By Cat HolmesUniversity of GeorgiaHot chocolate, a pinata full of candy and children’s videos in Spanish about the life of Martin Luther King Jr. will highlight the MLK celebration Jan. 19 at Pinewood Estates North, a trailer park north of Athens.The celebration is funded by a $5,000 grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service. The grant pays for a community meal, catered by women who live in the largely Hispanic community, and MLK books and videos in Spanish for both children and adults.Most of the money will also pay for supplies to support an ongoing service project. The project enables University of Georgia students to tutor children after school in Pinewood Estates North. “We’re looking forward to a great celebration of Dr. King’s life this year, one that will reflect his commitment to service and bring his teachings to life,” said David Knauft, associate dean of the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.”Our celebration at the Oasis Catolico highlights both African-American and Hispanic cultures,” Knauft said. “We hope it encourages even more UGA students to tutor.”Oasis Catolico is a convent established to minister to the community needs in Pinewood Estates by three sisters in the order of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.Sister Margarita Martin, one of the three who started the convent, contacted Knauft and Glenn Ames of the UGA Office of International Public Service and Outreach more than a year ago.She saw that a number of Pinewood Estates children were struggling with a double work load: learning a new language and advancing in their schoolwork.”Many of the kids may have been very advanced in their schoolwork in Mexico. But because of the language barrier, they can’t communicate that,” said Anna Scott, a UGA graduate student who administers the program. “They get frustrated and fall behind.”Another barrier is a very different cultural attitude toward teachers, Scott said.”In their culture, teachers are revered. To challenge a teacher or question them in any way is unheard of,” Scott said. “Here, if parents don’t talk to the teachers regularly, they’re considered inattentive.”Sister Margarita knew the children needed help. She thought it only natural to turn to a nearby university to get it.Knauft and Ames put together the program. UGA students began after-school tutoring. And the program was successful from the beginning, both for the children and the college students.”The UGA students really saw what a difference a few hours of attention could make for many of the children,” Scott said. “We had many children go from F’s and D’s to A’s and B’s. We even had one kid who moved up a grade.”For the UGA students, the experience is both rewarding and eye-opening. “A lot of them never realized the kinds of barriers minority children face,” Scott said.The program began a year ago with roughly a dozen UGA students participating. Now more than 50 are mentoring elementary school children each week. About a dozen now are doing it for course credit.Cat Holmes is a news editor for the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
By William Terry KelleyUniversity ofGeorgiaThey may look beautiful, but those store-bought tomatoes can’tmatch the flavor of the ones you pick vine-ripe fresh from yourgarden. Unfortunately, it’s getting harder to do that in Georgia,particularly in the southern two-thirds of the state.Most of the difficulty stems from a virus that afflicts tomatoes.Tomato spotted wilt has been in Georgia only a few years. It’s amajor problem for commercial growers in the Deep South, though.And it’s truly the bane of garden tomatoes in that area.If you’ve been growing garden tomatoes in Georgia over the pastfive to seven years, you’ve probably seen the virus.How to recognize itThe symptoms vary, but young leaves usually turn bronze and laterdevelop small, dark spots. The growing tips die back, and thestems of terminals may become streaked. Some plants may lookone-sided or stunted overall.Plants that get infected early usually don’t develop fruit. Theones infected later may have knotty fruit. The more maturetomatoes may have light-colored ring spots, and green ones mayhave bumpy areas with faint, concentric rings. As these tomatoesmature, the rings get easier to see and turn red and white or redand yellow.The bottom line is that you don’t get any good tomatoes frominfected plants.How it spreadsThe disease is spread by thrips as they feed on the plant. Andit’s almost impossible to prevent infection by controlling thesetiny insects. They usually transmit the virus before theinsecticide can kill them.Tomato spotted wilt has many hosts. It can infect crops such aspeanuts, tobacco and pepper and countless weeds, too.Commercial growers have ways to reduce the disease and itsseverity. Gardeners who try to grow tomatoes in a conventionalgarden have a hard time producing a harvestable crop.Bottom lineSo, can you still grow garden tomatoes in the South? Yes, but youmay have to change a few things about how you grow them.As with almost any virus, the most effective way to control thevirus is to use resistant varieties. A few are on the market now.You may have tried some of the earlier-released cultivars.Not all resistant varieties are available to gardeners, though.The seeds of some come only in large quantities.The seeds of some