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Where can I find information about Extension Service and where is it located?

There is a website that explains all program areas of the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Extension Service that includes location and office hours.  This website is, and the phone number is (850) 475-5230. The Extension Office is open Monday through Friday, 8am-4:30pm.


How is Extension Service funded?

Escambia County University of Florida IFAS (Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences) Extension is a three-way partnership among the Escambia County Board of Commissioners, the University of Florida and the United States Department of Agriculture.  Extension’s mission is education.  County faculty provide practical, research-based information designed to address the issues facing individuals, families and communities – real answers for real life.


How can I get involved in volunteering for Extension Service?

Volunteers assist the faculty in delivering educational programs in the county.  Our highly trained volunteers are dedicated individuals that provide valuable service to the community. The Escambia County Extension service sponsors four volunteer groups through an application process: 4-H Adult Leaders, Master Gardeners, Master Naturalist and Home and Community Education.  All groups have an agent sponsor that recruits, selects, trains and manages the volunteers.  The 4-H volunteer program involves an extensive background check as they work with 4-H youth.  The Master Gardener and Master Naturalist program is by application and entails a committee that selects the volunteers based on the need of the program.  Please contact the Extension office to find out how to apply.


How do I test my lawn or garden soil?

Escambia County Extension offers soil testing kits that you may pick up Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.  You will then collect soil from the area you wish to test and submit it with the soil testing form,, to the University of Florida (UF) in Gainesville. The cost per sample is either $3.00 for just the pH or $7.00 for the pH and nutrient analysis.  In 7-10 days, the UF soil lab will send you a detailed analysis of your soil with recommendations.  You may then call or email Escambia County Extension for any assistance in the analysis interpretation or for further recommendations.


How do I become a Master Gardener? 

Escambia County Master Gardeners are a dedicated group of volunteers certified by University of Florida Extension. Interested community members complete an application (available each August) and participate in a selection process conducted by the Horticulture Agent and veteran Master Gardeners.  The selected trainees attend approximately 50 hours of training courses and then donate 50 hours of service to the community following their training.  Only then are participants certified as Florida Master Gardeners.  In general, classes are held on Wednesdays from 9 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. in October, November, January, and February. The cost of the program is approximately $125.


How can I help an overweight child lose weight?

Keep healthy ready-to-eat snacks on hand.  Cut way back or eliminate sweetened drinks. Check out the web site for tips on balancing calories, and foods to increase or decrease. For the UF publication, Understanding Youth and Adolescent Overweight and Obesity: Resources for Families and Communities, check out for Publication #FCS8839.


What are the best foods for me to eat?

Read food labels to make the best choice for you.  Look for the ones that give you more of what you want (like calcium or fiber) and less of what you want to avoid (like fat or sodium).  Another good tactic is to make half your plate fruits and vegetables.


What is the safest method and temperature at which to preserve fresh produce?

In preparing fresh produce, it depends on the type of produce being preserved and the method of preserving.  For further information, use the following link to the University of Florida’s Electronic Data Information Source (EDIS) for food preservation: and select either canning or freezing.


Is it safe to thaw frozen food at room temperature or in the microwave?

Thaw frozen food in the refrigerator or in the microwave. However, the safest way to thaw frozen food is in the refrigerator. Never leave foods out at room temperature. Bacteria multiply rapidly at room temperature. Most food-borne illness-causing bacteria grow well at temperatures between 41o F to 140o F. For more information regarding food safety, contact the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Escambia County Extension Service at (850) 475-5230.


How do I get grass out of my pond?

It all depends on what the “grass” is.  There are plants that people consider grass that really aren’t grass at all.  These weeds won’t respond to herbicides that will kill grass.  If you have any pond weed, your best option is to bring a sample in to the Extension Service office or email a good electronic picture of the weed to  Once identified, the agriculture agent will give you all the options for controlling that weed in your pond.


Where can I buy locally grown food?

