AgriLife Extension ‘Backyard Basics’ series kicks off in Bexar, nearby counties

Program generates interest at Pearl Farmers Market

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SAN ANTONIO – Representatives of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service offices in Bexar and surrounding counties recently introduced South Central Texas residents to the agency’s new Backyard Basics program at the Pearl Farmers Market near downtown San Antonio.

Homemade and preserved foods were among the items presented and discussed at this Backyard Basics display, presented by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service at the recent Pearl Farmers Market in San Antonio. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo)

“This new program focuses on supporting healthy living through home-based food production, preparation and preservation in sustainable, do-it-yourself ways,” said Lupe Landeros, AgriLife Extension director for Bexar County. “Lots of Texas residents are interested in growing and preserving their own food so they can enjoy nature and feel more connected to the food they serve to their families. This new series addresses this growing statewide consumer interest.”

Landeros said the Backyard Basics program is being piloted in Bexar, Atascosa, Comal, Guadalupe, Kendall and Wilson counties.

“Once we have a chance to present and tweak the programs, then AgriLife Extension can investigate the possibility ofexpanding and exporting these and similar programs to other counties in the state,” she said.

At the Pearl Farmers Market, one of the largest and most popular weekly farmers markets in San Antonio, AgriLife Extension set up Backyard Basics tent displays on backyard poultry, home vegetable gardening and home-based food preservation.  Next to them, volunteers from AgriLife Extension’s Bexar County Master Gardeners association provided advice and information on home vegetable gardening, including plant selection and care. Adjacent to the Master Gardeners, AgriLife Extension family and consumer sciences agents displayed food preservation equipment and showed homemade food items.

Agency personnel from Comal and Kendall counties joined AgriLife Extension staff members from Bexar County at the displays.

At the poultry display, AgriLife Extension agents showed and described different types of backyard chickens and how to feed and care for them.

According to San Antonio’s Texas Chicken Ordinance, a homeowner can have up to three hens in the back yard, Landeros said. Keeping chickens in the back yard is also allowed in Comal, Guadalupe, Kendall and Wilson counties.

“People can check with their respective city offices to get specific information on the Texas Chicken Ordinance and what it means for their location,” she said.

Karen Frost of Spring Branch was among the visitors to the agency’s Backyard Poultry display.

The Backyard Basics series focusing on home grown and homemade foods is being rolled out in Bexar and nearby South Central Texas counties. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo)

“We have about 60 chickens at our place in the country,” Frost said. “The information on chickens was helpful to me in addressing issues like predation by hawks, raccoons and snakes, and seeing how we might increase our egg production.”

Ed and Michelle Lupomech of San Antonio also attended the farmers market and visited all three of the Backyard Basics displays.

“We only live a couple of miles from here,” said Michelle Lupomech, “but when we retire, we plan to buy a small farm where we can grow, harvest and preserve a lot of our own food. These Backyard Basics displays and the information we got here really helped me understand about growing and preserving our own food. I think organically grown foods just taste better, and fresh foods have better nutritional value. Also, we had chickens where I grew up, so I think everyone should have chickens in their back yard.”

Dr. Connie Sheppard, AgriLife Extension agent for family and consumer sciences in Bexar County, as well as Bryan Davis, natural resources agent, and David Rodriguez, county horticulture agent, helped identify and design many of the Backyard Basis series programs.  Additional input was provided by personnel from the Texas A&M University System and AgriLife Extension personnel from participating counties.

“We’ve already given some food preservation workshops at our local AgriLife Extension office this year, and we typically get 15 to 20 people per class,” she said. “But the interest continues to grow, so we’re already planning on adding more food preservation programs.”

Other Backyard Basics series programs scheduled for participating counties include programs on jams and jellies for the holidays, making soft cheeses at home, growing berries and herbs, determining beef quality and cuts, outdoor cooking, rain barrel construction and additional poultry programs.

For more information, go to http://BackyardBasics.tamu.edu or call 210-467-6575.

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