AgCenter Farm Tour Series!

Vernelle Mitchell HawkinsSpring is trying hard to come to Baltimore County.  We have seen weather that is sometimes hot and balmy or cold and blistery in the same week. These weather issues have not stopped the AgCenter Farm Tour Series! The AgCenter Farm Tour Series is a partnership program between University of Maryland Extension/4-H and Maryland Agricultural Resource Center (MARC). Groups from local schools and community organizations visit the AgCenter for a customized agricultural experience. I am pretty excited about this new program series and will be sharing highlights. Tell a friend, neighbor or co-worker that the AgCenter Farm Tour Series is well underway!

Pine Grove Visit

We started the season with a group of Pre-K students who came to visit from Pine Grove Elementary School. During their visit we learned about the importance of bees, visited the children’s garden to see how plants “wake up” from winter, and said “Hello” to the resident sheep and goats on campus. The students collected nature samples during the hike (while singing a catchy hiking tune) that they used to make rubbings. We even stopped at the beautiful Maple tree grove and discussed how yummy syrup comes from trees.  Quote of the Day – “The chicks look so fluffy!”

Thank you for coming Pine Grove!

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.

Food preservation

What do 4-H’ers do with a bountiful harvest?

It is that time of year when harvesting fruits and vegetables is an everyday occurrence. Which begs the question what do you do with all of the extra produce you grow? Well if you are like some 4-H’ers you learn to preserve your extra bounty. One such 4-H’er is David Thomas. David is a Senior 4-H’er and an avid canner. “I can pickles, relishes, and jellies for my family because we think that these homemade products taste better than store-bought ones! By canning, I am continuing a family tradition that goes back many generations. In fact, the grinder and slicer I use to make relish and pickles are the same ones that my great-grandmother used when she made these products.  In 2013, my sister, Lynne, and I taped a story about canning which aired on Fox 45 television. Can you believe that when we went to the Orioles game the next week, one of the ushers recognized us from this television segment?” says David.

There are many types of food preservation one that Ian Moore recently learned how to do is jams. Ian is the President of the Dairy Goat Club and shares the following; “Jelly, jam, preserves, conserves, and marmalades are alike. All are fruit commodities that are thickened to some extent. Most are preserved by sugar. Their characteristics depend on the kind of fruit used and the way it is prepared, the proportions of ingredients in the mixture and the method of cooking. The finished jar will differ in clarity, color, consistency, and flavor.”

Ian took an adult food preservation class with Dr. Shauna Henley a Family Consumer Science educator for the University of Maryland Extension and learned safe preservation techniques. Some of our 4-H’ers learn through our project guides from the Home Food Preservation set which follow the USDA food preservation guidelines. Go to this web page if you would like to find out more about 4-H food preservation http://ter.ps/foodpreserve . And the USDA’s canning website and the National Center for Home Food Preservation website are http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/publications_usda.html
http://nchfp.uga.edu/

So, if you have been growing your fruits and vegetables and would like to enter a preserved jar of your own in the fair here are some helpful tips.

What makes a prize winning preserve?

  1. Start with quality fruits and vegetables
  2. No bruised or blemished products
  3. Over or under ripe products can result in less desired final product
  4. Use new rings – no rust
  5. Filling your container neatly and with the proper amount of head space
  6. Do not add colors to enhance the appearance of your product
  7. Use the proper size jar to match the size of the fruit or vegetable
  8. Avoid particles and cloudiness
  9. Use enough of the liquid to cover the product
  10. Good consistency for jams and jellies
  11. No large chunks of fruits
  12. Have a clean lid

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Baltimore County 4-H… “It’s not just cows and cooking.”

By Jennifer Coroneos

I grew up in 4-H, my parents grew up in 4-H, and even my grandparents were in 4-H and were active 4-H volunteers for almost 70 years. Needless to say, I am a third generation 4-her. While growing up, I would hear stories of how things used to be when my parents were in 4-H. It is always interesting to hear how things have changed since they were kids. Over the years many parts of 4-H have changed and developed as time goes on. Change is good though, over the years 4-H has expanded to cover new areas and increased programs.

