UDairy Creamery partners with Center for Disabilities Studies

August 8, 2011 under CANR News

Sophie DeMesse, center, with Geoffrey Steggell and William Edwards

For Geoffrey Steggell and William Edwards, the UDairy Creameryis a great place to hone the skills that they’ve learned at the University of Delaware’s Center for Disabilities Studies (CDS).

UDairy Creamery has partnered with CDS to hire individuals with disabilities to work in the store through the center’s Transition, Education and Employment Model (TEEM) Employment Services program.

TEEM helps individuals with disabilities gain greater independence and involvement in the community. TEEM’s Employment Services program teach employment skills, social awareness, effective communication and self-advocacy.

Although originally hired to work in the UDaily Creamery production area making ice cream, Steggell and Edwards also operate the cash register and take customer orders. They receive on-the-job coaching from CDS employment specialist Sophie DeMesse, who helps them communicate and problem solve.

DeMesse is a 2010 graduate of UD’s College of Education and Human Development who has a degree in human services with a minor in disabilities studies. As an employment specialist for TEEM Employment Services, she guides individuals with disabilities through the entire process of employment, helping them to obtain and maintain jobs in the community.

Steggell, a 22-year-old graduate of Newark High School, says he loves working at the UDairy Creamery. His favorite aspect of the job is working at the cash register, but he also enjoys making ice cream. He works with the food science team to create various flavors, including the new Cinnamon Toast Crunchie.

Edwards, a 21-year-old graduate of Hodgson Vocational Technical High School, also enjoys his time at the UDairy Creamery, where his favorite part of the job is making ice cream. He takes part and enjoys all aspects of making ice cream and helping to operate the creamery.

As employees of the UDairy Creamery, Steggell and Edwards learn how to work as members of a team, how to provide good customer support and—most importantly—how to make great ice cream. But they aren’t the only ones who benefit from the partnership between UDairy Creamery and CDS.

UDairy Creamery manager Melinda Litvinas says that employees can learn how to interact more effectively with individuals with disabilities as members of the workforce and community. As the program has continued, Litvinas says that she has “observed a positive response to Geoffrey and William’s work from both the creamery employees and the public.”

DeMesse agrees that the entire community benefits from this and other TEEM Employment Services partnerships because employing people with disabilities opens the eyes of customers and other employees to new situations and possibilities. “There are many challenges and many barriers to getting a person a job, but it’s so rewarding when the individual can work independently, loves the job and succeeds in doing just as well as anyone else,” she says.

CDS actively reaches out to prospective employers like the creamery who are open to employing individuals with disabilities. “We are so grateful for the openness that many employers at UD have demonstrated by creating opportunities for individuals with disabilities,” says Brian Freedman, director of the TEEM unit.

Since starting work at the UDairy Creamery, Steggell and Edwards have both been accepted into TEEM’s new Career and Life Studies Certificate (CLSC) program. This program is designed for individuals who want to continue their education after high school but require additional assistance. The two-year CLSC program, which leads to a certificate, is tailored to the needs of the individual and provides coaching and peer mentoring for the participants. It gives young adults like Steggell and Edwards more options for their future.

For more information about the UDairy Creamery and special promotions, “like” UDairy Creamery on Facebook or visit the creamery website.

Information about the Center for Disabilities Studies is available at the center’s website.

Article by Jenna Byers

Photos by Danielle Quigley

This article was originally posted online on UDaily.

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Create a backyard rain garden

May 24, 2011 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

Want to do your part to help local rivers and bays? Create a backyard rain garden.

It’s fairly easy to build your own rain garden and it can pay big dividends for nearby watersheds.

Stormwater runoff is one of the leading sources of pollution in waterways, according to Valann Budischak, a horticultural associate with University of Delaware Cooperative Extension. But rain gardens can be a great way to manage stormwater. Rain gardens are shallow depressions, planted with perennials and woody plants, which collect water from roofs, driveways, other impervious surfaces and turf grass (which, like a driveway, is lousy at absorbing water).

Rain gardens slow down and reduce runoff and thus help prevent flooding and erosion. In addition, the garden’s soil and plants filter pollutants in rainwater.

