Spanish Food Handlers Certification

Food Handlers Class

Texas Department of State Health Services accredited food handlers program is now being offered in Odessa, TX! This class is now required for all food service employees to help promote the service of safe food. The class is a basic overview of food safety practices that are necessary to ensure you serve safe food at your establishment. Some practices discussed in the class are Good Personal Hygiene,Cross Contamination, Time and Temperature abuse.
  • Price: $20.00

Annual 4-H Kickoff Party!!!

It’s finally time for our annual 4-H Kickoff Party! Come and celebrate the new 4-H year with a bowling party on August 20th at Diamond Lanes. The party will start at 3:00 pm and will go till 5:00 pm. Please bring spending money and a few of your friends. Also, RSVP to the Extension office by Friday August 19th. It’s going to be a fun filled afternoon! So hurry and RSVP!

Child Development

Parental Involvement Contributes to Children’s Academic Success

Caregivers, teachers, peers, extended family, media, heredity, and the environment all contribute to a child’s development; however, parents (if present) are the most powerful influence in the lives of their children. Parental involvement not only shapes development during the initial years of life, but also during the adolescent and adult years.

Given this important role, to what extent should parents be involved in their children’s development? According to the National PTA, “Parental involvement is the participation of parents in every facet of the education and development of children from birth to adulthood, recognizing that parents are the primary influence in their children’s lives.” Parents have a tremendous responsibility to be involved with their children both inside and outside the home.

Decades of research have demonstrated that the more involved parents are in their children’s development, the greater chance children have to succeed, particularly in their academic performance. Consistently, researchers have discovered that greater parental involvement in a child’s education is associated with:

higher student grades and test scores,
better attendance,
higher rates of homework completion,
more positive student attitudes and behavior,
higher graduation rates, and
greater enrollment rates in post-secondary education.

When parents are involved, children achieve more regardless of their socioeconomic level, ethnic/racial background, or the parents’ educational level (Henderson & Mapp, 2002).

As recent research on early brain development has shown, positive parental involvement needs to begin long before children enter into formal schooling arrangements. The early years of a child’s life are critically important for healthy brain development, attachment formation, and language acquisition. When parents become actively involved with their children at an early age, they lay a foundation for learning that will benefit children for the rest of their lives.


Henderson, A.T., & Mapp, K.L. (2002). A new wave of evidence: The impact of school, family, and community connections on student achievement. Austin, TX: Southwest Educational Development Laboratory.

National PTA. Online at

Food Handler Classes

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It is estimated that 48 million cases of foodborne illness occur each year in the United States, resulting in approximately 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. Over half of all foodborne disease outbreaks reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are associated with eating in restaurants or delicatessens.

Education plays a major role in the prevention of foodborne illnesses. Due to these facts, new Texas Food Establishment Rules (TFER) have been accepted and went into effect Oct. 11, 2015. One major change that will impact the food service   industry will be the addition of the rule that except in a temporary food establishment and in the case of the certified food manager, all food employees will be required to successfully complete an accredited food handler training course within 60 days of employment. This new rule will go into effect as of Sept. 1, 2016, but compliance prior to that date is strongly encouraged by the state and local health authorities.

For more information on the Texas Food Handlers Certification course, contact Jacquelyn Warnock or go to  The courses offered are all face to face  but you can complete the course online (English, Spanish, and Chinese/Mandarin).

To access the new rules and supporting documentation, go to the “Laws and Rules” tab at the Texas Department of State Health Services Food Establishment Group website,



Protecting Plants From Frost

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Surviving a hard windy freeze can be a dicey proposition for some plants.  You may have heard that you should water plants prior to a freeze to help protect them from frost injury.  In fact, there are several strategies you can use to protect plants from frost damage this winter. Plants require less supplemental water in the winter months than they do during the growing season.  Once they have gotten into the middle of winter, plants are much less active and have usually adapted to the cold but that doesn’t necessarily mean you can stop watering them completely. How does supplemental water protect plants from freeze damage?  As liquid water is exposed to freezing temperatures it begins to cool, exchanging its warmth with the surrounding air.  The heat released from well watered plants affords them some added protection on cold nights.   On the other hand, the cells of drought stressed plants have no heat exchange capacity and may succumb quickly to a hard freeze. Clouds and overhead objects such as tree canopies can help slow heat loss by acting as an insulator, reradiating heat back toward plants.   When plants are left exposed to a clear night sky, they do not have the benefit of any warm air that would otherwise become trapped above them.  This interesting bit of knowledge can be used to offer additional protection for plants during a hard freeze. A cover draped over plants can offer great frost protection.  When you cover plants, be sure that the soil beneath them is able to emit its heat up into the cover overnight.  The cover will protect the plant from drying winds while trapping the radiant energy released from the soil below. If you use a plastic sheet, don’t allow it to touch the plant.  While a plastic cover will hold in the warmth, it will conduct external temperatures easily and may damage any part of the plant it touches, therefore support it with stakes or some other object. Don’t leave the cover on indefinitely.  Remove it during the day to allow the soil to absorb heat again.  This heat will then be available to the plant if it needs to be covered again that evening. Also, plants close to artificial heat sources are better protected than those out in the open.  A string of old fashioned Christmas lights placed near a plant can emit an amazing amount of useful heat.  Hang the lights nearby, taking care not to allow them to make direct contact with the foliage.  The newer LED lights emit virtually no useful heat and are therefore not helpful in protecting plants from freeze damage. For additional overnight protection, place a bucket of water under the plant cover.  The water in the container will release its heat around the plant and the cover will prevent the heat from escaping too quickly

