Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Plan Now For Health Insurance Open Enrollment!

Nora Rhoades, Family & Youth Development Agent


If you haven’t already, it’s time to review your health insurance options, as annual open enrollment in the Kansas Health Insurance Marketplace (https://www.healthcare.gov) for 2016 coverage begins Nov. 1. Many employers and some public programs, such as Medicare, also use the fall as a time for annual enrollment or the renewal of health insurance plans. 

Marketplace enrollment continues through Jan. 31, 2016. The last day to enroll in or change plans for new coverage to start Jan. 1, 2016, is Dec. 15. The last day to enroll in or change plans for new coverage to start Feb. 1, 2016, is Jan. 15. If you wait to enroll by Jan. 31, that coverage will take effect March 1, 2016.

While there are a few exceptions, the Affordable Care Act requires that you are insured for at least nine months out of every year, or you will have to pay a penalty at tax time for being uninsured.

Generally, you can only buy health insurance coverage during annual open enrollment periods. It is difficult to change coverage if you don’t experience a qualifying life event, so it’s best to take advantage of the open enrollment period. If you experience a qualifying life event (https://www.healthcare.gov/glossary/qualifying-life-event/), such as losing job coverage, getting married or having a child, you can change your health insurance outside of the open enrollment period in a special enrollment period.

Specifications for enrollment in health insurance coverage, by type of coverage, include:

·         Insurance coverage through an employer: your employer determines the open enrollment dates. The dates vary from employer to employer. If you have a spouse, you will likely have two different open enrollment periods to keep track of each year. If you are not sure when your next job-based open enrollment period is, ask your employer.

·         Insurance from the marketplace: the marketplace open enrollment period is Nov. 1, 2015 through Jan. 31, 2016.

·         Insurance through Medicare: Medicare’s initial enrollment period is a seven-month window surrounding your 65th birthday, or for those under 65 and disabled, the seven months surrounding the 25th month of disability. Special enrollment periods for Medicare vary, and specific rules and timing can be found on the Medicare website (http://www.medicare.gov/Pubs/pdf/11219.pdf). If a beneficiary has missed the initial enrollment period and is not eligible for a special enrollment period, the Medicare general enrollment period runs Jan. 1 to March 31 each year, with coverage beginning July 1 of that year.

·         Insurance though KanCare: this is Kansas’ Medicaid program. Applications for KanCare can be submitted at any time.

Delays in enrollment and coverage, and penalties, may apply if the consumer does not enroll at the appropriate time. If obtaining insurance through the marketplace, log on to www.healthcare.gov. To learn more about how to enroll in the marketplace or KanCare, call the marketplace, available 24/7, at 800-318-2596. The Kansas Health Institute also has resources on its website (http://www.khi.org/).
  

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

On-farm research.....key to adoption!

Sandra Wick, Crop Production Agent

K-State’s Research and Extension’s mission is to provide the citizens of Kansas with technical information and education that can enhance the economic viability and quality of life in our communities.   One good way to do this is through well-planned and carefully-conducted demonstrations or “on-farm research” that serves as one of the most effective Extension education tools ever developed.  Although complete demonstrations require considerable time and effort, the payback comes when producers readily adapt practices they perceive to be appropriate under local conditions. This is known as “seeing is believing.”  Clients who observe demonstrations of the latest techniques or practices and then apply them to their own particular situations are our present and future Extension leaders.    Demonstrations should illustrate the application of appropriate technology, that is, technology that fits the local set of conditions. When this occurs, the maximum learning will result from the resources invested. 
The need for demonstrations was first recognized over a century ago by Seaman A. Knapp, an Extension pioneer. Knapp’s theory was that farmers would not change their methods as a result of observing farms operated at public expense, but that demonstrations conducted by farmers themselves on their own farms under ordinary farm conditions were the answer. In Knapp’s words, “What a man hears, he may doubt; what he sees, he may also doubt; but what he does, he cannot doubt.”  In 1903, Knapp proved his point through now famous demonstrations or on-farm research. The demonstration included a small farm in Texas that planted half in corn and half in cotton. The purpose was to illustrate the effects of using different seed varieties, fertilizers, methods of planting, and cultivation. The farmer made $700 more than might have been expected and the demonstration was a success.  Then the opportunity came to use demonstrations on a broad scale in the weevil-infested areas of Texas and two adjoining states. Knapp demonstrated improved cotton growing methods. With a $40,000 budget, he directed more than 20 federal agents who worked with some 7,000 farmers to establish demonstration plots. This marked the beginning of demonstrations in the Cooperative Extension Service. 
Post Rock Extension District is very fortunate to have many producers who are willing to put in the extra time and effort for on-farm research or demonstration test plots.  For this fall we are fortunate to have 5 wheat demonstration plots in five counties.  Thanks to Calvin and Josh Bohnert, Marty Fletchall, Lance Kendig (Solomon Rapids Seed), Mark Kuhlmann and Rosebrook Farms as cooperators of the “on-farm wheat research for K-State Research and Extension and for the Post Rock District!  Four of the wheat plots (Jewell, Lincoln, Osborne and Smith) include between 20-25 varieties, blends and population studies.  The fifth plot (Mitchell) is a KSU replicated plot that is designed and planted by the KSU NC Experiment Field staff.

“Knowledge for Life” continues to be our goal for K-State Research and Extension, so our educational programming provides research-based information from the university to the producers of our district.
Mark Kuhlmann, cooperator, and Don Wick drilling the wheat demonstration plot in Smith County.