“Rain Gardens for the Bays” was launched last year to encourage homeowners to build rain gardens to improve water quality in the Delaware Bay, Delaware’s inland bays and Maryland’s coastal bays. Partners in the project include UD Cooperative Extension, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), the Center for the Inland Bays, Delaware Nature Society and other agencies.

In addition to doing good, rain gardens look good. “Rain gardens are an attractive way to reduce impact on the environment,” says Budischak. “And you don’t need a huge property to have a rain garden.”

She has seen successful rain gardens as small as 10 feet by 15 feet. On the other end of the spectrum, rain gardens on UD’s Newark campus range from less than 1,000 square feet to more than 3,000. In addition, a large rain garden was installed on the Lewes campus last year, says Tom Taylor, UD’s landscape engineer.

Rain gardens were at UD long before the term “rain garden” was coined, says Taylor. He spearheaded the installation of a rain garden – at the time called a bio-retention basin – at the Dickinson residence complex in the early 1990s.

UD’s rain gardens have always had an environmental function but now the gardens serve an educational role, too. “The key is signage,” notes Taylor. “It’s important to have signs at the rain gardens so that people know what they’re looking at and understand how they can do something similar at home.”

Taylor added plantings to a bio-swale at his Lewes home and used the campus gardens for inspiration. Plants on the exterior of a rain garden must tolerate both dry and wet conditions while plants inside the garden need to handle very wet conditions. (A rain garden’s interior is designed to hold water for up to 48 hours.)

On the edges of a rain garden, Taylor likes native ornamental grasses, asters, goldenrod, blueberry bushes and red-twig dogwood. For the interior, he frequently chooses clethra, cardinal flower, iris, button bush and winterberry. Other options that Budischak suggests are turtlehead, Joe-Pye weed, dwarf fothergilla, sweetbay magnolia and river birch.

Living in Sussex County, Taylor doesn’t have to contend with the single biggest obstacle to a successful rain garden – heavy clay soil. That’s a problem most New Castle County residents must overcome because clay soil inhibits water infiltration.

Taylor recommends replacing a foot and a half of heavy clay soil with a rain garden soil mix to improve drainage.

Other considerations in building a rain garden are size and location. Although it would seem logical to install a rain garden in a low area that doesn’t drain well, this is a poor choice because it won’t support plant growth. The ideal place for a rain garden, says Budischak, is gently sloping ground where stormwater drains off grass or impervious surfaces.

Garden size depends on the size of the area from which you are capturing runoff, soil type and depth of the garden. Many homeowners seek professional advice about the garden’s size and soil requirements before tackling installation and planting. UD Botanic Garden intern Rebecca Pineo created a how-to guide to rain gardens, which can be found online.

For more information about the Rain Gardens for the Bay program, go to the website.

Article by Margo McDonough

Photo by Danielle Quigley

The original posting of this article can be viewed on UDaily.

 

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4-H, Hopkins Family Celebrate 25 years of Farm Tours

May 19, 2011 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

Each May in Lewes, Sussex County Cooperative Extension, 4-H and the Hopkins family (owners of Green Acres Farm, Delaware’s largest dairy operation) swing open the farm gates and welcome busloads of young students eager to discover what really goes on at authentic dairy farm.

Two gorgeous days provided the backdrop to an estimated 1900 youth, teachers and parents.

Unaccustomed to farm aromas, many young students arrived pinching their noses, but soon little hands relaxed and began to explore – holding chirping, yellow poultry puffballs, petting a young, well-behaved Holstein cow and peeking through a slatted fence to watch pigs snort, and sometimes sleep, in their pens.

It is an agricultural classroom without exams or textbooks. The experiential learning component of 4-H allowed students and adults to explore the many ways a family farm brings food to the table. Under the blue and gold tents, Extension staff offered entertaining and educational interactive displays, helping the young visitors make the agricultural connection to nutrition, safety and fitness. Sussex Master Gardeners provided a theatrical show and Extension staff directed bus traffic, assisted in the tractor rides and kept the lines to the popular milking tour moooving!

In addition to the herd of Holsteins and 4-H project pigs that are kept full time at the farm, 4-H volunteers brought in other animals that one might typically see around the farm grounds. Goats, small horses, rabbits, barn kittens, and a few ducks, delighted the students. Volunteers were assigned stations and filled curious minds with fun facts about the display animals.

