Category Archives: K-State Extension

Opt-Out: Credit Offers

Joy Miller, RD, LD
Family and Consumer Science Extension Agent
Adult Development and Aging
Family Resource Management
K-State Research and Extension
Southwind Extension District
210 S. National
Fort Scott, KS 66701
Office: 620-223-3720
Fax: 620-223-0332


Mail Call: Bills, a birthday card from Mom, a store circular, or your monthly bank statement. From time to time, you may receive “pre-approved” credit card offers in the mail, too. Do you ever wonder what they are and where they come from?

These credit card offers are not random, they are prescreened and targeted to you. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the Consumer Credit Reporting Companies are allowed to include your name on lists used by creditors or insurers to make firm offers of credit or insurance that are not initiated by you. Prescreened offers are based on information in your credit report that indicates you meet the criteria set by the offeror.

You have the option to opt-out of these offers, why might you? Some people prefer not to receive these kinds of offers in the mail to limit access to their credit report information for solicitations or to reduce some mailbox “clutter”.

As you consider opting out, you should know that prescreened offers can provide many benefits. These offers can help you learn about what’s available, compare costs, and find the best product for your needs. The terms of prescreened offers also may be more favorable than those that are available to the general public. Some credit card products may be available only through prescreened offers.

The official Consumer Credit Reporting Industry website to accept and process requests to Opt-In or Opt-Out of prescreened offers is or call 1-888-5-OPTOUT. Whether you call or visit the website, you will be asked to provide certain personal information. You will have two choices for opting out. The first is to opt-out for five years and the other is to opt-out permanently. You can always Opt-In and be eligible to receive prescreened offers again if you have previously completed an Opt-Out request.

A reminder that it may take up to 60 days for offers to stop being mailed. You may continue to receive mail from companies who send offers not based on prescreening.

How does this affect your credit report? There will be “inquiries” showing which companies obtained your information for prescreening, but those inquiries will not have a negative effect on your credit report or score. Removing your name from prescreened lists has no effect on your ability to apply for or obtain credit or insurance.

To learn more about Credit, visit our website at Also follow us on Facebook @southwindextensiondistrict or Instagram @southwind_ext. For more information, please contact Joy Miller at or by calling 620-223-3720.

County Fair Time Nearing

Carla Nemecek is Southwind District Director and agent.

We are only a few weeks away from the start of the County Fair season – and I usually write an anticipatory column to incite excitement and attendance of the Fair.

In fact, my past columns have been along the lines of “County Fair season is just around the corner! The week that nearly every 4-H member has worked and waited for since the fair ended last year.  It is a time of year when youth from across the county get together to showcase their projects, but more importantly, it is a time for 4-H families to be together.”

The words ‘be together’ really strike me because they are the words that we are the most focused on in planning the 2020 Fairs during a pandemic.

We want to gather together to celebrate accomplishments and enjoy time with friends, but we just cannot.

Planning the 2020 County Fair has been hard. Our local Fair Board members, Extension Board members, and Extension staff have spent numerous hours on phone calls and zoom meetings (because Extension has not been allowed to meet face-to-face until after July 4) trying to navigate schedules and keep some resemblance of a County Fair that allows our 4-H members to showcase their projects while keeping everyone socially distant and safe.

Did I mention this has been hard? I think those who have cancelled their events or activities actually took the easy way out, because modifying the traditional County Fair has been more challenging than we could have possibly expected it to be. Then again, we didn’t expect any of this.

I did not expect we would face a global pandemic. I did not expect to have to modify the 4-H rabbit show because of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease that is fatal to rabbits. I did not expect to have to answer questions about Vesicular Stomatitis Virus (VSV) that has confirmed cases in Kansas and puts our horse show at risk. The Dog Show at the Kansas State Fair has already been cancelled, and we are anxiously awaiting information this week about the State Fair will look like in 2020. This has been hard.

Your Extension Agents want to have a normal County Fair every bit as much as you do. I don’t even know what normal is, or what it will look like by 2021. I am certain we will continue to plan the County Fairs as an event for our communities that helps us recognize the importance of 4-H and agriculture.

Please understand that a new fair schedule is not the schedule we will follow until the end of time and we all have made the best decisions possible with the information we had at the time the choices needed to be made.

Fair results will be published frequently online, and we expect to utilize our social media channels now more than ever.