Soil pH

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Soil pH is a measure of the current concentration of hydrogen ions in soil.  Hydrogen is universally used to denote an element or particle with a net positive charge.  Soil pH is measured on a scale from 1 to 14 where each whole number on the scale is 10 units larger than its preceding number.  For example, while 7 is considered neutral, it is 10 times more alkaline than 6 which is considered slightly acidic but ten times more alkaline than 5.  Therefore, increasing acidity is indicated as the numbers move below a pH of 7.

This pH measurement is important in determining what kind of plants the soil will support.  Apart from other environmental concerns, plants that prefer an acidic solution around their roots generally perform poorly in West Texas.  Our soils are simply too alkaline to keep azaleas, magnolias, and rhododendrons happy for very long.



A common misconception is that acidic mulches can increase soil acidity?  This common belief has virtually no research support, yet the myth persists.  Try a google search on the topic and you’ll get hundreds of pages of advice on how to increase soil acidity with pine needles and oak leaves.

If soil pH could be reduced by using pine and oak leaf  mulches, it would have wonderful implications for the kinds of plants we might be able to grow in our West Texas landscapes.  However, researchers have not been able to significantly acidify soil with mulches of pine needles or oak leaves.  Even after years of applying these mulches, the soils underneath maintain a pH common to their region.  Soils of the Llano Estacado are slightly alkaline, hovering around a pH of about 7.8.

So where does this myth come from?  It is true that pine needles have a very acidic pH of about 3.5 when they fall to the ground and oak leaves have a pH of about 5.  However, the process of decomposition by weathering and soil microbes generates organic material that is neutral to slightly alkaline.

Slight changes in pH may be temporarily observed in the thin layer of soil immediately beneath decomposing oak leaves and pine needles but the effect would not be significant enough to start an azalea farm in West Texas.  Even incorporating acidic forms of organic matter into the soil does little to change pH in the long run.  The volume of soil beneath a mulch is simply too massive to be easily changed by even the most acidic sources of  organic matter.  Even if the byproducts of decomposition were not near neutral, they would quickly be neutralized by soil components.

Soil has a remarkable capacity to resist change.  This buffering capacity, as it is known, is one of soil’s most important fundamental chemical properties.  Soils are composed of cations (positively charged elements) and anions (negatively charged elements).  When a positive ion such as hydrogen is introduced into the soil, it quickly reacts with calcium, magnesium, potassium or another anion and is effectively shielded by oppositely charged components in the soil.  A similar reaction occurs when negatively charged compounds are introduced into the soil.

The amount of time and volume of material required to change soil pH is absurdly large in West Texas simply because of the huge reservoir of bases in our soils.  In the final analysis we are compelled, by forces mostly beyond our control, to put plants in our landscapes that enjoy our climate and appreciate the pH of our soils.  In fact, you may be familiar with the saying, “the right plant in the right place.”  Soil pH is one of the factors that limit the selection of plants we can enjoy in West Texas.

Test That Soil

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To grow plants well in West Texas, you must first understand your soil.  A soil analysis performed by Texas A&M Agrilife soil testing laboratory is the place to start.  A soil test can give you an idea of the amount of organic matter contained in your soil but the more important thing that the test can help determine initially is soil salinity and fertility.  There is little that you can do to immediately change the texture of your soil so asking for an analysis of its texture has limited usefulness.

Most West Texas soils are somewhat sandy but heavily composed of limestone.  Its going to take a little time to improve your soil properties and this is most effectively done by amending the soil with organic material.

Arid West Texas soils can’t easily be changed without digging it all up and starting over with lots of new material from some alluvial (mineral rich deposits from flowing water) source and that’s simply not practical for the homeowner.

The solution to improving soil performance is to incorporate lots of well composted organic material.  For now lets just stick to foundational reason to begin your gardening experience with a soil test.

 A soil analysis will give you an idea of its pH and fertility.  Soil pH is a measure of soil acidity.  Soils with a high pH are called basic and are common on the Llano Estacado.

As pH increases, nutrients like iron, manganese, copper and zinc become less available for use by plants regardless of their concentrations.  Iron is a particular problem for development of healthy and productive plants since it’s a primary component in chlorophyll.

Plants often exhibit symptoms of yellowing between the veins of leaves.  Visually described as interveinal chlorosis, this problems leads to a diminished carbohydrate production through photosynthesis and reduced vigor or in extreme cases, starvation of the plant to the point of dying.

So what’s the solution?  Many people add chelated iron to the soil but this is temporary and must be repeated.  Most astute gardeners add organic matter to the soil and make an effort to select plants that are tolerant of our pH.  Some gardeners recommend the of use fertilizers that help decrease the pH but again, if there is any effect at all, it is temporary and limited.

So for now, just start with an understanding of what kind of soil you have by having it tested.  You’d be surprised by how rarely this is done. Too often folks spend their hard earned dollars on plants they have no knowledge of and plug them into soil they have no information about.  A soil test is a must.