resistant varieties do come in small packets forgardeners, though. “Amelia,” from Harris Seeds (www.harrisseeds.com), isone of the newest. Some seed companies offer “BHN 444” or “BHN640” in small packages, too.Look for plantsProbably the best way to get resistant varieties, however, is tolook for seedlings at your favorite garden center. The seedlingsmay not be easy to find, but look for them.One drawback to using these varieties is that they probably won’thave quite the flavor of your old garden favorite. They were bredfor commercial production. But let them get ripe on the vine andthey’ll be fine.Another weapon that seems to help some commercial growers controlthe virus is using mulches. Planting tomatoes into black plasticmulch has been shown to reduce the level of infection oversimple, bare-ground production.Kitchen optionReflective silver mulches seem to work even better. These mulcheshave to be almost like chrome. Aluminum foil might make asuitable substitute, since the actual plastic, reflective mulchesare expensive and hard to find.Keeping weeds in check around the garden may help some, too. Somegrowers have even tried tying reflective streamers to the tomatostakes, with the idea that they confuse the thrips so they don’tland on the tomatoes.Growing tomatoes in home gardens isn’t what it used to be. Tokeep those fresh, vine-ripe tomatoes coming, though, try theseresistant varieties and changes in tactics. Hopefully, the daysof growing home-garden tomatoes are far from numbered.(Terry Kelley is an Extension Service horticulturist with theUniversity of Georgia College of Agricultural and EnvironmentalSciences.)
In recent years, the stink bug has become a major problem for Georgia crops, particularly in cotton fields, where it costs farmers millions in losses annually. To develop more efficient methods to control the pest, a University of Georgia researcher wants to learn more about it, especially its travel habits.“Our main mission for this project is to learn about the ecology and biology of the stink bug and then develop environmentally friendly control strategies that exploit these findings,” said Mike Toews, a research entomologist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences in Tifton, Ga.Georgia farms, like many in the Southeast, are diverse, with various crops planted from early spring until late fall in fields near each other. In early spring, stink bugs emerge from roadside weeds or wooded areas where they spent the winter. They then migrate to developing crops. They linger along the way, feeding, looking for companionship and building populations in early-maturing crops like corn and wheat. By late-summer, they’ve built up a hungry army, which turns its focus to the tasty developing cotton boll — the fruit that makes the lint. In Georgia, they claimed 20,000 bales of cotton, or $6 million in damage, in 2006 alone.“Stink bugs start early in weeds, then move to corn, peanuts, soybeans and veggies before damaging cotton at the end of the season,” he said. “The idea is to figure out how we can prevent stink bugs from building up and damaging late-season plants like cotton.”Toews and Clemson University entomologists Jeremy Greene, Francis Reay-Jones and economist Carlos Carpi are using a three-year $154,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Southern Region Integrated Pest Management Center to pinpoint when and where the bug enters various Southeastern crops.In Tifton, Toews is using cotton, peanut, soybean, grain sorghum, pecan, watermelon and corn fields, totaling 402 acres, as his research farmscape. Using sweep nets, traps, damage assessments and Global Positioning Systems technology, he’s learning about the bug’s reproductive habits, or cycles, and tracking its path through the farm.He is closely monitoring and mapping the population build up and the times when stinkbugs enter cotton fields. They typically settle at the edges of the fields first, he said.“We are targeting sprays on these edges at the times they are moving in the fields to prevent the need for spraying the entire field,” he said.Typically, farmers scout fields for stink bug damage. Once a threshold level of damage is met, the entire field is sprayed. By targeting just the edges at the right time, he said, farmers could reduce their insecticide use by 75 percent; some by as much as 90 percent. “By targeting sprays,” he said, “we’re not broadcasting the field and killing beneficial insects that can actually help fight other (cotton-eating) pests.”Georgia’s subtropical climate suits cotton production. It also appeals to hordes of cotton-eating bugs. For decades, farmers sprayed insecticides on cotton 12 to 14 times during the growing season, or once a week, to protect it. Stink bugs were likely present then, too, but were controlled with those sprays.The eradication of the boll weevil allowed farmers to stop spraying weekly. In the mid-‘90s, farmers started planting cotton varieties that contained a bacterium that killed caterpillars soon after they ate the leaves. That bacterium doesn’t hurt stinkbugs.Farmers now spray insecticide only two or three times during the growing season. Without the added chemical control, stinkbugs have now emerged in force.Georgia’s ranks second in cotton production behind Texas. The state’s crop is worth between $500 million and $600 million annually.
