Thursday, January 4, 2018

Food Handler’s Course

Foodborne illnesses can be prevented by following simple food safety practices. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension - Wise County provides a Food Protection Management Training Program that seeks to reduce the risk of food borne illness. 
The “Texas Food Establishment Rules (TFER)” was revised and updated and became effective October 11, 2015.  A major change in the revision now requires all food employees to complete an accredited food handlers training program within 60 days of employment.  The Texas Cottage Food Law also requires that anyone who operates a cottage food business have a food handler card. 
Food service employees and those who operate a cottage food business can attend a two hour Food Handler’s Class, accredited by the Texas Department of State Health Services, on Wednesday, January 17 from 2:00 pm to 4:30 pm at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension - Wise County office located at 206 S. State Street in Decatur. 
This 2 hour course will now be required for all food service employees to help promote the service of safe food.  The certificate is good for 2 years and is valid anywhere in the State of Texas. Participants will learn about good personal hygiene, cross contamination and time and temperature abuse.
Contact the Extension office at 940/627-3341 to sign up.  The registration fee is $20.00 and covers course materials and an official food handler card.  Registration deadline for the Food Handler certification course is Tuesday, January 16, 2018.  Space is limited. 
Individuals with disabilities who require auxiliary aide service or accommodation in order to participate in the event are encouraged to contact our office within 5 working days prior to the program.  Educational programs of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, sex, disability, religion, age, national origin or genetic information or veteran status.
The class is taught in English, but Spanish handouts are available if requested in advance.
The Food Protection Management (FPM) Training Program is brought to you by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in cooperation with the Texas Department of State Health Services, and the County Commissioners Court Cooperating.

Winter Fire Ant Control

           Winter in Texas means cooler temperatures and less time out of doors. This does not always mean fewer insects however. Fire ants are generally less active during the winter months, but with our urban environments providing warmer pockets of habitat, these pesky insects continue to mound up in very annoying locations.
            The fire ants’ food needs change through the year. In temperatures below 75 degrees F the queen slows down her egg production thus the nutritional needs of the colony are changed. In colder weather conditions the ants do not seek out the high protein oily foods as they don in warm weather. Because of this change in food choice the ants will not feed on the typical fire ant bait formulated products (Amdro, Spectracide,  & Logic) which significantly reduces the effectiveness of these products. Neither broadcasting bait nor individually treating one mound at a time with bait, will produce satisfactory results in cold weather.
          Individual mound treatments are more effective fire ant control methods under these conditions. There are over 100 different products labeled for individual mound treatments of fire ants. Products for individual mound treatments vary in their formulations and active ingredients.

Success with Individual Mound Treatments for Fire Ant Control
·         Most dry formulations should be followed by 1-2 gallons of water, as directed.
·         Do not disturb the mound unnecessarily.
·         Do not create runoff when watering in the product
·         Mix liquid products according to their label instructions.
·         Apply products on warm, sunny afternoons. The ants will be closer to the surface and you will achieve better control.
·         When purchasing materials, note warnings about non-target organisms and apply as directed on the label.
·         Never dispose of unused chemicals down the drain as this introduces pollutants which the treatments plants are not equipped to remove and this harms the environment.

            Effective cool season fire ant treatments focus on individual mound treatments using the properly labeled materials. Bait formulated products are not effective in these temperatures because the ants will not feed on the baits. We will not be able to completely eradicate fire ants. However, with persistent treatment and the cooperation of neighbors we can greatly reduce the impact fire ants have on our daily lives.

Step Up & Scale Down With New 12-Week Program

          As the time draws closer to setting those New Year’s resolutions (or maybe a better term, ‘goals for the year’) you may want to consider our online Step Up & Scale Down, A Healthy You 2018; which is a12-week weight management program to help with your efforts.
Facilitated by our Healthy Texas office the online course starts January 8th, 2018. The program is based on the USDA Dietary Guidelines and covers a wide range of topics that address barriers most people face when trying to lose weight: proper goal setting, reading nutrition labels, meal planning, motivation, socializing and more. Lessons are self paced and feature new interactive lessons each week. The online course also includes discussion boards and group support.
Step Up Scale Down, A Healthy You 2018 will teach you how to eat healthy and incorporate physical activity into your daily life to help you lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle. Cost for the 12-week program is $40.  To register, visit the website at You may also contact the Wise County Extension office at (940)627-3341 for further details.

