Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month. What does this mean to us in youth development? This means that the month of March has been designated as a time to reflect on the contributions that women have made to society. In the case of 4-H it means recognizing some women who made an important mark on the lives of youth. Did you know?

  • Jessie Field Shambaugh is known as the “Mother of 4-H”? JessieFieldShambaugh_2BF122A020B4BShe was a teacher who started after-school clubs in 1901 in Page County Iowa. She is also credited with creating the first clover pin with 3 leaves to represent “head,” “hands” and “heart”. The fourth leaf was added later to represent “health”.
  • During World War II the number of girls in 4-H clothing projects increased to 500,000 members? This is because the clubs were making clothes and supplies for the troops who were fighting overseas.
  • Peggy Whitson, is a NASA Mission Commander 4-H alumni. 330px-Peggy_WhitsonShe received her doctorate degree in biochemistry from Rice University, became a biochemistry researcher, NASA astronaut and former NASA Chief Astronaut. Whitson is NASA’s most experienced female astronaut, with just over 376 days in space. She also has performed a total of six career spacewalks, adding up to 39 hours and 46 minutes.
Aside | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Liberty 4-H Club

Savannah Williams, Reporter
Peyton Jaeger, Photographer

March 9, 2018

Liberty 1Wow! Let me paint a picture of our night at the Liberty 4-H club, where there was a lot of fun cooking! We had a meeting to start off the night talking about the many events that are coming up. We also got to talk about who had attended some of the recent events.

The clovers had a BLAST learning about Aerospace! They enjoyed liberty 2making paper rockets and shooting them in a friendly competition.

The Juniors & Intermediates ShamROCKED, making chimes out of various sized flower pots! They painted each and worked with each other to tie string between the pots. This project ended up as themed chimes for the St. Patrick Day holiday!

The Seniors pushed their cooking skills to the limits for their TLiberty 3op Chef competition! They all made a finger food or an appetizer, with vegetables as the main ingredient. Some of the items made were Spinach Cheese dip, an original recipe called “My Everyday Breakfast”, Tea Sandwiches and vegetable roll-ups.

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Liberty 4-H Club

by Savannah Williams, Club Reporter
February 9, 2018

TastingTonight, members of the liberty 4-H club were judged on foods they had made themselves. The clovers were to make a cookie recipe; they made things such as, Peanut Butter Cookies, S’mores cookies and even some were lollipop cookies! After the judging, the clovers played games like stack the marshmallows! Every Clover got to take home one of each cookie!

For the junior’s, they had to make appetizers. They were judged on their food and their presentation. Everyone worked really hard. The top three appetizers were, the Glazed Meatballs, Bang Bang Shrimp and Fruit and Veggie Crackers.

The senior’s got creative! They were to make Veggie Animal sculptures. Some made things such as ducks, birds and more. The top two senior’s made a sheep out of cauliflower and cucumbers . The second choice was a bird in its nest, this was made from pineapple, carrot’s, celery and more! These seniors got very creative!

At the end, everyone got to taste each others food, almost none was left when everyone was done eating! Every one enjoyed testing their cooking and creativity to their limits!

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , ,

George Washington Carver Day


VernelleOn an unseasonably warm day in February about 200 high and middle school youth experienced the life of George Washington Carver. On February 15, 2018, University of Maryland Extension, Baltimore County 4-H Educators Vernelle Mitchell-Hawkins and Dwayne Murphy led the day with the help of many supporting partners.  The morning was set aside for high school youth to simulate key points from Carver’s career. Students from Benjamin Franklin High School and George Washington Carver High School were in attendance for the morning session.