Organizers of the agricultural leadership program Advancing Georgia’s Leaders in Agriculture have chosen 22 professionals from across the state to participate in the program’s inaugural class. Advancing Georgia’s Leaders in Agriculture is housed in and supported by the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. AGLA is also supported by numerous agricultural and forestry organizations and associations throughout Georgia. AGLA’s founders aim to educate and empower Georgia’s agricultural leaders to become effective advocates for the largest economic drivers in Georgia — the state’s agricultural and forestry industries, said Rochelle Strickland, the program’s founding director and a public service assistant in the college. “We are excited about the group of individuals that have been selected to participate in class I of AGLA,” Strickland said. “They are a high quality, diverse and committed group of professionals who will play an integral role in not only establishing this program, but in the continued growth and development of our industry.” AGLA is designed to bring together leaders from all segments of the state’s agriculture and forestry industries. Over a two-year period, they will help one another understand and analyze the issues facing their industries, as well as challenges that may emerge in the future. AGLA’s inaugural class members are: Brent Allen of the UGA Cooperative Extension Service, Johnson County• Brandon Ashley of the Georgia Farm Bureau Federation, Bibb County• Tim Bland of Newport Timber, Bulloch County• Scott Cochran of House of Raeford Farms, Franklin County• Sarah Cook of the Center of Innovation for Agribusiness, Turner County• Kevin Cronic of House of Raeford Farms, Anderson, S.C.• Steven Gibson of the UGA CAES Business Office, Clarke County• Jennifer Harris of White Oak Pastures, Early County• Jon Harris of AgSouth Farm Credit, Pierce County • Jutt Howard of North Georgia Turf, Heard County • Craig Howell of Harris Moran Seed Company, Berrien County • Jesse Johnson of the Southern Land Exchange, Oglethorpe County• Trey Joyner of the Georgia Department of Agriculture, Dekalb County• Sherry Morris of the Georgia Green Industry Association, Fannin County • Duane Myers of Kroger, Henry County• Tate O’Rourke of U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson’s office, Hall County • Maggie Potter of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, Muscogee County• Mark Risse of UGA CAES, Oconee County• Amanda Tedrow of UGA Cooperative Extension, Clarke County• Rebecca Thomas of UGA Cooperative Extension, Chattooga County• Chris Wheeler of AGrowStar, Houston County• Derick Wooten of Rocky Hammock Farms, Jeff Davis County Those seeking more information about the Advancing Georgia’s Leaders in Agriculture can visit www.agla.caes.uga.edu . ###
The lady’s slipper orchid looks to all the world like it would gobble up an unsuspecting pollinator. The pouch, called a “labellum,” is simply nature’s method of starting a pollination program. The pollinator does fly into the pouch and, most likely, finds little work in escaping, all the while either picking up pollen or making a deposit. This wonder of nature occurs in lady’s slipper orchids, and they will prove to be an enjoyable spectacle.Lady’s slipper orchids are found in five genera.Cypripedium, which are terrestrial, have the ability to transform a garden into one of rare beauty. They are cold-hardy, and 11 species are native to the United States. One, the showy lady’s slipper, is even the state flower of Minnesota.The Mexipedium, Selenipedium, Phragmipedium and Paphiopedilum genera are all tropical in nature. It is the latter that I am touting here, as it is considered to be among the easiest orchids to grow for the novice home gardener. They are so loved that it is believed that there are now 13,000-plus hybrids of this genus alone.Despite the fact that the Deep South Orchid Society maintains the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens’ orchid house and it is mere steps from my office, it