UNH Cooperative Extension, Merrimack County: 2009 Annual Report
For 95 years, the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Cooperative Extension—a partnership among county, state and federal governments—has provided New Hampshire citizens with research-based information and non-formal educational programs to help them make informed decisions that strengthen youth, families and communities, sustain natural resources, and improve the economy.
County Extension field staff bring these programs to county residents through hands-on workshops, site visits, seminars, conferences, phone consultations, videoconferences, satellite downlinks, printed materials, correspondence courses, a statewide toll-free Info Line, and a large statewide website.
A network of subject-matter specialists on the UNH campus and in land-grant universities across the nation enhance our ability to respond quickly to social, economic, and environmental issues of broad public concern.
We’re proud of our collective efforts and are pleased to offer these brief snapshots of our work in 2009.
Merrimack County benefits from three agricultural program staff headquartered in Cooperative Extension’s Boscawen office:
In her role as Merrimack County’s agricultural resources educator, Amy Ouellette provides technical information to commercial fruit, vegetable, greenhouse and nursery operations and manages the soil testing program.
Dot Perkins, half-time agricultural resources program coordinator, manages the County’s Master Gardener program and provides information on backyard livestock to county residents. Both Amy and Dot work with animal forages (hay-land and pasture management) and help local communities with horticultural education projects.
Although officially retired, John Porter remains an important (contracted) resource to livestock operations statewide. John provides education on dairy-herd management and agricultural-engineering topics such as barn construction and milking-parlor design.
Agriculture in Merrimack County is a thriving and diverse sector of the local economy. Cooperative Extension addresses the educational needs of agricultural clientele in a multitude of ways including educational presentations, site visits, walk-in services, telephone consultations and e-mail. The Master Gardeners’ Speaker Bureau offers presentations on a variety of horticultural topics to local gardening clubs and community groups throughout Merrimack County.
- Workshop: Basics of backyard poultry (attended by 172)
- Workshop: Farm construction (attended by 43)
- Workshop: Wine grape production (attended by 33)
- Vegetable and strawberry production (attended by 47)
- Workshop: Raising meat rabbits (attended by 23)
- Workshop: Controlling gastrointestinal parasites in small ruminants (attended by 50)
Forestry, Wildlife and Water Resources
Forests are the predominant land use in Merrimack County, with 80 percent of our county covered by forests. More than 400,000 forested acres—70 percent of the county’s forested land—is in the hands of private, non-industrial landowners.
These forest landowners, your neighbors, serve as stewards of the essential services these forest lands provide for us all: clean water, wildlife habitat, and the raw-material base for our county’s largest manufacturing industry, as well as the scenic backdrop that makes the area such a vital place to live and visit. The Merrimack County forestry program helps these landowners make informed choices about their stewardship of this important resource.
- Walked 70 woodland properties covering 7,130 acres, talking to owners about forest stewardship and encouraging them to develop long-term forest management plans.
- Helped forest landowners place another 1,031 forest acres under long-term forest management using cost-share assistance provided by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
- Organized and participated in 29 workshops attracting more than 606 citizens on topics as diverse as wildlife habitat, Current Use programs, tree farm tours, and timber harvesting.
- Worked with many professional groups: foresters, loggers, conservation groups, business organizations, school groups, and municipal leaders.
- Helped towns with questions about timber harvesting laws, Current Use taxation programs, and community-forest stewardship.
Today’s 4-H is a community of 6 million young people across America learning leadership, citizenship and life skills in partnership with caring adults. Its goal: the four-fold development of Head, Heart, Hands and Health, empowering youth to reach their full potential.
Merrimack County’s 260 adult volunteers are part of the 518,000 volunteers, nationwide, who mentor youth and provide hands-on learning activities in settings that foster positive youth development.
- 260 adult volunteers mentored 398 youth by offering youth development programs in communities, delivering the equivalent of $368,327 worth of services.
- 255 youth, working in partnership with 111 adult volunteers, completed 84 community-service projects throughout communities in Merrimack County.
- 100 children of military families attended a 2-day, hands-on summer session, “Fun with Foods”, in Concord.
- 234 youth developed/enhanced oral communication skills through participation in demonstrations, speeches, action exhibits and public speaking during public events.
- 51 volunteers served as “middle managers,” extending program offerings, recruiting, managing additional program volunteers, and managing/conducting events under staff supervision.
Family and Consumer Resources
The parenting and human development program seeks to strengthen families and improve the lives of children through educational and practical life-skills programs for parents. The program continues to focus on promoting social- and emotional-competency skills, the foundation for success in school, the workplace, and the community.
- The 2nd Annual Grandparents and Relatives as Parents Conference Expanded to a two-state conference in collaboration with Vermont Kin as Parents (VKAP), the event drew more than 175 grandparents, other relatives-as-parents, and professionals/volunteers who work with families. Participants reported feeling supported and connected, gaining insight into complicated situations, learning practical parenting strategies, and discovering new ways to think about working with families.
