Elmore County Extension Office open house

Daniel Dye / The Herald

The Elmore County office of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System hosts its first open house this past Thursday. Visitors were treated to lunch and the various programs offered by the organization.

The Elmore County Extension Office hosted its first-ever open house and lunch Thursday to introduce the public to the variety of programs it offers.

“That’s part of the reason why we are hosting the open house,” county extension coordinator Katrina Mitchell said. “There is only one regional agent housed in this office — that’s our 4-H agent. All the others are housed in another county. A lot of times people do not get to meet them.”

Mitchell said 4-H and master gardener programs are the most popular offered.

“Our roots are in agriculture,” Mitchell said. “We still do home horticulture and commercial horticulture. Even the focus of 4-H has shifted; 4-H started out as the corn clubs and tomato clubs. Today, we are doing STEM and STEAM — all kinds of things.”

Mitchell said one way the extension office has changed with the times is through a program called Farm City. It puts fourth- and fifth-grade students in a farm setting.

Mitchell said it began about nine years ago and was the idea of a Eclectic hog farmer Chris George.

The idea behind the program is to reintroduce the older students to the concepts of agriculture that they might have learned about when they were younger in simpler way.

“Even in agriculture, there’s a lot of technology involved in that today,” Mitchell said. “We try to educate young people about the importance of agriculture and related careers. We’ve got all kinds of folks that come out, so it is agriculture but it’s also talking about careers and things that kids can get involved in.”

Another popular program the extension office offers deals with food.

Janice Hall, regional agent of food safety, covers a nine-county area including Elmore County.

“We do a number of programs that teach consumers about safe food handling,” Hall said. “We also hold canning classes that cover safe canning methods in the summer.”

She said the organization will offer a class on how to cook with electronic multicookers later this year.

“It is very popular way to cook,” Hall said. “To teach people how to use them, how to prepare meals in minutes.”

Hall said her department also teaches a class called ServSafe. 

“It’s a safety certification class required by the health department,” Hall said. The county extension program is part of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). 

Mitchell said its primary funding source is the USDA, but local and regional agencies assist to keep the county extension office running.

“At the local level, we would not be here without the good graces of the (Elmore) County Commission,” Mitchell said. “They provide the building and some funding for us. Some of the cities will sometime provide funding.”

Mitchell said grants are also important to fund some of its programs.

“In this office we have a lot of grant-funded programs,” she said. “Those are family and child development programs.”

She said eight staff members are housed in the county office and an additional 21 regional agents that serve larger areas that include Elmore County. 

For more information about the organization and its offerings, visit www.aces.edu.