To discover more about your County Fair, find us on Facebook at Southwind Extension District. Extension Agents have planned to conduct judging and showing activities that will keep our youth and their families safe.

Alternative virtual options will be available to those who do not feel like attending in person.

Mask wearing will likely be common, and possibly required.

In the meantime, I hope you will continue to be patient and kind with each other and look forward to a day that we can be together again. I look forward to the day I can publish an article that highlights a fun 4-H activity – that includes families working and learning together.

Carla Nemecek
Southwind Extension District
Director & Agent
1 North Washington, Iola, KS 66749

Food safety takes spotlight for outdoor picnics, grilling

Kathy McEwan, K-State Extension Agent. Submitted photo.


For many, the Fourth of July holiday may be a day off from work, but Karen Blakeslee says it’s not a day off from food safety.


“Handling food safely is important every day, not just at holidays,” said Blakeslee, a food safety specialist with K-State Research and Extension. “During the summer, it is more important to follow the four core principals of cook, chill, clean and separate.”


She notes that foodborne illness often peaks in the summer for a couple important reasons: Bacteria multiply faster in warmer temperatures, and preparing food outdoors makes safe food handling more difficult. “Temperature abused food can allow bacteria to grow and multiply every 20 minutes,” Blakeslee said.


For picnics and barbecues, Blakeslee provides some timely tips:


  • Cook food to the recommended internal temperature. If bacteria are present on food, they can be killed by cooking meat properly. There is no need to wash meat or poultry. Marinate meat in the refrigerator and discard unused marinade. For popular picnic foods, the suggested internal temperatures are 165 degrees Fahrenheit for poultry; 160 F for ground meat and hamburgers; and 145 F for beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks or chops.
  • Chill foods that won’t be in a refrigerator. Use several ice chests to store cold food below 40 F and keep it cold until meal time. Don’t leave picnic food out for more than two hours or one hour if outdoor temperatures are above 90 F. Once the meal is finished, put leftovers on ice or in the refrigerator promptly.
  • Clean produce, surfaces and hands regularly. Wash produce with plain water before prepping or cooking. Rub or scrub when possible to remove dirt. Clean surfaces often. When washing hands, any soap that produces bubbles — which break up bacteria and germs – will work. Rub between fingers, back of hands and up your arms, too. If you don’t have running water, moist disposable towelettes are a good choice.
  • Separate foods. Keep raw foods away from ready-to-eat foods. Use separate plates and utensils for raw meat and cooked meat. Or, wash plates and utensils before using them for cooked meat.


“It is easy to get distracted with summer activities and forget about food,” said Blakeslee, who suggests keeping the meal simple.


“Plan ahead to reduce mishaps since cooking and eating outdoors is out of your normal routine. Keep food safe for everyone at your party to enjoy.”


For more outdoor food safety tips, contact Kathy in the Southwind Extension office at 620-365-2242 or

The Children Are Gone. What’s Next?

Barbara Stockebrand. K-State Extension Agent.


It’s that time of year when there is a lot of bird activity. They have built their nests and most are filling the air with their individual songs. If you come across an empty bird’s nest, would it be an encouraging sight, or one that would strike you as sad and lonely?

The empty nest stage is the time in parents’ lives when their last child has left the home. Some think “empty nest” is a negative term. Others believe that parenting does not end when their children have spread their wings and other opportunities have become available.

Whatever the thought, parenthood enters another phase that requires relationships to change when the children leave. Eventually, the relationship between parent and child is shared between two competent adults. One of those adults is still the parent, and the other is the grown child.

The role of a parent raising children is one of the most fulfilling anyone can ever have. There can be a big void once that role is lost. Replacing that void with volunteer activities can be helpful in the transition into the empty nest stage of life.

Children often provide a diversion that prevents parents from looking at the problems in their marriage. When the nest empties, the marriage remains, but the diversion does not. Buried issues can resurface. However, marital satisfaction often increases after the children leave. Sometimes couples need to take another look at their goals as they enter the second half of their marriage. It can provide an opportunity to become stronger or to drift apart.

If couples feel they are having a hard time re-connecting, some questions to consider may help locate the issues.

  • How well do we know and understand each other? We have probably changed over time. Do we know each other’s likes, dislikes, dreams and goals?
  • How do we show our fondness and admiration for each other?
  • Do we share everyday thoughts and happenings?
  • Do we accept influence from each other?
  • How do we solve our problems?
  • How do we deal with issues in which we may never agree?
  • How do we have fun together?