Coming off of buses, students were excited to be in a beautiful open space of pastures, grass, barns at the Baltimore County Center for Maryland Agriculture and Farm Park, fondly known as the Ag Center. This facility was used on this day as a learning space filled with hands-on activities, animals, books, teachers, scientists, and volunteers. The groups were divided and some went to the Horse Arena to learn from University of Maryland Extension Soil Nutrient Management Advisor Erika Crowl as she shared Agri-science concepts about the dairy industry. Erika began by teaching the students that Extension is the community education portion of the Land-Grant Universities like University of Maryland.  She then related the Extension concept to George Washington Carver’s work with the traveling Jesup Agricultural Wagon. This wagon was known as a “movable school” used for teaching and sharing knowledge from the local University with the community to improve farms.

Two dairy calves greeted the youth at the entrance of the arena – just like what may have been seen in the 1800’s when Carver was traveling to farms. In Erika’s session, students learned about the components of milk and what products can be made from cows. They also got to make butter using real cream and conducted a taste test of the final product.  Interestingly, Carver has been credited for making a milk type product from peanuts and as a substitute for cow’s milk.

Romney Cheviot Mix Sheep

Rosie the Romney Cheviot mix sheep helped students lean more about where their wool actually comes from.

Next, the youth went to the Romney Cheviot Mix sheep that live at the Ag Center to learn about other products that Carver would have helped farmers produce. This included a discussion about the importance and uses for wool. They also learned about animal behavior and how to take care of sheep. From the sheep they went on to a session presented by University of Maryland Extension Plant Pathologist, Andy Kness who talked about what he does as an Agricultural Agent. Much like Carver, Andy is our “Plant Doctor” as George Washington Carver was also fondly called. The students got to play a plant vs. pathogen simulation game and learned all about how plant cells work to fight against bacteria.  Andy discussed the impact of disease on plants and how it affects other parts of the food chain.

As the group moved from the Arena to the Exhibit Barn, students stopped and saw the week old chicks that are also in residence at the Ag Center.  This provided a valuable teachable moment about life cycle as well as proper growing conditions of animals.

Baby chicks

Newly born chicks offer an opportunity to see the cycle of life.

These are all concepts that would have been discussed on the Jesup Wagon in Carver’s day.  Inside the Exhibit Barn the Baltimore County Library conducted a discussion about the life of George Washington Carver and the many books written about him. In addition, to his work in the sciences, Carver was a gifted artist and studied art at Simpson College in Iowa in 1890. It was through this experience of drawing and painting botanical samples that he was encouraged to enroll in the Botany program at the Iowa State Agricultural College. The youth enjoyed examples of his artwork.  As a memorial to his artistic life and belief in reusing materials, the participants made flowers from recycled comic books. This craft was chosen to represent and remember the fact that Carver always work a flower in the lapel of his jacket.

As the students moved into the main room of the Ag Center’s main building, they had many stations to choose from to learn more about agricultural science and George Washington Carver’s contributions to society. One of the stations featured real cotton still on the plant. At this station students learned about King Cotton and how the Boll Weevil devastated the crop in the 1800’s.  Carver actively promoted alternative crops to cotton and taught several methods to prevent  soil depletion. The youth got to see microscopic samples of various fibers from cotton to wool to synthetics to learn about their different properties. Leading this station was Alex Smith, a volunteer for the day from Tree Baltimore.

There was also a station headed by Alexa Smarr, University of Maryland Extension Horticulturist and Master Gardener Coordinator.  She taught students about the nutritional benefits of eating insects for a low cost high yield form of protein. Students had the opportunity to try from a number of different kinds of insects including such as pizza flavored crickets, mango silkworms, basil mealworms, and others. Over 250 insects were eaten during the event. As a plant doctor Carver worked to help plants that were infested with various kinds of insects. He also worked to help people find food sources that were affordable and nutritious.

Another favorite station was the storm water runoff simulation.  Youth working with University of Maryland Extension Watershed Restoration Specialist Kelsey Brooks learned how the various layers beneath the ground are affected by both water and pollutants. A hands-on experiment was conducted by all the youth that went through this enlightening station. George Washington Carver was a steward of the land and was instrumental in educating southern farmers on the practice of crop rotation. He was especially known for teaching about rotating the cotton crops with peanut plants to aid restoring nitrogen to the soil.

