Writer: Paul Schattenberg, 210-859-5752, firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact: Nelda Lebya Speller, 210-631-0400, email@example.com
David Rodriguez, 210-631-0400, firstname.lastname@example.org
SAN ANTONIO — More than 100 people attended the Backyard Basics Expo held recently at the Oppenheimer Academic Center at San Antonio College.
The expo, presented by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, emphasizes self-reliance and the production, preparation and preservation of homemade and homegrown foods.
“People are more interested in and concerned about where their food comes from, and many people want to produce and prepare their own food to ensure its freshness and quality,” said Nelda Lebya Speller, AgriLife Extension county director, Bexar County. “Through the Backyard Basics Expo we’re showing people how to produce their own food and be more self-sustaining. We’re also providing an opportunity to help them preserve the past by getting back to basics.”
Educational sessions were presented by personnel from AgriLife Extension, the agency’s Bexar County Master Gardener volunteer horticulture program, and experts from organizations and area businesses associated with horticulture and agriculture.
Expo workshop sessions addressed vegetable gardening, beekeeping, composting and vermiculture, aquaponics, herb gardening, backyard chickens, drip irrigation and rainwater harvesting and more. A vendor area provided additional information on products and services related to self-sufficiency and home food production.
“This program helps give people a sample of the type of information and educational assistance they can get from AgriLife Extension on a variety of interesting topics for the hobbyist or person who wants to delve more deeply into becoming more self-reliant,” said David Rodriguez, AgriLife Extension horticulturist and an event coordinator.
This year, session presenters were assisted by four American Sign Language interpreters provided by the department of American Sign Language and interpreter training at San Antonio College.
“We have a lot of deaf students in the Alamo Colleges system and this gave our interpreters the opportunity to practice their skills in translating English into American Sign Language,” said associate professor Melody Hull. “Deaf people prefer to have a live person interpret for them and we were glad to provide some trainees to assist and to get some additional practical experience.”
One of the best-attended programs during the expo was the beekeeping class presented by AgriLife Extension entomologist Molly Keck.
Keith Spruill was among the class attendees.
“I really enjoyed the beekeeping presentation,” Spruill said. “But I’m sure my reason for attending was different from most people. I wanted to learn to keep bees so I can make my own honey to use in making mead, which is something the Vikings used to drink. Plus, because of all the plant and flower pollination they do, bees are probably the most important insect in the world.”
Spruill said his wife Corinne was also attending the expo to learn about backyard chickens.
Another popular course during the expo was aquaponics, presented by Steven Sumrow, owner of Aquaponic Systems USA.
Aquaponics is a combination of aquaculture and hydroponics in which plants, such as vegetables and ornamentals, and marine life, such as fish or shrimp, are produced together in a symbiotic system.
“Aquaponics is a way people can produce their own animal and plant protein together,” Sumrow said. “If more people were aware of aquaponics and used aquaponics systems, it could make a real difference in their ability to be self-sustaining.”
Water conservation was another emphasis of the expo and dozens of people attended the drip irrigation and rainwater harvesting classes offered.
“I live on 3 acres of land in Elmendorf and wanted to know how to get the most out of my water use,” said Rebecca Vowell, who attended the drip irrigation presentation. “Along with drip irrigation, I got a lot of good information about sprinkler systems, the importance of keeping adequate water pressure and the right amount of water to use for new and established turf and plants.”
Event coordinators said post-event surveys completed by expo attendees indicated they found the presentations educational and provided a wealth of useful, practical information they could use in their own home and backyard projects and endeavors.
For information on upcoming Backyard Basics programs, go to http://backyardbasics.tamu.edu.