Visit our Naturally EscaRosa website at The list specifies where you can purchase locally grown fruits, vegetables, meat, etc.  There are also listings of natural locations to enjoy the wonderful outdoors of northwest Florida.


How do you make a rain barrel?

A link of step-by-step instructions can be found online at and the instructional brochure at


Where can I find native plants?

A list of native plants and where to find them in the surrounding area can be found by clicking this link:


What are the best trees to plant in my yard? (Hold up to hurricanes, long-lasting, provide shade and wildlife habitat)

Varies greatly by soil and size of yard, but top five recommended are usually live oak, Southern magnolia, winged elm, bald cypress, & bottlebrush. For a more extensive list of native wind resistant trees for mitigation in Escambia County (compiled by the County Arborist J. Jarratt from UF/IFAS data), click on this link:


Is Gulf seafood safe to eat?

Yes.  Gulf seafood is tested by various agencies in a variety of ways and at multiple points before reaching the marketplace.  This is true for mercury issues, the oil spill, or any other possible contamination.  If you wish to further limit your risk, the easiest thing to do is to select a variety of different seafood each week.  Each species utilizes different habitats and is exposed to different conditions.  Research indicates seafood is one of the healthiest proteins available and that all Americans should eat more, not less.  Try something new the next time you go to the fish market and contact the Extension Office for more details!


What is the biggest source of pollution in our waters?

The biggest polluters of our waterways are us.  Everything we do on land can impact the water.  Marine debris and garbage that washes into the water kills animals.  Yard waste, pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizer wash into storm drains and our bays after rains.  Oil from our cars dripping on roads also washes in.  Do everything you can to minimize these impacts, if you need suggestions on how to do it, contact the Extension Office.


How can I help our coastal natural resources?

We have a variety of programs throughout the year that require volunteers.  Here are just a few:  coastal cleanups, planting sea oats or marsh grasses, raising oysters under your dock for placement on reefs, maintaining fishing line recycling bins, and teaching others about our natural resources.  Contact the Extension Office for more details.


I plan to buy a piece of property (or already own property) and want to start my own small farm enterprise. What is the first step I should take before investing in this business?

Before starting any small business or farming enterprise, citizens should call the Escambia County Planning and Zoning Department at (850) 595-3475. Zoning varies on individual pieces of property and can determine what type of enterprise is allowed in your area. After determining zoning, citizens can contact the Extension office at (850) 475-5230 to begin work on developing plans for a successful small farm agribusiness.


I want to visit a local farm. Where do I find a map and contact information for some of our local producers?

A map and contact information for a variety of growers and farms can be at the Naturally Escarosa web site: (


Where can I find a list of 4-H activities?

A calendar and rotating list of activities can be found in the Extension website under the 4-H section (


How do you join 4-H?

There are several ways to participate in 4-H. Membership in 4-H can be through the traditional 4-H community clubs, 4-H special project clubs, 4-H after school clubs, 4-H school enrichment, and as an individual 4-H member.


To actually join 4-H, youth and volunteers must enroll online at and follow the prompts and drop down menus. Visit the Escambia County 4-H link at for more directions.


You may come by the Escambia County Extension Office at 3740 Stefani Road, Cantonment, to pick up 4-H enrollment information or call to set up a time to meet with 4-H Agents at (850) 475-5230.


Who can join 4-H and how much does it cost?

4-H is for youth ages 5-18 (as of Sept 1 of the current 4-H calendar year). Membership in 4-H is free. There are additional fees for county-wide workshops, summer programs, day and residential camps (usually just for the cost of supplies).


How do I become a 4-H Volunteer?

4-H Volunteers must go through a selection process.  The first step is to complete an application on line and be approved through a background screening and interview process as well as the enrollment process online. 4-H Volunteers are required to go through a basic 4-H 101 training program and attend monthly/bimonthly training. Once certified, there are continuing education opportunities to support 4-H project areas.

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