2018 Champion Chow Food Challenge

Reported by 4-H’ers Colby, Mikayla and Della

The Champion Chow Food Challenge is a program for 4-H youth ages 5-18 to compete in creating a themed menu, a place setting and preparing one food item from their menu. They meet with judges either as a team or as individuals and answer a range of questions about how and why they selected the menu and food they prepared. They are judged on their menu. How well was it nutritionally planned, texture contrast, flavor contrast, suitable for age, youth’s verbal nutrition knowledge, was the recipe correctly written, eye appeal, flavor, properly cooked, seasoning, complexity, overall neatness, proper placement of utensils, attractive, decorations, speaks distinctly and correctly, shows enthusiasm and sincerity and appears neat and poised.

This year’s Champion Chow Food Challenge competition had a full house of participants and family members. This program has grown by 75% over the last 8 years.

 

During this year’s competition 4-H’ers who were either a reporter for their club or a photographer gathered questions and answers from their peers. The following is the result of their investigation. Many thanks to all who contributed to this post.

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Colby is an 8 year old 4-H’er in the Chestnut Ridge 4-H Club. He is the club photographer. Colby eagerly took many photos of all of the place settings and food that was made.  Colby interviewed Jake also from Chestnut Ridge 4-H Club and he is 8 years old.

Q: Have you done this event before?

A: No, this is my first time.

Q: What did you make?

A: Beef tenderloin

Q: What was your inspiration?

A: Living on a farm, and playing in the backyard.

Peeps

Next Colby interviewed Kailyn who is 12 years old and in the Chestnut Ridge 4-H Club as well.

Q: Have you done this event before?

A: Yes, about five times.

Q: What was your favorite of your themes?

A: Making patterns

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Lastly Colby spoke with Shelby. She is 11 years old and is a member of Chestnut Ridge Club.

Q: What was your inspiration for your food?

A: Charlotte’s sister’s birthday.

Q: What was the hardest part of making your cake?

A: Keeping the ingredients in the bowl.

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Mikayla is the Baltimore County 4-H Dairy Goat Club reporter. She is 10 years old and she meticulously interviewed several people. First, she spoke with Kiera from the Sparks 4-H Club.

Q: What’s your theme and why did you choose it?

A: My theme is a traditional Irish dinner.

Q: What did you make as your dish?

A: Roasted salmon with butter sauce

Q: What is your favorite part of your setting?

A: The centerpiece

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Mikayla also interviewed Grace who is a member of the Greater Loch Raven 4-H Club and she is 11 years old.

Q: What’s your theme and why did you choose it?

A: The theme is summer picnic. I like to have summer picnics.

Q: What were the challenges you had with making your dish?

A: I ran out of mustard a lot. Each steak test cooked differently and I didn’t know how long to cook it.

Q: What is your favorite part of your setting?

A: The tablecloth

irish nachos

Lastly, Della a 7 year old from the Greater Loch Raven 4-H Club who strategically interviewed several people starting with Niamh who is a member of the Sparks 4-H Club.

Q: Why did you make your dish?

A: I made Irish Nachos because I had them at the Stihl after dancing and I learned to make them.

 

Della interviewed Kailyn from the Chestnut Ridge 4-H Club.

Q: What did you make?

A: I made fruit kabobs.

Q: Why did you make it?

A: Peeps are a good candy.

Q: Where did you find your recipe?

A: On Pinterest

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Then finally Della interviewed 7 year old Alexandra from Liberty 4-H.

Q: What did you make?

A: Baked cinnamon chips with applesauce.

Q: Where did you find your recipe?

A: It is from a princess cookbook I got at Christmas.

 

 

 

 

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.

Pasture

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.

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.

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.

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
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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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The Importance of Afterschool Programs

By Jennifer Coroneos, Baltimore County 4-H Program Assistant

We all know that afterschool programs are important. It is without a doubt that afterschool programs can boost academic performance, reduce dangerous behaviors, and provide safe, structured environments for the children who participate in such programs.  There are scholarly journal articles that confirm the benefits of afterschool programs.

But I’ll let you in on a little secret.  There is something that is even better than just your ordinary afterschool program. “What is it?” You may ask… 4-H Afterschool Programs!