Thanks to cooperators, Rosebrook Farms, in drilling the Lincoln County wheat demonstration plot. Thanks also to Carrico Implement, Beloit, for the use of the drill.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Improve Your Garden Soil Health This Fall

Jenae Ryan, Horticulture Agent

     While most people think of fall as the end of the garden season, now is actually a great time to start planning your garden for next year! Since this year’s successes and failures are still fresh in your mind, go ahead and plan your crop rotation, jot down your favorite varieties to try again, and any insect or disease problems you had. Now is also a good time to consider the health of your garden soil. Did you have issues with nutrient deficiencies, like yellowing or stunted plants? Do you know what your soil’s pH level is? Do you have a heavy clay soil, or poor soil drainage? Here are a few tasks for this fall to get your plants off on the right foot (or root!) next spring.

Soil Sampling Probe
Soil Testing

            Fall is a great time to test your soil. A soil test can test you a lot of things about how well your soil is doing. You may be surprised to find that you don’t need any additional fertilizer next year, or maybe you need a nitrogen-only fertilizer instead of a complete fertilizer with nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

            There are certain plants that can be affected by soil pH. Most vegetables prefer a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. The soil in the Post Rock District is typically higher, anywhere from 7.0-8.2 in the soil samples I have seen this year. A high soil pH can cause some plants to not grow as well as expected.
            When taking a soil sample, you can use a soil sampling probe borrowed from the Extension Office, or a shovel or spade. Sample at least 6-8 inches deep, and take multiple samples. Pictured below is an example of a grid pattern to use when taking soil samples across your garden or lawn.
An example of soil grid sampling across a garden area (Kansas Garden Guide).
The multiple samples should be combined in a bucket and mixed thoroughly. When bringing your sample in for testing, bring in a quart-size Ziploc bag filled about 2/3 full with the mixed soil. This soil will be transferred into the soil sample bags that are shipped to the K-State Soil Testing Lab. Fill out the soil test information sheet as completely as possible so the Extension Agent can provide recommendations based on the soil test results. There is a fee for postage to ship the samples to the lab and for the actual soil test. Contact your local Post Rock District Extension Office for more details!

Soil Amendments

            Fall is also a good time to add soil amendments. If a soil test shows that you have a low organic matter content, or you have had problems with poor soil drainage, consider adding organic matter such as compost, peat moss, old hay, straw, leaves, grass clippings, etc. This gives the organic matter time to decompose and release nutrients before you plant in the spring. Organic matter with high carbon content (such as wheat straw) requires a lot of nitrogen for the microorganisms that decompose it. This can cause nitrogen-deficiency in plants if you wait to work the straw in the soil in the spring. Tilling the soil in the fall can also reduce the residue on the soil surface, which can reduce overwintering habitat for some insects and diseases.
            If you have high pH issues, you can start adding sulfur at the rate recommended by your soil test in the fall. The sulfur will need to be applied in small amounts over a couple of years, so starting in the fall can get a jump start on lowering the pH.

            Post Rock Extension District of K-State Research and Extension serves Jewell, Lincoln, Mitchell, Osborne, and Smith counties. Jenae may be contacted at jenaes@ksu.edu or by calling Mankato (378-3174), Smith Center (282-6823), Beloit (738-3597), Lincoln (524-4432), or Osborne (346-2521).  Join us on Facebook at “Post Rock Extension.” Follow us on Twitter @KSRE_PostRock and Jenae’s horticulture account @PRDHort. Remember our website is www.postrock.ksu.edu.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Halloween Health Tips

Ashley Goudey, Nutrition, Food Safety & Health Agent

Making the best nutritional choices may be challenging around the holidays but even more at Halloween.  Take the upcoming holiday as an opportunity to teach your children about moderation.   There are many ways to keep your child happy this Halloween without allowing them to eat loads of candy. Discuss with your child that he/she can eat a small amount of candy (2-3 small pieces) the night of trick or treating and another set amount each following night.  Put the candy out of sight, your child is less likely to be reminded of the candy if it is not in plain sight. Think “out of sight, out of mind”.   
 Offer trick-or-treaters non-candy alternatives
Who said candy is the only choice to hand out on Halloween?  Choose non-candy alternatives such as fruit cups, pretzels, goldfish, graham crackers and trail mix.  The list of toy alternatives is even longer including bouncy balls, a jump rope, a plastic or foam flier, stickers, whistles, pencils, plastic rings or necklaces, crayons, and pocket sized games.  Your visitors will enjoy receiving something a little different from your house.  Offering non-candy alternatives gives little ones the opportunity to enjoy items much longer than a couple chews.
Eat supper before going out
Go trick or treating with your child and make sure they have had a snack or supper before heading out.  If your child is trick or treating on an empty stomach they may be tempted to start snacking before arriving home. Little ones may have the idea that they need to fill their bags with treats before calling it quits.  For this, choose a bag that is appropriate for the child’s size.  Bags as large as shopping bags or small trash bags should not be used as treat bags.
Stay in your neighborhood and look through food items as soon as you arrive home
            Staying close to home and only traveling a couple blocks to neighbors you know can limit the amount of goodies your child receives. If your child doesn’t come home with heaps of candy, they won’t be tempted to eat more than they should.  Look through food items and make sure that no packages have been opened in any way.  Items should be in original manufacturer wrapping.  If you have young children, assess the contents for choking hazards.  When in doubt, throw it out!
Be your child’s role model

            When parents set limits for the amount of candy that their child is allowed to eat, parents should also abide by those guidelines.  To avoid temptation of lingering items, buy at the last minute and get rid of any leftovers.