sauce, baked beans, bread, soups, ketchup, and flavored yogurts.

Sometimes added sugars sound like they might be healthier than table sugar or corn syrup. Honey, molasses, coconut palm sugar, agave, evaporated cane juice, and fruit juice concentrate sound like very natural and healthy forms of sugar, but they are basically just sugar.  You might not see “sugar” or “high fructose corn syrup” on a nutrition label but look closer for these sweeteners that pack the same number of calories as regular sugar.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting added sugar to less than 10 percent of calories each day.  If you are on a 2,000-calorie diet, you should limit your added sugar to just 200 calories.  That doesn’t sound too bad until you realize that the average 12-ounce can of soda has 126 calories from added sugar.

Now that I’ve ruined all enjoyment of your Valentine’s Day candy or your daily coke break, I want to invite you to join the sugar challenge.  Try limiting all added sugar and artificial sweeteners in your diet for the next two weeks.  You will need to check the nutrition label to find foods that contain little or no added sugar.  Replace your sugary drinks with water, sparkling water, milk, unsweetened tea or coffee.  Try whole fruits instead of a sugary dessert.

Next week, come back to learn more about the health risks of our high-sugar diet.  For more information, contact Kate Whitney, Bosque County Extension Agent, at 254-435-2331.


Prep Now for Spring Gardens

The time is now for vegetable gardeners to make preparations for planting early varieties and spring garden staples.  Some gardeners already have a few cool-season vegetables planted and are soon preparing to plant early vegetable varieties like onions.

Late January and early February are also good times for gardeners to prepare for spring vegetables like squash and tomatoes by first removing any remaining weeds or debris from gardens.  Weeds still germinate and grow this time of year, so be mindful to rid your garden of them and it will reduce the number you have to contend with later in the season.

Soil preparation is also a key step.  It’s a great time to add compost.  It’s usually recommended to add more compost before planting, especially in a raised bed.  The more organic matter in the soil, the better it is for the plants. You can’t add enough compost that will break down and provide nutrients to your fruit and vegetables.  Gardeners can also prepare potting mix to have it ready to start seedlings.  A bag of peat mixed with 1 gallon of perlite and 2 cups of Osmocote, a slowrelease fertilizer is recommended.

Another important step that is recommended is for gardeners to sanitize tools with a 10 percent bleach solution to prevent any transfer of diseases from season to season.  A rate of 1 cup of bleach per gallon of water works well to use for cleaning and dipping the tools into the solution.  Tools should then be rinsed and stored.

Gardeners should also think about building a cold frame, a transparent-roofed enclosure built low to the ground to protect seedlings and plants from adverse weather, primarily excessive cold or wet.  The transparent top admits sunlight and prevents heat escape via convection that would otherwise occur, particularly at night.  Cold frames should be built on the south side of a structure, which will provide plenty of afternoon sun and provide warmer conditions and the best protection from north winds.

Gardeners should begin preparing a garden plan and order seeds to ensure preferred varieties are available.  Other than local nurseries, looking at online catalogs for varieties proven to succeed in a specific area and soil type is a good source for seeds.  It isn’t too early to be thinking about what you want to plant in your spring garden like your tomatoes, your peppers or your eggplants.  You want to be ready to start those seedlings.

If you have any other questions about preparing for your spring garden call Chelsea Dorward at 254-435-2331.


Heart Health

Did you know the heart beats about 2.5 billion times over the average lifetime?  This amazing organ pumps millions of gallons of blood carrying oxygen, nutrients, hormones, and other essential cells to all parts of our body.  We can’t live without a heart, so we need to do all we can to keep it healthy.

Many factors play a role in heart health, such as diet, exercise, smoking, infection, and genetics.  You cannot control all of those, but you can control your diet and physical activity levels.  Part of a healthy diet is eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables!  The 2015 USDA Dietary Guidelines recommends 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables every day for an adult based on a 2,000-calorie diet.  Do you get enough to be heart healthy?  Be sure to get a good variety of colors and textures in your fruits and vegetables.  Fresh produce is a great way to add in good nutrients without packing on the calories.

We also need to get plenty of physical activity to keep our hearts strong and healthy.   USDA recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week, and you need to do it in at least 10-minute increments.  You could take a 30-minute walk or play ball in the yard for 20 minutes. Find some activities you like to do and get your heart pumping!

