23 May

Morgantown, W.Va. – Four Monroe County youths added to a legacy of West Virginia University Extension Service 4-H teams who have fared well in land judging and homesite evaluation contests by winning the national championship in both categories at the National Land, Range and Homesite Evaluation Contest held in Oklahoma on May 4.

Reagan Ernst, Kris Hoke, Andrew Wrzosek and Cameron Wickline practiced for more than 10 months to take home the top honors, including an extra week of practice on site in Oklahoma to acclimate to the wide variety of soils they’d be asked to judge.

Land judging and homesite evaluation programs educate youths about soil properties, and typically in West Virginia, these practices are often used when building homes or for farming and agricultural purposes.

But it’s more than evaluating soil textures, composition, permeability, erosion characteristics and the slope of the land — for many youths it’s a basis in the sciences and being good stewards of the earth explained coach, and WVU Extension Service Monroe County Agent, Brian Wickline.

“The point of the contest is for youths to comprehend the dynamics of the soil in front of them and give recommendations on how to manage it,” said Wickline. “Not only does it teach good soil conservation practices and proper land management decisions, but for some it can turn in to a lifelong interest.”

He added that the youths’ dedication is evident by learning about something that not a lot of peers take interest in. The team practiced four hours a week since January when they started to seriously prepare for the competition.

The reward for all the youths’ studying was a contest that went smoothly, despite the notoriously diverse and hard to classify soils of Oklahoma. More than 500 participants converged from a majority of states, some as far away as Hawaii.

For the Monroe County team, the competition ended with their names being called and a trophy presentation at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. But, sometimes the passion and dedication doesn’t stop directly after a competition or after the youth leaves 4-H.

Wickline said the impact of the youth agriculture program is significant, as he’s had a number of former 4-H’ers go on to pursue agricultural science degrees from higher education institutions with hopes of making a career out of it.

The competition was split into 4-H and FFA categories. West Virginia also did well in the FFA competition with teams consistently placing in the top 15. In many instances, including in Monroe County, the two programs help each other and train together.

For more than a century, 4-H has focused on agricultural science, electricity, mechanics, entrepreneurship and natural sciences. Today, 4-H out-of-school opportunities also exist in subjects like rocketry, robotics, biofuels, renewable energy and computer science.

To learn more about new opportunities in the 4-H program, visit, or contact your local office of the WVU Extension Service.



10 May

CONTACT: Brittany Dick, WVU Extension Service Writer/Editor, 304.293.8701,

Morgantown, W.Va.—Youths can learn to protect and preserve West Virginia’s natural resources at the West Virginia State Conservation Camp held Monday, June 12 through Saturday June 17, hosted by the West Virginia University Extension Service.

High-school-aged youths ages 14-18 interested in exploring natural resource-based careers or expanding their knowledge of the environment, outdoor recreation and conservation are encouraged to apply. In addition to hands-on learning in areas of forestry, wildlife management, nature awareness and more, the camp will offer traditional camping activities such as nightly campfires, recreational sports and other group activities.

According to Mike Hall, WVU Extension Service agent in Webster County, one of the most beneficial aspects of the camp is that it matches participating youths with natural resource management professionals in various disciplines.

“This face-to-face interaction allows youths to see how the professionals work within the natural, economic and social environments to manage and protect the state’s natural resources,” said Hall. “Campers gain knowledge and skills through hands-on activities that will help them become effective decision makers about conservation issues, regardless of their eventual career path.”

Since 1941, more than 16,000 youths have attended the award-winning camp, which is the longest-running youth conservation camp in the nation.

Each morning during the week, campers will participate in natural-resource-focused science, technology, engineering and math programming designed to provide them with a better understanding of the natural world. Campers may find themselves ankle-deep in streams learning about fish shocking – one of many tools biologists use to study fish populations – or pushing through the forest to learn about the diverse flora and fauna in the surrounding environment.

In the afternoon, educational sessions will give way to recreation periods for campers to explore activities such as boating, fishing, outdoor cooking, shooting sports and more.

