Chambers County Extension coordinator speaks at Kiwanis

Published 9:00 am Thursday, October 28, 2021

VALLEY — The Alabama Cooperative Extension Service is thought by many people to just be involved with kids and cows, or more generally 4-H and agriculture.

It’s a common exaggeration, Chambers County Extension Coordinator Rachel Snoddy told Valley Kiwanis Club members at Wednesday’s noon hour meeting.

As the state of Alabama’s primary outreach and engagement organization for the state’s land-grant universities, Extension reaches one out of three Alabamians every day with its research-based programs in agriculture, forestry, wildlife, natural resources, family and consumer sciences, economic and community development, urban affairs and of course, 4-H and youth development.

Shoddy said that 4-H is not just her area of expertise but also her passion and her heart. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, Chambers County was on the verge of going over 1,000 students actively engaged in a local 4-H program. The numbers have dropped since then but are slowly starting to ramp up.

“We are not yet where we would like to be, but we are getting there,” she said. “We would like to have at least 25 percent of our youth active in 4-H. We have a horse club and are trying to start a wildlife habitat club. In the past, we had a forestry team that won awards at the state level. Forestry is big in Chambers County, and we would like to get back to having forestry teams in 4-H.”

The Extension Service has offices in all 67 counties. The Chambers County office is located at 18 Avenue E, just across the street from the Chambers County Courthouse in LaFayette. Shoddy and her staff welcome anyone to drop by and ask questions pertaining to pests, plant diseases, food safety and in any other area being addressed by the Extension Service.

Alabama has two land-grant universities, Auburn and Alabama A&M. Auburn addresses the needs of most of the state, geography-wise, while Alabama A&M specializes in the state’s urban areas.

The Extension Service uses innovative methods to deliver educational content to communities and homes. Programs are available online at aces.edu, at county Extension offices and at teaching sites throughout the state. The website can help the user find online courses, mobile apps, interactive videoconferences and webinars. Face-to-face learning opportunities include community meetings, classroom demonstrations, field days, farm or home visits and 4-H clubs and camps. Most of the programs are offered at no cost to the client.

Shoddy said that the Extension Service is an excellent resource in keeping people up to date on such issues as salmonella outbreaks. There’s a current one that has been linked to onions that have been imported from Mexico. ProSource Produce LLC and Keeler Family Farms of New Mexico have been recalling whole raw red, white and yellow onions that were imported from Chihuahua, Mexico. It has thus far sickened people in 37 states. There have been more than 650 illnesses, 129 hospitalizations but no deaths.

Agents with the Extension Service offer advice to daycares on being extra safe on food served to children. They also teach classes on proper dieting for those who have diabetes.

“We work with low-income people on a variety of issues,” Snoddy said. “We encourage them to make healthy choices for them and their children. We have had virtual classes on the right way to cook.”

The local Extension office partners with the Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Chambers County Development Authority on economic development programs.

“You may not be aware of all we do in 4-H,” she said. “I have a hot air balloon and a launcher in my car right now. We do lots of STEM (Science, Technology. Engineering and Math) programs.”

Shoddy said that Extension agents are service oriented.

“We are a free service to anyone,” she said. “We will go anywhere we are welcome. We are in the schools during the day, and we have after-school programs, too.

You can call our office at (334) 864-9373 or come by and see us if you have questions on anything we can help you with.”