Friday, December 15, 2017


Cranberries are in season right now which means they are abundant and inexpensive! This nutritious fruit can be refrigerated for up to 4 weeks or you can freeze them now to enjoy them all year long. The perfect cranberry is full, plump, firm and dark red or yellowish-red; avoid cranberries that look shriveled or bruised. Cranberries that are ripe will bounce.

When cooking cranberries, cook just until the cranberries pop; further cooking will result in a more bitter taste. Raw cranberries are tart and bland-tasting, but using them fresh or dried adds color and nutrition to many recipes. Cranberries are versatile and can be combined with many other flavors. Try mixing cranberry juice with other juices such as apple, orange or grape. Dried cranberries can be used in place of raisins, added to nuts, granola, oatmeal, or breads. 

Wondering what to do with cranberries, either fresh or dried? Following are a couple of recipes that I encourage you to try during the Holidays. The first is Cranberry Crunch Salad from AgriLife’s Dinner Tonight’s recipe collection! It is filled with winter time favorites such as cranberries, brussels sprouts, quinoa and pecans. 

Cranberry Crunch Salad
Clean prep areas, wash hands, and wash produce. Slice brussels sprouts Whisk together dressing ingredients: agave, fresh squeezed orange juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper; set aside Toss together brussels sprouts, quinoa, dried cranberries, chopped pecans, and dressing. 

Nutrition facts: Calories: 200; Total fat- 8 grams; saturated fat- 1gram; Sodium-55 mg; Total Carbohydrates-30grams; Dietary fiber-4grams; Total sugar- 17grams, added sugar-4grams; Protein-4grams. 

The second recipe may have been around for a while, but is one that I have just discovered. It is tangy and sweet with a little bit of a bite.  Thank you to my co-worker Karen Wade for introducing me to Cranberry Salsa.
  • 1 bag (12 ounce) cranberries, fresh or frozen.
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • ¼ tsp cumin
Combine cranberries, cilantro, green onions, jalapeno pepper, lime juice, sugar, salt and cumin in a food processor or chopper. You can also just chop them up yourself. Be sure to chop to medium consistency. Serve at room temperature. Serve as a salsa with pork or turkey, or as an appetizer with cream cheese and crackers or chips. Refrigerate if not using immediately.

Scale Insect Can Be A Problem

One of the most common insects I find when making horticulture visits is the scale insect.  One of the common scale insects that we find are the euonymus scale, a common insect that attacks many species of indoor and outdoor plants.

Many species of scale insects damage landscape plants, shrubs and trees.  Scale insects insert their mouthparts into plant tissues and suck out the sap.  When scale numbers are high, plant growth will be stunted, leaves will develop yellow blotches, branches will die and some or all of the leaves may fall off.
Although scale insects are common, they are probably the most misidentified of all insect groups. Scale insects are generally small (1/4 inch long or less) and often mimic various plant parts such as bark or buds. Other species appear as small, white, waxy blotches or small bits of cotton on leaves or stems.  The one attribute of scale insects that leads to the misidentification is that they appear to be nonliving.  Once the young crawlers settle on a plant, they generally don’t move and can be overlooked.
Depending on the species, scale insects can spend the winter as eggs, young or adults.
Because of their protective wax covering, most scale insects are very difficult to control with insecticides once they have settled.  Scale insects are most vulnerable to spray formulations of contact insecticides during the crawler stage.
Many pesticides are available to consumers wanting to control scale. Pesticides work best on crawlers.  For effective control, you may need to apply pesticides two to four times at 5 – 7 day internals, because most pesticides work for less than a week, but crawlers from a single generation can hatch over several weeks.
Regardless of the number of applications needed, you must cover the plant thoroughly with insecticide each time. Cover both sides of the leaves and all the twigs and branches.

Dormant oils should be applied before spring growth begins, when temperatures are above 45 degrees for 24-48 hours.  Apply summer sprays when temps are below 90 degrees for 24-48 hours.

When scales are on plants that are actively growing, apply a systemic insecticide such as imidacloprid around the base of scale infested plants.

The following is a partial list of approved insecticides available for scale insect control:  orthene, Azatin XLâ, Sevin â, Di-Systonâ, Meritâ, Battleâ, horticultural oil, Olympic insecticidal soap and Distance â.  Read and follow instruction on the label.  For a complete list of insecticides and more information on scale insects come by the Extension office and ask for publication B-6097.