Other changes that may take place as the nest is emptied include career changes, caregiving shifts, plus our bodies are changing. Some career ambitions may have been put on hold during the childrearing years. One of the parents may want to focus on future career ambitions, while another parent may be winding down their career. Sharing those ambitions and desires with each other is a good place to allocate some focus.

Parents that look forward to their children leaving home as a time when they can do some things for themselves may also find that as their children are leaving, their own older parents begin to require more attention and care. A time of resting from being responsible for dependents may not come the way they had hoped it would.

Health issues begin to become a concern in the aging process. The empty nest stage sometimes coincides with these health changes. It’s important to follow up with regular doctor appointments and to stay on top of potential issues in order to do well in all areas of our lives as we age.

Our relationships with our children are still important, but will need to change. If there are problems in a relationship before the children left, they are likely to remain until worked through. Accepting children as adults can be difficult for many parents. However, these relationships will remain forever, so it is important to nurture them through the changes both the parents and the children may be experiencing.

We often forget that when we are going through an adjustment, we are experiencing a normal transition in life. We need to remind ourselves that some difficulty adjusting to our children leaving home is expected. As nature reminds us, something as simple as an empty bird’s nest carries a great deal of possibility.

For more on life’s transitions, contact the Yates Center office of the Southwind Extension District at 620-625-8620.

Be on the Look-out for Garden Pests

Krista Harding
District Extension Agent, Horticulture
Southwind Extension District
111 S. Butler
Erie, KS 66733
Office: 620-244-3826
Cell: 620-496-8786


This spring brought an increased interest in gardening. Now that the gardens are planted and things are beginning to grow, gardeners should be on the look-out for insect pests.

If you are having difficulty with insect, the first thing you need to do is determine exactly what insect pest you are dealing with. To figure this out, start by looking at the type of damage being caused to the plant.

Most pests that feed on vegetable plants have either chewing or sucking mouthparts which each produce different types of feeding damage. For example, insect pests with chewing mouthparts feed on leaves, stems, flowers, fruits and roots. They physically remove plant tissue while feeding. This type of pest will often leave physical evidence of their feeding as well – such as the tomato horn worm.

Insect pests with sucking mouthparts feed on plant juices causing stunting, wilting, leaf distortion and leaf yellowing. An example of this is aphids. They also leave behind physical evidence in the form of honeydew – a clear, sticky substance on plant surfaces.

Scouting plants for insects is an important part of gardening and should be done often. I know many gardeners browse through their plants every day and that is great! It is important to find insect pests as soon as possible. Inspect the top of the leaves as well as the underside of the leaves. The underside is where most insect pests will be found.

Once pests are found, again it is very important to get them correctly identified. Caterpillars, beetles and bugs can be removed from plants quickly and easily by handpicking and then placing them into a container of soapy water. Aphids and mites can actually be dislodged off of plants with a forceful spray of water.

Pesticides can also be used and those labeled for vegetable gardens work in one of two ways – they either kill insects on contact or act as stomach poisons. But again, you need to know what insect you are targeting before application of chemical control. Many times, at the first sight of a pest, gardeners get excited and search the cabinet for some type of product to use. This is not the best approach to take! Beneficial insects can be killed using this tactic.

Speaking of beneficial insects, they actually prey on other insects and mites. Examples include parasitic wasps, ladybird beetles and green lacewings. Beneficial insects can even be encouraged to remain in a garden area by planting specific plants to attract them. The plants need to be placed in or around the perimeter of the garden. Examples of plants include dill, fennel, coneflower, yarrow and garlic chives.

If gardeners do not want to used pesticides, there are other practices to keep insect pressure down in the garden. Healthy plants are less likely to be attacked by insects. Plants that receive too much or too little water are more susceptible to insect pests. The same is true for fertilizer use – too much or too little will cause problems. Keep weeds down too as weedy areas are just a good place for aphids, mites and leafhoppers to congregate.

As you scout for insects in the garden, if you come across one that you cannot identify, the Extension office can help! Insects can be brought into one of our four office locations or pictures can be e-mailed. Remember, it is very important to know what pest you are targeting before pesticides are used.

Krista Harding is a K-State Research and Extension Agricultural agent assigned to Southwind District. She may be reached at or 620-244-3826.

