On the first real fall, Saturday of the season an appropriate competition was taking place, “Make it with Wool.” This event took place at the Ag Center in Baltimore County Maryland on October 13, 2018. It attracted people from all over Maryland and from ages 6-7 to over 25.
The day started with all of the youth gatherings in the main room to hear their instructions for the day’s activities. First, they colored creative thank you notes to all of the many wonderful donors and sponsors. Then the youth would have an opportunity to practice walking in and showing their garment in traditional fashion show manner. They were given pointers, and each youth took to it like they have been doing it all of their life.
While the youth were practicing their garments were being judged on three main areas; Presentation/Fit/Appearance, Marketability/Wool Promotion and Materials/Construction. Each garment is carefully looked at by the judges and a score sheet with comments for improvements.
Lunch was provided thanks to the many sponsors and donors, and it gave the youth a chance to socialize with others that have a passion for sewing. Afterward, the participants changed into their garments they created. They would now be judged on how well they fit, and contestants were asked many questions about what they created, why they chose it and how did they go about doing this project.
While waiting, Baltimore County 4-H caught up with several of our 4-H’ers who entered this contest. First, we spoke with Alexandra Frank, an 8-year-old club member of Liberty 4-H. This was her first time competing. She chose to create a pink skirt and a gray and pink plaid poncho. When asked why do like wearing what Alexandra made she said: “it is comfortable and goes with my flow.” She also said she “liked having fun with the contest and making new friends.”
The other 4-H’er we spoke with was Kailyn Donahue who is a member of Chesnut Ridge 4-H Club. The project she decided to make was a dress with black and white polka dot wool with a black lace zipper on the back. Which in keeping with current trends the zipper is a highlight rather than hidden. When asked if she would recommend this event she said, “I would recommend it because it is a very unique experience.” She thought this outfit was very comfortable and yet stylish. The judges must have agreed with her as she was awarded the title of Grand Champion of the Preteens division.
After the contestants were finished with the personal judging, they lined up for the fashion show. Here they demonstrated their runway techniques to best show how their ensembles fit and how it moved and flowed as they walked about in front of the crowd. It was during this part that we learned of the many activities most of these participants took part in. Some were involved in sports, 4-H, band, they showed animals or were good students. One of the contestants flew in from Ohio State University to take part in the competition. Many of them are planning to wear their outfits to various social engagements, interviews, church or professional situations.
Each garment reflected its maker’s unique lifestyle.
As awards were presented, each participant received a large bag full of sewing equipment given generously by donors and by some very smart shoppers on the planning committee. It was so lovely to see so many excited and talented youth participate in “Making it with Wool.”
Next year’s contest has already been set for October 12, 2019. And you get some of your wool at the Sheep and Wool Festival on May 4-5, 2019.
Baltimore County 4-H wanted to catch up with Lynne Thomas a senior 4-H’er in the Baldwin 4-H Club to talk to her about her Leicester (pronounced lester) Longwool Sheep. After seeing Lynne in the ring showing her sheep we wanted to know more about how she acquired her, why she picked this breed and what plans did she have with her.
Lynne shared the history of this breed, and that was in part what attracted her to this beautiful animal. It seems that a breeder by the name of Robert Bakewell around 1755 wanted to improve livestock breeds, so he used modern selection techniques to crossbreed an animal that was a large, slow-growing animal into one that grew more quickly for market and had a much better fleece. Word quickly spread from England to the rest of Europe and North America that the Leicester Longwool was an excellent animal to add to your herd. George Washington, upon hearing about the breed added it to his flock.
In America, this breed was used to crossbreed with native stocks during the 1800s, but soon the strain lost popularity and nearly became extinct by 1930. But then in 1990, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation began to bring the Leicester Longwool Sheep back. The numbers have been slowly growing. It is still a rare breed globally.
Lynne discovered the breed at the Sheep and Wool Festival in 2016 through the Youth Conservationist Program. She applied to the program by completing an essay they require and recommendations from her teachers and 4-H mentors. She was accepted, and she was the proud owner of Melody her first Leicester Longwool sheep. Lynne has shown her in the County Fair, the Hereford Jr. Farm Fair and others. Additionally, Lynne enjoys educating the public about the genetics behind this beautiful breed. Details like its strong bloodline, and that it produces the best quality fleece and the history of how they came to be here in the US.
In addition, to showing Melody, she has also bred her with Baritone who is of natural color. They produced a set of twins named Cadence (a boy) and Symphony (a girl). Their names come from Lynne’s natural love of music and one of the other talents that she has of playing the clarinet. This summer Lynne showed all four animals at the Baltimore County 4-H Fair.
Some of the characteristics of the wool are that it is easy to spin and makes for soft scarves, hats, gloves, and sweaters. One of the more unique items that the wool is used for is doll hair since the fleece has a natural curl and is long. It can grow up to 14 inches. The coat is ideal for doll hair.
As part of Lynne’s high school education, she used her sheep project for her Supervised Agricultural Experience. In her sophomore year Lynne tracked the rate of gain of Melody. Then in her junior year, she followed several other breeds and compared them to the rate of gain of the Leicester Longwool.
When asked what’s next Lynne said she would love to learn to spin the wool from her sheep and create some wonderful garments or accessories from this extraordinary breed. She plans to continue educating the public about this breed and wants to encourage other youth to get involved with animal conservation. We look forward to seeing what comes next.
Spring 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!
Baby chicks being raised here on the farm.
Our apiary and pollination.
Learning about our many gardens including our Bay-Wise garden.
On 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.
Shaking the cream up
Erika teaching about the uses of dairy products.
Explaining the process for making butter from dairy.
Calves just a few weeks old.
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.
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.
Andy Kness Plant Pathologist
Youth playing plant vs pathogen game.
A close up of the game board.
Everyone had a chance to be a plant or a pathogen.
Did the plant win this time?
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.
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.
Students working with used comic books.
Creating a lapel flower.
Reproductions of George Washington Carver’s artwork.
Everyone had a chance to make a flower.
The final product.
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.
Youth trying a source for protein, insects.
Cotton was a major crop during the time of Carver.
Over 250 insects were eaten at the event.
Alexa Smarr teaches all about insects and what we can do with them.
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.
Kelsey Brooks shows youth about storm water run off and pollutants.
Making their own storm water experiment.
Taking a closer look at what happens to pollutants on the ground.
The dye was used to simulate pollutants.
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.
There 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 food 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 to 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.
The results of adding iodine to beans.
Students added iodine to better see the parts of the bean.
Christine Alfred talking about the parts of the bean.
Getting a closer look.
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.
Mixed bowl of strawberries and sugar getting ready to preserve.
High students from George Washington Carver were a big help in the afternoon with middle schoolers.
Students had an opportunity to lean about what you can do with a harvest of fruits and vegetables.
Dr. Shauna Henley helping the youth make strawberry preserves.
One of the most important ingredients, pectin is being mixed together.
Mixing the preserves together.
Setting up tasting cups.
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.