was the Savannah Orchid Show that caused me to be forever mesmerized by the lady’s slipper orchids. The one that first caught my eye was ‘Raisin Jack’ No. 5 x No. 7.I’ll be honest. The names, especially the hybrids, are a little mind-boggling and confusing, to say the least. Their beauty, coupled with what seems to be an unending array of colors, shapes and textures, is not. This is an addicting group of plants for a potential collector.A walk through our orchid house reveals orchids with varying sizes of pseudobulbs, which act as a water storage reservoir. The Paphiopedilum lady’s slipper orchid has no such device, meaning they need watering more frequently. Those grown in bark need water more often than those grown in moss. Leaching of nutrients is bound to occur, so feeding with about a one-quarter-strength, water-soluble balanced fertilizer is recommended weekly.There is no place like an orchid show to get the whole family involved in one of America’s great pastimes. I assure you that your children and grandchildren will be enthralled as they learn about lady’s slipper orchids and the way pollinators fly into the pouch. A look at the American Orchid Society calendar of events will help you locate a nearby show.All Georgia gardeners are invited to the 31st annual Savannah Orchid Show from Friday, April 28, to Sunday, April 30, at the Coastal Botanical Gardens. There will be vendors from several states that will not only be selling the best orchids, but supplies as well. I was stunned to see so many people carrying out bags, sacks, boxes and orchids last year.Not only will you have a chance to see the beauty of the blooms up close, but you can learn the techniques of growing them and even get assistance repotting your own orchid. Although I have only been raving about lady’s slipper orchids, I assure you that there will be more species on display than you ever knew existed.
Georgia 4-H hosted a virtual series to announce and honor youth winners in replacement of its annual State 4-H Congress, normally a weeklong competition and celebration in Atlanta. The online series allowed Georgia 4-H to announce all the winners live, similar to the in-person festivities which have been held annually since 1942.During the 2019 State Congress, more than 250 youth competed at the state level of Georgia 4-H’s Project Achievement contest. The event also honored state special event winners, scholarship winners and donors. The purpose of this event is to celebrate the Georgia 4-H youth for their project work, leadership and service.“Our top priority for the culmination of this year’s Project Achievement program was to find a way for the youth to compete for the state title of ‘Master 4-H’er’ while observing safety precautions,” said Keri Hobbs, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension 4-H specialist. “Pivoting the statewide competition to a virtual format was necessary for youth to continue to sharpen their skills and for us to name state project winners. Key alterations were that presentations were recorded for judges to evaluate through videos and portfolio, and interview judges joined youth online for virtual interviews.”This year, all the essential components from State 4-H Council and Congress were combined into the Georgia 4-H 2020 State Achievement Series. The five-day series included the campaigns and election of new state officers, state-level competitions and announcements of winners in Leadership in Action and Project Achievement.The Leadership in Action program is designed to recognize the work of 4-H’ers as leaders in their communities. These 4-H’ers have identified issues or needs in their community and have developed and implemented ways to make a difference. Eight finalists were selected to compete on the state level. The 2020-21 4-H Leadership in Action winners who received Master 4-H’er status are Amelia Sale from Oconee County, for her project focused on connecting youth with special needs and 4-H, and Nicholas McKinley of Paulding County, for his project focused on STEM and its