K-State Research and Extension is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Get Your Free Credit Report Weekly

Joy Miller, RD, LD
Family and Consumer Science Extension Agent
Adult Development and Aging
Family Resource Management
K-State Research and Extension
Southwind Extension District
210 S. National
Fort Scott, KS 66701
Office: 620-223-3720
Fax: 620-223-0332

It is now easier than ever to check your credit report for free on a weekly basis. Due to the COVID- 19 pandemic economic issues, CARES Act Federal Loan forbearance, and fraud, the three national credit reporting agencies are allowing people to access their reports more often than once a year.

Staying on top of your credit report is a key part of being financially responsible. Credit reports show in detail all credit usage and payment activity. When you review your report, the activity should look familiar. If it doesn’t, the activity should be investigated further.

Your credit rating means more than whether or not you care able to open a credit card. It can sometimes determine if you get a good or a great interest rate on your next home or car purchase or get a loan at all. It can also be a deciding factor on whether you can rent or not.

Credit inquiries, also known as ‘pulls’, can impact your credit score. The inquiry section of your credit report is divided into two subsections: hard and soft. When your credit report is accessed with your consent from the credit reporting agencies, this is known as a hard pull. This kind of inquiry signals a financial event where money is needed and shopping for credit. A hard pull within the past 12 months can influence your score by up to 10 points.

To maintain a consistent score, you will need to manage your hard pulls. That means spacing requests out rather than make multiple ones at the same time. A best practice is to do your research before applying.

A soft inquiry involves the same type of information as a hard pull, but it is not tied to a particular application and it can be done without your consent. Soft pulls have no effect on your credit score and lenders disregard this information. An example of this is a pre-approved credit offer or when your bank checks to see if they will increase your credit.

Checking your credit report is considered a soft pull. Until April 2021, you can pull your credit report from Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax weekly. These free reports are available at

K-State Research and Extensions is offering Check Your Credit e-mail program, reminding participants to obtain their free credit report and provide educational tips throughout the year. You can register for this program at For more information, please contact Joy Miller at or by calling 620-223-3720. Follow us on Facebook @southwindextensiondistrict.


Elder Abuse and What You Should Know

Barbara Stockebrand. K-State Extension Agent.



No one is immune to elder abuse – it can happen to anyone, at any time, and anywhere. Often a silent problem, elder abuse can rob older adults of their dignity and security and leave them feeling fearful, depressed, and alone.

Sadly, 10 percent of Americans over the age of 60 have experienced some form of elder abuse in the last year, and many researchers expect this number to rise with the growth of the aging population. Yet, it is a topic we are not readily willing to talk about. We “don’t want to think about it,” or we “don’t want to admit that it happens.”

Elder abuse (sometimes referred to as elder mistreatment) is an intentional act, or failure to act, that causes harm to an adult. Abuse can be categorized as physical, emotional or psychological, sexual, neglect, abandonment, or financial exploitation.

A majority of abuse victims are older women who are vulnerable. They may be socially isolated, may have a mental impairment, or other disability. Often the abuse victim is dependent on others for help with activities of everyday life. People who are frail may appear to be easy victims.

The warning signs of abuse can be different for individuals depending on the type, frequency, and magnitude of abuse. Warning signs can include unexplained bruises or welts, withdrawal from normal activities, trouble sleeping, depression or confusion, or weight loss for no reason. Signs of trauma, such as rocking back and forth, poor hygiene, the unexpected absence of a caregiver, or a sudden change in financial situation can be other signs of abuse.

Here are some things to keep in mind to help prevent elder abuse.

  • If you are a caregiver, ask for help when you need a break. Caregiving for a loved one is very rewarding, but can be challenging, very demanding and stressful.
  • Remain involved in your loved one’s care at care facilities and at home.
  • Be attentive to sudden changes in mood, appearance, and health, especially if a decline in mental ability (dementia) is taking place.
  • Educate your loved ones on what scams and schemes can look and sound like and what to do if they feel uncomfortable in a situation reflecting pressure or scare tactics.
  • Encourage your loved one to be cautious with their financial affairs. Monitor financial accounts if necessary, and avoid making rash spending decisions.
  • Encourage your loved one to create financial and health care-related advance planning documents.
  • If you suspect or see elder abuse, report it immediately.

