RAYLAND - On May 8, 1814, an act establishing a Cooperative Extension Service by the Smith Lever Act was signed and its 100-year celebration was observed by the Ohio State University/Jefferson County Extension at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds on May 10.
One of the agents who saw many changes take place over the years was Mae Silvestri, who was working to give mothers-to-be, new mothers and mothers with children of all ages an idea on how to cook healthier and more economically. She taught budgeting, house cleaning, gardening and canning by going into the home and working personally with the client.
Many miles and many memories were accumulated in her work from 1973 until her retirement in the late 1980s.
MAE’S QUILT — Mae Silvestri received a quilt designating all the tasks she performed during her years with the Jefferson County Extension Office. There were squares from all the areas where she worked, such as the Ohio State University A.B.L.E. program, housekeeping, children, food pyramid, cooking, canning, pumpkins, apples and horses. — Esther McCoy
PUMPKIN STORIES — Mae Silvestri looks over the shoulder of her husband, Fred, at the many stories and pictures that were featured in newspapers and magazines about their extensive pumpkin farm, where they sold the gourd-like fruit each fall. They would hear from people from as far away as California about their autumn crop. — Esther McCoy
"There wasn't as much microwave cooking, those who had microwaves mostly used them for warming foods then," she said.
"I remember going to the Bell Haven Apartment Complex in Smithfield and holding a session on healthy eating at lunch time. I made and served a light lunch to ladies, and there might have some men, in a gathering room," she laughed. "Instead of eating something hot and healthy, they would grab something and run. And it wasn't always healthy."
"The Extension promoted growing your own fresh vegetables, if there was an area to do it. We went over that and discussed problems that would occur and how to preserve the crop when there was an abundance," Silvestri explained.
Mae worked with Delma McCourt and agents from many other counties, including Kay Whinnery of Harrison County.
She still keeps in touch with some of them.
Now she is busy with the Smithfield Food Pantry held at the Smithfield Friends Church. She helps where needed and looks forward to being with the people who are her friends there.
Another aspect in the lives of the Silvestri's is their huge pumpkin patch that has been producing a blaze of orange and gold in the many acres of their farm for years.
There have been pictures of Fred loading pumpkins on a wagon or working in the field in farming magazines, papers from other cities or states and in the Herald-Star. They have kept the clippings that should be a nice memory for their grandchildren.
Mae still gives out pumpkin recipes to those who buy them for cooking, a throw back to her days of doing that sort of thing for Extension. Old habits die hard.