Interested campers can register now at Full and partial scholarship opportunities are available from many local community organizations and agencies. 4-H members should contact their local Extension office to be matched with a 4-H specific Conservation Camp scholarship—the preregistration deadline for scholarships is May 12, 2017. Other scholarships and registrations are accepted until June 2, 2017 at

The camp is supported and staffed by professionals that are responsible for the management of West Virginia’s natural resources, such as local, state and federal organizations and agencies, and the WVU Extension Service.

To learn more about WVU Extension Service and how it works to bring 4-H and other youth development activities to young people throughout West Virginia’s 55 counties, visit

Check daily for the latest news from the University.
Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.

1 May

Morgantown, W. Va. – Fatalities caused by falls continue to be the leading cause of death for construction workers, and to help protect workers in our area, the West Virginia University Safety and Health Extension will help them identify fall hazards and prevent fall fatalities through a free, educational event on Monday, May 8.

Construction workers, employers and safety professionals are invited to join WVU Safety and Health Extension specialists at CSC Home and Hardware in Morgantown from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. that day as part of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s 2017 National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction campaign.

Safety demonstrations, giveaways, free fall hazard awareness training, safety technology showcases and other resources to educate workers and employers about prevalent fall hazards are scheduled. In addition, attendees can browse various informational stations to learn about safety measures for ladders, scaffolds, aerial lifts and more.

According to organizers, violations associated with fall prevention safety standards continue to be among the top 10 OSHA issued citations nationwide, a trend that can be addressed through education.

“The goal of OSHA’s National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction campaign is to raise awareness among workers and employers of the danger posed by falls on the jobsite and to highlight mechanisms to prevent them,” said Wayne Lundstrom, WVU Safety and Health Extension associate professor and director of the National Resource Center – OSHA Region III Training Center. “Falls on the jobsite can be fatal, and our goal is to educate about these risks and how to create a safe work environment. Too many workers continue to die every year from preventable falls on construction sites.”

While events are happening across the nation as part of the larger campaigns, all employers are encouraged to talk directly to employees about safety, including hazards, protective methods and the company’s safety policies and goals during the week. It can also be an opportunity for employees to talk to management about fall hazards they see around the workplace.

This year marks WVU Safety and Health Extension’s fourth year of participation in the annual, week-long OSHA campaign.

In addition to the event on Monday, free Fall Hazard Awareness and Fall Protection courses will be offered during the week in Morgantown and in other sites around OSHA region III including Erie, Pennsylvania and Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Area construction companies can also schedule a free, on-site tool box talk on fall prevention for their employees during the week. Contact WVU Safety and Health Extension for more information on these additional class offerings and tool-box talks.

There is limited space for the courses and preregistration is required. Visit to register today.

To learn more about WVU Safety and Health Extension, and the additional types of safety training and services offered, visit or call 1-800-626-4748.

26 Apr

Give mom the gifts of food, family and friends this year at the WVU Jackson’s Mill Mother’s Day Buffet, held in the historic Mount Vernon Dining Hall in Weston, West Virginia on Sunday, May 14 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Menu items will include:

  • Baked steak
  • Chicken with mushroom sauce
  • Mashed potatoes and gravy
  • Key West Blend vegetables
  • Wild rice
  • Homemade rolls
  • Salad bar
  • Varied desserts

Admission is $14 for adults and $7 for children ages 4-12. Children ages 3 and under are provided complimentary meals.

No reservations are needed. Cash, check, or credit card payments are accepted.

For questions about the event, call 304-269-5100.

WVU Jackson’s Mill is known for uniting youths from around the state during the summer months for WVU Extension Service’s 4-H camping season. During the winter months, the Mill becomes a festive and scenic event location for the people of West Virginia and their families. Come and enjoy a delicious buffet on May 14, stroll about the beautiful grounds and celebrate Mother’s Day with family and friends.