In recent years the Hopkins family has added new playground features to their pasture to coincide with the opening of their Hopkins Creamery in 2009. Many climbed aboard a wooden train, milked a display cow the old fashioned way, savored complimentary cones at one of the picnic tables and poked their head through a farm photo prop.

The farm tour has been conducted at the Hopkins’ location for 25 years and Sussex County 4-H Educator Mary Argo has coordinated the last 16 of them. Argo feels at home with the hustle and bustle of the two-day event. “The weather was great, animals were perfect,” Argo says. “We are always delighted to partner with the Hopkins family for this unique educational opportunity for Sussex students. This was a picture perfect farm tour.”

Visit the Sussex County 4-H Flickr page for more photos of the event.

Article by Michele Walfred

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Food science program to host College Bowl Competition

March 21, 2011 under CANR News, Events

Since 1985, the Institute of Food Technologists Student Association (IFTSA) College Bowl Competition (CBC) has been quizzing student teams across the nation in the areas of food science and technology.

This year, the University of Delaware will be hosting the 2011 Central Atlantic Area CBC meeting, which will be held during the first weekend of April in Townsend Hall, at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Last year, the UD College Bowl team was the Central Atlantic College Bowl champion and went on to take second place at the national level.

There are currently eight recognized IFTSA areas and 55 recognized student chapters. UD, North Carolina State University, University of Maryland and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University are located within the Central Atlantic Area of IFTSA.

During the area meeting, a group of approximately 75 students and professors will partake in various team building exercises and social activities. On Saturday, students will participate in an “ice breaker” event during which time they will also receive a tour of the UD farm facilities.

In addition, students will get the chance to hear a lecture by UD alumna Jennifer McEntire, who currently works for the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). McEntire will talk to students about what it is like to work in the food industry and how students should prepare themselves for the job seeking process.

For some students, this will be their first contact with industry and a way to get firsthand learning opportunity about how food science and technology are actually used in industry.

The main event of the area meeting, the CBC, will take place on Saturday, April 2, at 1 p.m. in the Townsend Hall Commons.

The winning team from the area meeting will receive a $1,000 travel award in order to compete for the national championship at the IFT Annual Meeting to be held in June in New Orleans.

For more information, contact Hudaa Neeto at [hudaa@udel.edu].

To learn more about food science programs at UD, visit the Department of Animal and Food Sciences website.

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Researchers to study positive genetic contributions of viruses

March 21, 2011 under CANR News

The positive genetic contributions of viruses to life on Earth will be explored by researchers at the University of Delaware and the Delaware Biotechnology Institute through a grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Marine Microbiology Initiative.

The two-year, $550,000 grant has been awarded to K. Eric Wommack, professor in UD’s Department of Plant and Soil Sciences with appointments in the Department of Biological Sciences and the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, and Shawn Polson, research assistant professor in the Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology at DBI.

The grant will support the rollout of a computational infrastructure dedicated to the analysis of viral genetic data from environmental samples. The Viral Informatics Resource for Metagenome Exploration (VIROME) is hosted at DBI.

Please visit UDaily for the full article by clicking here.

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Therapeutic community garden offers natural relief

December 6, 2010 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

When we’re having a bad day, many of us intuitively seek relief in nature, whether that means a hike in the woods, quick stroll through the park, or merely adding a green plant to an otherwise sterile work cubicle.

Scientists would say we’re doing the right thing. A slew of studies indicate that interaction with nature reduces stress and anger, improves cognitive performance and increases one’s sense of connection to the world.

For those who are experiencing more than just a bad day and suffer from depression or other mental illnesses, the benefits of nature may be even greater.

Recently, Cooperative Extension and the Longwood Graduate Program in Public Horticulture at the University of Delaware began helping clients of the state’s Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) enjoy the uplifting benefits of nature. They developed plans for a therapeutic and community garden on DHSS’s Herman M. Holloway, Sr., Campus in New Castle.

Partners in the project include UD’s Center for Disabilities Studies, Delaware Department of Agriculture, Delaware Center for Horticulture and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

The Longwood Fellows took on the garden design as their annual professional outreach project. But even before a single design was sketched, Extension and Department of Agriculture professionals got to work on an education program for the clients.

