The holidays are a very busy season for many of us. There are so many things to do together with family and friends, traditions to return to, new things to learn and alternatives to try. Here at UF/IFAS Extension, we’re devoted to the prospect of lifelong learning, and in every county in the state, Extension experts are busy answering your questions and cooking up new ways to enjoy a happy and healthy holiday season.
A Florida Harvest
One of the joys of the holiday feast is the rich variety of food traditions we bring to the table. Many of our most anticipated favorites including potatoes, green beans and corn on the cob, are all grown right here in Florida, and can be found at their freshest at farmers markets and locally supported agriculture in your community.
If you’re looking to add a unique color to the table, why not go with purple sweet potatoes? Same great taste and nutrition, but in a royal shade. Agriculture Extension agent Wendy Mussoline shares news about the latest and most vivid varieties grown in Putnam County.
With great food comes great responsibility, and sumptuous holiday meals can be a test of our willpower to stay healthy. The secret, as any football coach will tell you, is knowing when and how to make wise substitutions. If you want a win over holiday excess, Orange County Family and Consumer Science agent Hillary Ayers has an excellent game plan.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Getting away from home to visit family and friends is one of the joys of the holidays. But actually getting there during peak travel season? Not so much joy. To help alleviate the headaches of holiday travel, Monroe County Extension Director Alicia Betancourt has some has some advice for safe and hassle-free cross-country trips.
One of the best things about living in Florida is that things grow here all year round. While some parts of the country are blanketed by snow, flowers are still blooming and winter vegetables are being planted in gardens. If you’re looking for inspiration, examples of Florida-friendly plants that grow well in our climate, or just a lovely place to enjoy the fresh air, why not stroll through a demonstration garden? Many Extension offices around the state maintain gardens for instruction and demonstration, and most of them are free.
Give the Gift of Lifelong Learning
This is the time of year when you may be checking your list of gifts to give the loved-ones in your life. Why not give them the gift of learning? UF/IFAS Extension has many online and in-person courses coming up in the new year.
For the budding beekeeper in your life, think about registering them for 2024 Spring Bee College. This 1-2 day event held at the Honey Bee Research and Extension Laboratory (HBREL) in Gainesville is THE premier event for all things about honey bees in the Southeast US, and early discounts for the March 15-16 event are available now. HBREL Director Jaime Ellis also has some additional gift ideas to get beekeepers buzzing.
If you’re looking for a book to spark interest in a young naturalist, I have a couple of recommendations.
Amazing Mosquitoes offers a fascinating look at the world’s deadliest, most annoying insects. Written by Yoosook Lee, a geneticist at the UF/IFAS Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory, the reader will join Ivy as she accompanies her mom on a field trip to collect mosquitoes and learn about these remarkable insects. This delightful book is also available in Spanish as Mosquitos Asombrosos.
Bark beetles are massively destructive insects that earn their reputation as the world’s worst forest pests. But in The Surprising Lives of Bark Beetles, author Jiri Hulcr—a UF/IFAS entomologist—offers a wonderfully different view of these understudied and underappreciated creatures.
Both books are available for order at the IFAS Extension Bookstore: http://ifasbooks.ifas.ufl.edu/
That’s a pretty full menu of new things to learn!
From UF/IFAS Extension, I wish you and your loved ones safe and happy holidays. I hope your new year will be filled with joy and the promise of lifelong learning!