To learn more about WVU Jackson’s Mill or for directions, call 1-800-287-8206 or visit



CONTACT: Brittany Dick, WVU Extension Service

Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.

24 Apr

Teens can learn what it takes to be a firefighter at West Virginia University Extension Service’s Junior Firefighter Camp, June 3 through June 8 at the State Fire Academy at WVU Jackson’s Mill in Weston.

A refreshing change from the traditional summer camp, this unique experience offers campers the opportunity to further explore their interests in firefighting and emergency response under the direct supervision of trained firefighters and other emergency professionals.

“This camp helps mold young people. Time and time again we hear that if you get a person interested in fire service at a young age, they’re more likely to serve their communities as they get older,” said Mark Lambert, director of WVU Extension Fire Service. “That’s what is at the heart of this camp — cultivating a passion for public service.”

Campers are taught the basics of firefighting and emergency medical services through hands-on training in CPR and first aid, hose line and fire ground operations, ground and aerial ladders and self-contained breathing apparatus.

While a majority of campers are from West Virginia, cultivating a generation of future emergency responders for all communities is a goal for organizers, and teens from outside the state often join in on this transformative experience.

“These teens meet their peers from all over the country and forge new friendships that will serve them for years to come,” said Lambert.

Campers are also provided with more in-depth training in a variety of simulated emergency situations that include both vehicle and airplane fires, wilderness firefighting and search and rescue.

“It’s a great experience. These kids unplug from the digital world allowing them to learn fellowship and comradery, all while gaining valuable skills to help themselves, their communities and their states — now and in the future,” Lambert added.

Registration is open for those interested. Campers must be ages 14 through 17 to participate. The cost is $295 which includes meals, lodging and six required camp T-shirts. Scholarships are available to those who qualify.
The registration deadline is Monday, May 1.

For more information regarding the camp, contact Mark Lambert at 304-269-0875 or visit

The WVU Extension Service is a primary outreach division of West Virginia University. With offices in each of the state’s 55 counties, Extension faculty and staff develop and deliver programs in leadership, rural and community-based economic development, youth development, workforce development and health education.


CONTACT: Zane Lacko, WVU Extension Service

7 Apr

CONTACT: Brittany Dick, WVU Extension Service Writer/Editor, 304.293.8701,

Morgantown, W.Va.—Experts from the West Virginia University Extension Service are offering a one-day, hands-on workshop for those interested in producing and marketing dried fruit and vegetable products.

The workshop takes place Thursday, May 11 from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. at the Marshall County WVU Extension Office, 126 Barn Drive, Moundsville, WV 26041.

“This workshop can help producers learn how to dry fruits and vegetables as an additional way to market it, which extends the effective season of which they can sell their goods,” said WVU Extension Agents Cheryl Kaczor and Karen Cox. “However, the training can also help any individual who is just curious about how to safely and properly prepare dried fruit and vegetable products for home use.”

Pre-registration is required and is due by Thursday, May 4, 2017. The cost is $15 (scholarships available) and includes all necessary materials and lunch.

For registration information, contact Cheryl Kaczor at 304-843-1170 or, Karen Cox at 304-234-3673 or or Paul Crumrine at 304-293-8588 or

The workshop is taught by experienced food processing experts, and will address what products are viable for drying, the processes involved, ingredients, product safety, proper packaging and storage and handling, shared facility, marketing and more.

Instructors include food preservation, marketing, business, and food safety experts from WVU Extension Service and Penn State Extension. The program is sponsored by the WVU Extension Service with funding from Branch Banking and Trust company, WVU Public Service Grant, National Science Foundation’s ADVANCE IT Program under Award HRD-1007978, Northeast Extension Risk Management Education and Northeast Center to Advance Food Safety.

For more information on food safety and preservation, visit, or contact your local county office of the WVU Extension Service.

Check daily for the latest news from the University.
Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.

3 Apr

Morgantown, W.Va. – After a nationwide search, Ronnie Helmondollar has been named program director of the West Virginia University Extension Service’s Agriculture and Natural Resources unit, effective Monday, April 3.