Bees and pollinationThere was a beekeeper station that was taught by MARC volunteer Devra Kitterman, who shared about honey making, pollination and the value of bees in agriculture.  She had honey bee boxes on site and shared how bees play a part in the larger ecosystem.

Additionally, there was also a soybean station set up for students to explore.  At this station they learned in a “shell game” style activity that soybeans have become a major crop in the food system and is found in many common soybeans in everything with Wes Jamison MARCfood items. Wes Jamison, Gayle Ensor and Mimi Colson Leaning from Maryland Agricultural Resource Council volunteered at this station. They also shared information about how Carver conducted research on the soybean plant and created dozens of new uses for the plant including plastics for cars, foods, home products and plant based gasoline.  They also offered samples of Wow Butter, a peanut butter substitute made from soybeans butter.

Christine Allred, a 4-H Educator from St. Mary’s County shared about beans, their anatomy and growth. Youth had a chance to do their own discoveries with beans using iodine to bring out the characteristics of the beans. This experiment illustrated American Landscape Instituteto students how Carver’s work to prove that beans are a good source of starchy nutrition. Martha Pindale from American Landscape Institute was also on hand to share information about Landscaping and Horticulture as a viable career path for anyone interested in following in the footsteps of Carver.

Last but not least was food preservation. George Washington Carver also did work in the area of home economics and safe food preservation. To simulate this area of his research, youth made their own strawberry preserves. Dr. Shauna Henley, Family and Consumer Science Educator for University of Maryland Extension taught the youth many aspects of food safety and preservation of food.  She taught almost 200 people how to safely make jam using fresh strawberries and research based canning techniques.


The high school youth at George Washington Carver were student mentors in the afternoon sessions with middle schoolers helping out in the various stations. They gave hands-on support to our educators and help make the afternoon run more smoothly. Just as Carver himself, who took his experiments and teaching on the road to farmers with the “Jesup wagon” the students that helped to bring agricultural education and the life of Carver to youth from around the area came out away from their school to share their new found knowledge.

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

4-H Winter Wonder Lab

On a cold winter morning, the youth of Baltimore County engaged in hands-on experiments to explore more about how agriculture and science are interconnected. Investigations were conducted to determine how advances in agriculture can help solve human issues surrounding food security and health. There were four stations for each group to rotate to perform a new experiment.

Leading the youth on the question of how does DNA look and can it be removed from foods was Vernelle Mitchell-Hawkins, 4-H Educator. At this station, youth were given a banana to mash and to filter to extract the DNA from the fruit.

Lynne Thomas, a senior 4-H’er with the Baldwin 4-H Club in Baltimore County, taught the class on flower dissection at the Winter Wonder Lab workshop. At this station, Lynne showed the students how to dissect flowers and identify the different parts. They discussed the process of pollination and why pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, are so crucial for food production.

Lynne said she volunteered to help with this workshop because she plans to major in agriculture education in college. “I enjoy teaching people about where their food comes from and dispelling misinformation about the agriculture industry,” says Lynne.

At another table was Santana Mays, 4-H alumni and the college student studying to become a teacher. Santana lead workshop on how to judge meats. She had a station of four cuts of pork and beef. The youth were taught about what makes a good cut of meat. Next, they each had an opportunity to judge which was the best. Many of the kids commented that they didn’t know that there was a competition for meat judging and that it was something they could participate in through 4-H.

At Dwayne Murphy’s station, the youth had the opportunity to use a refractometer to determine the concentrations of liquid solutions. Each person tested the amount of sugar in fresh fruit as compared to a fruit drink. Which do you think had more sugar? You guessed it; the fruit drink had a higher concentration of sugar than the fresh fruits. The youth also explored the benefits of eating a healthy diet.


In the closing project, each of the participants made butter from scratch and got to eat their production on pretzels. Yum.