If someone is in immediate danger, call 911. For domestic or community abuse, contact Kansas Department for Children and Families Adult Protective Services at 1-800-922-5330. For suspected abuse in a care facility, contact Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services at 1-800-842-0078.

For other resources or questions related to elder abuse, contact the Yates Center Southwind Extension District office at 620-625-8620.

4-H Geology

Jennifer Terrell, K-State Extension Agent


Did you find a rock at the park and don’t know what kind it is? What about fossils? If you would like to learn more about rocks, minerals and fossils, then dive into the geology project! Discover the types of minerals, rocks and fossils that can be found where you live. Learn about geological formations across the state and in other states.

There is 4-H Curriculum that can be purchased for anyone interested in the geology project. Here is a breakdown of what youth can learn at different levels:

Ages 7-8:

  • Learn how the earth was formed and its three main parts

  • Learn the difference between a rock and a fossil

  • Collect, clean, identify and label rocks, minerals and fossils found in Kansas

  • Learn the types and impacts of erosion

Ages 9-11:

  • Use different tests to identify minerals by hardness and color

  • Find out what rock types occur in Kansas

  • Learn how to identify fossils

  • Learn to display and evaluate geology exhibits

Ages 12-14:

  • Learn how mountains are formed

  • Discover the impact of glaciers

  • Learn to measure specific gravity

  • Read and use a topographic map

Ages 15 and Older:

  • Measure formation thickness

  • Test to determine chemical properties of minerals

  • Locate sites on a plat map

  • How to prepare for geology careers

In addition to the curriculum, youth are also offered the opportunity to attend project meetings held by volunteers. Each year, youth are able to demonstrate their hard work locally at the county fair and depending on age and placing, the Kansas State Fair.

The geology project is a great opportunity for youth to learn important life skills. For more information about this project, contact Jennifer K. Terrell, 4-H Youth Development for K-State Research and Extension – Southwind District at or 620-244-3826.

Scout Trees for Troubles

Krista Harding
District Extension Agent, Horticulture
Southwind Extension District
111 S. Butler
Erie, KS 66733
Office: 620-244-3826
Cell: 620-496-8786


Trees are a huge asset to the landscape. Did you know that according to research, just three properly placed trees can save between $100 and $250 per year in energy costs? Whether you have just planted new trees or have large majestic trees, they can become the targets of disease, insects and human error that can slow their growth and even kill them. This article will cover several tree troubles to be on the lookout for in the next few weeks.

First, I want to address mulching. Unfortunately, as I drive around our communities, I continue to see what is known as the “mulch volcano.” This is the practice of piling mulch high up the trunk of a tree and sloping it down towards the ground – like the shape of a volcano!

When mulch is applied in this manner, it is very detrimental to the tree. It confuses the tree to thinking that the soil level has changed. This will cause the tree to start growing roots into the mulch and can even start to cause decay in the trunk. Mulch applied too deeply can actually prevent moisture from reaching the soil and suffocate the roots – causing the tree to die.

If you are guilty of the mulch volcano, it can easily be fixed by dragging the mulch away from the trunk and reshaping the pile. Mulch should be kept 3-6 inches away from the trunk and should be spread out away from the tree in each direction at least 3 feet – more if you can. As for mulch thickness, 3 to 4 inches is all that is needed.

The pine trees in our area have taken a beating and it is really showing. Have you noticed how most of the pines are exhibiting an abnormal amount of browning to the needles? The trees have been hit by a double whammy – Dothistroma needle blight and two years of excessive moisture! There isn’t anything we can do about the amount of rainfall, but we can try to tackle the needle blight.

Dothistroma needle blight is a common and serious disease of pines. This needle blight is characterized by the heavy loss of older, inner needles, plus the appearance of small black fruiting structures on needles in the spring. Copper-containing fungicides can be used for control. However, many of the trees in our area may have already been lost.

Finally, bagworm season is nearing. They are a yearly pest in our area and can cause considerable damage. Eastern red cedar and junipers are the most commonly affected species, although bagworms can attack arborvitae, spruce, pine and some broadleaf trees and shrubs. Last year was a bad year!

Bagworm larvae will begin emerging any time now. Hatching does not happen overnight. Instead, hatching can continue for 4 to 5 weeks. When hatched, they will be very small and rather difficult to see. As they consume plant material, the larvae will become larger and larger and so will the new bags.

