July 4th is when we celebrate our nation’s independence. There is also a spirit of personal independence that can be found in every American—the freedom to do-it-yourself, learn new things, and follow your dreams.

At UF/IFAS Extension, we’ve been serving that spirit of independence for over 109 years. The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 created a nationwide system of state extension services to share the agricultural research developed at land-grant universities with America’s farmers. In 1914, more than 50% of the U.S. population lived in rural areas and 30% of the workforce was engaged in farming. Extension education gave farmers and their families the knowledge they needed to be more self-sufficient and productive.

Over time, Extension expanded its mission to provide useful knowledge, based on scientific research and practical experience, to help people learn to gain control over nearly all aspects of life.

Today, UF/IFAS Extension offers a wide variety of programs and resources that can help you assert your independence.

4-H youth volunteers folding a flag


Developing skills and a sense of self-confidence is especially important early in life. That’s why Florida 4-H, UF/IFAS Extension’s youth development program, is so important for helping youth discover their independence. 4-H uses a learn-by-doing approach involving hands-on learning experiences. In clubs, camps and school enrichment programs, members ages 5-18 can choose from more than 50 projects that explore their interests in science, engineering, animals and agriculture, food and nutrition, public speaking, art or wildlife ecology. They’re supported by caring adults in a safe environment, utilizing the expertise and resources of the University of Florida and other land grant universities. 4-H helps youth learn to think critically and solve problems on their own, developing the skills and self-determination needed to become successful adults.

Visit Florida 4-H to learn more.

Woman teaching financial education

Declare Your Financial Independence

Whether you’re in school, living on your own, starting a family or planning to retire, financial security is vital to your independence. UF/IFAS has financial education programs that can help you learn to track your spending, start savings and checking accounts, build credit, save for the future and avoid debt. Florida Master Money Mentors and VITA tax assistance volunteers can work with you directly. We also offer online and in-person classes for renters and first-time home buyers that can help avoid risk of foreclosure and realize the dream of owning your own home.

Visit Solutions for Your Life – Money Matters for more.

Extension agent and woman baking cookies

Steer Your Career, Be Your Own Boss

To get ahead in your career, licensing, certifications and continuing education units can give you a strong advantage. Or you might be thinking about starting your own business. Either way, education is the key and UF/IFAS Extension may have what you need. Online and at many local Extension offices, we offer training and resources to gain licensing and certification in various fields, including pest management, landscaping, greenhouse management, the food industry and much more.

UF/IFAS Extension also has workshops where you can learn the basics of starting your own business, such as developing a business plan and budget, getting financing, learning regulations, marketing your products, managing risks and hiring employees.

Visit your local Extension office or Extension Online Learning for more information.

Woman leading an exercise and nurtrition class

Take Charge of Your Health and Nutrition

Knowing how to take care of yourself is crucial to the pursuit of happiness, no matter what age you are. Physical activity, good nutrition and healthy living can help prevent disease and improve mental well-being. UF/IFAS Extension offers resources from nutrition and health care experts to learn how you can live your life to the fullest. Let’s Walk Florida is a program that makes physical activity fun and fulfilling, and it’s geared to your location and fitness level. Nutrition programs like the Extended Food and Nutrition Education Program works with families to teach skills and strategies that stretch their food dollars and cook nutritious meals at home. Health and well-being programs teach children, adults and seniors how to control diabetes, high-blood pressure and enhance their mental health. With help from UF/IFAS Extension experts, it’s never too late take charge of yourself.

Visit Solutions for Your Life – Healthy Living for more.

Woman watering her vegetable garden

Grow Your Own Food

Sometimes the need for independence is thrust upon us. For some, that’s what happened when the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the food supply chain. Facing empty store shelves, many households revived a popular American practice from WWII—the Victory Garden. Growing vegetables in the backyard and canning or pickling them for later, it gave people a sense of control in a time of uncertainty. But you don’t need the specter of a global pandemic to grow your own food. Any time of the year, it’s a relaxing and nutritious way to be more self-sufficient. UF/IFAS Extension has been teaching people to grow herb and vegetable gardens and safe canning techniques for over 100 years. And today, our expertise also includes container, raised-bed, vertical and hydroponic gardening, pesticide and fertilizer free.

For growing your own vegetables, visit Gardening Solutions. For canning, see Solutions for Your Life – Food Preservation and Canning.

I wish you a safe and happy Independence Day from UF/IFAS Extension!

by Andra Johnson

Source: UF/IFAS Pest Alert

Note: All images and contents are the property of UF/IFAS.

to top