But, I am getting ahead of myself. First, let me share with you a brief history of 4-H. (If you read my blog post last month and just want to know my thoughts on the way 4-H has expanded just skip to the section called “Good Part” now.)

HISTORY OF 4-H

In the late 1800’s, researchers discovered that adults in the farming community did not readily accept new agricultural developments on university campuses, but found that young people were open to new thinking and would experiment with new ideas and share their experiences with adults. In this way, rural youth programs introduced new agriculture technology to communities. Building community clubs to help solve agricultural challenges was the first step toward children learning about the industries in their community. A. B. Graham started a youth program in Clark County, Ohio, in 1902, which is considered the birth of 4-H in the United States. The first club was called “The Tomato Club” or the “Corn Growing Club.” T.A. Erickson of Douglas County, Minnesota, started local agricultural afterschool clubs and fairs that same year. Jessie Field Shambaugh then developed the clover pin with an H on each leaf in 1910, and by 1912 they were called 4-H clubs.

The passage of the Smith-Lever Act in 1914 created the Cooperative Extension System at USDA and nationalized 4-H. By 1924, 4- H clubs were formed, and the clover emblem was adopted. The Cooperative Extension System is a partnership of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the 109 land-grant universities, and more than 3,000 county offices across the nation.

So what does all that mean? Well, 4-H was originally designed as a way for kids who grew up on farms to get agriculture information from the universities to share with their parents. This concept of 4-H, an information tunnel from universities to families is still the key component of the 4-H program. However, today, 4-H has expanded to include many more project areas outside of agriculture.

THE GOOD PART!

I wrote a blog last month about our 4-H afterschool programs here in Baltimore County. Hopefully, you read it, if not I encourage you to do so. Anyway, like I already said 4-H has changed over the year especially in Baltimore County.  Now, don’t think of “change” with a negative connotation while you read this; rather think it of it as a positive.  Things have to change to keep up with times. That being said our traditional community clubs are still a critical part of the 4-H program. Our clubs meet about once or twice a month and are located all around the county. Clubs are a great way to get involved in the 4-H program and allow you to participate in County and State Fair, Champion Chow (a cooking competition), Public Speaking Contest, and so much more. However, our traditional clubs might not work for everyone’s busy schedules. Not to mention our traditional clubs have to compete with school and rec sports teams, video games, TV, the stigma that “4-H is just about agriculture”, and so much more.

That being said, How does 4-H stay relevant? Well, that’s why 4-H has had to develop and change over the years. 4-H can no longer be just about “Cows and Cooking” anymore. 4-H offers so much more. There are summer camps, after school programs, weekend workshops just to name a few. Baltimore County 4-H even partners with PAL centers and local Libraries to set up activities and workshops so that more 4-H curriculum can be taught to even more youth. That’s the other thing; there is so much 4-H curriculum out there, and it’s all homeschool certified. It allows parents, teachers, club leaders, and really anyone to bring 4-H into their homes. The curriculum covers every topic from aerospace to veterinarian science. I am telling you any subject you want 4-H has something for it. (A little secret we have lots of these curriculum books at our office, some are for sale so stop by and look)

In regards to 4-H, there is one last point I want to make. The 4-H Pledge, we say it before every meeting, at the start of workshops, and even every day at the onset of camp. “I pledge my Head to clearer thinking, my Heart to greater loyalty, my Hands to larger service, and my health to better living for my club, my community, my country, and my world.”  Nowhere in this pledge does it say anything about agriculture, cooking, or fair. The 4-H program is about teaching youth “To Make The Best Better.” Our program creates leaders who go out into their communities, their country, and their world to be a catalyst for change.

4-H is so much bigger than just a single 4-H program/event. It is the combination of programs and events that shape our 4-Hers into the wonderful, well-rounded, inclusive and world changing humans they are.

Yes, 4-H has changed with the times, but it has also stayed true to roots.

So if you haven’t figured it out yet…

WHY SHOULD YOUR CHILD BE IN 4-H?

