Safety at the Fair

Around the area, county fairs have already started up, the state fair will being later this month and our own Noble County Fair will be here before we know it! As you plan to attend any local or state fair take some safety precautions to ensure safety near animals as well as any food you may consume.

General safety tips to remember include paying attention to weather forecasts and be appropriately prepared. This includes wearing sunscreen and remembering to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Additionally, wear closed toe shoes to protect your feet. Always be sure to wash your hands after petting animals and especially before eating. If you aren’t sure if hand-washing stations will be available, pack wipes or hand sanitizer. This is especially important for young children who may not necessarily touch an animal, but may come in contact with enclosures and touch their faces or put their hands in their mouth. Additionally, remember to wash your hands after playing games or going on rides.

Ask permission before petting an animal. Most likely the owner will be nearby and will let you know if it is safe to pet the animal. Some animals do not like to be touched and the owner will let you know if this is the case. They may be able to direct you to a friendlier animal. If they don’t wish for you to pet any of their animals, respect their wishes and ask another person.   Remember, the animals are at the fair to be exhibited and are not a petting zoo.

Most likely while you are at the fair you will be eating some delicious fair food or you may bring along your own. Foodborne illnesses increase during the summer months so it is even more important to follow food safety steps. The usual safety control points are not always available when eating outdoors such as refrigeration and appropriate hand washing facilities. Consider the cleanliness and employee food handling practices before choosing to eat at a particular stand. If you do bring food from home and it is going to be warm out, be sure to keep things properly chilled inside a cooler or insulated bag and don’t let food sit out for more than two hours. If you have any question if your food is still safe, throw it out. It is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to food safety, especially if you have young children, older adults or are pregnant.

Teach your children to remain calm if they become separated from you while out in public and pick out a place where they can meet you if you do become separated. Lost children can be difficult to locate if their location continues to change. Look in to getting your own lost child tag you can place on your children in public or check to see if they are available where you are visiting.

The fair can be a very enjoyable place full of new experiences, but it is important to take precautions in order to stay safe and healthy!

OSU Local Foods Week August 9th-15th

Local Foods Week

The week of August 9th-15th, 2015 is Local Foods Week in Ohio and if you don’t already support locally grown food, now is a great time to start! Right now is a perfect time to support locally grown food in our state due to the wide variety of fresh produce available! Tomatoes, sweet corn, cucumbers, apples, peaches, and berries are available just to name a few!

Agriculture is Ohio’s number one industry that contributes jobs for one in seven Ohioans and more than $107 billion to the state’s economy. Ohio has many rural areas, but several metropolitan areas in close proximity, which links the rural and the urban consumer. This allows growers and their communities to produce and consume food from small, medium and large-scale family owned farms.

While Ohio ranks in the top ten states for direct sales to consumers of a wide variety of foods that include eggs, milk, cheese, honey, maple syrup, bread, vegetables, fruit and many other food products one in six Ohioans are food insecure and lack the access to fresh, healthy local foods. You are all a part of the food system of Ohio by making the daily decision on what foods you will consume.

When making your food decisions many people consider where the food was grown or raised and make an effort to develop personal connections with growers and producers to enjoy flavorful, safe, local food. The focus of Ohio Local Foods week is not only about enjoying the wonderful taste of local food but to also become more aware and better informed about the nutritional, economic and social benefits of local foods in Ohio.

The Ohio State University Extension Local Food Signature Program invites everyone to celebrate Ohio Local Foods Week this week. We encourage individuals, families, businesses and communities to grow, purchase, highlight and promote local food all the time, but we ask you especially emphasize it this week. We are also inviting everyone to participate in a challenge to spend $10 this week on local foods. Two convenient places to spend $10 on local foods in Noble County include the Farmers Market on Friday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. or the Witten’s trailer located in the BP parking lot. You will be surprised just how much you can get for $10, too! In the past I have purchased a cantaloupe, half a dozen ears of sweet corn and a couple tomatoes for $10.

To follow the event search Ohio Local Foods Week on Facebook or Twitter and post your foods you are enjoying this week. Sign up for the $10 challenge at

Pruning Tomato Plants

Pruning is usually a term associated with trees or shrubs, but pruning tomato plants can be very important. When pruning a tomato plant you are pruning what are called “suckers.”Suckers are small shoots that grow out of the joint where a branch on a plant meets the stem. The joint will be in the shape of a V and if a sucker is growing it will be more in the shape of a W. You do not want to allow suckers to grow to form the W. These small shoots will eventually grow into a full size branch if left alone, which will result in a bushier, more sprawling tomato plant, but will not harm your plant. Typically, this should from the time the plant is small, but if you are finding yourself with a jungle of tomato plants, it’s not too late to start.