As a result of this workshop, youth were interested in pursuing a career in science because they thought it was cool, interesting and you can solve problems. Many of the kids never thought about how agriculture and science were connected and had never heard of jobs that involve agriculture and science too.

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

From the Desk of the Educator

Vernelle Mitchell HawkinsBy Vernelle Mitchell-Hawkins

Online Volunteer Renewal – Beginning in 2018, volunteers will be required to complete the annual volunteer renewal process online.  Using the 4-H Online platform volunteers will be able to update their contact information, complete impact data questions including a number of volunteer hours completed, number of youth impacted (number of youth served the role including clubs and outreach) and identify role(s) that a volunteer played (leader, superintendent, etc.).  Volunteers will also answer a series of renewal questions related to position(s) held.  The familiar Renewal Appointment Agreement, MD 4-H Adult Code of Conduct, and MD 4-H Volunteer Skills and Interest Survey will also be completed in 4-H Online.  A volunteer’s status will need to be approved by the county 4-H Team to be “active” for the 2018 program year.  This is encouraged to take place before February 1, 2018.

It is important to note that without renewal, volunteer positions automatically terminate at the end of the calendar year.  The change in renewal method, using 4-H Online, should expedite the process. It will also allow real-time and consistent data to be collected so that everyone will know the TRUE VALUE of 4-H volunteers.  At anytime educators and university can pull out the data and show off all of the great work that is happening all over the state.  The volunteer renewal process is not new. It is an annual process where volunteers and educators can evaluate the previous year and reaffirm their support for the upcoming year.  It also allows a chance for volunteers to refresh themselves on the expectations of the position and for the 4-H program.  Volunteers serve at the discretion of the county 4-H team and should work in partnership to ensure the continued success of the program.

Aside | Posted on by

On this last day of Hispanic Heritage Month

Vernelle Mitchell HawkinsBy Vernelle Mitchell-Hawkins

Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to celebrate the contributions of Hispanic and Latin people that make the world a better place.  This is true in 4-H as well since the organization seeks to provide a “supportive and inclusive setting for all youth to reach their fullest potential in a diverse society”.

Did you know that the number of Hispanic farmers and ranchers in the United States is on the rise?  This data was first reported in the 2012 Census of Agriculture, conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS. In 2012 the number of farmers and ranchers). In fact the number of farmers and ranchers who were of Hispanic, Latino and Spanish origin reached 3.2 million.  It was also reported that there are 66,671 farms with Hispanic operators, covering more than 21 million acres of U.S. farmland and they sold $8.6 billion in agricultural products.  In addition, of the over 60,000 Hispanic farmers and ranchers counted, 12 percent of were women owned operations.  The field of agriculture is a diverse sector so this month and every month we celebrate the contributions of all groups of growers because in Baltimore County 4-H Grows Here!

For more information about Hispanic farms and farmers, the 2012 Census of Agriculture, and how to access national, state, and county data, go to: www.agcensus.usda.gov


Aside | Posted on by

Hispanic Heritage Month

September 15 – October 15, 2017

Vernelle Mitchell HawkinsBy Vernelle Mitchell-Hawkins

Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to celebrate the many contributions of Hispanic and Latin people to the world.  This is true in 4-H as well since the organization seeks to provide a “supportive and inclusive setting for all youth to reach their fullest potential in a diverse society”.  Many Hispanic scientists have added to the body of knowledge that we now enjoy.  Did you know Dr. Mario Molina is a chemist who received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1995?  He was recognized for his work in helping to identify the man made compounds that contribute to the destruction of the ozone layer?  Dr. Luis Federico Leloir also won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1970.  He is known for his discovery that sugar nucleotides help the body turn some sugars into energy.  We salute these and all Hispanic scientists this month and every month because in Baltimore County 4-H Grows Here!




Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , ,

Please welcome…

Vernelle Mitchell HawkinsVernelle Hawkins joined the Baltimore County Extension office as a 4-H Educator this month. As a Maryland native, she grew up in a rural area of Dorchester County. She graduated from University of Maryland Eastern Shore with a Bachelor’s degree in General Agriculture with a concentration in Plant & Soil Science. She then earned her Master’s degree in Food and Agricultural Science also from University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Her focus in both programs was soil disease, plant nutrition, soil microbiology and biotechnology of crops. Before joining University of Maryland Extension, Vernelle was a public school teacher and taught middle school science courses in Harford and Baltimore Counties for 13 years. More recently she worked as a high school teacher in Baltimore City for four years where she focused on Agriculture Career Technology and Education, Biology and Environmental Science courses. Vernelle has a natural passion for science and agriculture and enjoys empowering youth to be life-long learners and productive members of society.

Please join us in welcoming her to Baltimore County 4-H. We are excited to share her many gifts, talents and ideas with you. Follow her blog posts as she jumps in with both feet to 4-H.

Aside | Posted on by

4-H Fair Prep has a Different meaning for each 4-H’er

By Santana Mays

Every year 4-H’ers look forward to the Baltimore County 4-H Fair. For those four days, endless work goes into making the fair a success throughout the year. Many people are involved; 4-H’ers, families, parents, farmers, board members, extension educators…Whether it is from getting projects ready for the fair or setting up there is a lot of work.

The fair board meets every month to make sure everything is in order so when move in the day comes around everything can run as smooth as possible. At meetings, the topics can range from costs to the schedule. Each person has a significant role to make the fair a success. Lynne Thomas from Baldwin 4-H club is the Fair Board Youth Director. As the Youth director, Lynne provides feedback to what the 4-H’ers liked about the fair and gave a suggestion for new activities as soon as the fair is over so they can start planning for the next year.

Rishi, a teen Council member, not only was a fair tour guide this year but helped along with many other 4-H’ers to get goodie bags together. Rishi says that the fair set up “involves the efforts of many dedicated 4-H’ers and it cannot be done all at once”. The fair to Rishi is worth all the work because he gets to introduce new people to 4-H and learn about new talents and interest. Rishi along with many other 4-H’ers helped me with the fair tours and AgroLand.

For David Thomas of Baldwin 4-H, AgroLand is an activity that he and his family are involved in. AgroLand is a way for the general public to learn about agriculture. AgroLand “is very critical to the success of our fair because it teaches children and adults where their food comes from!” says David. David was Grand Champion in a lot of baked goods.

Even though the planning behind the fair is an important and big part of the fair, sometimes the time the 4-H’ers put into getting ready for the show is overlooked. The week before and during the fair 4-H’ers are running around doing last minute clipping, baking another cake, or trying to put together one final painting. However, to make the best better, there is work that is done months and maybe even years before the fair.

Gabrielle Fisher of Silver Stirrups 4-H club, who got Senior Champion in hobbies and crafts, works year round to make sure that her real potential is shown through her work. Like Gabrielle, other 4-H’ers will spend a lot of time on a craft, painting, or a clothing project. This may range from putting it together, taking classes, and even doing some research on it. Like Gabrielle, 4-H’ers who show livestock spend a lot time with their animals getting ready for the fair.

As a past 4-H’er, I showed dairy cows, steers, market hogs, sheep and many other critters. These projects were sometimes the most time-consuming. For my cows and steers, I would have to start halter breaking them when they were very young. This would also include getting them used to being touched and around new sights and sounds. Then the week before the fair, the cows had to be clipped and washed. By the end of the day, I was so hairy that I could pass as a cow myself. Then the night before move in day halters was polished, tact box filled, hay, straw, and feed loaded and whites were washed and ironed.  While this may seem not very chaotic keep in mind that I still had to take care of the other animals on the farm and it was not a process that could be done the day before the fair. However, when show day comes, all the hard work is worth it.

At our Baltimore County fair we may not be the biggest. But the hard work of everyone who is involved is huge. Each year the fair is a success due to the dedication and work of our people. Already the planning for the 2018 fair is started and I cannot wait for another successful fair.

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , ,