Got a question? UNH Cooperative Extension can probably answer


Staff at Conway's Cooperative Extension office is ready and willing to help



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Claes Thelemarck, Extension Educator for the 4-H Youth Development Program. Linda Tucker. (click for larger version)

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Ann Hamilton, Extension Educator for Family and Consumer Resources. Linda Tucker. (click for larger version)
July 17, 2009
Who are they? What is their job? Why should you call them? Why, because, their job description is to know everything about everything!

That might be a slight exaggeration of their duties, but our tax dollars do pay them to provide answers to just about any question a Carroll County resident can ask. And if the local educators don't know the answer, they'll find someone who does.

Our regional U.N.H. Cooperative Extension office is located at 73 Main Street in Conway. There are 10 U.N.H. Cooperative Extension offices throughout the state, one in each of New Hampshire's 10 counties. Their mission statement reads, "The U.N.H. Cooperative Extension provides New Hampshire citizens with research-based education and information, enhancing their ability to make informed decisions that strengthen youth, families and communities, sustain natural resources and improve the economy."

In Conway, this translates into providing five distinct programs: 4-H Youth Development, Family and Consumer Resources, Nutritional Connections, Agricultural Resources, and Forest Resources. Other counties may cover these and other topics such as Community Development or Fresh Water and Marine Resources that focus on the protection, conservation and wise use of water supplies. Each extension office shares its information with communities via phone, email, workshops and hands-on training.

The many sides of 4-H

While 4-H programs for youths are usually thought of in conjunction with farming and animals, Claes Thelemarck, Extension Educator in charge of the 4-H program, knows that 4-H includes much more. 4-H'ers can participate in subjects ranging from sewing, crafts, woodworking, rocketry, photography and all types of science. There are many opportunities for kids to get involved. Some afterschool programs include 4-H courses. Ossipee already has a 4-H integrated afterschool program and Claes has been talking with Madison and Conway about providing 4-H offerings in conjunction with their afterschool series.

The four Hs in 4-H stand for Head, Heart, Hands and Health. The 4-H pledge states, "I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service, and my health to better living, for my club, my community, my country, and my world."

"For 4-H clubs to thrive, adult leadership is crucial," says U.N.H. educator Tina Savage. "Parents who are interested in volunteering for 4-H clubs can contact Claes and find out if there is a club they can fit into. Or parents can start their own club."

Family and Consumer Resources

While Claes works with the kids, the Family and Consumer Resources program mainly serves adults. For the past 20 years, Family and Consumer Educator, Ann Hamilton, has been helping food service establishments as well as individuals fielding questions regarding food safety and preservation. Ann also takes questions about parenting and she facilitates workshops on parent education and personal financial management.

However, she says, the bulk of her inquiries surround food safety issues for both consumers and the food service industry. Ann is certified in food safety and is familiar with food handling laws, allowing her to help others understand and follow state regulations and the Food and Drug Administration's federal food code.

Nutrition program

Also food related is the Cooper-ative's Nutrition Connections Program. Led by Joanne Knowlton, M.Ed., the nutrition program offers guidance pertinent to the whole family. It also provides advice specific to infants, children, adolescents, pregnant mothers and seniors. Much of their information is provided free on their website, http://extension.unh.edu/FoodNutr/ FoodNutr.htm, and for income eligible residents, the staff works with adult participants one-on-one through home study and in small groups. The lessons include cooking, games, worksheets and activities.

The nutrition program also presents school-enrichment, after-school, and summer programs for school-age children and teens. Extension nutrition programs help youth develop into healthy adults by teaching them to make good choices related to diet, physical activity, and food safety.

Agricultural resources

Tina Savage, Extension Educator for the Agricultural Resources section, describes herself as a generalist. On the day I spoke to her, she had fielded questions from citizens on chickens, blueberries, tomatoes, commercial farming, back yard gardens, lawns and fruit trees. The prior night she led a group consisting of 15 to 18 people on a pasture walk around a farm in Wolfeboro. They looked at the pasture, talked about grazing, how to keep the grass healthy and how many animals a parcel of land can sustain.

Under Tina's leadership, and with the help of the U.N.H. Cooperative's Master Gardener Program, the Carroll County Veggie Volunteer Program was formed. Sherman Farm in East Conway donates vegetables fresh from the fields, while volunteers organized by Savage and the master gardeners meet twice a week to harvest, wash, package and transport them to food pantries, senior centers, local hospitals, and the county nursing home.

Tina began her seven-year career at the Cooperative Extension following a position in Durham at the University of New Hampshire as the assistant manager of their dairy center. She was familiar with Extension from her former home in Connecticut, where she participated on an advisory council which afforded direction to their University Cooperative on the needs of the community.

Tina was also a 4-H kid. "After so many years involved in this discipline, the educational piece of Extension, getting the word out on agriculture is appealing to me," she said.

If you need a tick or insect identified, or have a sick plant that needs a diagnosis, or would like to have your soil analyzed for pH and nutrients, Tina is the person to help. As a generalist, her knowledge covers a vast area of agricultural issues and when a specialist is required, Tina knows the right people to add in-depth data and understanding to the discussions.

All things forestry

According to information provided by the Forest Resources unit within the U.N.H. Cooperative Extension, New Hampshire is one of the most densely forested states in the country. Growing forests cover 84 percent of the Granite State, and as a renewable resource, supply many values to the state and regional economy. Forests filter water and air and provide wildlife habitat, visual beauty, and forest products. They are also a living record of our natural and human history.

New Hampshire's forest industry includes timber harvesting and trucking; primary processing; wood products manufacturing; pulp and paper making; and wood energy production.

Wendy Scribner, a New Hampshire licensed forester and the Extension Educator for Forest Resources, is an authority in forestry and wildlife management, land protection and biodiversity, harvesting and selling timber, forest stewardship, individual tree care, fire protection, wildlife profiles, wildlife damage, insects, diseases, storm damage, regeneration and much more. For all things forestry, Wendy is the local expert and works directly with forest owners.

As you can see, our local Cooperative does know a lot about a lot of things. The important point that every educator at the U.N.H. Cooperative Extension would like you to know is that they are ready, able and delighted to inform, instruct and coach. Nearly all of what they do is free of charge. Their offices are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. They are also available by email and phone or on the web at www.extension.unh.edu. By phone, receptionist Betty Lou Canty can direct your call to the proper educator. Betty Lou's number is 447-3834.

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