human connection.Nearly 250 youth competing in the state-level Senior Project Achievement were permitted to submit 10- to 12-minute presentations in their various project areas online. Participants also conducted a video interview with judges to discuss their yearlong project. Overall, one winner in each of the 50 project categories was selected as the winner and received Master 4-H’er status during the announcement of winners on July 24.The 2020-21 4-H Project Achievement winners are:Arts and Crafts – Juliette McKinley, Paulding CountyBeef – Tyler Hunter, Bulloch CountyCommunications – Andy Martin, Emanuel CountyCompanion and Specialty Animals – Savannah Hockenberry, Richmond CountyComputer Information Technology – Kennedy Deveaux, Cobb CountyDairy – Morgan Patterson, Jasper CountyDog Care and Training – Sara Reed, Coweta CountyEngineering and Mechanics – Elyce Wages, Spalding CountyEntomology – Kelly Lachowsky, Liberty CountyEnvironmental Science – Jordan Daniels, Tift CountyFashion Revue – Minnes Smith, Polk CountyFinancial Planning and Consumer Economics – Aquemini Trotter, Ben Hill CountyFlowers, Shrubs, and Lawns – Annie Stephenson, Oconee CountyFood for Fitness – Zoe Jane Powell, Stephens CountyFood for Health and Sport – Shazia Alam, Sumter CountyFoods Lab: Dairy Foods – Laura Harriss, Cobb CountyFoods Lab: Festive Foods for Health – Delaney Millerick, Newton CountyFoods Lab: Food Fare – Rebekah Ibbetson, Haralson CountyFood Safety and Preservation – Brecklyn Brown, Chattooga CountyForest Resources and Wood Sciences – James Turpin, Hart CountyFruits, Vegetables and Nuts – Breana Manning, Gordon CountyGeneral Recreation – Dabirichi Chukwuezi, Cobb CountyHealth – Rachel Thigpen, Montgomery CountyHistory – Samantha Kuhbander, Ware CountyHorse – Alexa Hillebrand, Coweta CountyHousing – Lora Coxwell, Worth CountyHuman Development – James Poppell, Toombs CountyInternational – Jhaycee Barnes, Spalding CountyOutdoor Recreation – Madison Clevenger, Paulding CountyPerforming Arts – Dance – Maggie DeMaria, Clarke CountyPerforming Arts – Drama – Lydia Norman, Wilkes CountyPerforming Arts – General – Parker Varnadoe, Madison CountyPerforming Arts – Other Instrumental – Chandler Stevenson, Cherokee CountyPerforming Arts – Piano – Journey Austinson, Decatur CountyPerforming Arts – Vocal – Tripp Carter, Burke CountyPhotography and Videography – Bell Scdoris, Crisp CountyPhysical, Biological and Earth Sciences – Quadriyah Williams, Cobb CountyPlant and Soil Sciences – Jessie Holbrook, Union CountyPoultry – Whitley Gatch, Bulloch CountyPublic Speaking – Madison Clemente, Paulding CountyRobotics – Hannah Fletcher, Worth CountySafety – Paige Phillips, Stephens CountySheep and Meat Goats – Gracie Grimes, Candler CountySports – Emma Harris, Peach CountySwine – Hannah McElrath, Gordon CountyTarget Sports – Jennifer Brinton, Coweta CountyTextiles, Merchandising and Interiors – Arham Shah, Emanuel CountyVeterinary Science – Gabrielle Ralston, Gordon CountyWildlife and Marine Science – Neely McCommons, Oconee CountyWorkforce Preparation and Career Development – Emma Wurst, Columbia CountyAnnually, more than 77,000 youth participate in Georgia 4-H Project Achievement and develop skills in leadership, public speaking, record keeping, creativity and other life skills.The success of these events is a result of efforts that have been invested and skills that have been sharpened in 4-H youth for years. The growth of these young people is the direct result of positive mentorships with local Extension faculty, staff and volunteers and the support of the local community, parents, teachers and mentors.To view the full online series, visit youtube.com/Georgia4H.Georgia 4-H empowers youth to become true leaders by developing necessary life skills, positive relationships and community awareness. As the largest youth leadership organization in the state, 4-H reaches more than 242,000 people annually through UGA Extension offices and 4-H facilities. For more information, visit georgia4h.org or contact your local Extension office.