Many times, homeowners don’t begin worrying about bagworms until they are large and easy to see! At that point, chemical controls are a waste of time and money. Chemical control is most effective when larvae are in their early developmental stages. There are a number of insecticides that are effective against bagworms this time of year.

Trees are an investment! Don’t let disease or insect damage take hold. The Extension office is available to help you with any tree issues you may be facing. For assistance, please contact me at one of our Southwind Extension District office locations.

Krista Harding is a K-State Research and Extension Agricultural agent assigned to Southwind District. She may be reached at or 620-244-3826.

K-State Research and Extension is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

When Your Income Drops

Joy Miller, RD, LD
Family and Consumer Science Extension Agent
Adult Development and Aging
Family Resource Management
K-State Research and Extension
Southwind Extension District
210 S. National
Fort Scott, KS 66701
Office: 620-223-3720
Fax: 620-223-0332

The COVID-19 situation has affected many families. From layoffs and closures to limited schedules, farm markets and potential furloughs, financial strain is a real issue.

A sudden drop in income, no matter the reason, can result in panic and stress when the bills keep coming. Proactively figuring out what you have and developing a plan can help buffer those feelings and take control of your financial position.

K-State Research and Extension recently published “When Your Income Drops”, a series of five fact sheets to help you find your way when your finances have changed.

The first in the series is Don’t Panic — Take Control. It provides basic ‘to do’ tips to minimize financial hardship.

The second one, Making Ends Meet, addresses the five “C’s” to keep in mind when income changes or becomes uncertain. These include control as much of the situation as you can. Claim benefits you qualify for. Communicate with family members and develop a plan together. Don’t ignore, confer with creditors and any company you have financial obligations with. Be prepared to change your lifestyle, at least temporarily, to maintain basic essentials.

Coping with Stress outlines recognizing stress, management tips, and knowing when and where to get help. In Kansas, professional help is available from numerous community agencies and protective services.

Community and Family Resources includes sources of supply, support and aid in Kansas including Unemployment Insurance, Kansas Works, and Legal Services. The fact sheet also includes Kansas organizations that focus on situations specific to farmers including Kansas Ag Stress Resources and the Kansas Agricultural Mediation Services. United Way supports 211, a free and confidential service that helps people across North America find the local resources 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Sharpening Survival Skills focuses on developing a plan, substitutions, conserving, utilizing your talents and times, cooperating to stretch resources, and accessing community resources such as parks, museums, and libraries.

A sudden loss of income can be traumatic, but being proactive by taking stock of where you are financially, investigating potential resources and creating a spending plan can help buffer the shock.

The full series can be downloaded at

For more information, please contact Joy Miller at or by calling 620-223-3720. Follow us on Facebook @southwindextensiondistrict.

Pandemic guidelines especially important as businesses re-open

This news release from K-State Research and Extension is available online at


K-State expert outlines key tips during webinar for Kansas small business owners


MANHATTAN, Kan. – Many of the guidelines that helped Americans get through the COVID-19 pandemic over the past two months will serve as a good guide as businesses throughout the country slowly begin to re-open their doors.


In fact, Londa Nwadike, a food safety specialist with K-State Research and Extension whose academic background is in public health, says avoiding close contact with others and washing your hands regularly will become even more important as Americans begin moving about more regularly.


“Ensure that you are following all guidance, especially as it is being provided by your local public health department,” said Nwadike, who holds a dual extension appointment with Kansas State University and the University of Missouri.


On April 30, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly announced a phased re-opening of the state’s economy, which continued to emphasize the importance of the six-foot social distancing guideline, and washing hands with soap and water. Kelly’s plan also encourages wearing face masks in public settings and staying home if you feel sick.


Nwadike spoke May 1 during a First Friday webinar hosted by K-State Research and Extension and targeted for Kansas business owners. Among the advice she shared:


  • Listen to workers and customers regarding their concerns.
  • Communicate your plans with workers, stakeholders and customers.
  • Evaluate your situation and implement appropriate steps for re-opening.


“Business owners should actively encourage sick employees to stay home,” Nwadike said, adding that other steps businesses can take include providing protective equipment (face coverings and gloves, for example), providing tissues and trash cans, installing plexi-glass shields for cashiers, and other modifications specific to the business – such as additional space between restaurant tables.