4-H is the largest youth development organization in the United States with over 6 million participants!! The Maryland 4-H Youth Development Program provides a supportive setting for young people to reach their fullest potential. Children learn beneficial cognitive and life skills through community-focused, research-based, experiential educational programs. Participation is open to all youth ages 5-18. The Clover Program is open to youth ages 5-7 years, and the 4-H Program serves 8-18-year-old participants. 4-H has an over 100-year tradition of voluntary action through strong public-private partnerships at federal, state, and community levels. Local volunteer leaders and youth practitioners partner with county Extension staff from the University of Maryland to provide direct leadership and educational support to young people in urban, suburban, and rural communities. 4-H is more than just fun. 4-H can help your child grow in leadership, new skills, citizenship, friendship, and self-esteem! 4-H projects help children learn about things like animals, plants, science and nature. But, that’s not all! The project work and being part of a 4-H Club also helps a child learn life skills. Members learn to look at all sides of a problem or task, and they learn to decide on the best solution. 4-H helps reinforce what children learn in the classroom. 4-H uses more informal, hands-on teaching methods and enables children to excel in new areas and take new roles in a group.

I know my 4-H experience has molded me into the woman I am today. 4-H has opened so many doors I never would have even thought existed and it continues to guide my future.

4-H from the Perspective of a Home School Mom, Lesson Plan to 4-H Fair.

danielles goat
One of the goats that are shown in Wills Fair, County Fair, State Fair, Hereford Jr Farm Fair and others.

Hi, I am Jennifer Ryndak a home school mom and the mother of a Baltimore County 4-Her. Our family has been in 4-H for 4 years. We are in the Dairy Goat Club and the Liberty 4-H Club. My husband is one of the leaders of the Dairy Goat Club.  

At the beginning of each academic year, my daughter, currently 6th grade homeschooler, and I first look at the curriculum for the year to see what 4-H events, projects, contests, and service and leadership opportunities fit in with what we will cover throughout the year in English, Math, Science, History, Art and Computer classes. Then we plan our year with all of those items in mind.

Last year, my daughter participated in the Ag Science series workshop on Soil Science, which was geared more towards the middle school age. She was in 5th grade at the time. Through her participation in this workshop she was exposed to several hands on activities, which included taking soil samples and testing them to find out their Ph, Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium levels. She learned several different methods for seeing what types of soil were in our area, particularly the soil texture triangle graph. This year my daughter has soil science as part of her 6th grade science curriculum, and because of her experience with 4-H she is already familiar with its real-life applications.

Throughout the year my daughter works on her project record book in the areas of art, crafts, sewing, growing vegetables, goats, rabbits, and many more. As part of the project each 4-Her creates a record book of all their activities and projects from the year they complete. While doing this my daughter creates an income and expense account of each project. This helps to keep her math skills sharp while she learns to maintain real-life records. Last year, for example, she made $600 by participating in many summer fairs showing her goats and indoor exhibits, a visible practical application of the math skills she has been learning.

We use the personal narrative aspect of the record book in her English class and the photo record section to fine-tune her photography, photo editing, typing, and computer skills. By participating in several 4-H clubs she creates an educational presentation on various animal science topics like goat anatomy and digestion. She has also held several leadership roles in her club by running for the offices, such as secretary and vice president.

In her history class this year she is studying about Africa. She plans to create an African mask which she will show at the fairs. Attending a meeting and hearing about the adventures of several Baltimore County 4-Hers experiences as they traveled to Tanzania as part of the International 4-H program created a bigger picture that the continent of Africa does impact us.

This month she also participated in National 4-H Science Experiment Day in which she built and launched a rocket. This tied in nicely with the physics she is learning in her science class. The youth worked with the principals of aerodynamics by adjusting the wings and changing the force of the air pressure.

Each year her academic growth and development can be seen through her participation in 4-H programming, which enhances her homeschooling experience and brings the classroom to the real-life at a young age.

By: Jennifer Ryndak

danielle skirts
A skirt that was created for a home economics class at home that was shown in the county and state fairs to compete for prizes.

 

soils science
Ag Science Class in Soil Science. 4-H youth are collecting several soil samples from the pastures to see the content of it and learn about the texture of the soil.

 

Winter Workshop creating a stain glass piece for an art project for school and an indoor exhibit at the fair.
Winter Workshop creating a stain glass piece for an art project for school and an indoor exhibit at the fair.

 

Rockets to the Rescue, National Youth Science Day
Rockets to the Rescue, National Youth Science Day.