River Road Holdings, LLC announced today the addition of a new title to its family of regional niche periodicals. Vermont Sports Today (circulation 10,400) is a monthly publication for individuals with a hunger for outdoor sports, recreation, and physical fitness. The magazine’s editorial focus includes alpine, cross-country and telemark skiing, canoeing and kayaking, road and mountain biking, hiking and backpacking, in-line skating, running, snowboarding, snowshoeing, triathlon, and duathlon in the Green Mountain State and Northern New England. Reviews of gear and products for outdoor enthusiasts, a lengthy calendar of sports events throughout the state, monthly athlete profiles, and race results are standard features of the publication.Editorial and advertising offices for Vermont Sports Today will remain in Waterbury Vermont. Former Owner, Publisher, and Editor, Kate Carter will remain at Vermont Sports Today as Managing Editor. Advertising sales for the magazine will continue to be handled by Ellie Tobin. Production and operations for the magazine will be relocated to River Road Holdings’ headquarters in Hanover, New Hampshire.“When I started Vermont Sports Today in 1990, my dream was to produce a first-rate publication for people who enjoy individual aerobic sports and believe in a healthy lifestyle. I am thrilled that the talented staff at River Road Holdings is taking over and confident they will continue the tradition of publishing a quality sports publication we can all be proud of,” says Carter.Chris Blau, President and Publisher at River Road Holdings, LLC added “Vermont Sports Today’s loyal readership and excellent content for sports enthusiasts was a major draw for us in acquiring the publication. Long-term, we see affinities between Vermont Sports Today and our current holdings which will benefit our advertisers and improve readership experiences. We are especially excited to have Kate and Ellie join our team as we continue to grow our business.”In addition to Vermont Sports Today, the River Road Holdings, LLC publishes The Upper Valley Parents’ Paper, The Quechee Times, and The Norwich Times.
Chittenden Corporation(NYSE: CHZ) Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Paul A. Perrault,announced earnings for the quarter ended March 31, 2004 of $17.5 millionor $0.47 per diluted share, compared to $16.6 million or $0.49 a year ago.Chittenden also announced a 10% increase in its quarterly dividend to $0.22per share. The dividend will be paid on May 14, 2004, to shareholders ofrecord on April 30, 2004.In making the announcement, Perrault said, “By and large, most corebusinesses are doing well. However, the volatility of market interest ratesand the timing of their movements during the quarter adversely impacted themortgage banking business. On the whole, we consider the quarter’s results alittle disappointing, though there is cause for optimism. Commercial loangrowth was particularly good during the quarter and accelerated in the monthof March. In mortgage banking, the interest rate dip in March led tosignificant mortgage application activity late in the quarter, which shouldbode well for better mortgage gains as we move forward into the comingmonths.”Total loans increased $55.5 million from December 31, 2003 and $151.6million from March 31, 2003. The Company’s banks continued their strong growthin commercial lending by increasing their commercial and commercial realestate portfolios at an annualized rate of 16% on a linked-quarter basis.Partially offsetting the growth in commercial loans was the continued declinein the residential real estate loan portfolio, which experienced faster thanexpected prepayments. The increase in the loan portfolio from March 31, 2003was entirely attributable to double-digit growth in the Company’s commercialand commercial real estate loan portfolios.Total deposits increased $20.3 million from March 31, 2003 and decreased$135.5 million from the prior year-end. The decline from December 31, 2003 isprimarily attributable to normal seasonal trends relating to the Company’smunicipal, commercial, and captive insurance customers. Borrowings at March31, 2004 were $312.5 million, a decrease of $241.1 million from the sameperiod a year ago. The decline was due to maturities and the early redemptionof $214 million of FHLB borrowings assumed in the Granite acquisition.The Company’s net interest margin for the first quarter of 2004 was 4.17%,an increase from the fourth quarter of last year and a decrease from the firstquarter of 2003. On a linked quarter basis, the increase in the net interestmargin was due to a better asset mix with a higher proportion of loans inaverage earning assets, and a lower cost of funds driven primarily by reducedcosts of borrowings. The decline in net interest margin from the first quarterof 2003 was primarily attributable to lower earning asset yields and theinclusion of Granite for the full quarter of 2004 as compared to just onemonth in 2003.Net charge-offs as a percentage of average loans were 1 basis point forthe first quarter of 2004, compared to 8 basis points for the fourth quarterof last year and 4 basis points for the first quarter in 2003. Net charge-offsin 2004 totaled $391,000, compared with $2.7 million in the