Additional steps that businesses can take, some of which have already been seen in stores that were able to stay open in March and April, include:

  • Disinfecting cart handles.
  • Encouraging sick customers to not come in.
  • Providing sanitizing wipes for customers.
  • Placing marks on the floor near checkout areas to guide social distancing.
  • Monitoring the number of people in the building.
  • Cleaning and stocking bathrooms more frequently.
  • Cleaning frequently touched surfaces often, such as door handles, shelves and the credit card terminal.


Nwadike said those practices are important since coronaviruses such as the new strain that causes COVID-19 are generally spread person-to-person through respiratory droplets. It is also thought that it may be possible to get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object with the virus on it, and then touching one’s mouth, nose or eyes – though, she adds, “this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”


“Encourage your customers to shop with their eyes, not their hands,” Nwadike said. “The more we can keep people from touching shelves and products, the less likely we will pick up a virus.”


Nwadike cited a guide being distributed in the Kansas City area that provides good advice for businesses of all sizes. While the information is geared toward the greater Kansas City area, it is a good resource for all business, Nwadike said.


Nwadike and colleague Karen Blakeslee also have published a website, Food Safety and COVID-19, providing numerous resources outlining safe practices related to COVID-19.





FOR PRINT PUBLICATIONS: Links used in this story

Ad Astra: A Plan to Reopen Kansas,




Food Safety and COVID-19 (K-State Research and Extension),



K‑State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well‑being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county extension offices, experiment fields, area extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K‑State campus in Manhattan. For more information, visit


This news release from K-State Research and Extension is available online at

Overcoming Challenges

Carla Nemecek is Southwind District Director and agent.


Submitted by Carla Nemecek, Southwind Extension District Director


This is not the article I would have predicted to write a few months ago, and certainly not my usual educational column. However, like many others, COVID-19 has me feeling off-balance as I navigate my work and family responsibilities while following orders and staying at home.

Let me start with the most popular question we receive – Will there by a County Fair in July? Currently, K-State Research & Extension will not organize or participate in any face-to-face events or activities through July 4, 2020 due to the pandemic.

Unfortunately, that means we will not host our annual 4-H Day Camp, area judging contests or attend Rock Springs 4-H Camp in June.

However, after hearing the Governor’s plan last week we are feeling more optimistic we will be able to have traditional County Fairs as scheduled!

We are hoping for the best, but also planning for the worst as we research online platforms that will allow us to host educational showcase events for our 4-H youth to share their projects and receive feedback from judges.

Whether we are allowed to have our county fairs in person or remotely, the Southwind Extension District Agents are already working with our County Fair Boards to be sure the county fair will go on because we know how important they are to our kids and communities.

In January, I really began to notice how Extension needed to shift our programming efforts from entirely face-to-face to exploring remote and virtual alternatives to reach more diverse audiences.

That was never more obvious than when COVID-19 forced us into a remote environment.

For the past 7 weeks, your Extension Agents, 4-H Program Assistant and Office Professionals have relocated their work spaces to homes, pastures, porches and crop fields, and have proven we can educate in a virtual environment – something we didn’t even know we could do!

All eight Extension Agents and the 4-H Program Assistant have put themselves out there for the world to watch us offer advice and explain why research-based information is important to your lives and livelihood.

Personally speaking, my first live was as uncomfortable as my very first 4-H project talk, but then I saw the positive feedback and expanded audience that I was able to connect with and understood the value of an authentic video.

Meal planning, family & financial management tips, and fun family activities from home have all been shared through Facebook live, YouTube and on our Instagram page.

We submitted a public request to complete an online state-wide Extension needs assessment survey and you all responded with 20% of the state wide results coming from Allen, Neosho, Bourbon and Woodson Counties – thank you! It is obvious you value K-State Research & Extension and we will not disappoint you with our efforts.

You might be surprised to know that many of our traditional Extension services are still accessible to you.

Horticulture consultations, soil testing, and pond management assistance continue to be priorities for us, and we are only a phone call away on our usual office numbers that are now being forwarded to Office Professionals.

4-H youth have been able to continue monthly meetings through Zoom coordination and some have found creative ways to help with project meetings remotely.

This pandemic has been hard on all of us, and everyone has had a different reaction to the day by day changes and announcements that come from state government, local officials or employers.

As we navigate the coming weeks of reopening, the Southwind Extension District will make every effort to be the trusted, go-to resource for research-based information you have come to expect in Southeast Kansas. For more information, you can reach us at