Writer: Paul Schattenberg, 210-859-5752, firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact: Nelda Leyba Speller, 210-631-0400, email@example.com
Angie Gutierrez, 210-631-0400, firstname.lastname@example.org
David Rodriguez, 210-631-0400, email@example.com
Molly Keck, 210-631-0400, firstname.lastname@example.org
SAN ANTONIO — More than 100 people attended the biannual Backyard Basics Expo held recently at the San Antonio Garden Center.
The expo, presented by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, emphasized self-reliance and the production, preparation and preservation of homemade and homegrown foods.
“The idea behind the Backyard Basics program is to provide information and hands-on experience to people relating to growing and preparing their own food,” said Nelda Leyba Speller, AgriLife Extension county director, Bexar County. “It also shows some basic things people can do in their backyard to give them exercise and pleasure, and also improve their quality of life. These are things almost anyone can do.”
Educational sessions were presented by AgriLife Extension personnel with support from the agency’s Bexar County Master Gardener volunteer horticulture program.
Other expo offerings included educational booths with representatives of organizations and area businesses associated with horticulture, agriculture, Water conservation. self-sufficiency and food production.
Forty-minute concurrent expo workshop sessions addressed diverse topics from vegetable gardening to water gardening to beekeeping and pollinators, 4-H program opportunities, composting and backyard chickens to beef cuts and making salsa and jerky.
“This program exposes people to a variety of interesting topics for the hobbyist or anyone who wants to become more self-reliant and self-sustaining,” said David Rodriguez, AgriLife Extension horticulturist and an event coordinator. “This year’s program was different in that it was the first time we presented it on a weekday and also during the time of year when people should be considering what to plant for the fall.”
Aaron Kelman of San Antonio was among this year’s expo attendees.
“I came here to learn more about vegetable gardening and planting vegetables to use in making salsa,” Kelman said. “I also attended the pollinator program and it was interesting to find out how many insects and other animals there are that pollinate plants.
My goal is to eventually become a Bexar County Master Gardener and to work with kids, teaching them about gardening and growing their own vegetables.”
Angie Gutierrez, AgriLife Extension family and community health agent for Bexar County, said the salsa- and jerky-making sessions were particularly popular.
“This year for our Taste of Fiesta salsa-making activity, we had people break into groups and provided them with various ingredients so they could experiment and make their own special salsa,” she said. “We also did a presentation on the nutritional and health aspects of salsa and demonstrated the types of equipment that can be used in preparing the ingredients for salsa.
“Lots of people also attended the jerky-making session that gave them a history of a Hill Country jerky-making process and showed them how to make elk, deer, pork and turkey jerky, including how to choose the meat, then salt, smoke and dehydrate it.”
Another popular presentation was raising backyard chickens, presented by members of the Fancy Feathers 4-H club. The presentation covered types of chickens, maintaining chickens and egg production.
Joyce Towsley, a first-time expo attendee, said she came to the expo to learn about chickens so she could share any insights with her brother who raises quail.
“I came here to learn about maintaining backyard chickens because I knew there would be some information I could pass along to my brother that might help him with his quail production,” she said.
Natalie Cervantes, AgriLife Extension 4-H and youth development agent for Bexar County, presented on 4-H opportunities for youth.
“4-H has something for almost any youth,” she said. “You can get involved with anything from animal projects, like raising chickens, rabbits, sheep and cows, to public speaking, fashion photography, nutrition, robotics and much more. You don’t have to be involved in everything. You can participate in only those programs or activities that are of personal interest to you.”
For information on upcoming AgriLife Extension programs in Bexar County, go to https://bexar-tx.tamu.edu. For publications and links related to Backyard Basics in Bexar County, go to http://backyardbasics.tamu.edu.