No stranger to the WVU Extension Service mission, Helmondollar’s appointment comes after serving on the administration team as the interim program director since 2015 and at the county level with 26 years of experience as an Extension agent.

“Our Agriculture and Natural Resources program is vital to many audiences around the state, from backyard gardeners to some of West Virginia’s largest agricultural operations,” said Steve Bonanno, dean and director of the WVU Extension Service. “I’ve known Ronnie for a long time and the work he accomplished through the years gives me confidence that those programs are in good hands and will continue to flourish as Extension heads into the future.”

From a young age, Helmondollar has been aware of the opportunities that surround him, knowing that sometimes those opportunities come in surprising forms, such as livestock.

Both sets of his grandparents owned small scale agricultural operations, and as he grew up he got firsthand experience with the work involved in being a successful farmer. He saw the value in the work his grandparents did and took it to heart.

“They planted seed for a love of the land and the hard work behind it,” he said.

A few years later, when a friend invited Helmondollar to a 4-H livestock club meeting, his interest was already piqued. Through 4-H, he made connections, got to pursue a passion, and eventually, experienced results of Extension programming.

Helmondollar went on to earn a bachelor’s in agriculture from Ferrum College and a master’s in animal and veterinary sciences from WVU. After graduation, he kept his eyes open for an opportunity with the organization that ignited his passion.

“I took my first job with the WVU Extension Service back in 1991 as a one man operation in Taylor County with three days until 4-H camp opened,” said Helmondollar. “I jumped right in—and I’ve learned a lot through the years, specifically the value of partnerships and a support system for the work we do.”

With more than a decade of service to Taylor County, Helmondollar later took a job as the agriculture and natural resources agent in Randolph County.

While Helmondollar’s work focuses on all things agricultural, he has a professed soft spot for beef cattle production and youth agriculture programming, the latter of which he says was not only vital to him, but vital to West Virginia as a whole.

His future plans include working with faculty and staff to develop and improve programs that meet the needs of West Virginia’s farm families.

“It’s an exciting time to be in agriculture,” said Helmondollar. “During the last State of the State address our Governor has identified agriculture as a major opportunity for the state and as a path to improve West Virginia’s economy — to know we can breathe more life into the state’s future makes our work that much more important.”

Connecting the people of West Virginia to the University’s resources and programs is the primary goal of WVU Extension Service and its 55 offices throughout the state. Local experts, like WVU Extension’s agents and specialists, work to help improve the lifestyles and well-being of youths, workforces, communities, farms and businesses through trusted research in the counties in which they serve.

To learn more about WVU Extension programs, visit, or contact your local office of the WVU Extension Service.



3 Apr

CONTACT: Brittany Dick, WVU Extension Service Writer/Editor, 304.293.8701,

Morgantown, W.Va.—Come home to West Virginia University Jackson’s Mill and celebrate spring with friends at the April Showers Buffet, held in the historic Mount Vernon Dining Hall in Weston, West Virginia on Sunday, April 9 from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.

The menu will feature fried chicken and tilapia, traditional sides, tossed salad and homemade rolls.

No reservations are needed. There is a $14 admission for adults, $7 for children ages 4-12, and it will be free for children under age 3. Cash, check or credit card payments are accepted.

Guests will also be able to visit the WVU Jackson’s Mill gift shop, where visitors can purchase WVU Extension Service, WVU Jackson’s Mill and West Virginia 4-H related clothing and memorabilia. Items include West Virginia-made jams, jellies and sauces, whole wheat and cornmeal milled on-site as well as folk art related arts and crafts.

For questions about the event, contact Karen Wilfong at 304-406-7011 or

WVU Jackson’s Mill is known for uniting youths from around the state during the summer months for WVU Extension Service’s 4-H camping season. During the winter months, the Mill becomes a festive and scenic event location for the people of West Virginia and their families.

