Cooperative Extension offers wealth of information

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Interested in cooking healthier meals or growing your own vegetables? Concerned about becoming a victim of fraud? Need information about health issues and aging?

The Colorado State University Cooperative Extension network is a reliable source of researched-based information on these and many other topics helpful to retirees and seniors.

Nutrition and gardening programs, as well as tips on financial planning, living independently, downsizing, fitness and even grandparenting, are among resources available through local Cooperative Extension offices and the CSU Cooperative Extension Web site.

"Personally, I feel like we are the best kept secret in Routt County," said Karen Massey, Family and Consumer Science Extension agent in Steamboat Springs. "There are a lot of people that don't know the resources available from our office."

The Master Gardener program offered at the Routt County Extension office is a popular program for people interested in honing their gardening skills and sharing their knowledge with others.

In exchange for 50 hours of training on topics such as soils, fertilizers, insects and plant diseases, in turn, participants volunteer 50 hours each year helping others with different aspects of horticulture through a variety of projects.

Pat Anthony, 59, received her Master Gardener certification in the spring of 2004 after moving to Steamboat from Southern California. She had always had a passion for gardening and flowers and wanted to learn more about gardening in Routt County's climate.

"It was really useful," she said. "You just can't believe how much information is included."

Since receiving her certification, she has helped with garden tours and answered residents' horticulture questions at the Routt County Extension office.

"The Master Gardener program has been instrumental in helping me meet more people, feel comfortable here and appreciate all the wonderful plants the valley has to offer," Anthony said.

Extension agents also coordinate local 4-H youth development programs and welcome volunteers interested in sharing all kinds of knowledge with youth. While 4-H is best known for its livestock and agriculture programs, it also encourages youth projects in areas including arts and crafts, wildlife and clothing.

Massey is looking for volunteers with time and skills such as knitting, crocheting and quilting to help with a fiber camp she is organizing Feb. 20 through Feb. 23.

"I think it could be really powerful for community building," she said about the volunteer opportunities.

Nutrition and food safety outreach is a big part of both the Routt and Moffat Extension offices' agendas.

In Moffat County, Extension Director Elisa Shackelton is working to restart the Healthy Lunch program, a monthly get-together where participants prepare and eat healthy recipes.

The program, popular among empty-nesters and retirees, is an opportunity to try recipes before making the dishes at home -- participants receive a recipe book at each lunch -- as well as enjoy others' company.

"It's a great environment for being with other people that want to eat and cook healthy," said Shackelton, who plans to start the program in March.

Shackelton also leads a two-hour food safety course at the request of interested groups.

Participants learn how to prevent food-borne illnesses through proper food storage and handling, and they leave with a food-safety certification good for three years.

The class is ideal for anyone that cooks, particularly those cooking for groups of people, Shackelton said.

In addition to nutrition, she also focuses on helping residents maintain healthy air in their homes by managing mold and mildew and identifying problems such as carbon monoxide and radon gas.

In addition to regular programs, Extension agents are available to conduct special trainings for groups interested in certain topics. Massey, for example, will be teaching a salsa canning course to a group of

residents interested in canning.

For questions beyond their expertise, local agents tap the specialties of other agents throughout the state. Cooperative Extension agents from other offices, as well as CSU professors can even conduct programs locally with Web Conferencing technology.

Residents also may ask questions and review fact sheets and articles at the CSU Cooperative Extension database at www.answerlink.info.

"These Extension offices have so much potential for what we can do," Shackelton said.


Tamera Manzanares can be reached at tammarie74@yahoo.com.

For more

Contact your local CSU Cooperative Extension office for information about gardening, nutrition and other topics, as well as updates on classes, programs and volunteer opportunities:

  • Visit the Routt County office in the Courthouse Annex, 136 Sixth Street, Steamboat Springs, or call 879-0825.
  • Visit the Moffat County office at 539 Barclay Street, Craig, or call 824-9180.
  • Or access information and ask questions via the CSU Cooperative Extension database at www.answerlink.info. Click on the Family/Consumer menu for topics specific to healthy aging.

Sample questions

Every year local CSU Cooperative Extension offices field hundreds of calls from residents of Northwest Colorado. Here is a sampling of some of the questions they receive:

  • Question: I just moved to Steamboat Springs and can't seem to make hard boiled eggs turn out right in this altitude. What am I doing wrong?

Try this technique for your next batch of hard-boiled eggs: Place eggs in a single layer in the bottom of a saucepan and add enough cool water to cover the eggs by at least one inch. Next, cover the pan and bring the water and eggs to a boil. Simmer the eggs for five minutes, then remove the pan from heat and let it sit for fifteen minutes. Plunge the eggs into ice water to complete the process.

  • I have heard that some Colorado homes have a problem with high levels of radon gas. How do I find out if radon gas is a problem in my home?

Radon is a colorless, odorless and radioactive gas emitted from uranium, a naturally occurring mineral in rocks and soil. It can seep up through cracks, loose pipes, dirt floors and slab joints and accumulate in the home. It is important to test your home for radon gas levels because it is the second leading cause of lung cancer (behind smoking). Mitigating a radon problem is usually easy, but it depends on how the home was built. Contact the Extension office for radon test kits and more radon information.

  • My granddaughter wants to learn how to knit and sew. Does your 4-H program offer these types of opportunities for youth?

Yes! 4-H is a youth development program coordinated by the local CSU Extension office. Open to youth 8-18 years of age, members learn through hands-on involvement in a wide range of projects. They can choose from over 60 different projects ranging from arts and crafts to wildlife, woodworking, small animals, food, clothing and livestock projects. The extension office is always looking for youth who have a desire to learn something new and adult volunteers with talents to share.

  • I forgot to unload a bag of groceries from my car last night. Is it still safe to eat the hamburger even though it hasn't been refrigerated for several hours?

No. There is a temperature "danger zone" for food, and room temperature is within that zone of 41 to 135 F. Within this temperature zone, harmful germs grow rapidly and any food that is kept within this unsafe zone for more than four hours should be discarded.

Source: Karen Massey, CSU Cooperative Extension -- Routt County

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