fourth quarter of2003 and $1.5 million for the first quarter of 2003. Nonperforming assetsincreased $6.3 million from December 31, 2003 to $20.7 million at March 31,2004 and as a percentage of total loans increased to 55 basis points comparedto 39 basis points in the fourth quarter of 2003. The increase innonperforming assets primarily resulted from two commercial relationships andthe Company believes that the loans are well secured. The level ofnonperforming assets in 2004 is consistent with the Company’s historicalexperience which has averaged approximately 50 basis points over the last sixyears.The provision for loan losses was $427,000 for the first quarter of 2004compared to $1.0 million for the fourth quarter of last year, and $2.1 millionin the first quarter of 2003. The provision for the first quarter of 2004 wasdriven by significantly lower net charge-offs, continued strong asset quality,and minimal growth in the total loan portfolio. As a percentage of totalloans, the allowance for loan losses was 1.52%, down slightly from 1.54% atDecember 31, 2003.Noninterest income declined $5.0 million from the prior quarter and $1.2million from the same period a year ago. The decline from the fourth quarterof 2003 was attributable to reduced gains on sales of mortgages, lowermortgage servicing income, and a decline in gains on sales of securities.Gains on sales of mortgage loans decreased $2.4 million from the fourthquarter of 2003 due to lower volumes of loan sales caused by higher mortgageinterest rates. Mortgage servicing income declined $1.4 million in the firstquarter of 2004 due to higher forward-looking prepayment speeds which weredriven by the dip in interest rates in early March, continued heavy paydownson adjustable rate mortgages, and the decision by one of the Company’s creditunion customers to service its portfolio in house. Gains on sales ofsecurities, net of losses on prepayments of borrowings, were $608,000 in thefirst quarter of 2004, compared to $2.1 million in the fourth quarter of lastyear and $1.4 million in the first quarter of 2003. Partially offsettingthese declines, on a linked quarter and year-over-year basis, weresignificantly higher insurance commissions and increased investment managementincome. Insurance commissions increased $1.1 million from the prior quarterprimarily due to the timing of policy renewals and increased performance-basedincome. The increase from the same quarter a year ago was due to the inclusionof Granite’s insurance operations for the full quarter in 2004 versus only onemonth in 2003. In addition, on a year-over-year basis, the Companyexperienced higher investment management income, which was attributable tostronger equity markets and better penetration in the non-Vermont banks.Noninterest expenses were $44.6 million for the quarter ending March 31,2004, a decrease of $3.5 million from the prior quarter and an increase of$2.4 million from a year ago. The decline from the fourth quarter of 2003 isprimarily attributable to lower conversion and restructuring expenses,decreased incentives and commissions costs, and lower levels of other expense.The higher conversion and restructuring expenses in the fourth quarter of 2003were due to the accrual of certain costs in relation to the Company’s plan toconsolidate branches, close offsite ATMs and to recognize severance forrelated staff reductions. The increase from a year ago is attributable to theacquisition of Granite Bank, which in 2004 contributed three months ofexpenses compared to one month in 2003.The effective income tax rate for first quarter 2004 was 36.9%, comparedwith 36.1% for the comparable quarter in 2003. The higher effective income taxrate was primarily attributable to increased taxable income in New Hampshire,which has a higher statutory tax rate than other states in which the Companyhas operations.The return on average tangible equity was 20.38% in the first quarter of2004, compared to 23.63% in the prior quarter and 19.95% in the same quarter ayear ago. The return on average equity was 11.97% for the first quarter of2004, compared with 13.66% for the fourth quarter of 2003 and 14.53% for thefirst quarter a year ago. The decrease in ROE from the first quarter of 2003is primarily due to the issuance of additional equity of $116 million in theGranite acquisition, which was included for only one month in the 2003calculation. The return on average assets for the quarter ended March 31, 2004was 1.21%, down from 1.31% for the quarter ended December 31, 2003 and 1.29%for the first quarter of last year. The decline from a year ago was due tohigher levels of average assets caused by the acquisition of Granite Bank andthe reduction from the fourth quarter of 2004 was due to lower net income.Chittenden is a bank holding company headquartered in Burlington, Vermont.Through its subsidiary banks(1), the Company offers a broad range of financialproducts and services to customers throughout Northern New England andMassachusetts, including deposit accounts and services; commercial andconsumer loans; insurance; and investment and trust services to individuals,businesses, and the public sector. Chittenden Corporation’s news releases,including earnings announcements, are available on the Company’s website.