Pruning will promote fruit growth and allow better air circulation throughout the plant. By pinching off the sucker branches, less of the plants energy will be directed toward producing and maintaining foliage and will result in more energy being directed toward producing larger fruit that will ripen sooner. However, some studies do not recommend pruning because sucker branches will actually produce fruit. Your result may be larger amounts of smaller fruits versus larger fruits. So, it really is a personal decision on if you want to prune.

You want to make sure to prune during a dry, sunny day. Anytime you are pruning it causes an opening into the plant that is an area where disease can get in. This is similar to cutting yourself and having an open wound. If you use scissors or pruners instead, be sure to sanitize them before and after use to make sure there is no transfer of disease.

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What Happened to My Potatoes?!

We tried potatoes for the first time last year with some leftover seed potatoes a friend had given us and thought it would be worth a shot. They did pretty well, even though they were small and we had enough to keep up with, having potatoes a couple nights a week. This year, we had big plans. We got more seed potatoes and had plans of needing a root cellar and were wondering, just what would we do with all the potatoes!? Well, we won’t have any trouble and I’m glad we didn’t start construction on the root cellar just yet.


We thought we were waiting until the right time to harvest. The vines had just bloomed and started to die. Once the plant blooms, the energy is being devoted to the production of the flower and it is unlikely that any more energy will be diverted to growing potatoes. Unfortunately, this did not occur until after the week of the non-stop rains we had. Potatoes, like most other vegetables do well with consistent watering, meaning a consistent amount of rain each week, not consistently raining for a week, as we experienced! However, we know there is nothing we can do to control mother nature and we obviously didn’t have our potato bed prepared correctly as it must have needed much more drainage.


When we started digging the potatoes up, we had many smaller sized potatoes that were nice and firm, but unfortunately, our best-sized potatoes had rotted in the ground before we had a chance to dig them up. We also noticed that even the smaller potatoes were covered with what looked like white bumps all over. The white bumps are actually called lenticels. Lenticels are special pores in the plant tissue that allow oxygen exchange with the outside world, allowing the potatoes to “breathe.” The large amount of moisture we have been receiving caused the lenticels to swell and therefore become visible. They may also appear in humid storage environments and as long as there are no other signs of problems of things like fungal or bacterial disease, the potatoes remain safe to eat.


However, the presence of the lenticels tells us a lot about the quality of our soil. We obviously received an above average amount of moisture recently and even well draining soil would be wet, but we must work to increase the drainage of our potato area in the future. It also may be that we need to do an above ground bed or plant the potatoes in large containers


Good luck to any fellow potato growers and if you have some of the same problems we had and need more suggestions for increasing drainage to your garden, please call the office, stop in or email


Poisonous Plants

Whether it is in the pasture or in your back yard it’s that time of year again where poisonous plants are around and can cause trouble if not properly identified. Some of the most common poisonous plants that affect us in our backyard and surrounding areas are poison ivy, oak and sumac. All contain urushiol, which is a plant oil that can cause a severe skin rash. However, identification of these plants can be difficult as they might be confused with other non-poisonous species.

Poison ivy grows in shady or sunny locations and may be either a woody shrub or a vine that can climb up to 150 feet tall! All parts of the plant, including the roots contain urushiol at all times of the year, even when bare of leaves in the winter. Leaf forms are variable among plants and even among leaves on the same plant however; the leaves always consist of three leaflets. Leaflets can be 2-6 inches long and may be toothed or have smooth edges. The stem that is attached to the terminal leaflet is longer than the stems attaching the other two. Fruit of the poison ivy is always in clusters on slender stems between the leaves and woody twigs. They are round and grooved with a white, waxy coating and are attractive to birds and are an important food source for deer. A common poison ivy look-alike is Virginia creeper. It is also a trailing vine but it has 5 divide palmate leaflets. It also has blue-black berries.

Poison oak is a low growing shrub that can be about 3 feet tall. It is located in dry, sunny locations and not usually in heavy shade. Poison oak displays lobed leaves, which give it the appearance of an oak leaf. The leaves are generally about 6 inches long and the middle leaflet is alike lobed on both margins and the two lateral leaflets are often irregularly lobed.

Poison sumac leaves consist of 7-13 leaflets arranged in pairs with a single leaflet at the end. Leaflets are elongated, oval and have smooth margins. The sumac plant also has reddish stems.

There are numerous other plants, trees and shrubs that can be poisonous to humans and livestock as well. If you spot something that you aren’t familiar with, please feel free to bring it to the office for identification. However, if you are having a reaction, please seek the advice of your doctor.

Poison Ivy                               Poison Oak                                 Poison Sumac

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