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How are we coping?




Last summer, when economic indicators started to point south, local agents with the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service saw human evidence of a brewing crisis.

“We started hearing from local agents about the number of calls they were getting about ways to trim budgets,” said Jennifer Hunter, a senior Extension associate based in Lexington at UK’s College of Agriculture, which houses the Extension Service.

The questions covered a wide range: how to cut food expenses, ways to reduce heating and cooling bills, should commuters consider carpooling, and that’s just a few.

“We got to work. Last year at this time we were working frantically on a web site that could provide information about dealing with the challenges of the economy,” Hunter said.

In September, the Extension Service unveiled Moneywise, a site that was connected to the College of Agriculture’s site.

Moneywise (http:// ces3.ca.uky.edu/moneywise/) offers sections on home expenses, farm expenses, travel, food, credit, business, health, garden and other topics.

Since January 2009, the site has logged several thousand hits from 26 countries, 95 Kentucky counties and from 45 states, as well as some other countries, Hunter said.

“We were one of the first landgrant universities to put up a site open to the public with advice on how to deal with financial issues in the face of the current situation,” Hunter said.

UK agricultural economist Tim Woods says there’s been a noticeable uptick in the number of Kentuckians who are getting their hands dirty — in backyard gardens.

“We just did a survey of Kentuckians, and while the results are not all in, it’s clear home gardening is on the rise,” Woods says.

Interestingly, the rise in home gardening is mirroring an increase in the number of people who are buying produce at local farmers markets. Woods says this is interesting, but not surprising.

“What you tend to see in a home garden is a limited amount of space. You can’t grow everything you’d like,” he says.

But as people who garden have become more aware of the lively flavors of fresh vegetables and fruits, they have become more active in visiting the markets.

“People going out to farmers markets are more likely to have home gardens,” Woods says.

“Overall, consumption of fresh produce continues to rise. It’s becoming a significant part of the diets of many consumers,” Woods says.


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