- Building Collaborative Relationships with Families This four-part monthly training series for childcare providers was held in collaboration with Easter Seals Childcare Resource and Referral. It was hosted by Tiny Twisters childcare center of Franklin and attracted 40 participants. Topics included: building positive relationships with families, building a healthy brain, helping parents understand temperament, and supportive responses to troubled parent-child interactions.
- Parenting During Difficult Circumstances This multi-session parenting series was presented eight times to a total of 45 participants in partnership with the Merrimack County Department of Corrections, the Friends Program Emergency Housing, Casey Family Services, and Franklin Area Resource Center. Participants reported increasing their knowledge of age-appropriate expectations, discipline strategies, and children’s misbehavior, as well as increased confidence in their parenting.
Many Americans have put their financial security at risk with very low savings rates and high levels of debt. At the same time, negative economic conditions have put additional pressure on families and their ability to cover basic living expenses. UNH Cooperative Extension’s money-management outreach focuses on helping individuals and families establish financial stability and achieve long-term financial security.
Each year 76 million Americans experience a foodborne illness. Through Extension programs, food-service workers, volunteers, and household members gain knowledge and adopt better practices that help prevent foodborne illness.
- Delivered single- and multi-session financial education workshops to 173 county residents. Participants learned and applied skills designed to increase savings, decrease debt, and increase confidence in managing money to reach financial goals. Workshop topics included basic budgeting, credit/debt management, retirement and estate planning, bankruptcy education, and identity theft prevention.
- Participated in community coalitions working to improve the economic success of families. The Franklin and Concord Asset Building Coalitions are two local groups that help working families access the Earned Income Tax Credit and other IRS tax credits to build financial assets. Financial education supports asset-building initiatives.
- Conducted food-safety training workshops to 218 employees and volunteers at food-service establishments, including specialty-food businesses, restaurants, schools, food pantries and nursing facilities. The trainings add another level of expertise to staff and volunteers’ skills, as well as reduce the risk of foodborne illness.
Food and Nutrition: Nutrition Connections Program
The Nutrition Connections program works with limited-income adults and youth to teach nutrition, cooking skills, food shopping and budgeting, food safety and how to become more physically active. We provide education to groups at agency locations and other venues but also work one on one with individuals and families in their home or through a learn-at-home series.
We motivate and empower program participants to eat healthier and become more physically active, read and understand food labels to select healthy foods; save money at the supermarket while making healthy choices, plan and prepare quick low-cost meals and prevent foodborne illness.
- Distributed three issues of the Smart Choices newsletter focusing on increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables and saving money in the grocery store to 5,250 food stamp households in Merrimack County.
- Supervised UNH Dietetic Interns to write newsletter articles, develop materials for teachers, and teach nutrition at schools in Franklin.
- Developed relationship with NHTI and Concord’s Multi-cultural Coalition for garden plots for 42 refugee families.
- Surveyed behavior changes as a result of Nutrition Connections
program series. Among adults who participated in pre- and post-series
food recalls and surveys:
- 41% planned meals more often
- 56% reported reading labels when going grocery shopping
- 51% thought about healthy food choices when deciding what to feed themselves/families
- 58% reported eating 5 or more cups of fruit and vegetables a day
- 98% of participants made a positive change in their recommended dietary intake for their age, sex, and level of physical activity.
We offered programming during home visits and in connection with the following agencies:
- Epsom, Bradford/Warner and Henniker Senior Housing
- Manchester Food Bank/Operation Front Line (OFL)
- Workplace Success
- New American Africans
- Merrimack County Academy
- Pittsfield TOPS
- Riverbend Parent Child Programs (Concord, Penacook, & Pittsfield)
- Refugee Programming - Family Resource Center, Lutheran Social Services and Sycamore Field Community Garden Program
- Adult Home Study Program
- Head Start (Franklin)
- Pembroke Charter School
- Operation Military Kids
Working with County Government
A Memorandum of Understanding establishes a partnership between the University System of New Hampshire and the Merrimack County Convention and Commissioners.
As an active component of Merrimack County government, Cooperative Extension staff support the county in the following ways:
- Extension educators teach many life skills to Merrimack Academy participants, offering classes in money management, nutrition and food safety, parenting and family relationship issues and home vegetable gardening.
- Master Gardeners support the gardens that surround some county buildings by planting and maintaining the areas.
- The Extension Forester and Agricultural Resources Educator work with the Commissioners in managing County lands and grounds.
In addition, Merrimack County residents have taken advantage of many statewide Cooperative Extension programs, which include:
- A toll-free Info Line at our Family, Home & Garden Education Center in Manchester, which last year handled more than 599 telephone requests from Merrimack County residents looking for information on topics ranging from landscaping and lawn care to food safety and nutrition.
- A large and growing Web site that features a wide variety of educational materials, including home and garden fact sheets at http://extension.unh.edu/
- The Granite State Distance Learning Network, a public-private partnership that brings affordable, high-speed, interactive video networking and Internet access to communities statewide. The network currently connects residents with educational teleconferences from 38 video conferencing sites statewide. The Merrimack County Extension office served as host for several statewide initiatives, including training for County Corrections Officers, public health trainings, and an urban and suburban forestry conference.