As we start Heart Health month in February, do your heart a favor by eating fresh fruits and veggies and exercising every day.  You can find more information about a healthy plate at www.choosemyplate.gov or contact County Extension Agent, Kate Whitney, at 254-435-2331

Dicamba Training

The Texas Department of Agriculture will require special training in 2018 for new auxin herbicides applied under a Section 3 approval on dicamba-tolerant and 2,4-D-tolerant cotton.

To meet this requirement, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service office Bosque County will host a training – Jan. 19, at the Bosque County Extension Office located at 104 S Fuller, Meridian, Texas.

The program will be from 12:00 p.m. till 1:00 p.m. There will be no registration fee.  Feel free to bring a brown bag lunch to eat while watching the program.  Each class will provide one TDA continuing education unit on Laws and Regulations.

“TDA is requiring auxin-specific herbicide training for those using the new formulations of dicamba (Xtendimax, FeXapan and Engenia),” said Dr. Gaylon Morgan, AgriLife Extension Cotton Specialist, College Station. “The auxin training is required for all applicators including licensed applicators and unlicensed applicators who spray under a licensed applicator.”  Xtendimax, FeXapan and Engenia were approved for use in XtendFlex, the dicamba-tolerant cotton from Monsanto.  Training is not required for the use of Enlist, the new 2,4-D tolerant cotton from Dow AgroSciences.  The information provided will still be applicable for producers planning to use Enlist technology.  Enlist is included in several varieties in the PhytoGen Cottonseed company brand while XtendFlex is in several varieties from Deltapine, Americot/NexGen, All-Tex/Dyna-Gro and CROPLAN Genetics brands.

The training is not required for producers who will use the old formulations such as Weedmaster, Clarity or Banvel.  “Last year there were issues in other cotton-growing regions,” Jourdan Bell, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Agronomist, Amarillo. “Fortunately, there were very few issues reported in Texas.  As we plan for our 2018 cotton crop, we want to be proactive and promote stewardship of the new dicamba formulations so we can maintain the technology in Texas.”  Bell said when the Environmental Protection Agency approved the registration for XtendiMax, FeXapan and Engenia, it was a two-year conditional registration.

More information about the requirements from TDA can be found at https://agrilife.org/texasrowcrops/current-news/.

For more information or to RSVP, call 254-435-2331 or complete the form below.

Eat Smart, Live Strong

Did you make a New Year’s Resolution this year?  If you resolved to be healthier in 2018, the “Eat Smart, Live Strong” program is for you!  The Valley Mills Public Library and the Bosque County AgriLife Extension Service are offering a four-week “Eat Smart, Live Strong” program on Thursdays from 12-1pm beginning on January 18.

The Eat Smart, Live Strong program is designed to teach adults how to make healthy food choices and add more physical activity to daily life.  During the interactive sessions, participants will learn about healthy eating, sample a healthy recipe, and try out some low-intensity exercises.  This program is intended for older adults, but all ages are welcome.  Make plans to join us for the four sessions:

  • Reach Your Goals, Step by Step – January 18
  • Challenges and Solutions – January 25
  • Colorful and Classic Favorites – February 1
  • Eat Smart, Spend Less – February 8

For more information about the program or healthy living, contact County Extension Agent, Kate Whitney, at 254-435-2331.

19th Annual Central Texas Beef Cattle Meeting

*****************Program Cancelled********************
The Central Texas Beef Cattle Program scheduled for Tuesday, January 16, 2018 in Cleburne, Texas has been CANCELLED due to weather and road conditions in the forecast.
This program will be rescheduled for the late Spring 2018, watch for more details.




Somervell, Bosque, Hood and Johnson County A&M AgriLife extension offices are partnering to hold the 19th annual Central Texas Beef Cattle meeting.  This educational program will feature Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Specialists in entomology, beef cattle, and economics.  The date for this event is January 16, 2018 with registration starting at 5:30pm at the Johnson County Livestock Exchange, located at 3119 North Main Street in Cleburne, Texas.

The event is open to anybody who would like to attend.  It will provide a basic education in agriculture, specifically cow-calf operations.  Attendees with a pesticides applicator license can receive 1 continuing education hour for attending the event.  Topics at this event will include a Live Cattle Demonstration conducted by George Davis, Owner/Operator of the Johnson County Livestock Exchange; Cattle Production Management Practices, by Dr. Jason Cleere, Extension Beef Cattle Specialist; Livestock Entomology Update and Cattle Tick Fever, by Dr. Sonja Swiger, Extension Livestock Entomologist and a presentation on Cattle Numbers/Future Outlook, by Dr. Jason Johnson, Extension Economist.