“We offered workshops to develop interest in gardening,” says Carrie Murphy, horticulture agent for New Castle County Extension. “There was already a lot of interest; in fact, the clients wanted to begin growing vegetables immediately. So we designed and planted a 20- by 30-foot vegetable garden at the Holloway campus this past summer and showed the clients how to prep the soil, plant, weed, compost and harvest.”

First-year crops included popcorn, pumpkins, sweet corn and sunflowers.

Thursday has become “Garden Day” when Extension and Department of Agriculture staff and Master Gardeners offer structured activities at the Holloway campus.

One week, Master Gardener Hetty Francke gave a composting demonstration, another week entomologist Brian Kunkel discussed how to tackle garden pests. Even now, as winter draws near, Garden Day continues. One recent Thursday, Department of Agriculture entomologist Heather Disque gave a talk on where bees spend the cold-weather months.

Holloway clients and employees provided input into the therapeutic garden’s design.

The Longwood Fellows organized a design charrette, a brainstorming session with Holloway clients and other stakeholders, as well as representatives from the professional horticulture community. The fellows also held informal focus groups on the Holloway campus.

One thing they quickly discovered, says Longwood Fellow Rebecca Pineo, was the clients’ wish to memorialize individuals buried in a nearby potter’s field. So the garden design maintains open sight lines to this field from the main garden area. In addition, the clients will be creating garden art in on-site ceramic studios; some of these works may be utilized for memorial purposes.

Before hitting the drawing board, the fellows also researched existing therapeutic gardens. A few traveled to the Buehler Enabling Garden at the Chicago Botanic Garden, which is considered a model in engaging people of all abilities in gardening. And all 10 fellows visited Philadelphia’s Friends Hospital, which has had a therapeutic garden on site since 1817.

The final design that the Longwood Fellows created splits the one-acre garden into quadrants that feature raised beds and green walls. One quadrant will have a slate wall for chalk art, an idea suggested by clients. The design also includes a woodland walk, an avenue of mixed-species trees and two shaded plazas, which can be used for everything from picnic lunches to workshops. Smaller, semi-enclosed seating nooks appear perfect for contemplation.

Sustainable landscaping practices were incorporated into every facet of the garden design, says the Department of Agriculture’s Faith Kuehn, a project leader. The garden design includes native plants whenever possible, uses some recycled materials for garden hardscapes, designates rain collection in barrels and by other means, incorporates a composting station and utilizes solar and other green technologies.

“This project helped me learn about working with a lot of different people,” says Pineo. “We had multiple partners and each partner brought different work styles, perspectives and creativity. It was challenging but it was a good lesson in the strength you can get from partnerships.”

“It’s been a win-win situation for all involved,” says Bob Lyons, director of the Longwood Graduate Program. “The therapeutic and community garden has great potential to improve the experience of the clients of the Holloway campus; it also served to grow the fellows’ experience in coordinating focus groups, design charrettes and conceptual designs.”

Although the educational piece of the project is well underway, the therapeutic garden is still just a design on paper. The project team is seeking donations and grants.

To learn more about the garden, contact Murphy at [cjmurphy@udel.edu] or (302) 831-COOP or Kuehn at [Faith.Kuehn@state.de.us] or (302) 698-4587.

Article by Margo McDonough

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Students battle rice blast disease with underground microbes

November 30, 2010 under CANR News

Rice is the most important grain consumed by humans, providing more than one-fifth of the calories sustaining the world’s population. By some estimates, however, global production of rice could feed an additional 60 million people, if it weren’t for rice blast disease, caused by the fungus Magnaporthe grisea.

This past summer, four students from the University of Delaware and two of its partner institutions in Delaware’s National Science Foundation EPSCoR program, Delaware State University and Delaware Technical and Community College, found themselves on the front lines of the battle to defeat rice blast.

Those battle lines have been drawn on opposite coasts of the United States, through a collaboration between scientists in Delaware and at the University of California at Davis, the land-grant institution of the UC system. The students therefore split their summer internship between laboratories in both states.

The project is led by Harsh Bais, professor in UD’s Department of Plant and Soil Sciences and the Delaware Biotechnology Institute, and is funded by the National Science Foundation.

The full article with photos can be viewed online on UDaily by clicking here.

Article courtesy of Beth Chajes, DENIN

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