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Make Your Summer Picnics Shine

Nifa Author
Matt Browning, Public Affairs Specialist

Grab your picnic basket – July is National Picnic Month! Picnics are a perfect way to combine outdoor activity, healthy eating and time spent together with family and friends. Extension and research efforts supported by USDA NIFA that create more and better markets for producers and consumers and tackle food and nutrition insecurity and safety can help your family picnic become a favorite summer activity.

The 2,100-acre UConn Forest is instrumental for teaching, research and Extension work conducted by the University of Connecticut, as well as providing wildlife habitat, watershed protection and other environmental benefits. If dead, wind-damaged or hazardous trees are found along forest trails, UConn Forest Crew members harvest, remove and repurpose the wood for a variety of uses, including wildlife habitats, furniture, firewood, educational toys, cutting boards and – you guessed it – even picnic tables.

The University of Tennessee Extension is ensuring residents handle and prepare their picnic foods properly. Extension educators provide consumer education in food safety to more than 70 counties through programs implementing nutrition education, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)-Ed, the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, 4-H Healthy Lifestyles and others. Recent participant surveys showed that 1,131 of 1,273 (89%) participants cleaned hands and surfaces often; 989 of 1,121 (89%) participants did not cross contaminate; and 663 of 784 (84%) participants cooked foods to a safe internal temperature.

Scientists at West Virginia State University are conducting research to develop stronger, more disease-resistant, seedless watermelon varieties, because watermelon is, after all, a picnic staple. To date, the research has identified grafting methods that increased the size and rind thickness of watermelons. This is resulting in a larger fruit, ideal for those extended family picnics, with a thicker rind able to better withstand potential pests and disease.

Segments of the Popo Agie watershed, which covers 513,562 acres in Fremont County, Wyoming, were seeing encroachment by Russian Olive trees. The trees, originally planted as an ornamental windbreak, were out-competing native vegetation and creating a habitat inhospitable to wildlife. University of Wyoming Extension assisted with the removal of almost 20 acres of Russian Olive trees, reducing seed stock for further encroachment, increasing wildlife habitats, creating conditions for healthier ecosystems in streams, and providing easier access for the public to enjoy what has become a popular recreational location with picnic tables, shelter, walking paths and benches.

Photo: July is National Picnic Month! Left image of picnic type food. Middle image of family enjoying a picnic. Right image of sandwiches. Courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Farm Bill Priority Areas
Plant health, production, and products;
Bioenergy, natural resources, and environment;
Food Safety, Nutrition, and Health;
Agriculture economics and rural communities
U.S. States and Territories
West Virginia,
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