Dinner will be provided onsite starting at 6:00pm with the program to follow at 6:30pm.  Registration cost for the program is $10 payable at the door.  Please RSVP by January 12, 2018 if you plan to attend. To register for the program you can contact Chelsea Dorward at the Bosque County Extension Office at 254-435-2331

Blackland Income Growth Conference

The Blackland Income Growth Program seeks to improve the overall agricultural and agri-business economy of the Blackland area.  This Annual B.I.G. Conference is scheduled for January 10-11, 2018 at the ExtraCo Events Center in Waco.

On Wednesday, January 10, commodity groups will offer educational programs including sessions on Wildlife Management, Cotton, Horse, Beef Cattle, Grain, Rural Land Management and Forage. The first day of the conference starts at 9:00 a.m. and runs until 4:00 p.m.  Registration for the commodity sessions on January 10 is $25 and includes lunch.

This year’s keynote speaker, who will be featured during the lunch on January 10, is Dr. Joe Outlaw. Dr. Outlaw is co-director of the Agricultural and Food Policy Center at Texas A&M University and AgriLife Extension economist in College Station.  He frequently interacts with members of Congress and key agricultural committee staff to provide feedback on the likely consequences of agricultural policy change.

On day two of the conference, a horticulture session will be offered for $25, and also includes lunch. Concurrently, a 5 hour Re-certification Program will be held for those with a pesticide applicator license.  Pre-registration is $60 or $70 at the door.  Call 254-757-5180 to pre-register.   Also on January 11, a Private Applicator Training will be held for those who need to obtain a Private Applicator License. Registration is $75 and also includes lunch.  Preregister by calling 254-582-4022. Rounding out the event, a “From the Ground Up” program will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Registration is $40 or $25 for students.  Call 940-552-9941 ext. 226 for registration.

The Mid-Texas Farm and Ranch show will be held in conjunction with the entire conference and will showcase the latest in farm and ranch equipment, seed, chemicals and ag-related services and technologies.

For more information contact:  Chelsea Dorward, Bosque County Extension Agent (254) 435-2331

Dicamba Herbicide Updates

AgriLife Logo

Dicamba tolerant cotton and soybean varieties were brought to the market in 2015 and 2016, respectively, and were followed in 2017 by the newly registered dicamba herbicides formulated specifically to have lower volatility.  Following a challenging launch in 2017 of these newly registered herbicides in some states, the EPA worked with companies registering the new dicamba formulations to make revisions to those product labels in an effort to reduce incidence of off-target movement during application.  In mid-October, revised labels for XtendiMax® with VaporGrip® Technology, Fexapan Plus VaporGrip® Technology, and Engenia® herbicide were approved and released by the EPA and the corresponding companies, Monsanto, DuPont and BASF, respectively.

Notable revisions include the addition of new restrictions as well as clarifications to previous label language.  New restrictions include the following:

  1. Classification of these three products as Restricted Use Pesticides
  2. Required record keeping of all applications for 2 years
  3. Annual mandatory auxin-specific training for every person that will be applying the product to any crop.

While restricted use classification and record keeping are currently in effect for these products in Texas, the mandatory auxin-specific training for all applicators is a new change that applies to not only those with an applicators license but also to those making applications under someone else’s license.  This requires awareness for all applicators to ensure their ability to use these herbicides in 2018 and in subsequent years.

Clarifications to label language include but are not limited to what qualifies as a “susceptible” or “sensitive” crop, requiring the use of downwind buffers, clarification around temperature inversions and restricting the application time to only include sunrise to sunset, tightening the windspeed window from 3-15mph down to 3-10mph, and amplifying the language on sprayer cleanout to prevent cross-contamination.

The Texas Department of Agriculture has approved the auxin-specific herbicide training for applicators that will be provided through Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and Allied Industry. This training aims to educate applicators on the requirements and practices for keeping these dicamba based products on-target and will satisfy the newly mandated auxin-specific training requirement.

The Bosque County Livestock & Crops Committee will be meeting in January to plan specific times and locations of these training opportunities for Bosque County.  For more information, please contact Chelsea Dorward at 254-435-2331.

Information for this article was taken from “Dicamba Label Update and Mandatory Training for Applicators” by Scott Nolte, State Extension Weed Scientists; Gaylon Morgan, State Extension Cotton Specialist; Josh McGinty, Extension Agronomist at Corpus Christi; Pete Dotray, Weed Scientist at Lubbock.