March 17, 2004 | By: Haven Miller

 few years ago Vella Adkins of McKee was encouraged to grow a garden by Cathy Howell, an assistant with Kentucky’s Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program in Jackson County.

With Howell’s help in obtaining seeds and transplants, the mother of three soon had a thriving vegetable patch. It wasn’t long before Adkins was growing enough produce to feed her family and still have enough to sell at the local farmers market.

That first season Adkins sold enough vegetables to purchase new school clothes for her children.  The following year she earned enough money to buy a used van to provide much-needed transportation.  In a short time she had not only found success in gardening and marketing, but also in providing nutritious, fresh foods for her family and improving their health.

On March 2 Adkins’ accomplishments received national recognition.

That’s when she traveled to Washington, D.C as one of only 24 people in the nation to earn a 2004 Excellence in EFNEP Award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  Among the winners group, which included professionals, youth and volunteers, Adkins was the only person representing Kentucky.

“It’s something I never thought would happen to me and it’s wonderful,” Adkins said. 

In special ceremonies on Capitol Hill, which also commemorated EFNEP’s 35th anniversary, Adkins was recognized by local, state and national leaders.

“The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program has always had the fundamental goal of changing behavior in ways that improve quality of life, support healthy lifestyles, and enhance the power of individuals to chart their own life course,” said Colien Hefferen, administrator of the USDA’s Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, the agency which funds EFNEP.  “I congratulate our award winners and all those who have been part of this program for so long.”

EFNEP helps families and youth with limited resources improve their health, productivity and self-esteem through better diets, food budgeting and physical activity.  In Kentucky, EFNEP operates in 60 counties alongside local University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service programs.

As a graduate, Adkins exemplifies the high level of achievement that is possible through participation in a local EFNEP program.

“Vella was a great student and we were so proud for her to be nominated – she is the epitome of what EFNEP is all about,” said Howell, who accompanied Adkins on the trip.

During her trip, Adkins was able to visit some of the great historic places of Washington, D.C. including Arlington National Cemetery, Ford’s Theater and the White House.


Sources: Pam Sigler, 859-257-2948; Louise Moore, 606-677-6186