To learn more about WVU Jackson’s Mill or for directions, call 1-800-287-8206 or visit

Check daily for the latest news from the University.
Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.

23 Mar

Morgantown, W.Va. – While many could argue that times are tough for West Virginia, a bright economic outlook becomes more achievable through well-equipped leaders that can creatively gain resources, motivate their communities and develop sound strategies for the future.

According to some of West Virginia University Extension Service’s faculty, that’s exactly the type of training offered at the Community Leadership Academy — a three-day conference aimed at strengthening leadership from all disciplines and areas of the state.

The conference is now in its fourth year, and the theme is Regeneration: Real Solutions for Real Situations, an emphasis that encourages leaders to take home what they learned and begin applying it in their communities.

Hosted at the Waterfront Marriott Hotel in downtown Morgantown, the conference also lets those in attendance learn through optional, structured experiences that highlight the best of the city with a craft beer tour and a culinary tour.

A full schedule of courses and access to online registration is available at The cost is $245 per person. Student and group discount rates are available. Deadline to register is Friday, April 7.

Attendees can mix or match breakout session topics that include leadership, good governance and economic strategy. It’s a model that, according to organizers, allows leaders to get the most from their experience and get more tools that are relevant to them.

“We don’t want this to be a cold conference where people seldom interact shuffling between sessions — we’re all looking for solutions to help the state we love,” said Kelly Nix, WVU Extension’s community leadership specialist. “We want it to be valuable, practical and most of all, a true step forward in collaboration for the state’s leaders across multiple sectors.”

The Community Leadership Academy has also been approved for local economic development credits with the West Virginia Development Office and continuing education units with WVU.

The academy is organized by WVU Extension Service’s Community Resources and Economic Development program, which strives to provide educational programs and technical assistance to strengthen the capacity of citizens and organizations throughout the state of West Virginia.

WVU Extension Service’s local experts work to help improve the lifestyles and well-being of workforces, communities and businesses through trusted research in the counties in which they serve.

To learn more about the conference, contact Kelly Nix, WVU Extension specialist, at 304-293-8680, or email



23 Mar

Morgantown, W.Va.—Hundreds of West Virginia 4-H’ers and WVU Extension Service representatives will travel to the State Capitol on Tuesday, March 28 to explore opportunities at West Virginia University, meet with legislators and celebrate WVU’s 150th birthday at WVU Day at the Legislature.

Hosted by the WVU Extension Service, the annual event offers participants a unique chance to learn about higher education opportunities afforded to them within their state while getting a firsthand look at the legislative process.

“For many of our 4-H’ers, this is the first time they’ve been to the Capitol or met face to face with WVU representatives or legislators,” said Steve Bonanno, WVU Extension Service dean and director. “It’s important for them to make that personal connection with their state government and learn about the vast opportunities available to them with a higher education experience.”

As part of the day’s festivities, WVU Extension Service will host a birthday gathering in the Capitol’s lower rotunda at noon. The celebration will feature remarks from Bonanno and WVU President E. Gordon Gee as well as a string quartet routine performed by the WVU Creative Arts Center.

Participants will have the chance to sign a giant birthday card to be presented to President Gee, and can also expect to take part in other birthday activities such as an interactive birthday balloon extravaganza card game station and more.

Many of WVU’s units will be present during the event to showcase and educate visitors about their opportunities and purpose. Some of the units that will be at the event include the WVU College of Creative Arts, WVU School of Medicine, Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, WVU Extension Energy Express, WVU Jackson’s Mill and Farmstead, the College of Education and Human Services, College of Law and numerous other WVU Extension programs.

For a complete list of exhibitors visit

Attendees can connect to the event via social media by use of the hashtags #WVUDay, and by following @WVUExtension on Twitter and WVU Extension Service on Facebook.

For questions regarding WVU Day at the Legislature, contact the WVU Extension Service Office of Communications at 304-293-4221.

West Virginians can also access the University’s resources by contacting their local county office of the WVU Extension Service, and visiting


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