I know I know… Yes, there are 4-H Afterschool Programs. 4-H isn’t just this club program for farm kids, although I know that misconception is out there. Grant it, historically, 4-H was a youth program introduced to connect public school education to country life. Building community clubs to help solve agricultural problems was the first step. But, 4-H has evolved over time and changed. (Stay tuned for a blog next month all about my perception of the change in 4-H.)

Our Afterschool 4-H Programs provide a supportive setting for youth to reach their fullest potential and are designed around the eight Essential Elements and Experiential Learning. Without getting too much into it, the elements are categorized as belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity. Experimental learning puts the focus on the learner and enables them to process through several stages.  Our programs are all about doing, reflecting, and applying.  By using these designs, our afterschool programs provide an opportunity for youth to engage in hands-on activities during after school hours.

In Baltimore County, these programs are typically held at schools, Police Athletic League (PAL) Centers, recreation centers, libraries, and community centers.

One of our most well-known Afterschool STEM Programs is the Afterschool Harford Hills Elementary School STEM Club. The club meets after school from 3:20 pm to 4:30 pm on Tuesdays from March 21 – May 2, 2017. Topics include drones, electronics, plant science, physics, and so much more.

Our STEM programs goal is to introduce kids to mathematics and the sciences, in hopes of getting them excited about these subjects. The exposure to science, technology, engineering and math can lead to better efforts in school courses and less lost days due to skipping because the child may be more interested.  By giving youth the opportunity to explore diverse interests, you give them the chance to discover what they are passionate. Once children find an activity that they enjoy, succeeding in the activity could ultimately build their confidence and self-esteem. Mastering new skills can help build confidence in children. By participating in after-school activities, they can strengthen their self-esteem in a relaxed setting as their activities provide the opportunity to be successful in something that they are passionate.

 

4-H Champion Chow Food Challenge

Each year Baltimore County 4-H holds an event that is unique. The Champion Chow Food Challenge gives the 4-H’er the opportunity to present their food preparation, menu planning, table setting and other diet and nutrition skills at one single event. Youth may enter as an individual or as a team (consisting of 2 members). Individuals and teams plan and submit a menu for one balanced meal (breakfast, lunch, and dinner). The event is an excellent opportunity to enter something that cannot be entered at the County Fair, such as a main dish, soup or salad.

Our youth prepared their menus and food item for the April 2nd event. Most were dressed to match their themed table setting while others were dressed in their best attire. It was a beautiful spring day so while some of our youth were waiting to talk to the judges, they could play outside or enjoy crafts inside. Grace McMullen, a member of the Greater Loch Raven 4-H Club, reflected that Champion Chow gave her the opportunity to see what everyone else makes so you could do the same thing at home. This year, Grace made microphone cupcakes because she decided on a music theme.

There is some youth who like to cook while others like the combination of crafts and food at one single event. One such 4-H’er is Sam Jones from Liberty 4-H Club. Sam made Cinnamon Ice Cream for his summer theme. Terry Fields, of the Greater Loch Raven 4-H Club, on the other hand, enjoys cooking. He made Brownie S’mores for his theme of camping. He hopes to become a chef one day. Ben McMullen, thinks cooking is cool and thinks it is a very significant talent. He made a delicious chili. This was Ben’s first time browning meat. He picked a Star Wars theme because that is his favorite movie.

Other youths seek their inspirations from sources beyond Baltimore. One such 4-H’er was Kailyn of Chestnut Ridge 4-H Club. Kailyn is going to New Orleans soon and decided to research King cakes. The King cake is a cake that is made during Mardi Gras. It is decorated with the colors Purple for Justice, Green for Faith and Gold for Power. Baked inside the cake is a baby. Whoever gets the piece with the baby in it will have good luck all year. That person will bake the cake for the next year including the baby, and so the tradition continues. 

This food challenge brings youth from 5-18 together to enjoy the art of setting the table, creating a theme, planning a healthy meal and learning to cook a delicious dish. As part of the competition each youth meets with the judges individually to talk about what they made, how they prepared it and why they selected the items in their theme. It is through this type of competition that each child increases their confidence and communication skills. I can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.