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Extension offers paths to health

I'm unapologetically using my column this week to offer a "Did you know?" promotion of Oregon State University Extension Service. OSU is my employer and the professional framework in which I educate and do applied research on aging. I am proud to be affiliated. Today, I feel like telling you why.

You seem quizzical. No, I do not work for the newspaper, I just loan it words on a weekly basis. Today, those words target the 4,679 OSU alumni across Southern Oregon. I was surprised at that number — simply did not know there were so many OSU alums and then it occurred to me "¦ maybe some of them don't know their alma mater hosts locally available, research-based educational resources. Maybe you don't either?

I'm positive not all OSU graduates in this area know about the Vineyard BBQ at the Valley View Winery. It's on Thursday, Aug. 13 from 6 to 9 p.m. (If at this moment you're saying — "Hey that sounds like fun," go to www.osualum.com for more information.). That night I plan to don my blaze orange T-shirt and my "Go Beavers' visor cap and chat up local Extension programs.

I'll be wearing orange on Saturday, Sept. 12, too, when Extension in Jackson County has an all-day open house with everything from wagon rides to cantaloupe tasting. Last year we made age-defying spinach smoothies. While I'm thinking about food, have you ever tried "Cowboy salad?" If you can't wait for September to sample it, go to the Extension recipe site and indulge early (www.healthyrecipes.oregonstate.edu).

Extension educators are problem solvers. I'm one of about a dozen such educators available to you here in the valley. We have a viticulturist, horticulturists, an entomologist and forestry/woodlands expertise. We have a knowledgeable recycling educator and not one, but two, small farms experts — Melissa and Maud — phenomenal women and successful farmers themselves.

Did you know? More than 380 master gardener volunteers staff an ever-busy plant clinic from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. most days, and tend the gardens and the 60-plus acres we maintain (Well, our able farm manager, Jim, does some of that.).

You might say we are in the food business. Extension partners with Rotary First Harvest to grow food for the ACCESS program. We have a bevy of volunteers who teach healthy eating and nutrition in schools and food pantries. Those volunteers, we call them Family Food Educators, are certified master food preservers and food safety experts.

Our Extension 4-H program is huge — and bilingual. It has a spiffy technology and robotics component and a hands-on natural resources program.

Should I go on? I've only touched the surface, but I think you get the picture "¦ well, maybe just one more thing. If you've driven along Hanley Road (Highway 238) between Central Point and Jacksonville, you've seen a large lighted sign that promotes Extension classes. They range from "Pasture Management" to "Pickling." Coming to a class educates you — but taking a walk through our well-kept gardens is its own learning laboratory.

I like to say we are "grounded in green and powered by orange."

Call 776-7371 or go to www.extension.oregonstate.edu/sorec for more information.

Sharon Johnson is an associate professor in health and human sciences at Oregon State University and on the faculty of the OSU Extension. E-mail her at s.johnson@oregonstate.edu or call 776-7371, Ext. 210.