VERMONT FAMILIES NOW ELIGIBLE FOR DISCOUNTS ON AT-HOME WEIGHT LOSS SERVICESBerlin — Easy, at-home weight loss services are now available to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont members and their families, company officials have announced.The states largest health plan will include a popular Jenny Craig® program in its new BlueExtras non-benefit discount program. BlueExtras offers discounts on services not normally covered by health insurance benefits to members and their families, even if family members are not enrolled in the health plan.Jenny Direct offers personal, one-on-one support through convenient and private weekly phone consultations. Jenny Direct is based on the three factors of healthy eating: balance, variety and moderation. The program delivers healthy, delicious balanced meals selected from more than 75 menu items to the participants door.Throughout the Jenny Direct Program, a consultant provides weight loss advice for weight maintenance. Support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.The Jenny Direct weight loss services have been added to a growing list of offerings in BlueExtras, including hearing care services and a discount booklet offering savings at many Vermont health-related businesses. BlueExtras is available at no extra cost to plan members, according to Kevin Goddard, Vice President of Marketing and External Affairs at the states largest private health insurer.Were excited to be able to open the door to these programs for thousands of Vermonters by offering discounts for their services, Goddard explained. The BlueExtras program provides real savings as well as incentives to participate in these health improvement services. Were very pleased to include a Jenny Craig® program in our growing selection.Through the weekly calls with our consultants, Vermonters will learn new skills and habits for lasting change, said Lisa Talamini, senior registered dietician and director of program development and nutrition at Jenny Craig. And unlike other fad diets, the variety of our food options provides a mix of balanced meals that are created by dietitians and culinary experts. With more than 75 tasty menu items such as Pasta Fagioli and Island Style Chicken, our clients will never get bored with the same old food.Membership with BCBSVT will enable members and their families to take advantage of a free 30-day Jenny Direct program and 50 percent off the full price of a Gold or Platinum Membership after the trial period.Jenny Craig, Inc. is one of the largest weight management service companies in the world. The company offers a proven, comprehensive program that, through sound nutrition and simple activity, helps clients achieve the balance necessary for optimal weight loss and personal well-being. The company provides services to more than 90,000 people at any given time and thousands of customers are currently enrolled through Jenny Direct. Jenny Craig serves 80 million servings of food world wide each year. Jenny Craig has provided services to more than 4.5 million clients worldwide since 1983.Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont is the state’s oldest and largest private health insurer, providing coverage for about 180,000 Vermonters. It employs over 350 Vermonters at its headquarters in Berlin and branch office in Williston, and offers group and individual health plans to Vermonters. More information about Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont is available on the Internet at www.bcbsvt.com(link is external). Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont is an independent corporation operating under a license with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, an association of independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans.
Criterion announces that Rick Carey has joined the company as a senior consultant. Carey will concentrate on management coaching, advising on policy and procedure and management training seminars for the public sector.Carey holds SPHR certification and brings to Criterion three decades of experience in Human Resources administration within Vermonts Agency of Transportation. He most recently served as the agencys Human Resources Chief. In that position he was responsible for a staff that served the HR needs of 1,300 employees and provided expertise in many areas of management and career coaching.I am thrilled to add Rick to our team, says Dianne Kenney, founder of Criterion. Those who have worked with him know that Rick has exceptional skills in leading, motivating and managing individuals, as well as the ability to drive business results with innovative processes and cost-effective solutions.Criterion is Vermonts only consulting firm dedicated primarily to serving public sector entities. They specialize in business coaching, human resources strategy and management education. For more information call 802-280-3061 or visit www.criterion.biz(link is external).###